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LESSONS LEARNED #16

By Chris Gumprich. (Originally posted August 8, 2005)

Let's recap, shall we?

When last we left the intrepid self-publisher, he had let his fears get the better of him, and decided not to call any comic stores in an attempt to generate some direct sales. He had effectively walked away from the project that he had spent three years (and lots of cash) bringing to life. He had failed because he hadn't paid attention to the most important lesson of all - the only way to fail is to give up. Deciding that the fear of rejection was too great, he quit.

However, the name of this column is "Lessons Learned," not "The Story Of How Chris Gumprich Blew Some Money, Threw Away His Dignity, And Spent The Rest Of His Life Muttering About What Could Have Been." There's no question that the failure of Evening Shift left me feeling pretty low. I had more than a few sleepless nights, wondering if I had made a mistake by following my dream.

Three years, and what did I have to show for it? A big credit card bill, and one thousand unsold copies of my big debut. I was no closer to success than I had been when I started out.

Or was I?

I had one thousand copies of my own comic. One thousand samples of my work that I could put in people's hands and say, "Here's my comic. I hope you like it." I was a hell of a lot closer to success now that I had something in my portfolio - I had surpassed a full 95% of the dreamers, the whiners, and the wannabes.

Had I been a roaring success? No, that much is obvious. But it would be foolish for me to walk away right then - I would rejoin the wannabes, crying into my beer, "I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody."

I made mistakes. What I had to do now was learn from those mistakes, to get back on the saddle, to pull myself up at the eight-count, to get my ass back in the chair and go full-out on the next project.

And now that I've finished with the pep talk, it's time to get back to work. I had to figure out where I went wrong with Evening Shift, and try to avoid making the same mistakes on the next project.

The first thing I did wrong, in my opinion, was to rush into full-size. I had the money, yes, but it's pretty clear that I wasn't ready. When I started work on the comic, I had all of one mini-comic under my belt - not nearly enough to have worked out all the kinks. The solution was simple - go back to minis until I felt I was ready to attempt another full-sized comic.

Fortunately, I had already made the arrangements. Several months earlier, I made a deal with an artist regarding a script that I had written around the same time as Recriminations - a hard-boiled detective satire titled Ace Fedora: Private Eye. The artist had been working away while I was putting Evening Shift through production, and now he had completed the eight pages.

The second mistake I had made with Shift was to be too lenient with some major flaws in the artwork. Now, in the case of Fedora, I went through the finished pages with an editor's eye. A couple of small corrections, but nothing serious - the pages were more than satisfactory.

You'll remember, back in the second column, I spoke of the troubles that I had with printing Recriminations - producing the comic at a loss because of poor planning and poorer communication (ie. I didn't listen). How could I avoid having a similar problem this time?

Easy - I print it myself.

The failure of Evening Shift behind me, it was time to push forward on Ace Fedora, this time with eyes wide open. I knew what lay ahead, and I would be prepared.

The lessons had been learned, it was time to put them into action.

Chris Gumprich writes comics and other stuff. His self-publishing credits include the full-sized EVENING SHIFT (released 2004) and two mini-comics, RECRIMINATIONS and ACE FEDORA, with a new mini scheduled for release later this year. A new column appears every Monday at the Isotope Virtual Lounge.