The Indie Comics Gauntlet

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Welcome back, one and all, to this Black Ship of ours

For the next couple of articles I want to share a few things I’ve noticed about this year’s comic-con/ zine-fest circuit — and man, oh man, did I learn a lot of stuff. I’ve been on both sides of the convention table for many years, but this season I ventured out of my comfort zone to travel far and close for new events both big and small. At each of them I tried to jot down some ideas that might make indie publishing more profitable.

If your mind has already turned off and went into the argument of, ‘well, I’m just an artist,’ great. This article and the few that will be following are not for you. These articles are for those people who’d like to independently publish their comics/ art and not go bankrupt, and those who would like to make a living off of said art.

To begin with, I think I should mention that I have small business experience. I was a co-owner of Dirt Dog, a quick-service restaurant in Los Angeles dedicated to LA Street Food cuisine such as bacon-warped hot dogs, dirty corn on the cob, and plenty of other takes on street-vendor staples. I left that business in October of 2015 when I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t happy selling animal products as a vegan. The contradiction became too much for me, and so I sold my stake in the company, but my three years dedicated to the Dirt Dog cause taught me a lot about what it takes to make small business succeed.

After leaving Dirt Dog I wondered what I was going to do next, eventually deciding to try making my art profitable. I was always creating and trying to push myself as an artist, but there were never any serious ambitions to turn a profit, or even make a name for myself in the scene. It was more about self-fulfillment, which is how I think such projects should always start. The aim was to just get started, put these stories out there as part of the community of indie creators. Believe it or not, that’s actually the hardest part.

As I started on this new endeavor, I saw the comics industry in a new light. I noticed many possibilities, seeking to learn from everything that folks where doing incorrectly (myself included), and I began working on a game plan. I purchased — yes, you might have to start thinking about startup capital — a printing press, button maker, and camera/ recording equipment.

Now I have to throw out a few disclaimers:

1) I am not a professional. Meaning I have business experience, have taken many business classes to help run Dirt Dog, have learned to use most social media outlets, but have no business degree, and for the most part am self-taught.

2) I am based out of Los Angeles, California. That has to be stated. What the comic book industry looks like over here may not be what it looks like in Cleveland, Ohio.

3) I am still learning. Although I have come to some conclusions that I think might be helpful to those on a similar path, this in no way should be interpreted as a readymade plan for comic book success. It has to be understood by anyone venturing out into any business that forging your own path to success is the only way. 

So, with that said, my articles over the next couple of installments are for anybody else attempting to brave the indie comics gauntlet. See you all again next week as we discuss branding.

Richard Larios
About Richard Larios (43 Articles)
Richard Larios is an anarchist organizer working out of Los Angeles. He is the owner of Feral Publication, which publishes zines. He also contributes regularly, under his pen name “Until Victory or Death”, for the Black Flag Newsletter, which is put out by the Free Association of Anarchists.

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