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Is a graphic novel / self-publishing fastlane?

NicholasCato

Contributor
Oct 31, 2018
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51
109
I’ve been struggling with this since i started internalizing the concepts presented in MDF.

Simply put, I’m an artist and I’ve been “working” on a graphic novel for the last year and a half. Most of that time was spent fantasizing about how awesome it’s going to be instead of putting it out there (just being honest) but I’m finally taking action and have 10 pages done already.

My problem is I’m not sure if its actually fastlane.

After reading a good bit of MDF I wrote my book off as a passion project. Especially after MJ made it clear million dollar fast lane wouldnt exist if he had to depend on its sales to pay his bills.

But then I saw later he mentions Harry potter as a fast lane success. And after running my book through the CENTS commandments, it checks all the boxes..

I control the quality, price, and distribution of the comic

The cost of entry is pretty high. write, draw, market like hell, publish

The niche need is a personal empty space i see in comics being produced today that i can fill and find a like minded audience

My time will be free to some extent once the book has paid for itself and through patreon backers

The scale ultimately is to create a mini franchise of my own. The concept of the comic fits well into the indie toy market and other media. My dream end goal is to have a niche media company that provides original content for a relatively small but thriving client base. A few examples of these types of companies would be Rooster Teeth or College Humor

I’ve seen a few threads about selling ebooks on amazon but this is not quite the same.

  • My plan is to start as a webcomic to build a fanbase.

  • Connect with them and lead them to a personal site for more content (where they sign up for a the newsletter to get updates on the comic before anyone else of course)

  • Survey those who sign up for the newsletter. These are my core fans i make the comic for with their tastes in mind.

  • A year or so out I tease the crowdfund for the full book

  • Launch the book within 2.5 months of the crownfunding announcement, and im in business.

My question is is this fastlane or long game? Is starting a self publishing company with the intent to transition into a niche entertainment studio a legitimate fastlane, or something that a fastlane should fund?
 

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Xeon

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Some food for thought:

1) What will set your webcomic drastically apart from the millions out there in cyberspace, that will make people actually look up and care? IG and Youtube vids are sucking more and more of people's time and attention.

2) How and where will you drive traffic to your site in order to get them to sign up for the newsletter? What's your backup plan if they are not enticed enough to do so? Will you offer more pages for free?

3) How will you distribute the comics and get it known? Via uploading to online webcomics directory? (personally, I don't see this as a way to getting known because each hour, tons of web comics are uploaded by amatuers and experts alike)

4) How will you get the project crowdfunded? It seems most successful crowdfund projects have their traffic driven from elsewhere into Kickstarter, not from Kickstarter itself.

5) Have you factor in the time needed to draw, ink and color each of the pages, and the potential total amount of $ you can get via Patreon, and divide the time by that? Looking at the top guys on Patreon in similar categories, it looks dismal tbh.....and what about the rest there?)

6) If your dream goal is to have a niche media company, maybe there are other paths that can achieve that, faster and more efficiently than an online comic? Because one definitely does need a lot of time (read: YEARS) to even build a decent sizable fanbase who are interested (1,000 True Fans), and that's assuming the story is great enough to get them hooked in the first place.


--------------------------------------------------

If you have a niche audience whose interests are not being fulfilled properly yet by anything else on the (comics) market, great. It should be something they identify with.
With this sort of thing, I feel a lot of times, it's not so much about the quality of the art itself (e.g: perfect anatomy and proportions), but more on how well the reader can identify with the story and how engaging the story is.

Check out this guy : The Wormworld Saga - A Digital Graphic Novel by Daniel Lieske
Awesome beautiful art, but personally, because I can't relate to the story they're telling and it doesn't draw me in, I stop reading after the 1st few pages.

Bear in mind, that guy above, if I'm not wrong, has a day job and he's not doing his comics full-time.
He's been doing this since 2010, and his average seems to be in the US$700 - US$800 range monthly.
If you divide this by the amount of time he takes to draw the comics, it's actually not much.

What will you be doing to make sure your comics beat out his, and many hundreds of thousands like his, in order to achieve what you want to do?
 

Bekit

Gold Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
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Aug 13, 2018
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I’ve been struggling with this since i started internalizing the concepts presented in MDF.

Simply put, I’m an artist and I’ve been “working” on a graphic novel for the last year and a half. Most of that time was spent fantasizing about how awesome it’s going to be instead of putting it out there (just being honest) but I’m finally taking action and have 10 pages done already.

My problem is I’m not sure if its actually fastlane.

After reading a good bit of MDF I wrote my book off as a passion project. Especially after MJ made it clear million dollar fast lane wouldnt exist if he had to depend on its sales to pay his bills.

But then I saw later he mentions Harry potter as a fast lane success. And after running my book through the CENTS commandments, it checks all the boxes..

I control the quality, price, and distribution of the comic

The cost of entry is pretty high. write, draw, market like hell, publish

The niche need is a personal empty space i see in comics being produced today that i can fill and find a like minded audience

My time will be free to some extent once the book has paid for itself and through patreon backers

The scale ultimately is to create a mini franchise of my own. The concept of the comic fits well into the indie toy market and other media. My dream end goal is to have a niche media company that provides original content for a relatively small but thriving client base. A few examples of these types of companies would be Rooster Teeth or College Humor

I’ve seen a few threads about selling ebooks on amazon but this is not quite the same.

  • My plan is to start as a webcomic to build a fanbase.

  • Connect with them and lead them to a personal site for more content (where they sign up for a the newsletter to get updates on the comic before anyone else of course)

  • Survey those who sign up for the newsletter. These are my core fans i make the comic for with their tastes in mind.

  • A year or so out I tease the crowdfund for the full book

  • Launch the book within 2.5 months of the crownfunding announcement, and im in business.

My question is is this fastlane or long game? Is starting a self publishing company with the intent to transition into a niche entertainment studio a legitimate fastlane, or something that a fastlane should fund?
While you're getting started...

GOLD! - [PROGRESS THREAD] ChickenHawk's Self-Published Fiction EBooks

GOLD! - Hello from Denver - self publishing success

Money-Chasing Burns Bestselling Author...*Poof!* His pen name is gone. (Not to imply that you're money chasing in the least, but there's some good info and interesting discussion in here.)

Is writing a book fast lane?

Also, a couple of ideas I'd consider:
  • Don't depend on Amazon for all your order fulfillment. Contrive to get the physical mailing address of each customer. That way, you'll have way more Control. Then, if you want to find your own printer and fulfillment company, you can.
  • I've always thought that if I were to publish a book, I'd set something up so that I appear to Amazon as if I was a traditional publisher. It would be even more work than just creating your house list of customers, but it lets you call even more of the shots.
  • Check out a book called The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing : Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book by Sue Collier and Marilyn Ross (2010). Some of the information in this book is dated, but a lot of the concepts are timeless, and there is advice that I haven't seen anywhere else.
 
Last edited:

Practician

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 20, 2017
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In my view, the concept of the fastlane has superseded a more basic question for some people starting out.

Take a step back. The first practical question I would ask myself is whether you can make lots of money in a reasonable amount of time. If you can't, forget about CENTS. The fastlane, the process, chase value not money - yes, these are key mindshift changes, but I get the impression that some people are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I think the question most people need to ask is whether something is a strong business plan.

Webcomics generally fail and don't make much money. I was quite interested in the graphic novel sector for other reasons, but for me, the profit margins were too thin as well.

It could work, but that means you need an extra strong business plan versus another niche where any idiot can make money. I don't like the idea of spending over one year on an effort before trying to make your first sale, either. What if you need to pivot? I like fast prototyping and direct market validation.

I don't know your background, so forgive me if I make any assumptions. But I think you probably need to do a ton of market research.

You can go to Kickstarter right now and see that there are 2235 graphic novel related projects there. The top 1% are funded at the 100K or higher, with the highest over the last 5 years or so being 340K. Hitting the top 1% on a new endeavor isn't realistic unless you have evidence to suggest that you can compete there. If you have an art portfolio, are you in the top 1% of views and so on.

Even the top 5% is tough. Being super optimistic, I would use the 90th percentile as a rough gauge of my absolute ceiling. The 90th percentile gets maybe 15K-ish funding from a really quick check I did just now.

How long does it take you to produce one book? What are the printing costs? We're being generous with 90th percentile estimates.

You can take the research further. Kickstarter goes back at least 5 years. Find Kickstarters from the 90, 50, 30, different percentiles. You can track the success (or failure) of different artists over the years after they launched. Some are thriving with good businesses. Others have disappeared. Can you figure out why some succeeded and some did not?

These case studies are some of your most valuable market research. They are literally the handbook on how to succeed in your niche. Some of them will be outliers, like they got lucky with a celebrity endorsement. Ignore those, and see how the systematic people increase their odds of winning. What was their strategy? What tactics did they use? How did they find and reach their audience?

Re-sort by the most recent Kickstarters. Can you figure out why some artists are successful and some are not in the current market?

Many of the most successful graphic novels are from well-known industry figures or otherwise connected people. Unless you have those connections, cross them off. Go through the beginners or semi-pro/amateurs. Can you figure out the reasons for the successful ones?

This is just one resource, Kickstarter. There is a ton of information out there relevant to your business strategy, like webcomic toplists and so on. You can even get traffic histories for these webcomic sites. See how long it took a webcomic to gain traction. Was it years? Did any gain traction quickly - what did they do?
 
OP
OP
NicholasCato

NicholasCato

Contributor
Oct 31, 2018
54
51
109
Some food for thought:

1) What will set your webcomic drastically apart from the millions out there in cyberspace, that will make people actually look up and care? IG and Youtube vids are sucking more and more of people's time and attention.

2) How and where will you drive traffic to your site in order to get them to sign up for the newsletter? What's your backup plan if they are not enticed enough to do so? Will you offer more pages for free?

3) How will you distribute the comics and get it known? Via uploading to online webcomics directory? (personally, I don't see this as a way to getting known because each hour, tons of web comics are uploaded by amatuers and experts alike)

4) How will you get the project crowdfunded? It seems most successful crowdfund projects have their traffic driven from elsewhere into Kickstarter, not from Kickstarter itself.

5) Have you factor in the time needed to draw, ink and color each of the pages, and the potential total amount of $ you can get via Patreon, and divide the time by that? Looking at the top guys on Patreon in similar categories, it looks dismal tbh.....and what about the rest there?)

6) If your dream goal is to have a niche media company, maybe there are other paths that can achieve that, faster and more efficiently than an online comic? Because one definitely does need a lot of time (read: YEARS) to even build a decent sizable fanbase who are interested (1,000 True Fans), and that's assuming the story is great enough to get them hooked in the first place.


--------------------------------------------------

If you have a niche audience whose interests are not being fulfilled properly yet by anything else on the (comics) market, great. It should be something they identify with.
With this sort of thing, I feel a lot of times, it's not so much about the quality of the art itself (e.g: perfect anatomy and proportions), but more on how well the reader can identify with the story and how engaging the story is.

Check out this guy : The Wormworld Saga - A Digital Graphic Novel by Daniel Lieske
Awesome beautiful art, but personally, because I can't relate to the story they're telling and it doesn't draw me in, I stop reading after the 1st few pages.

Bear in mind, that guy above, if I'm not wrong, has a day job and he's not doing his comics full-time.
He's been doing this since 2010, and his average seems to be in the US$700 - US$800 range monthly.
If you divide this by the amount of time he takes to draw the comics, it's actually not much.

What will you be doing to make sure your comics beat out his, and many hundreds of thousands like his, in order to achieve what you want to do?
To answer all of your questions in order

1) exactly as you described I will use youtube and instagram to drive traffic to my comic.

2) there are tons of sites like webtoons and Taptastic where artists can post their comics. The problem is almost 90% of these comics are weird poorly drawn anime romance fanfiction. I know theres a market out there on these sites that is being ignored because the online comic art community has tunnel vision. at the moment. At the end of each comic update I'll entice the reader to head over to my site to read the more of the comic ahead of the posting schedule in exchange for their email.

3) Dont really know what you mean by webcomic directory but as i mentioned above, Taptastic, Webtoons, instagram, youtube

4) I mentioned the sales funnel in my original post but yeah after i gain social media traction I'll push the kickstarter across the board.

5) Ive had this concern too but like any business you may be in the red for a long time before you see a ROI

6) This is true but in comics character and setting beats story. Adventure time for example, the story was written as the show was being produced.

The guys comic you linked feels like something I see a lot in the industry. An illustrator - not a comic writter - creating his "passion project" instead of actually trying to entertain anyone. Immediately after the first few pages I can tell the main kid is a self-insertion. And theres way to much text you cant even tell what demographic he's targeting. The art is amazing like a childrens book but the reading level is higher than that age range not to mention loads of text. Im on page 7 and nothing exciting has happened yet. No interesting wacky characters, nothing to make me wonder, just normal people talking about stuff. Again i dont feel like this is for kids but its not really for adults either. It’s a great Pixar portfolio piece but it’s not a dragon ball, or Pokémon.

You have some valid points but these questions can apply to any business just replace "Comic" with any other business venture. App, Copyrighting, widget selling through shopify and facebook ads. I do agree comics isnt necessarily a huge market but there are success stories

Steve Lichman - Volume 2

Scurry: The Drowned Forest - a post-apocalyptic mouse tale

Just to name a few. I’ve personally watched both of these comics grow from nothing just an artist posting on one of the webcomic sites, getting feature on reddit and then going a head with the Kickstarter launch.

So many artists fail at marketing. But when a few get it right you see things like the two comics above happen.
 
OP
OP
NicholasCato

NicholasCato

Contributor
Oct 31, 2018
54
51
109
In my view, the concept of the fastlane has superseded a more basic question for some people starting out.

Take a step back. The first practical question I would ask myself is whether you can make lots of money in a reasonable amount of time. If you can't, forget about CENTS. The fastlane, the process, chase value not money - yes, these are key mindshift changes, but I get the impression that some people are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I think the question most people need to ask is whether something is a strong business plan.

Webcomics generally fail and don't make much money. I was quite interested in the graphic novel sector for other reasons, but for me, the profit margins were too thin as well.

It could work, but that means you need an extra strong business plan versus another niche where any idiot can make money. I don't like the idea of spending over one year on an effort before trying to make your first sale, either. What if you need to pivot? I like fast prototyping and direct market validation.

I don't know your background, so forgive me if I make any assumptions. But I think you probably need to do a ton of market research.

You can go to Kickstarter right now and see that there are 2235 graphic novel related projects there. The top 1% are funded at the 100K or higher, with the highest over the last 5 years or so being 340K. Hitting the top 1% on a new endeavor isn't realistic unless you have evidence to suggest that you can compete there. If you have an art portfolio, are you in the top 1% of views and so on.

Even the top 5% is tough. Being super optimistic, I would use the 90th percentile as a rough gauge of my absolute ceiling. The 90th percentile gets maybe 15K-ish funding from a really quick check I did just now.

How long does it take you to produce one book? What are the printing costs? We're being generous with 90th percentile estimates.

You can take the research further. Kickstarter goes back at least 5 years. Find Kickstarters from the 90, 50, 30, different percentiles. You can track the success (or failure) of different artists over the years after they launched. Some are thriving with good businesses. Others have disappeared. Can you figure out why some succeeded and some did not?

These case studies are some of your most valuable market research. They are literally the handbook on how to succeed in your niche. Some of them will be outliers, like they got lucky with a celebrity endorsement. Ignore those, and see how the systematic people increase their odds of winning. What was their strategy? What tactics did they use? How did they find and reach their audience?

Re-sort by the most recent Kickstarters. Can you figure out why some artists are successful and some are not in the current market?

Many of the most successful graphic novels are from well-known industry figures or otherwise connected people. Unless you have those connections, cross them off. Go through the beginners or semi-pro/amateurs. Can you figure out the reasons for the successful ones?

This is just one resource, Kickstarter. There is a ton of information out there relevant to your business strategy, like webcomic toplists and so on. You can even get traffic histories for these webcomic sites. See how long it took a webcomic to gain traction. Was it years? Did any gain traction quickly - what did they do?

Looking at it this way, yes comics is indeed slow but can be a fastlane.

What I will do is make a short sample. A teaser chapter and post it everywhere. Link to a newsletter and see if anything hits.

If not, it’s going back to passion project.
 

eldelnacho

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 22, 2019
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17
Hey dude, I've been wondering about the same stuff. Planning on building my own graphic novel and merchandising brand. It's hard indeed. Mind if I ask you how's your progress?

I feel like I can learn a lot with you.
 

ChrisV

Platinum Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
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Islands of Calleja
Yes, it definitely can be fastlane. But I also suggest coming up with high end, premium programs that you can upsell to people. Videos, audio. Books sell for ~$20/each tops (more like $5 or $10 if it's just a Kindle book) but video courses, you can charge whatever you want.
 
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OP
NicholasCato

NicholasCato

Contributor
Oct 31, 2018
54
51
109
Hey dude, I've been wondering about the same stuff. Planning on building my own graphic novel and merchandising brand. It's hard indeed. Mind if I ask you how's your progress?

I feel like I can learn a lot with you.
To give a bit of an update, I put the graphic novel aside for a couple months to work on a business built from the fast lane CENTS method.
A couple of weeks ago I changed a lot of the book.

Right now I’m in the camp that this graphic novel is more of an experiment. I have an amazing (at least I think so) concept to market the comic on Instagram and YouTube.

To put it in the simplest terms I’ll be posting the comic on insta and doing making of videos and video essay style videos on YouTube for the hardcore readers who want more.

I’ve over thought the comic a bit too much the past year instead of just releasing something I find funny and learning to create an audience.

I’ll be keeping this thread more active for the rest of the year and explaining my findings
 

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eldelnacho

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 22, 2019
11
8
17
To give a bit of an update, I put the graphic novel aside for a couple months to work on a business built from the fast lane CENTS method.
A couple of weeks ago I changed a lot of the book.
Thanks for the reply. Best of effort to your CENTS business.
 

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