Minimizing risk is another critical element of creating something you hope to sell. Last time I talked about how the financial and retail end of the creation game want to minimize risk as much as humanly possible. The risk is something you, as a creative type, have to address from multiple sources including the risk someone takes by investing in you. I recently began approaching comic book retailers with questions about how I could put my books in their stores without using the traditional channels. I asked about formatting and what kind of books did well in each store and I looked for trends, patterns and so on. I wanted to know if there was a simple and pain-free way to sell my books directly to people that are passionate about selling comic books. I also wanted to know what content was being driven in any given location.
I am not saying you should always have a content strategy before sitting down to craft something new or that you should create with analytics but at least be conscious of the landscape. Look at your interests. Are they compatible with the material you plan to compete against? Do you pay attention to trends even if only to avoid them? One of the worst mistakes to make is coming in late to a trend you are trying to capitalize on.
An oversaturated marketplace will kill not only your project but think of the wasted time and energy associated with it. If you are heading into a saturated market – let’s say superhero comics, then you better have a compelling take on the genre. I know this from first-hand experience. In co-creating the graphic novel HYPE, which on the surface looks like straight-forward superhero property, we were specifically drawn to the core concept – what if you only had one hour a day to live and in that hour you had to save the world. That was the only reason we entertained the idea of competing in a saturated market. It wasn’t so much about what the character could do it was about what he couldn’t do – live a normal life, fall in love, have a family, binge-watch Luke Cage and so on. A lot of superhero characters have some element of tragedy and we wanted ours to be the most immediate and ongoing.
We managed our risk by presenting a compelling twist to a known commodity in a thriving market and we did it by staying faithful to our creative interests by dressing a romantic drama in superhero imagery. That’s the familiarity effect – yes it is different but it mirrors what is already successful. The concept also drew immediate attention from media outside of the publishing sphere. I love comics and graphic novels but I’m a realist. I’m never going to have the kind of security and financial stability my family needs by exclusively producing monthly comics. Some people will, but I realized early on I’m not that person.
I’ve always been opposed to shackling a good idea to a single medium and then assuming some kind of elitist position about the purity of the medium. Part of minimizing my personal risk as a professional writer is to cultivate ideas that have a broad target audience and abandoning many that do not. I still write stories that are personal and have a smaller audience, but I prefer not to chase after publishing them because it isn’t financially realistic.
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