Sell your Soul: You suck at first and that’s okay

October 25, 2016

Ira Glass has one of my favorite quotes of all time. I thought about butchering it through paraphrase, but instead I will provide it here in its entirety, even though it’s long. It’s just that awesome.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

This is a very Ira Glass way of saying you suck when you start out, but you shouldn’t let it stop you. The sucking is what stops lots of talented artists from continuing on to greatness. Most people will try something for a while, get bummed out that their work is crappy, and just give up. What they put on the page just isn’t what they see in their mind’s eye.

I have a secret for you.

I’m an excellent writer and I know tons of amazing creatives, yet none of us can get on the page what we see in our mind’s eye either. All we can do is get as close as possible.

The flat out honest truth is that you aren’t very good when you begin and that’s okay. Nobody is very good when they start out. Stephen King, Picasso, and Beethoven sucked when they first sat down to fulfill their greatness. Some people advance quicker than others, but we all start out sucking. It’s only through practice and determination that we become great.

It’s important not to compare yourself to other artists who are further ahead on their journey than you. You don’t see the thousands of hours it took them to master their craft. All you see is the end result.

If you want to feel better about your own art, go and google your favorite artist and check out some of their first work. I’m not talking about first published work. I’m talking about the first work they ever posted online. Most of them forget about the first art they posted and never take it down. There are also whole threads on Twitter and Reddit where artists show their first works and how they’ve improved.

It’s startling how crappy your favorite artist was even a few years before they broke into the mainstream.

They sucked too, just like everybody does at first, but that didn’t stop them. They kept going. They completed projects. They finished things. They learned. They improved. And then they broke through. In that order.


Interview #36: Becoming one of the Pros with Steve Stormeon

October 21, 2016

Welcome back Wannabe and Creators. Today on the show we have SteveStormeon, creator of the Pros and co-founder of Giles Corey Press.

I hope you enjoy this one with Steve. If you do, please head on over to iTunes,Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe, rate, and review us today. It takes just a couple seconds and helps more than you will ever know.

Here’s his bio straight from his website at

It might sound ridiculous in a world holding seven billion humans on it, but I do still believe that we all change the world. We can’t help but change the world; we change it just by showing up.
The trick, I think, is to make sure your change is something you can be proud of. I’m trying.

And here is the bio for his publishing company, Giles Corey Press, straight

Giles Corey Press is a purveyor of fine fiction for the anarchist community. We create, print, and distribute works that in the mode of the best storytellers pass on history, feed our imagination, and create new myths while deconstructing the old. Our theory of change is that fiction is a collective practice — an exchange of stories, visions, and dreams — that builds community through conversation and empathy.

We are three friends hailing from a small town surrounded by a military base on three sides and a prison on the fourth, with a Walmart in the middle. We are each pursuing our Thing while trying to make it straddle the precarity of late capitalism and our spiritual belief in anarchism.

If you can’t guess, Steve is a political activist who has worked with non-profits most of his adult life. Even though we tried to avoid it, our political proclivities came out a couple of times. With the election so close and Steve being the kind of person that he is, we just couldn’t help ourselves, but we always tried to keep it short.

Otherwise, Steve talked a lot about creating SMART goals, how passion influences everything he does, the importance of having a plan, and knowing what you want to say before you create something. I love that Steve creates work with a purpose because that’s what we try to do at Wannabe Press. One of our important tenets is “entertainment with a point”, and that’s also something that Steve takes to heart.

Additionally, I love that he called his book a “ball of weird”, which is something that I’m going to use from now on.

I hope you enjoy this one with Steve. If you do, please head on over to iTunes,Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe, rate, and review us today. It takes just a couple seconds and helps more than you will ever know.

If you are considering your own Kickstarter, I created a Crush it on Kickstartercourse which is everything you need to know to create, launch, and fund your Kickstarter. If you click here, you can get the whole course for just $7.


Sell Your Soul: Finish Things

October 18, 2016

When people ask me how I got to the place I am today, I often tell that it’s because I finished things. I finished novels. I finished graphic novels. I finished comic books. I finished podcasts. I finished nearly everything I set my mind out to do.

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Even when I didn’t like something, I still finished it. Why? Because it is in the finishing of something that learning happens. It’s not in the starting something. This is because it is very easy to take something to 90% completed. You can begin a novel today and have it finished in a couple of weeks if you are only concerned about a first draft.

However, for writing the true mastery is in the editing. It’s in discovering how everything fits together to make a cohesive story. Those synapses in your brain only fire once you have completed the first draft and started synthesizing all that gooey information into something that makes sense.

The same thing is true in all forms of art. It’s not hard to create a sculpture form that looks vaguely like a person and give up. It’s not hard to draw a sketch, or doodle in a sketch book. Those skills are found in many people. However, developing that raw form into a finished product is where the skill comes in.

And that first finished product is going to be awful, but you will learn so much about technique that your next finished product will be better. You will only get better with each successive finished project, and faster as well. That is the irony of finishing things. While it might take you 10 hours to finish a crappy art print today, next year, after finishing dozens of them, you might be able to crank out a masterpiece in only a couple of hours.

In finishing projects, you will strengthen the connective tissue in your brain that helps you figure out the whys and hows behind things not working, and that’s when you start leveling up quickly.

As you complete projects your respect in the creative community grows, as does your skill. By completing a project, you are seen as somebody that finishes things, and that is a rare quality. In finishing things, you start believing in yourself more as well.

The more projects you finish, the more professional you will become. The mark of an amateur is starting things. The mark of a professional is finishing them.

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Live @ APE: How to Build an Audience from Stratch with Gwendolyn Dreyer and Norm Harper

October 13, 2016

This past week I put together another How to Build an Audience from Scratch panel for Alternative Press Expo 2016. While this is the same title as my panel from Long Beach Comic Con, I promise the information is very different. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could do this panel 20 times a year and get different information from every single one.

Of course, that’s because I keep mixing up the panelist. This time we have Gwendolyn Dreyer, business manager of editor of Monster Elementary (; @monsterelem on twitter), and Norm Harper, publisher of Karate Petshop (; @karatepetshop on twitter).

I specifically brought in Norm and Gwen because they are very different than my last panelists. Norm is a new publisher who has been in business for only one year. So we talked about how he is going about building an audience from scratch right now, today. His insights are very different than Gwen’s, who has been working on Monster Elementary for several years. Since she is not a publisher, her insights come from a singular product point of view. While they have multiple volumes of Monster Elementary, they are focused on a single product instead of a line of products.

Both Norm and Gwen gave fantastic insights on what they would do if they could wipe the slate clean and start again. Our conversation was very focused on new creators getting started today, but the tactics, tips, and strategies we talk about can be used for anybody at any stage of their career.

I hope you enjoy this episode with Gwen and Norm!



Sell Your Soul: Make it Once. Sell it Forever.

October 11, 2016

Perhaps the most important concept when it comes to the idea of making great content is that you only have to make the content once, but you have the ability to sell it forever.

This is antithetical to the mindset of most creators, who try to find the cheapest way to make something so they can save a bit of money in the short run, foregoing the prospect of selling it for the next decade.

This is a dangerous mindset. Short term planning is only part of the equation of building a career. The true value of creating things is in the long term ability to sell it for the next thousand years.

Take something like Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s famous book was released in 1865. I have read that book multiple times in my life and owned several editions, yet I was born over 100 years from its release. It’s produced so well that it’s still printing money for publishers over a century later. That is the power of making the best product you can and then selling it forever.

Another example from the consumer product space would be the Big Mac from McDonald’s. The Big Mac was created in 1967, and is still sold to this day with the same “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun”.

McDonald’s spent millions of dollars testing, researching, and perfecting the Big Mac, and it only cost a couple of bucks to buy.

Why would they do that? Because of long-term planning.

That an initial investment of millions has led to billions of income in the ensuing decades since its release. They wouldn’t have created the Big Mac if they only thought in the short term, they knew investing in a slamming product could pay off forever.

That should be the philosophy we taking with our own content. Creators that cheap out on hiring artists, or book covers, or paper stock for their prints, or website design will always have trouble selling their content comparatively to those who don’t, and in the end they would not have saved much money, at least in the long run.

Let me give you an example with some hard numbers. If you don’t like hard numbers, just skip to the next section now.

The difference in paying an artist $50 and $100 a page in the short term is the difference of a few thousand dollars. On a 100-page book, the cost of a $50/pg artist is $5,000. The cost of a $100/pg artist is $10,000.

Upfront that seems like a huge difference, and initially it is. But that is short term thinking.

You see, the $100/pg artist will usually increase your sales by 10 times. So if that $50/pg artist can sell 100 books for you a year, the $100/pg artist can return 1,000 books a year.

On a $10 book, in one year that would be $1,000 of revenue versus $10,000 in revenue. Which means after one year on the market, the $100 artist has paid for themselves while the $50 artist still needs to recoup $4,000 to make your investment worthwhile and earn out of what you paid them.

That’s a dramatic difference, but on an even longer term time horizon there is an even more dramatic difference.

If we plot these two books out for ten years, the $100 artist has returned $100,000 on 10,000 sales while the $50 artist has only returned $10,000 on 1,000 sales.

Yes, they both have earned out, but the $100 artist cost you $1 per unit sold ($10,000 initial investment/10,000 units sold) while the $50 artist cost you $5 per book sold ($5,000 initial investment/1,000 units sold).

Isn't that incredible?

The more expensive artist is actually 5x cheaper on the long term time horizon than the cheaper one, which is something Marvel learned decades ago.

Now, I’m not saying every artist is worth their price, or that you can expect to get 10x more from every book you do, and you should certainly price compare everything, but I will say that the difference in sales is astounding when you invest in your product up front.

You see it with prints, and blog posts, and sculptures too. If you spend a little bit of time and effort investing in your product on the front end, your payoff can be dramatic. 


Live @ SCVCC - How to Make a Career as an Artist with Dave Olbrich, Bobby Timony, and JD Correa

October 6, 2016

This past weekend I was asked to moderate a panel at Santa Clarita Valley Comic Con ( about how to make a career as an artist with panelists JD Correa (@jdcorreasketchart on Instagram), Bobby Timony ( @BTimony on Twitter), and Dave Olbrich (; @DaveOlbrich on Twitter)

This was a great combination of talents. Bobby works on comic books as far ranging as Monster Elementary for Space Goat and the Simpsons. JD Correa does a ton of prints and sketch covers, and Dave has worked on the publishing side for 30 years with the likes of Malibu Comics. Together, this panel combined three very different viewpoints on what it takes to make a career as an artist.

This panel shows there is not one way to make it. There are tons of ways to have a sustaining and fulfilling career as an artist. At one point I ask everybody what one tip they would tell their former selves to cut a year off getting to where they are now. Their answers are both profound and funny.

We also talked about how to keep getting work, how to network better, and several secrets of success. As with all my panels, I tried to give the panelists equal time, and they worked well bouncing off each other. Because their careers have been so different it was great to see the insights each person brought to the table.

I learned a ton of valuable information from the panelists, but it really boiled down to two things. I would ruin what they are, but if you can just accomplish two things, as learned in this panel, you can survive as an artist.

Like I say at the beginning, this isn’t about a shortcut. Being an artist is a brutal struggle. Honestly, even when you “make it” there is still massive struggle. All this panel tries to do is figure out how to cut a little bit of time off your struggling.

I think we accomplished that. I hope you enjoy it.


Sell your Soul: What Kind of Creative Do you Want to Be?

October 4, 2016

The first thing we must do to develop a successful career as a creative is to ask ourselves what kind of creative interests we want to pursue. This is called strategic planning. I know it sounds like a stuffy business term, but let me give you an example of why strategic planning is critically important to your career.

When I first launched Wannabe Press, I spent the first 14 months after its inception working inside my business, doing all of the day to day work to keep my business afloat. I didn’t worry about building for the future. I didn’t worry about branding. I didn’t worry about my ideal client. All I worried about was the next sale. And that is really unsatisfying. By November of 2015, I was floundering. There was very little growth in my business month over month and I was going crazy from stress.

That’s because I didn’t know what was going on in my business. I had no idea what was working in my creative life. I didn’t know why people were buying my books or even who was buying them. I just knew they were being bought. It felt like I learned nothing and was no closer to being successful than the day I launched.      

So what did I do?

I took the month of December 2015 off from my company. That might sound like a luxury, but I was willing to risk one month of sales to figure out what made my business function. I knew I didn’t want to stay floundering in my business, and the only way for it to grow was to discover what was going wrong and what I was doing right. I learned so much in that month about what worked and didn’t that by January I was chomping at the bit to get back to Wannabe Press.  

I went back to work in January implementing all the systems and hypotheses I discovered in December, fine tuning them, and building a brand identity. By February, we came out of the gate with a redesign and massive momentum. We more than double our growth year over year, and our audience exploded. Because of our new mascot, banners, and cohesive brand, people recognized us show after show and we were able to continue that conversation online. More importantly, we were able to target our message to the exact right people instead of shouting into the ether.

Did all of our assumptions work? No. Some of them crashed and burned. A couple blew up in my face. However, being able to start with a hypothesis allowed us to test to see if those assumptions were valid

In the same way, you need to start with assumptions about your career. You need hypotheses about what you want to do and where you want to go. They don’t need to be right. You could start out trying to be a cartoonist and realize you hate it, but it’s important that you have an initial hypothesis. Only then can you work toward testing that hypothesis. Without one, you are left sitting on the sidelines flailing in the dark.

So how do we start with our strategic planning? It’s as simple as asking a couple of questions:

1.       What creative field do you want to pursue? If you are on the fence, choose one field to start. Remember, we are just building a hypothesis here. You might hate the work you do after testing it, but at least then you will be able to cut something off your list. When narrowing your focus, cutting something off a list is often as important as finding your ideal career path out of the gate.

2.       What is your ideal company to work for in your chosen field? Even if you want to work freelance and build your own thing, it’s important to answer this question because it will give you a company structure and audience to emulate. One of the most important pieces of advice I ever got in business was to model success. Successful companies spend millions of dollars on marketing. With a little time investment, you can see exactly what works for their business. Those same strategies can work for you too, with none of the capital investment.

3.       Who is your favorite creative in your chosen field? This can be any creative you admire, but it needs to be in the chosen creative field you want to pursue. They don’t have to work for your ideal company, but they shouldn’t hate that company either. Then, you can emulate and model the career path they took and use it as a guide.

4.       If you were to pursue this field, where would you want to be in 5 years? In 3 years? In 1 year? In 6 months? In 3 months? In 1 month?  In 1 week? People over overestimate what they can achieve in one year and underestimate what they can achieve in five years. However, both short term and long term planning are incredibly important to your success. Short term planning gives you an immediate goal which is attainable. Long term planning gives you a vision for the future.

Now that you have those four questions answered, hang them over your desk, bed, or somewhere else that you can easily see them every day. You should be able to look at your long term goals and short term goals constantly and either validate them or realize your assumptions were incorrect.

If they were incorrect, that’s okay. You can always revise your plan midstream. Don’t do it every day, though. Make sure to only revise your plan when you’ve hit those benchmarks of 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and one year.

You should have at least one hour of strategic planning time built into every week. You should also have a longer strategy session every three months, about half a day, in order to reevaluate the assumptions you made from the previous quarter, reinforce or change your assumptions for the next quarter, and change your strategic plan as necessary.

Every year you should have an even longer session to analyze your entire year and plan for the next one. This is a living, breathing document and if it no longer fits with your goals, then it’s okay to start again. 


Live @ LBCC: How to Build an Audience from Scratch with Barbra J Dillon, Nick Marino, and Madeleine Holly Rosing

September 30, 2016

How to Build an Audience from Scratch is the third and final panel I was on at Long Beach Comic-Con. I feel like I had the complete experience this year. I hosted a workshop, moderated a panel, and was a featured guest on a panel.

This is the panel that I moderated with Barbra Dillon from Fanbase Press (, @barbrajdillon on Twitter), Nick Marino from Holy F*ck (, @nickmarino on Twitter), and Madeleine Holly-Rosing from Boston Metaphysical Society (, @mhollyrosing on Twitter)

Both Barbra and Madeleine have been on the show before. You can listen to Barbra by clicking here, and Madeleine by clicking here. Someday soon I hope to get Nick on too. Stay tuned for that.

I worked very hard to find panelists for this panel that had varying experiences building their audiences. Barbra’s Fanbase Press is both a publishing company and a member of the comic press. Madeleine built her audience through self-publishing and Kickstarter. Nick built his audience through zines and working with publishers.

Each of them has a unique point of view that can help you get to the next level. Our focus truly was how to build an audience from scratch. So often these panels fail to deliver actionable advice for the attendees. This isn’t one of those panels. We gave very specific instructions on how to build that audience, how to talk to the press, and how to present yourself at shows.

Even if you are not outgoing like me, you can find something in this panel which can help you succeed. I hope you enjoy it.


Episode 35 - Going from a Stray to Working for Marvel with Sean Izaakse

September 29, 2016

Today on the show we have Sean Izaakse (pronounced Issacs). Sean is the co-creator of Stray from Action Labs. He also drew on the Pathfinder series for Dynamite. Recently, he was hired for two issues on Thunderbolts from Marvel.

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Even though the audio was janky, Sean was a fantastic guest. What I loved most about his interview is how he planned his career one step at a time with the end goal in mind. He knew he wanted to draw comics, but couldn’t make that happen while working a shitty job. So he made a plan to get a better job so he had more time for his art. That led him to become a graphic designer, which wasn’t his passion but still utilized his skill set.

What I wanted to crack with this interview was how he went from South Africa to Marvel. I am fascinated by people who can make it in the business from a remote location. Even though there is a comics scene in South Africa, it certainly it’s LA or New York. I love how Sean talked about growing his career over time. He talked about how your first 1,000 pages are shit and you have to get through them as fast as possible so that you can do good work.

I heard a similar statistic when I was coming up as a screenwriter. People told me the first ten scripts are garbage, so my goal became cranking out ten of my best scripts as quickly as possible. I don’t know if 1,000 pages is the right number for artists, but the 10 script mark was certainly the breaking point for me to learn what I was doing.

There is a concept of niceness that Sean brought up too that I want to touch on. Sean got his job on Thunderbolts from working with Jim Zub, who we just had on the show in the last interview. You can listen to that by clicking here.

He echoed what Jim talked about regarding niceness. Sean treated people like a human for a long time before he got his breaks, but because people wanted to work with him and he did good work, things started to happen for him. You never know where those breaks will come, and Sean talked about how editors from small projects went on to bigger companies, and thought of him because they liked working with him. I just can’t overstate how critical that is for your success. The old adage of nice, on time, and good has shifted. Now you have to be all three.

This was a fascinating look into an artist’s brain who knew where he wanted to be and plotted out how to get there. Hearing how Sean plotted from CD store to graphic designer, to Marvel was a joy to hear and I know you will get a ton out of it too.

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Enjoy the episode.


Live @ LBCC: Kickstarter vs. Self-funding with Mary Bellamy and Mike Wellman

September 28, 2016

I had three panels at LBCC this year, and I’m bringing them all to The Business of Art so that the people who didn’t get a chance to be there can enjoy it too. There were tons of exhibitors on the floor and Wannabe that live outside of Los Angeles, or were too busy, that didn’t have a chance to get to the panel and this information is just too good not to share.

If you were at Long Beach, the Kickstarter vs. Self-funding panel was the one you were most likely to see since it was in the big Rumble Room instead of the Creator’s Lab. It was packed with people who wanted to see the advantages of each, and boy did Mike Wellman, Mary Bellamy, and I deliver.

Mike Wellman co-owns the Comic Bug comic book stores in Los Angeles and is the creator of several books, most notably Guns A’ Blazin’ (; @macafro on twitter). Mary Bellamy is a creator who draws and writes the Zorilita brand (; @zorilita on Twitter), along with working for publishers on things like My Little Pony, among others.

Mary moderated the discussion between Mike and I. She did a great job reigning us in when we got off track. I was surprised at where the discussion took us, and we covered a wide range of topics about the benefits of self-funding, the pride you feel when you make a book from scratch and release it wide, and why Mike won’t ever use Kickstarter. We also talked about how to start getting data, building a business, and letting people in on the process with Kickstarter.

Nobody can ever get me to turn my back on Kickstarter. More than being the reason I even have a business, they are the way I learned how to run a business. They were the educational platform that taught me the mechanics of everything that I do with this podcast now. However, this panel gave me a fascinating insight why somebody would choose the self-funding route when it comes to both creating content and selling it.

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