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What Makes a Comic Book Successful?

3 Mins read

Millions of people dream of launching their own successful comic book, but they don’t know what it takes to be successful. These days, it’s remarkably easy to create a comic book from scratch; you can use free tools to lay out and design your comic book on almost any digital device, then print your comic book online and distribute it as you please.

Of course, even with a great idea and amazing artwork, it’s possible your comic book won’t earn a single sale. So what is it that makes a comic book successful?

Defining Success

First, you need to define what “success” means to you. One comic book artist’s vision of success may be considered meaningless by another.

For some, success is defined by profitability. If you’re able to generate a positive return on your investment, making more money than you put into the artwork and printing, that’s one kind of success. If you can make enough money to justify your comic art as a full-time job, even better.

For others, success is defined by total visibility and reach. If your comic book is read by 1,000 people, that’s a win. If it’s turned into a major motion picture, reaching millions of people in the process, that would be amazing.

For still others, the process of creating a comic book is its own reward. Since anyone can achieve success in this category, we won’t be focusing on it in the next section.

Achieving Comic Book Success

When it comes to conventional metrics for success, like generating profitability or reaching a wide audience, these are some of the most important factors to make it happen:

  • An original idea. Comic book sales in North America have grown consistently over the years, with more than $1 billion in sales per year in the past few years. Millions of artists want to get a piece of that pie. However, the sheer number of artists competing in the market – combined with the fact that comic books have been published in their modern form for nearly 100 years – means you’ll have a hard time standing out. If you want a shot at success, you need to come up with an idea that’s truly original. For the most part, reimagined versions of existing superheroes aren’t going to cut it.
  • A unique style. It’s also important to have some kind of unique style. What is it that makes your artwork different than someone else’s? Why would people turn to your work? Is your style instantly recognizable? If it looks too much like someone else’s work or if it doesn’t add anything new to the comic world, most people are simply going to pass.
  • A target audience. Who is your comic book meant for? If it’s a story for “everyone,” it’s probably not going to succeed. Modern comic artists are much more likely to find success by targeting a very specific niche and focusing on it.
  • Professional polish. This should go without saying, but your comic book art needs to be professionally polished. It needs to be completely free of errors, including layout problems and spelling errors, or it’s going to look like an amateur created it. In line with this, you’ll need to ensure your material is printed correctly.
  • Inexpensive printing. While it’s possible to create and distribute comic books entirely digitally these days, there’s still a hungry audience for physical comics. If you want to meet demand, you’ll need to have a plan to get inexpensive printing for your work. Thankfully, there are plenty of online businesses that specialize in comic book printing – and you can find some great deals out there.
  • A plan for distribution. Let’s say you’ve printed 10,000 copies of your first issue. Now what? You need to have a plan for distribution in place. Are you going to sell at local stores and hobby shops? Are you going to attend comic conventions?
  • Willingness to adapt. Your first efforts may not get you the results you want. In fact, they probably won’t. You need to be willing to grow and adapt if you’re going to be successful long-term – and that means listening to and incorporating feedback.
  • A plan to scale. Finally, you’ll need a plan to scale. For some artists, that means working with a larger printer. For others, it means getting featured as an artist with a major publisher.

Though it’s not easy to become a successful comic book artist, it is possible if you’re willing to put in the work. Start by perfecting your own abilities as an artist and review the work of other artists you respect. Experiment with many different ideas and don’t become too attached to any one of them. As long as you keep improving, you’ll gradually get closer to achieving your goal.

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Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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