I’ve been deep into a lot of really satisfying projects recently, but one of my favorites has been the publishing of my first major book. Dumbstruck, Vol: Starting Line Detour is a collection of the first year of my autobiographical comic strip that I began creating and publishing online in 2003. I spent the better part of a year cleaning up my old strips, and in some cases re-scanning and recreating the strips when the digital files had been lost. On top of that, I added a brand new prologue and a number of other new strips to flesh out the “story.” In the end, I had a 128-page book with over 200 comic strips as well as other incidental art. The book is currently for sale on the Dumbstruck website as either a physical book or a pay-what-you-like digital download.
What did I learn on this undertaking? A lot, actually.
Step Away From The Book
First, I relearned the art of knowing when to let go. Yes, a lot of the art in the book is over 10 years old and I’ve grown as an artist since that time. In making the new strips, I did my best to mimic my older style so they didn’t stand out jarringly. And in some cases, I gave some of the older strips that I really wasn’t happy with a facelift. But this is a dangerous path to start down, so I had to always remind myself that this is a snapshot of a moment in time, and to leave the art as it is. You can revise and edit forever; the hardest thing about finishing a work of art is knowing when to walk away from it and call it done.
Make The Time
Proofing a book takes a long time. I’m used to proofing smaller projects, like playbills or brochures, and even then it is my clients’ responsibility to do the copy editing. While I did rely on a bit of outside help (thank you, Lisa!), I spent a long time fine-tuning. I ordered three different proofs of the book before I was satisfied. This is a necessary part of any book project, so don’t skimp on it!
Don’t Forget The Marketing
The last big lesson I’ll share is that, once the project is done and published and you’ve had your celebration, now the rest of the work begins. Oh, you thought publishing a book was the hard part? No, selling the book is the hard part. You need places to sell it (my book is currently available on the Dumbstruck website, on Amazon, and in select comic shops in the Chicagoland area). You need to tell people about it (a marketing strategy). And you need to be willing to talk about it all the time. If you don’t talk up your own work, chances are nobody else will either, and your work will not sell. So don’t be afraid of marketing; simply think of it as the machinery that connects your work to your future fans.
I’m going to try to release a new Dumbstruck volume every six months, so the next one will hit around Christmas time. Stay tuned!