In my last article, Creating Fantasy Books For Kindle, part 2–I talked about the publishing landscape, how it has broken down and the questions I was forced to ask myself. To create fantasy books for kindle, I had to define “publishing” for myself. There are many opposed to a writer being able to publish their own works without paying their dues or going through an established gate keeper. Personally, I can understand some of the concerns, but in my own mind–AND with experience gained from my comic book route, I simply didn’t agree.
There will always be those who think you don’t have the talent to succeed. There will always be those who feel threatened or take offense, because of the hard work and effort they put into their traditional pursuits and you look like you’re cheating a system they believe in. That’s ok. I don’t think either path is wrong. You simply have to decide what success means for you and then stick to that path. Whether you make it or give up is totally up to you–especially in today’s publishing landscape. I have faced a great deal of that opposition and criticism during my creation and promotion of Wanted Hero and I’d like to share some of my journey with you.
I always wanted to be a comic book artist. It was my lifetime dream since I read my first comic. I practiced and trained myself–hoping for that shot with Marvel, DC or Image. When that didn’t work out, I tried my hand at getting in with comic book start-ups–keeping my ears open for anyone looking for a hungry artist. Eventually I got tired of being lied to and used, I decided to go it on my own. Heck, Dave Sim created and grew Cerebus, so why can’t I at least try, right?
Everywhere I turned, I hit walls and met countless people, quite intense about the path I was taking. “You can’t do that,” they’d tell me, “It doesn’t work that way.” I tried to get help with publishing, on artwork, printing, even building a website–every aspect of crafting a completed comic book and then the utter frustration of distribution…yet no one wanted to help a new kid on the block. Funny thing is, I’m so grateful for the cold shoulders and mean comments, because my nature is to prove people wrong, so I took other routes to solve the “challenges.”
When gate keepers decided I didn’t fit their personal or professional parameters (at the time, mind you), I realized it didn’t mean Wendell’s story was bad or worthless. Not at all! It meant they didn’t like it or want it. When I looked at the internet, I started wondering…with access to the whole world, there had to be someone out there who would like what I was creating!
So I worked hard–usually 16+ hours a day, 6 days a week, to create the comic book series as best I could. It wasn’t perfect and I had challenges, but I became more efficient and skilled over time. One of the lessons I learned early on was to do things in motion. Learn as you go and be grateful for every experience–especially the negative ones. They put the fire under our feet. As long as you’re willing to endure and use that fire to shape your perspective and fuel your momentum, you’ll grow faster than you can imagine.
Once I ignored the nay-sayers and dream killers and focused on my story, some remarkable things started happening:
- I made some money (which was nice, I had a wife and 8 children to support).
- My happiness grew by leaps and bounds.
- I produced better comics and went from bi-monthly to monthly with near the same effort (or so it seemed).
- My readership grew from the USA, out to 60+ countries.
- People wanted to learn from me. Me! The “nobody.”
- I got fan emails and when we developed a message board for a little over a year, it was flooded most of the time. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but I think it had over 29,000 registered users before we closed it down due to hackers (I didn’t know how to fix the problems on my own). I used that board to teach and encourage others.
- I was introduced to people, some famous in various industries and I started getting noticed and acknowledged as a professional cartoonist. I was, after all, making money at it.
- Having so much creative fun, I started developing podcasts of lessons, commercials, and even started an interview radio show with my daughter–who would asks Wanted Hero characters questions, and I’d answer them in morphed voices!
- Over this entire course of events, I mapped out what I really wanted to build Wanted Hero INTO as more than a story–but a culture.
Funny thing was, I thought I had it made. At the end of the first two years, I took the digital comics completed and compiled them into a full blown graphic novel and self-published them through Lulu.com (you can still find my comics at the bottom of my store page). They’re the more expensive service, IMO, but at the time it was all I had and I made even more money.
Old Wounds Resurface
The whole story is sounding great, right? Well what I forgot to mention was years previous I was in a serious car accident. I lost my job, my house, had to move in with my parents and couldn’t care for myself for awhile. Good new is, I met Kathi and married her. Bad news is, it mangled my hands and I had to have surgery to them to function properly. Wanted Hero was created after having a miraculous healing of my hands. I literally woke up one morning and could use my hands as if the accident never happened.
But it had. All the drawing and 16 hour days eventually wore my fingers down and in under three years, couldn’t make the comics anymore. To say I was depressed is an understatement. I had moments of suicidal feelings and even tried to tape pencils and pens to my hands. Didn’t work.
So I walked away. Didn’t say a word–just let the website, of which I had paid the domain name fees for the next 6 years, die. No communication with readers. No answering emails. I just walked away–crushed. That was the end of 2007–early 2007.
In 2009, my oldest daughter Cesila and her mother started working on me. It would take them over a year to get me to listen…but when I did, my life changed forever…
Next time I’ll explain the whole conversion process and how my experiences with self-publishing auto-planned my current course with Wanted Hero.