How Writing A Comic-Book Changed my Business

I never planned to start a comic company.

Selling Comics

I never even thought about a comic. I thought about reaching people, entertainment, and giving people a great experience. Those were the things that I was most interested in and the things that I was interested in betting my future on. That’s what drove me to starting a podcast.

You probably know that already. After starting MadChat, it became clear to me that doing something creative was extremely important. I’ve always been interested in business, and specifically running my own. I’ve sold things on eBay, worked as a consultant, written books and stories, all because the drive to be myself and be in control of my life strikes me often.

For a while I thought building a Podcast Network was the way to go. Podcasting is a hot property right now, and it’s something I really enjoy. I’m a huge podcast fan. That made me dive in really hard. That was the first time that something I was doing really grabbed ahold of me. Entertainment is important to me. It’s the industry I expected to work in. It’s the world I spend the most time thinking about. The podcast network had all of those things. It was a real concept, something that made an impact and was gaining an audience. Plus it was able to produce some revenue right out of the gate. That wasn’t something that I was looking for, but it was a pleasant surprise. It was fun, there was a business model, and it seemed like something that could really become big.

But it wasn’t enough.

I immediately started looking at more ways to create. With the podcast network running, and the framework in place to create an environment where creativity was being encouraged, the idea for Horrible Prequels was born. We ran a successful Kickstarter, and from nothing we created a cartoon series. We were even able to relaunch the YouTube component of our podcast network that existed in the early stages, but was lost as we tried to grow. It was a lot of fun. It did a lot for me as a person:

It showed me how much I like to write.
It let me manage a project with multiple moving parts.
It got me WAY out of my comfort zone.
It brought me closer to the people I enjoy working with.

It also brought something to light. The idea to create a comic-book was born completely from the creation of Horrible Prequels. It was clear that we needed to do things different. Comics are pretty common. We wanted to bring in the rest of the world into our process. You can’t tell the writer of X-Men what you want to happen. We wanted to change that.

That is where the idea for community-focused comics came from.

It’s from that place that we went to Atlanta one year ago with a drawing of a cow and asked people what they thought about the idea. We asked if they had any ideas or thoughts about what a zombie cow would do. We asked them what a zombie cow comic would look like. We had conversations. People were interested. We got stacks of notes. We took most of them and put them into the basic outline.

Those notes were used to create our first indie comic release, called B0VINE. The entire process was fascinating. As a group, we had collaborated before and we knew that there was great power in it. They also formed the basis of where Follow Networks would go as a company. (note from Chad – We changed the pricing of B0VINE this week to Pay What You Want. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, go get it for free)

So here we are, 1 year later, and today we are launching a new chapter in our company. The idea of community collaboration has been expressed and talked about in our community for awhile now, but starting today, it is who we are.

We are set up to do something that no one else can do. We have the opportunity to work very fast. We have the opportunity to help each other and create something special. Those are things that we are going to focus on.

It all starts with projects. Projects are the heart and soul of what we’re going to do. Each comic starts as a project. Every project will have a different scope and scale. Some will have opportunities to develop every aspect of a story, while some will be more focused on individual details. These projects will begin, and live, in the Follow Networks forum.

Each project will get it’s own post in the forum, which will serve as a place to share ideas, work them out, interact with the rest of the community, and watch as projects take shape to become full fledged WORKS OF ART! Or comic books. Or maybe movies. Or shows. Card games? Apps? You never know. Probably comics though.

Community is at the heart of the whole concept.

I’ll comment more on community in a later post, but I want to be perfectly clear that we aren’t here to steal people’s ideas, profit off of people’s ideas, or generally bullshit our community in a way that makes this whole experience shitty for everyone involved. I’m personally staking my entire reputation on this concept. With that in mind, here is what you can expect.

We’re going to have a fun time. We’ll have different projects, different styles, and Follow Networks will do everything it can to create an environment where you want to share, give input, and be involved with what we are doing. The key to this is giving you ownership of the things we are doing.

Contributors to projects will earn an ownership stake in those projects.

When those projects profit, we will split the profits 50/50 with you. Half will go back to the company to keep the foundation strong, and the other half will go to the contributors. It’s super simple, and it’s going to be a blast. With that much at stake for you as a community member, we want to make sure we are holding up our end of the bargain. We’ll be doing as much as possible to increase your share. As we grow, we’ll be working on biz dev to get into the comic shops in your communities so you can more easily share with your friends, and we’ll also be creating a one-of-a-kind online comic shopping process, which allows easy and inexpensive access to those just looking for a quick read and a great piece of entertainment, and also rewards the most loyal fans and community members with fun extras and deeper experiences.

We’ll also be doing other cool stuff to help make you feel at home in this little community. The first 100 members are going to get something special, outside of the exclusive comic we’re working on, called The Weird Ones. We’ll have giveaways and games. All sorts of the things you’d expect from a group of fun-loving people.

Comics are something that I have always loved. I fell out of love with them for a while, but the classics have always been cemented in my mind. Writing B0VINE took me to a new place.

The opportunity here is limitless. The comic audience is an incredible one. The passion and fandom that exists in this world is extraordinary. What excites me the most is giving those people the chance to help shape stories and concepts they are excited about. The thing that makes this work is speed. We are a small company. We have the ability to quickly work through ideas, build new ideas, and get them in front of an audience in half the time it takes for the publishers you already know. As we scale up to releasing more projects, we want the ability to go from idea to fully-realized comic-book in weeks, not months.

Story is something that is also extremely important to this idea. The key thing I want to get across here is this: We will not be doing things the way others do, and, at first, we won’t be doing things the way you expect. We are in a world of short attention span, and while part of me wants to do everything I can to combat this as a creator, I know that I am fighting a losing battle. As such, we are going to focus on creating what I am calling comic seasons. Each project will result in a story that we will lay out in a way similar to a TV season. Each season of a comic will be a certain number of episodes. The goal here is to create an amazing experience that is contained in a smaller package and gives you a chance to catch your breathe, or discover new stories, or head into the forums and help form the next season of a project. Initial projects will have first season runs of 6-8 issues, or episodes. We will also have an opportunity to create graphic novel length stories that function more along the lines of films. Something to think about for the future.

The last piece of this puzzle is being seen. We’ve begun holding panel events at comic-cons, and we plan to continue to grow our presence. We’ll be doing more panels, events, exhibiting, and doing everything we can to get these projects into the hands of as many people as possible. Again, we want to make this worth your while. If you have a place you think we should be, let us know. Be everywhere. That’s the idea. That includes creating content that fits with our goals that will exist only on digital, on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, as well as special physical editions that will give those looking for special features or amazing experiences an opportunity to get something really special. It’s important to note that currently, our strategy with physical comics will be greatly focused on exclusivity and limited releases. We’ve got some big plans for future releases. I’m crazy excited to show things off.

Our community is just starting, but there are projects already underway in the forum. I’ll be in there, working right along side with you. Look for more interesting stuff here on this blog. We’ll be diving behind the scenes and showing you everything that goes into what we are doing.

One of my highest priorities is to be extremely transparent. I believe that you should be able to see as much of what we are doing, and planning to do, as possible. Now, there are going to be sometimes when we launch special projects that may have some secrecy to them, but that will just add to the fun.

So what now? I suggest heading over to the forum and joining up. We’re working on a new collaborative indie comic called The Weird Ones that is all about a cult. It should turn out pretty great. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We’ll be updating the website and all the content in realtime, so be on the lookout for changes.

See you in the forum.