I have just returned from a weekend in Vancouver. I was helping to man a booth at the Vancouver Comic-Con promoting a graphic novel; we sold more 230 books in three days. We sold nearly 400 books at the 2013 Calgary Comic-Con.
In the mid-1980s, my brother and his writing partners wrote a movie screenplay. It was optioned to be filmed three times, but the film was never made and the rights were returned to the writers. It sat on the shelf for the next 15 years. It was then that graphic novels like “The Watchmen” and “Sin City” were successfully turned into movies. That’s when I came up with the idea of converting this screenplay into a graphic novel, and voila, I became an executive producer of an entertainment project.
We searched for an artist to help us create images from the storyboards, and found an up-and-coming talent who was based in my home town of Calgary. After more time than we anticipated, we had a finished graphic novel nearly 220 pages in length. We were very proud, but the work had only just begun. We had to then get the book published (we ended up self-publishing), printed (we went with a print on demand service, so we did not have to stockpile books and pay upfront costs), and distributed (another complicated chore).
Have you ever walked into a book store? There are a lot of books in there. How do you get yours recognized in this sea of books? How do you elevate your product above the noise? That is where the marketing comes in. Given a limited budget, we worked with free resources, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and one-on-one contacts with bookstores, comic shops and the like. It’s a lot of legwork and time, but in that world, time is cheap.
The book was published in November 2012. We have done some advertising, book signings in stores, paid for publicists for local and national exposure in the newspapers, radio, TV and magazines in articles and newscasts, and attended two comic conventions. More than one third of our sales (and the highest profit per book sold) has been through the Comic-Cons, and our future focus will now be in that arena.
What have I learned from all of this? There is life outside of dentistry and it is hard. Writing, publishing, distributing and selling books is a difficult business to thrive in. You work hard, long hours for a very low wage (I have gotten about 15% of my investment back). A fine example of this reality is the character Stuart Bloom from the TV comedy show “The Big Bang Theory.” He owns a comic shop in Pasadena, Calif. He works very hard and has no extra money for anything. And that is comic book reality.
There may be life outside of dentistry, and I have enjoyed being part of this project, but I am not giving up my day job. Dentistry has been my profession, my career and my passion for more than 27 years now and I am grateful every day that I get to do what I do. The diversions keep me fresh and allow me to focus on my real work when I do it and I look forward to many more years of work in dentistry. This graphic novel project work is my hope to create a vehicle for my brother to finally earn a living from writing instead of the labor work he does to pay his bills.
Thanks for reading. Now it’s time to get back to my daily grind.