Friday, February 5, 2010

ICBW: The Inside Story

[Photos can be found on my Flickr account and the Breaking Comics Facebook page. Feel free to tag yourself and your book on the Fb photos. NOTE: this posting was created a while back, I thought I had posted it before. I guess not.]

My last post was the very beginning of Indy Comic Book Week and I think it would be appropriate to pay it off with an insider's recap of sorts. ICBW started out with a flyer made by Kyle Latino and his concept of Deadline '09. It got passed from one creator to another before it reached us at Space-Gun Studios. Matt really jumped on the idea and bought the ICBW domain; and I took it upon myself to write up a posting for it. Though hesitant because we were essentially swiping Kyle's idea for Diamond's Skip Week, we moved forward as fast and hard as we could due to the amount of time we had. (Thankfully we were able to contact Kyle and he was actually happy that we were doing something with his idea. So much thanks to Kyle for letting us run on our own with this event.)

I was in California for BlizzCon at the time with friends including Nam and Kim, both of whom i give mighty and big thanks for helping me take the trip. And much thanks to Ruby who essentially made me go have fun. I'll try to get a recap for that trip at some point. Anyways, when the idea of ICBW was born, I was sitting on the floor at the coffee table with my laptop (given to me by my lovely girlfriend). The laptop isn't setup for work so I had nothing loaded on it in regards to graphics and fonts. I was lucky enough to remember that we had one of our projects still on the server; so then I had to wait for the 500MBs to download. While the zip file downloaded, I was trying to find the right words for the post, help Nam with dinner, play with the lovable dog, and come up with an idea for a graphic. I'm surprised it came out as well as it did.

The entry was posted and it was off to the races. The blog entry had a bigger reach than I had expected and the twitter hashtag started to spread. Paul was elected to come up with a logo, Matt worked up a website and found someone to do a proper press release for us, and Jake and I went to talk with Jeremy, the owner of Titan Comics here in Dallas. We met up with him for a brunch of sorts and this is where we got tricked, TRICKED i say! We went into the brunch hoping for two things: contact information for the indie friendly DFW shops, and an idea of what the retailers would need from us (as ICBW and creators). What we left with as a massive list of stores across the nation and various contacts for distributors, sales reps, and retail sites to send our press release. In that one talk over breakfast foods, we suddenly had a LOT of people to contact and a much wider scope to contend with.

At this point ICBW essentially turned into a tag-team match. During these four months we all had other projects to handle outside of running ICBW. I had just gotten the script for an educational comic that I was hired to illustrate; and I had a massive amount of pages to letter for Jake and Matt. Matt was doing side gigs to make the bills and he also had to finish up his ICBW book "Senryu". Jake wrapped up his educational comic, do ANOTHER book for them, and then immediately had to finish his script for "Solomon Azua" to begin production. As each of us tagged out to work, the others held down the fort as best as we could. It was pretty fast-paced and hectic four months with high levels of stress. There was a few moments were one of us played the role Ricky Morton, but we somehow got the hot tag and kept the momentum going. We all eventually finished our projects and were able to hit the triple dropkick on the final month of promotion.

We broke up the time leading up to ICBW into three different segments; each segment had a different target market: creators, retailers, and fans. First we talked to creators who were interested in releasing their books for ICBW. This was mainly done through blog posts, twitters, and forum postings. Our goal here was to get everyone signed up for the blog and start posting stuff from their books. This created the momentum we needed to approach the second group: retailers. Tony Shenton really helped us out by posting our press release to his list of retailers. The online activities on the blog and twitter gave retailers something to look at as a means of gauging interest. So when we contacted each shop directly, they had already heard of ICBW from somewhere. With both creators and shops signed up for ICBW, we had a louder voice to get the word out to the fans. At this point the various news sites and podcasts started their coverage of ICBW. We had sent out our press release much earlier. But we didn't see much movement in terms of news coverage; which was expected. We found that information going out to the fans really wouldn't be effective until about two weeks before the event. Trying to keep fans interested for three months would have been near impossible to maintain. So December got flooded with interviews, reviews, and podcasts.

Much like our experience with Synesthtic, we were dealing with a wide array of personalities, attention spans, and intentions. Most were pretty understanding of our focused goal for ICBW and were easy to communicate with. Others had their own agendas and were ignoring everything we were putting up on the web. The headaches were few but they were pretty loud. We did our best to keep these out of the public light as to not taint the positive vibe we were putting forth with the event. The independent market is already stereotyped with the jaded, elitist creator; and we didn't want to have that sort of image represent ICBW.

I think because of this professional and positive attitude we were able to really gain a lot of momentum. This is the outcome of a very important lesson: people will treat you with as much respect and professionalism as you put forward. And sometimes you can super pro about a situation but the other party will still come back at you with a foul attitude. With a project this big and wide in scope, there is a lot of diplomacy involved when dealing with difficult personalities. I find that if you never stoop to their level, they will have no legs to stand on in future arguments. This is especially true in today's email environment where any heated exchange can be recalled with a simple click. And with the nature of ICBW, nearly ALL of communications was done via email. It's a tough standard to hold sometimes, especially with ignorant and stubborn personalities. But I think it is worth it in the end. ICBW was fairly well received as an event and as a group. Hostilities were kept to a minimum, bridges were formed, and we all benefitted from it.

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