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Building an Audience – John Allison

John Allison, the author and artist of comics such as Scary Go-Round, Bad Machinery, gave a presentation which gave an insight into the evolution of his own comics, showing how his work has progressed and highlighted what worked and what didn’t. He gave lots of invaluable advice, which can be summarised as follows:

You should have an audience in mind. It is important to have a clear focus on the direction you want to go. Write for yourself, but always be aware of your audience. You audience is valuable, so it is important to be consistent, as often comic readers dislike too much change. Change can shock an audience.

Putting your work behind a paywall can lose you an audience, people will give you a chance online because it is free.

Don’t be shy. If you are gifted you are generally shy and you are your own worst critic. Confidence is key … if your work is “slightly good” then it is good enough to sell.

Make contacts with people who do similar work to yourself. Conventions are important for making contacts.

Be realistic.

WebComics that Work

Hark! A Vagrant: Heavily researched with light humour, so can connect with both high and low brow readers.

Nedroid: Simple visual language, funny and appealing.

Achewood: High-brow ‘New Yorker’ audience. Built more around the words.

DO IT YOURSELF – anything you can do … if you can do it, do it yourself !!

Use your art for other things. Build up a portfolio of things you can sell. T-Shirts are very popular and good to design. Make books – inkylittlefingers are good for short, cheap runs on self made books. You’ll learn a lot about business and working by selling things. Evaluate how others do things, the sort of people coming by to see you and your work, etc.

Study successful people.

Advertising is free money – Avoid overloading your website with adverts because it will annoy your readership.

Pinch pennies like there’s a war on. Learn to save and stay in the black.

Things John Allison wished he had been taught:

‘Exposure’ is meaningless. It really wont get you anywhere.

The difference between success and failure is usually a lack of intellectual curiosity. Keep learning, everything adds to your work and makes it richer.

The lower the price of a job, the more difficult the client will be.

Learn how to be a pain about money. If people don’t pay you why would you want to deal with them again?

Fake mistakes. This will give you time to work on other things while your client mulls over changes you will have already made.

Most publishing deals aren’t worth anything but a good one is worth everything. Only work with people who are going to help you, and people you trust.

You have to make an impression on someone to be remembered. Business cards will get thrown away

Overall I found this to be a really valuable presention containing lots of useful advice to help me in my own professional development.

John Allison’s Websites:

http://scarygoround.com/

http://sgrblog.blogspot.com/

John Allison – Bad Machinery:

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Well, since my computer was acting up through most of future’s week, I couldn’t type it up day to day, so here’s one big post of my thoughts and feelings of how it went.

Monday.

Monday I went in not really knowing what to expect; we were split into teams, and given a box filled with art materials, ranging from canvas, crayons, mat paper, e.t.c; then asked to create a piece of artwork to sell on Ebay using these materials and anything we can buy/trade for.
Now our group began by discussing ideas, what keywords to choose, e.t.c. And finally settled on ‘Alice in Wonderland’ since it was current and should gain a lot of searches on Ebay.
Me and one member of the group went off to collect a book I had which featured illustrations of the characters, leaving the rest of the group to discuss ideas.
When we returned, everyone had sort of fizzled out on enthusiasm; I really wanted to create some nice artwork, but I soon realised the rest of my group were just too tired to really spend a lot of time on anything; so we decided to create the  ‘mystery box’ and make anything to go in it.
As much as the idea of the group work held potential, perhaps it would have worked mid week rather then right away, after the inspirational lectures.

Tuesday.

Tuesday began with a lecture hosted by Abi Whitehouse, about her partnership in the mini magazine she helped create called ‘Doodlezine’.
This was an interesting lecture, and it was inspirational how something so small can become much bigger then you thought it would be.
Me and my friend Heather however missed the second lecture, as we went out to buy a birthday present and forgot the time.
The third lecture was primarily about working with schools and communities in workshops; it discussed tips on how to get involved, and where to get potential work experience. This could be something to look into for the summer!

Wednesday

Lecture one on Wednesday was centred around Graphic Novels.
I found this lecture to be the most informative, and it held my interest throughout. It was inspirational, to the point where all I wanted to do was to go home and draw! I was glad  the lecturers showed that you didn’t necessarily need a degree in Graphic Novels to go into that field of work.
They also provided lots of informative tips on getting yourself known, and how to work with professional companies, as well as a few little tips on how they produced their work.

Lecture two was on Illustration, and offered mostly the same tips as the previous lecture. I found looking at the lecturer’s portfolio interesting.

Lecture three was on Graphics and video game design. This was again inspiring, and I enjoyed watching how every aspect of a cinematic sequence was put together. The bullet point tips at the end were useful.

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