Sunday, October 19, 2014

Website Traffic for Indie Comic Book Creators - First Ten Pages

For the past couple of months, I've been putting together an ebook, "Website Traffic For The Indie Comic Book Creator," which is a method that indie comic book creators can use to generate website traffic and build an audience. I dunno if it's going to work, or if the information is valuable enough.

But I've let a few indie creators read the first couple of drafts and so far the response has been positive. I was thinking of putting the ebook up for sale, but I'm still iffy.

So I've posted the first ten pages here. Anyone can read through this and tell me if it's interesting enough. I might just post the whole thing online for free reading, and sell the compilation (with bonus material) later on.

Note that the pages below don't have much when it comes to illustrations. I want to put some drawings in there for a later draft, just to make it more visually appealing. Plus, you might catch some typos.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Think This Blog Should Primarily Be a Comics Blog

Hello all. This blog has been around since the mid-2000s, and right now it's all over the place, content-wise. I've posted my comics here, as well as my thoughts on writing, marketing and making comics, a few reviews, stuff that's happened in my life, as well as whatever topics that I felt best to "put down on paper."

It's not the best way to go about a blog. And as a former employee of Summit Media, I feel like a novice by not following Publishing 101.

So now I'm wondering this blog is supposed to be about? What is it supposed to contain? Right now, this blog has 113 Followers, based on the widget on the lower right section of this page. A number of you have been regular readers, while most of you have perhaps migrated to Facebook.

I'd want to be a little more consistent from now on. If my blog were a magazine, what kind of magazine would it be?

Here are some of the top blogposts based on my Analytics data from the past four years.

Hmmm....  So I get more traffic when I post comics pages and a bit about how to make comics...

Looks like this should be a comics blog from now on. (And I'm hearing some people say, "Like, hello!") :-)

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Testing Out Tapastic

Yes, you might have seen this short comic before. I'm posting it again because I'm trying out this web service called Tapastic. Tapastic is a platform for indie comic book creators and enthusiasts. As of this writing, I've only been on the site for less than thirty minutes and I'm loving it already.

Comics enthusiasts can register on the site, browse through the catalog of comics and subscribe. Subscribers are immediately notified if there's an update, and they can read comics using the Tapastic app (Android and iOS). They can also donate money to their favorite comics creators.

For indie creators, however, this looks like a really great tool. Not only can a you post your comics series on Tapastic, readers can comment and share your work to the more popular social media platforms, plus Reddit, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon. Another feature is your ability to embed your Tapastic comic into your blog or website.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Autumn Zaturnnah

Trying out something a little more art deco-ish. I hope you like. :-)

Friday, September 05, 2014

Writing My First Full-Length Theatre Script

To clarify, it really isn't my "first," but the first one that may just hit the theatre stage. In the late-90s, I wrote one full-length piece as an entry to a script contest in Singapore. But that didn't get in--it was horrrrrrrible.

This new piece, which I just submitted to the producers for initial review, is the full-length musical adaptation of my one-act play, "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady," translated as "How I Became Leading Lady." The one-act was well-received when it premiered in last year's Virgin Labfest, meriting a restaging last June. I was approached by one set of producers for a full-length version, but that didn't push through. Then another set of producers came knocking, and it looks like things are moving forward.

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" is about a maid hired by a superhero team, which might remind you of a sketch performed many, many years ago by Fil-Am stand-up comedian Rex Navarete. His take on the concept, "Maritess and the Superfriends" is too hilarious for words, but there's no basis to compare his work and mine.

How I Expanded the One-Act Play

When I write a story, I like to place a lot of layers. Mostly inconsequential nuggets that don't figure much into the plot, but add some depth, some color, some nuance to the overall story experience. And it is through these nuggets that I placed in the original one-act that I was able to draw out a bigger plot, with the one-act sitting neatly post-midpoint.

So all those nuggets ended up as clues to the past, and the result of mining and processing all that info became fodder for what happens in the future.

Stories Don't End

I think it was Robert McKee or Alan Moore from whom I first heard this principle. A story is the entire continuum of existence, from birth to death. A plot is a section of that whole story that's worthy of exploring as a dramatic narrative. So if the "story" covers the events of a teenager's experience in high school, a plot could zero in on an event or string of events where, as one film director put it, "something goes wrong," with the teenager going on an "adventure" to fix it. All those other parts of the story, those times when the teenager's asleep and dreams of hamburger-eating cats and other minutiae, are no longer important to the plot. (Unless, of course, those dreams actually affect the character's circumstances and/or choices.)

For the "Leading Lady" musical, it was finding the story where the plot of the one-act could fit in.

My Language Extra Challenge

I'm more comfy writing in English. I think in English, mostly. (My editor confirms that.)  Writing the Zsazsa Zaturnnah stories required double my brain power just to get the tone, syntax, and vocabulary right. It's no different with the "Leading Lady" script. You could say my choice of having the superheroes speak in English was deliberate, only because it was easier for me. In the full-length script, I had to write a whole superhero team's dialogue in English. That was fun. But when it came to the Filipino side, well... I was pulling at every nose hair I had, to the point that I was running out of vocabulary. It didn't help that this is a multi-character story, so most of the characters had to have their individual tone and rhythm of speech. But I think I nailed it (stress on "think"). Anyway, it's a first draft, 120 pages long, which I hope will go through proper iterations.


Auditions are set for the 15th, and already I've received word that a lot of the invited actors will be trying out. I'm getting anxiety attacks, especially when I think about the names that had been tossed around.  The producers tapped Vince deJesus as musical director, as well as for music and lyrics. I hope to get valuable input from him on what I've done with the script, as far as the song placements and messages are concerned. He's won awards doing this kind of thing, so it's a great opportunity to learn from the best.

And director Chris Martinez will be at the auditions, too. What he did with the one-act play was mind-blowing, so I hope he'll like the full-length script. He's also one of the best in the business, and I'm looking forward to picking up a few tips.

I don't know if the original actors will be there. Kiki Baento, Skyzx Labasstilla, and Hans Eckstein were all wonderful in their roles. I'd be sad if for any reason they couldn't be part of this.

But those are things to worry about some other time. Right now, I can continue drawing more pages for "Zaturnnah sa Maynila." That's another lovely monster I don't mind tackling.

- - - - - - - - - - -

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical" is scheduled to open in the 2nd quarter of 2015. Direction by Chris Martinez. Musical Direction, Music and Lyrics by Vince deJesus. The cast and other principal creatives, venue, playdates, and showbuying info TBA.

Oh, and the comic book adaptation of the one-act play is still available at major Philippine bookstores. Thanks so much for your support!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Leveling Up: Making Comics for Subject-Matter Experts

In the previous post, I proposed a way for indie comics creators to get an initial boost in self-promotion by creating short comics based on their favorite podcasts. It can be a mutually-beneficial arrangement. The podcaster benefits from the relatively unique content format, a departure from the usual blogpost, audiocast, or video. Though I'm not aware of how effective comics can be in the long run, there's no harm in trying it out.

For the comics creator, making comics for podcasters can help in lead generation and even customer acquisition for the creator's own work. It can also help the creator stretch the creative muscles in a different way.

But this can go further, a "leveling up," if you will. And this kind of leveling up has already been demonstrated in the past.

Comics as "Infotainment"

My former boss in the magazine company I used to work for gave me a book--a graphic novel, specifically manga ("comics" in Japanese). The title: "Warren Buffet: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor," by Ayano Morio, translated by Mark Schreiber. Yes, it's a graphic novel about the life of Warren Buffet.

But it's also a guide on investing.

Then there's the book, "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need," by Daniel Pink and Rob Ten Pas. It's a graphic novel about a guy, fresh from college, who navigates the professional world.

It's presented as entertainment, but it's also a career guide. Though it was released in 2008, it's still ranking quite well on Amazon.

In 2012, restauranteur Amanda Cohen, artist Ryan Dunlavey, with writer Grady Hendrix released "Dirt Candy: A Cookbook," which is a graphic novel/vegetarian cookbook. Apart from the recipes, the book tells the "crazy story of building a restaurant from the ground up to its currently being one of the hardest-to-get reservations in New York City." It's been reviewed by Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

A recent example is "Health Care Reform: What it is, Why It's Necessary, And How It Works." Written by Jonathan Gruber and illustrated by Nathan Schreiber, it's a straightforward guide on the controversial subject of health care reform, and it tells its story through characters representing different sectors of society. Released in 2011, it ranks fairly well at around the 50,000 mark on Amazon's bestseller list as of this writing.

In the Philippines where I'm based, a small company recently released a comic book on personal finance. The publisher isn't a big-name company, and yet their book has been on the Philippine bestseller list for a few months. Their next project: a comic book on customer service.

Joining Forces With Subject Matter Experts

Despite what others might say about comics being "just for kids," there's a lot of value in presenting information in comics. Comics is a storytelling form (and where there's storytelling, content marketing can't be far behind), and it's a great way to convey information because of its visual nature. When done right, comics are easier to digest.

So if you're an indie comics creator and you want to go beyond doing short comics stories based on podcasts, creating a graphic novel on a topic of general interest can provide an additional career boost.

If you don't have access to the big names, you can always go back to your favorite podcast. Many podcasters are open to creating their own books to highlight their expertise, and you can offer some kind of arrangement with them. You can help them make a graphic novel in exchange for promotion, a guesting stint, and perhaps an advance on a share of profits.

If you like the experience, you might consider getting into this as a business. You can be an "expert in infomation comics," with industry experts as your clientele. Because, honestly, finding work with the huge comics companies is difficult enough. Better to start your career, plump up your portfolio, earn extra income, and make a name for yourself as early as possible.

How Indie Comics Creators Can Get An Initial Boost

How do you start building an audience? This question has been asked so many times by indie creators, and the answers are the usual: build a website, add content, promote on social media, build a mailing list. But this doesn't directly answer the question.

How do you start building an audience?

One of the basic principles to bear in mind is: people are attracted to what interests them.

The reason why you subscribed to that blog, or followed that Twitter account, or liked that Facebook page, is most probably because these channels promised and delivered something you've been looking for, anywhere from specific information to images of cute cats.

The same principle applies to you, the indie comics creator.

But, with so many comics creators out there trying to capture an audience, how do you stand out?

Here's one way. It's not the only way. But it's a place to start.

1) Choose a real-world subject you're genuinely interested in, apart from comics. It can be anything--cars, alternative medicine, sports, fitness, entrepreneurship etc. A topic you'd have some knowledge in, or have taken the time to research about. The more general, the better.

2) Find a podcast that talks about your subject of interest, particularly a podcast that's focused on service. That is, the podcast helps people by giving expert advice. If you're a subscriber to a podcast that does this, then great! The more popular the podcast, the better. (If you're not a podcast subscriber, go to Stitcher or iTunes and get into the habit.)

3) Make a two- to four-page comic based on the most recent podcast episode. Your comics should be either a) helpful, b) entertaining, or c) both to the podcast audience. Post in on your blog or website.

4) With every (or every other) new podcast episode, make a comic. This will be a great exercise for you as a comics creator, and it might even challenge you creatively, but it will help you develop and/or improve your working methods.

5) Go for five or six comics stories.

6) Send a friendly fan email to the producers of the podcast, along with a link to your comics. Or, tag them in a social media post. You can even ask other fans of the podcast to check out your work through a comment in the producers' blog. Important: don't do this all at the same time. You're not promoting, but simply sharing your appreciation for the podcast.

7) Whether or not you get a response, continue making comics. If the producers don't notice you, the other podcast fans might.

When the other podcast fans visit your website, they should be able to see links to your creator-owned comics.

Okay, you could say that this method is riding on the success of other people, which can be icky. But here's the thing: don't do this if you're not a fan of the podcast. You have to be a fan. The key is sincerity and genuine appreciation. It's no different from creating fan art of your favorite superhero and sending it to the comics publisher.

Plus, making comics on a topic you're not really interested in will definitely burn you out.

You might ask if I've tried this. Honestly, no. But here's what I've learned from listening to numerous podcasts--they need constant promotion. They need to know that people appreciate what they do. Moreover, they will appreciate those who go out of their way help them spread the word about the podcast.

So there's a good chance that they'll notice you. If you play your cards right, there's a good chance they'll tell their audience to check out your website. Who knows? Maybe in that new influx of visits, you might just get some new fans.

Friday, June 13, 2014

My New Play: The Missing Peace (Virgin Labfest 10)

I was content with my play "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" being accepted in last year's Virgin Labfest, with the big bonus of it being chosen as one of the three to be restaged, but that didn't stop me from trying out for this year's festival.

I got in again. Wow. Thanks sooo much to the selection committee!

Here's a brief description of what my new play, "The Missing Peace," is about:

It is the year 2045, and the world is teetering towards explosive widespread conflict, the likes of which it hasn't seen in almost a century. But that won't stop the Miss Universal Empress beauty pageant from taking place in Barcelona, Spain. The pageant is of particular importance to the Philippines, as the South East Asian nation has so far won four of the world's top five beauty competitions. A grandslam seems inevitable, but then there's, well... the prophecy.

I almost decided not to finish it. While I was in the middle of writing the script, news about the conflict in Venezuela was at a high, and a local beauty queen was shot dead during one of the protest rallies. That piece of news disturbed me that I felt it wouldn't be right to see the script to completion, since "The Missing Peace" has a parallel--albeit very slightly--to that real-life event. The plot of the play has a darker tone compared to "...Leading Lady," despite its bits of comedy.

"The Missing Peace" was fortunate to get an acclaimed director, Marlon Rivera, who directed the film festival-trotting feature on poverty porn, "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank." I've attended a couple of rehearsals, and it's always fascinating to witness an expert at work.

Playing the three characters in the play are experienced thespians Noemi Manikan-Gomez and Rem Zamora, as well as theatre newbie Hannah dela Guerra, who has actual beauty pageant experience. I hope this play gets her noticed for more acting roles.

Anyhoos, "The Missing Peace" will be part of Virgin Labfest 10's Set B, which also includes Raymund Reyes' "Ang Naghihingalo," and Ricardo Novenario's "Wendy Wants To Be A Housewife." Set B will perform on the following dates:

June 26, 2014 - 3:00 PM, Thursday
June 26, 2014 - 8:00 PM, Thursday
July 5, 2014 - 8:00 PM, Saturday (SOLD OUT)
July 6, 2014 - 3:00 PM, Sunday

You can get tickets via the Ticketworld website, or through Ticketworld outlets.

And for those who want to see "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady," here's the schedule of Virgin Labfest Revisited (which also includes Herlyn Alegre's "Imbisibol," and Liza Magtoto's "Isang Daan"):

June 29, 2014 - 3:00 PM, Sunday
June 29, 2014 - 8:00 PM, Sunday
July 3, 2014 - 8:00 PM, Thursday
July 4, 2014 - 3:00 PM, Friday

All plays will be staged at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. 

I will be attending all shows in case anyone wants to have their books signed. And copies of the "...Leading Lady" book will be available at the venue.

See you at the theatre!


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