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.

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