Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest Post Manoj Rao

Hi! Iʼm Manoj Rao, creator of WMDs the comic, available on the Apple App Store for the iPhone, iPod Touch& iPad. When I approached Giovanni about reviewing our first two issues, WMDs #1.0 & #1.5, I’d also pitched the idea of writing a guest blog for him, he graciously agreed and so here I am. I thought I would use this as an opportunity to share with you, the journey, perils, pitfalls & rewards of self-publishing in the digital age.
I originally pitched the idea as a movie script to agents from William Morris. They said it had potential, but they also warned me I’d have an uphill battle because I have no track record. They were right; no one would even speak to me at first. Then I realized that even the established talent at Marvel & DC goes the self publishing route when they want to launch one of their own ideas. Ok, I was going to publish myself.
I wanted to call my business DarkMojo Productions. A lawyer did the name search for me and got me approved for “Dark MoFO productions”. Not only did he charge me a fortune, he also got the name wrong. Then he started talking about protecting my IP. I started to freak about how much all of this was going to cost, but I had to protect myself from someone’ stealing my ideaʼ. I registered at the writersʼ guild, applied for my trademarks, and copyrighted my material, all stuff I’d learned from internet research. At Comicon, I attended a “Law for indie-publishers” seminar which confirmed that we had done the right stuff. Didn’t need expensive lawyers to get basic IP protection. Lesson # 1- Protect yourself as best as you can, then get your idea out there and pray. You can do it yourself and avoid the money grabbers ... which brings me to the next topic.
A friend introduced me to an artist from Marvel, and we met over coffee at Starbucks to go over the idea. The artist liked it. We agreed verbally to terms. I went home and drafted a ʻwork for hireʼ contract and sent it his way. The contract covered page rates, # of pages, and a deadline, which would be June 2009, in time for Comicon. He signed it and we were on our way, or so I thought. Can you guess what happened next? Six months passed and he stiffed us at Comicon and never returned our $1000 deposit. We fired him.
My mentors told me to move along and stay focused on WMDs. Great advice, I had faith that Karma or heart failure would catch up to the artist sooner or later. Lesson #2, Don’t get star struck when dealing with artists, they’re people like anyone else. Above all, pay for performance and NO deposits. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down, it’s your project, not theirs, hence “work for hire”- plenty of fish in the sea.
When we’d hit rock bottom, my friend Todd connected me to an agent and in less than a week, we had our artist signed. He accepted the newly draconian, ultra cautious work-for-hire contract and delivered the artwork for WMDs #1.0 and #1.5 in less than 3 weeks. I love working with them, they’re so professional.
Speaking of professional, my partners in crime Bogdan Orlic and Dave Conde are awesome as well as creative, motivating & fun, all you could ask for in a team. They make things easy... all of this leads to Lesson # 3: Surround yourself with the right people; they make life so much easier. Don’t surround yourself with “fr-enemies”. A supportive spouse is also very important :) Now we had a finished product, we just had to get it published. There were a few publishers / printers for indie-comics, but I didn’t have the cash or the desire to do a large print run. Also, I viewed print as being a medium constrained heavily by geography & quantity. With the way technology was evolving, I wanted to invest in something you had to create once, then could infinitely leverage. Don’t get me wrong- printed comic books will always be around, but I think most people would be happy with an e-issue they can take with them wherever they go. I wanted to make a Comic book App for the iPhone. Build it and they will come.
Lesson # 4: Building tech is hard, and they may not come right away, marketing is key. You also need to create economies of scale. Buy the damn app people!!!! Just kidding... sort of. We built it and published WMDs # 1.0 and 1.5 with it... and people are downloading them even as we speak. Hopefully more after this article. Now we’re working on the next few issues, and helping others get their work published in our App reader as well. Why should others have to re-invent the wheel when they can just leverage ours?
All of this to say, that if you have a dream, chase it like crazy and don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes, believe in yourself and work with people that have your back. Also, you reach a point where one person can’t do it all, you have to know when it’s time to relinquish control in order to grow your business. Would you rather own 10% of something that’s wildly successful, or 100% of something that never takes off? If you have a concept you want to get made and you don’t know where to start, give us a call, that’s what we do... is help you get it out there. Once you do, the sky is the limit, so make it happen.
Manoj Rao Founder, Executive Producer DarkMojo Productions Email: Web:
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