A Question of Worth, Part 2
In the previous post, we began exploring the idea of worth when it comes to purchasing decisions. Worth is defined by 1) the promise of the product; and 2) the need of the market. Only when these two factors are in sync can a product increase its worth in the eyes of the market.
With that, here are a few tips and strategies that hopefully can help you put your graphic novel's worth under a more solid light. There are more, of course... Hmmm... maybe we should write a book.
1) Provoke and Justify. What gets you riled up? What moves you to tears? What sends you into deep thought? What sparks your laughter? What makes you painfully afraid? Anything that provokes you mentally or emotionally has a strong chance of finding a more permanent spot in your memory. And for good or ill, any memory that stays long enough has value.
In addition, the ability to make sense of that provocation adds even more value. Shock for shock's sake is empty, a gimmick. But having a convincing reason behind the shock, that you can justify your creative decisions, speaks a lot about your maturity as a storyteller.
Test your story, its scenes and theme, and see what buttons you're pushing. If there aren't any buttons, make a few, and push like crazy. But make sure that you have a good reason to do this beyond shock value. Your insight is valuable.
2) Take your reader for a ride. My theory is that most people see comics as simplistic, or incapable of telling rich, detailed stories, so do your best to break the impression. Like prose novels, graphic novels have the luxury of length. So take advantage of this by developing complex plots on both physical and emotional levels without sacrificing pacing. Dig deep even if your story is a slapstick comedy. Think big even if your story is a high school romance. Let your plot take unexpected turns, and make your characters do unexpected things.
3) Invest time in creating arresting and nuanced visuals. Worth is assumed when there is perceived effort to detailing. If you have a scene set in Paris, draw Paris, not a bunch of lines that looks like Paris. If you have a scene in Times Square, evoke the energy and life of Times Square. If you want to feature the grace and beauty of a ballet performance, have it in your art. Unlike prose novels where readers are able to imagine the setting through sensory description, graphic novels rely heavily on imagery and the occasional caption. It can be jarring to the reader to read, "The performance was the most beautiful thing I ever saw," but the panel shows a stick-figure ballet ensemble displaying the grace of a crane truck.
4) Attack a specific market. This can't be emphasized enough. If your story is for young boys, then give copies to young boys and find out what they think. If your story is about a rock band, give copies to people interested in rock--or, to members of a rock band. A story about zombies can be dangled in front of horror fans. When you've identified the group that appreciates your work, present yourself in places where they thrive.
Join an organic lifestyle bazaar if your story has strong references to gardening. Leave copies in Starbucks if your story is about the helter-skelter life of the office worker. Have a story about homeless kids? Then present yourself to the Invisible Youth Network. Don't limit yourself to the normal comics distribution channels. Start small, then work your way up.