Creating a panel for Comic Con

In just a few short weeks I’ll be at the 2013 Chicago Comic Con.  It’s a week after the official book launch of D’mok Revival: Awakening.

My best friend Pat, and my sister Elizabeth will be with me the Con.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to share this Con experience with both of them. As you will read in the dedication and author’s note in my book first book, they were instrumental in their support and early critique of the story. Without the book wouldn’t be what it is, and frankly, without Pat, the book would be here at all.

I’m also lucky enough to have Brittney Brauer at the con.  She worked at Mira Smart Publishing to get my “Seed” copies printed.  She’s brilliant, and an expert in the publishing realm.  One of main attractions (beyond the book) to the D’mok Revival booth is the opportunity for other con goers to find out how to bring THEIR story to market.  Look, most Scifi lovers have a story.  Some have the passion and drive to bring it to bear just like I did.  I WANT TO HELP those people.  Lord knows I would have loved someone to help me blaze the trail and figure things out.  But that’s okay.  I can be that for other people now.  It’s kind of cool!

So, in addition to the booth, Brittney and I have pulled together a panel on how to Self-publish.  It’s an hour presentation, on Friday August 9th.

I thought I’d talk a little bit about my approach to creating the panel.

This panel isn’t about saying how awesome D’mok Revival is and how to be godly or anything crazy, it’s an opportunity for me to “think like a new author” and provide the information I was seeking oh so long ago.

First I start with a clear goal.  My goal for the panel is to talk about the overall process with the experts.  Then talk about what happened as D’mok Revival went through these stages, like a case study.

The most important thing to remember is: who is in the audience, what do they already know, what would help them the most, and in what way can they absorb it the best.

So I put on my thinking cap and thought about Authors.  They are typically good with the writing part. In fact, many don’t want advice on how to write.  They have their approach and you’re not going to change it.  So I’m steering CLEAR of that one.  Besides, there are so many writer’s conventions out there that will provide better insights into the art of writing.

Instead I think it would be more interesting to them to focus on “what comes next” after writing the manuscript.  To properly tune this presentation I first listed what are the things the audience wants to know (or should know):


1) Where to spend the money if you have it (editor, cover, book quality)

2) Where to find an editor

3) How to find and evaluate an artist for your cover and brand

4) The printing process (vetting options, pricing)

5) PR for your book (advanced review copies [ARCs], how to come up with messages, press releases, web sites, social media, blogging)

6) Contests, reviews and advertising

7) Distribution of books (ebook, physical book, Amazon, etc.)

8) The release process and beyond (how, where, when, interviews, tours)

9) Questions


This looks a little long, so I’ll dial it back to the essentials and just use a summary for the others.

Cost, Editing, visual design, printing, and distribution really needs to be the core.  I can always direct people to my blog, to email me with other specifics later.

I’m going to pull together a few PowerPoint slides to provide relevant visuals and hold engagement. As my friend and co-worker Brandon would say “don’t fill it with text.” It’s a VISUAL medium, not intended to be a small encyclopedia.

In addition to the PowerPoint, Brittney is brining a few other experts to be on the panel. That takes some of the pressure off, and makes it more interesting as one person isn’t droning on the whole time.  It also provides more legitimacy concerning answers.  They can also deep dive in their respective topics to depths further than I could. Bonus information for the panel viewers!

In the end, I want the audience to have the information needed to start planning their own approach.  Brittney and I will be available after the session, at the booth, and via email after the con to stay in touch and help people out.

So, that’s my approach to assembling the panel.

Where does the time go?

Launch is imminent!  We’re just a few weeks away now.  I have the proof version of my final edition coming in the mail. The official t-shirts are in production. I have the exclusive Comic Con posters already in-hand at home. The Comic Con goody-bag flier is designed and about to go to press as soon as I get my booth number.

When it comes to the launch on Saturday, August 3rd at 7pm at Boswell Bookstore off Downer Avenue in Milwaukee (just in case you want to attend), I just need to figure out the refreshments and what I want to say.  I was hoping to attend a few book launches for other people, but that hasn’t panned out.  I’ve been told to not actually do a reading, and to talk instead about the origins of the story, my work on it, etc.  That should be easy enough.  It’s near and dear to my heart, and I know exactly how the story came about.

In my interview with Hugh Howey earlier this week ( he mentioned how he can never shut off the story and characters in his mind.  I completely identified with him.  One of the things he said that really stuck me was that he never would want to be able to shut it off, that it was dangerous to be away from your characters for a long time.  My interpretation of that is if you don’t keep writing, you get out of the groove, maybe become estranged with your characters.

I’ve been working on so many side efforts like brining D’mok Revival: Awakening to market, working on the video game project for the major comic book property, being a single dad, holding down my job, that writing has actually taken a back seat to the rest of my life.  I can’t even afford the time to play video games right now, and that’s just CRAZY talk for me.  Honestly I have “The Rest of Us” by Naughty Dog just sitting there staring at me, crying out “COME ON! PLAY ME!”  Yet, “sorry, no.”  Not right now.

The upside is the comic book video game project is allowing me some leeway to write the actual story for the game.  At least I’m WRITING, just not in my universe.  I do want to get back to D’mok Revival.  I committed myself to releasing “D’mok Revival: Retribution” in fall of 2014, according to my official press release.  So I’ll need to get moving on that.  There’s a good deal of editing to do back in book two before sending it off to a professional editor for review.  Then there’s book three, then four to edit.

I do miss furthering the story as well.  Seeing there’s three tracks to write as of the end of book 4, there’s a lot to do!  I’m going to get through this launch for the moment, then find a way to really hit the ground running to get the next edition ready.

“Success comes at a cost”

Sure, there’s the literal “cents” of this (more puns), but it’s far great than money.

Right now I’m literally dizzy from everything I’m doing. It’s all of my own making, and I’m choosing to do the things I am.  So, I’m not complaining, but rather sharing.

I have a fulltime job, I’m a single dad, I’m working on getting my first book out, I’m designing a video game for a very well known television and comic book series, I’m working on the user interface for a medical system.

I’d like to say that I see my friends all the time, but I don’t. But the friends I have aren’t the type you hang out with every day, or even a few times a week. They’re the type you see every so often, pick back up with where you left off, and have a great day or evening together.  I’ve never made friends that you hung out regularly with. I guess I’m not that kind of guy–even if I’ve wanted to be many times.

I’m a work horse, I always have been, I always will be. I get my personal satisfaction out of feeling I’ve created or accomplished something–perhaps even my own sense of self-esteem too.

The most important person in my life is my son. He’s the only thing that’s immutable in my life. I make a point to ensure time with him isn’t impacted by my hobbies in life. On the few nights or weekends he’s not with me (at his other parent’s home) I work. Though, I always miss him horribly.

They say you only live once, and that life is meant to be lived not observed.  Well, I’m certainly experiencing a lot. The stubborn Italian, Taurus in me won’t let me drop any of these important (and personally fulfilling) efforts!  Of course, the body doesn’t care about what the mind wants.

There is a significant cost to go after dreams. But doesn’t it just make your dreams that much more valuable?  I’ve sat for too long on the side lines, playing everything safe, architecting a house of cards that I’ve seen fall down before.  Now–now my approach is live the best you can, make the most of everything I do, and stay doing the things I love.  Nothing else is worth it, especially a false sense of security.

I may fail in what I try, but God help me–I’m going to burn like a star until I can’t any more.


Building your MVP team

Connecting with your readership is your number one best way to stay connected and aligned with your fans.  Sure, infrastructure and costs are important to manage properly, but if you don’t resonate with your consumers–if they don’t want, care, or need your project–you are done.

Enter the MVP Team.

Simply put, this is a collection of people directly from your consumer market.  They are people you hand pick, get to know, and come to trust as representative of those typically found in your consumer market.

What types of things would you tap your MVP team be used for?

  • Discussing existing series direction
  • New book concepts
  • Getting reactions to new marketing / identity and branding approaches (logos, slogans/tag lines, look-and-feel)
  • Review of new games, newsletters, etc.
  • How to improve your site
  • Pricing discussions
  • Market research (what they want to read about, when they read, formats to present your stories in–blog, ebook, printed, etc.)

What types of (free/near-free) communications methods should be leveraged from MVPs

  • Interviews (skype, gotomeeting)
  • Forum discussions (joomla, wordpress, etc.)
  • Surveys (surveymonkey)
  • In-person Focus groups (at conventions, other local events)
  • Virtual focus groups (google hangouts, gotomeeting)
  • Email (mailchimp)
  • Usability studies (

How do you put together your MVP team?

First you must know your market. What it the typical profile of someone from your consumer market. What are they looking for in a story? What type of action or detail do they like?  What size book matters to them?  How often do they purchase books?  What is their criteria to decide?  How much are they willing to pay?  Where do they prefer to purchase books?  What format do they prefer? It’s not enough to look at general book readers.  You need to look at the ones in your target market.

Next, research where can they be found online? What type of social media or community interaction takes place and where?

Where can they be found offline (hangouts, conferences, and other gathering places)?

You need to examine if there are sub groups within your consumer market (kids, teens, young adults, adults, elderly, etc.) and understand their unique needs and dwellings.

Determine to what extend you want to leverage your MVP team (see “What are MVPs tapped for” below)

Create a page on your site about being an MVP (with a list of active and emeritus members)

Create an enrollment form with specific questions

  • Name
  • Age
  • Where they live
  • How long they’ve been a fan of your books or series
  • What your series means to them
  • What you love the most about the series
  • One thing that you’ve always had an issue with
  • Why they want to participate
  • Best communicated with through: phone, email
  • Able to participate in individual interviews, focus groups, and or tests of new company concepts

Review the enrollment forms, and select those you feel understand your brand, would be good sounding boards, and fit the “voice” of the market you want to connect more effectively with.  Look for thoughtful responses with insight.

Based on your research here is a non-exhaustive list of techniques you can use to recruit them:

  • Recruit using the last page of your book
  • News release on your Web site
  • Survey from your Web site
  • Email your to registered readers from your site
  • Press article in trade site or journal about your recruitment for your MVP team
  • Fliers at appropriate conventions
  • Inserts in directions or other packaging with your products informing people about potential participation as MVPs
    • Send out a press release
    • Mention it at book signings
    • Drop off fliers at local books stores, coffee shops or other places your target dwells
  • Blog postings about opportunity
  • Posting on Facebook about opportunity
  • Posting on Twitter about opportunity

How do you cultivate your team once it’s together?

  1. Communicate with your MVPs. They want to know they’re a respected and stable entity for you. Without this they’ll feel their time isn’t worth the dedication since there isn’t any from you.
  2. These people want to be a part of your brand and series. They want to be kept up to date on what’s going on. They want to be able to tout they’re an MVP for you.
  3. Create a social media package (badges, etc.) that they can post to Facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. to show they’re connected to you
  4. Send regular communications (news posts, email newsletters, etc.) telling them what’s going on, upcoming feedback opportunities, and how existing feedback has impacted your company/products (be as specific as you can)
  5. You want a healthy crop of MVPs, and will want to rotate them in and out so you don’t develop any organizational bias or skewed thinking from your MVPs.  Celebrate graduations into emeritus status (certificates signed by you)
  6. Ask your MVPs to spread the word about broader surveys, product launches, events, etc. Let them have exclusive information first
  7. Planned discounts and special deals should be extended to your MVPs first as appropriate and if possible
  8. Promote discussion amongst your MVPs. Provide a password protected forum for your MVPs to discuss issues and ideas
  9. Talk about your MVPs at trade shows, on your site, commercials, and other places.  It’s both a nod to those that participate and a sign to your consumers you’re listening to them.
  10. Contact them and ask them to meet you at book signings, conventions, and other social events close to them.