Ken Eppstein talks about the importance...and pitfalls of vanity surfing in this installment of Indie Insights!
Ken Eppstein is the editor, writer and publisher of the independent comic Nix Comics Quarterly, a small press anthology.
I bet you're wondering what the exotic morning routine of a self published comic book writer is like. You think maybe that it's all mimosas and caviar waiting for me on a silver tray as the breeze and reflected sunlight coming off the Riviera trickle through my open window and gently nudge me into consciousness. I break my fast while steeling myself for the afternoon polo match with Nacho Figueras, Keith Richards and Johnny Depp. We ride ostriches for our polo matches, y'know. If you dig your spurs in hard enough they fly like in the old video game Joust.) Will Keith and Johnny ever shut up with their rude inside jokes about pirates? I could work for Disney too, y'know.... I just don't want to sell out...
OK. OK. Nobody thinks that's how I spend my mornings. This is more like it:
Kashi GoLean and a strong cup of coffee, in lieu of caviar and champagne, to tamp down the nerves that which are frazzled thanks to the alarm clock jarring me awake with it's NPR serenade. Given the option of morning DJ buffoons on for profit radio or the super shrill klaxon built into the clock, NPR is least offensive form of reveille I can think of. I take 10 minutes to run through the basic tasks necessary to make myself presentable for work: Shower, Shave, put shoes on. Wait, no... Pants first, then shoes. Next I attempt to get the dog to walk in the cold gray Ohio rain. "What? You want me to go out there? WATER is FALLING from the FREAKIN' SKY, you big dumb bald monkey."
Once chores are done, though, it's me time. Specifically, it's time to see who's talking about me on the Internet. I have about 30 minutes worth of time to stroke my ego before I have to hit the bus stop.
First wave of vanity surfing: Social media. I check the number of fans on my Facebook page. If it's gone up, I do a little chair dance and check and see if I know the person or persons who has decided that I'm "likeable." It's always nice to see someone I know, but I get a special thrill to have attracted some random fan from the ether.
If the number of fans has gone down, I gnash my teeth so hard that my lower lip bleeds, wring my hands until all blood has been forced from them and cry to the that unfair god in the heavens. Why lord? Why? Warren Ellis has 10,000 fans... Take one of his!
Once I get done blaspheming, I check the Twitters too, to see if anybody has "mentioned" me or retweetered what I said the day before. Rarely, but occasionally this has happened. I guess that I am probably too verbose to get a lot of hot Twitter action. Yeah... That's it... I use too many words and confuse all of thems out there on the Twitter.
Second wave: Google Analytics. Holy snot! Do you have a website? Do you use Google analytics for it? If not, you are missing out on the bestest report I've ever seen: Map Overlay. I can click on a map of the world, zoom in and see what countries, states, and cities have been the source of my traffic. Seven visits from Los Angeles, but only two from Los Angeles, huh? Five hits from Seattle? Is TCJ finally looking into what I'm doing? Say... what do Newville Pensylvania and Moscow Idaho have in common!?
Google Analytics does some other stuff besides the map, but some of those stats are depressing. Someone found the Nix website by searching for "comics on aging" for instance. I'm only 40, for crying out loud! I haven't even hit my mid life crisis yet. You'll all know when I do... I'll start spending exorbitant amounts of money on ill fated attempts at recapturing my wasted youth. I'm not a "fast cars" sort of guy, so expect something in the um... comic book field...
Third Wave: Searching for reviews on-line and comments about me on-line. Grooooan. This happens even less than twitter action. The other night, at the local Comics for Cans event hosted by the Columbus Comics Creators Coalition (C-4), I had a chance to talk to a bunch of other local creators and who were excited about the idea of a group focused on highlighting our local talent. The common theme amongst the creators is confidence in their own artistic abilities combined with a dread that no one will every pay attention to what they are doing.
That's really at the core of all of the vanity surfing. Everybody who presents art to the public is sending out a message. In return, they're hoping that they get a response back. The artist is like a ham radio operator holed up in a basement, flipping through the dial and listening for some ethereal voice to come back at them through the static and electronic squeals.
"Hello? Hello? Is anybody out there who gets what I'm saying? Is this thing even on?"
Or at least, the artist used to have a life like a ham radio operator. In this new data age, you now have ways to measure how well your signal is being received. Is that good or bad? I dunno. I do know that am enough of a narcissist to be completely hypnotized by it. I wonder, though, if I should let it alone and spend that 30 minutes every morning writing instead of hunting for praise.
For more information about Ken and Nix Comics Quarterly:
Written or Contributed by: Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor