JAN, 2011 – Mat Nastos’ careers span adventures working for DC Comics to Mad Magazine to the SyFy Channel. His blog is written as if he’s actually speaking to you, the reader – though sometimes he seems to enjoy a tangent addressing the Powers That Be at IDW Publishing. Does he have problems with authority? No, just stupid questions!

Well, I truly hope Mat didn’t find any of MY questions to be stupid! He still follows me on twitter so that should be a good sign. Although, perhaps he follows me to glean more material for his “What Not To Do” blog entries. Ok, now I’m paranoid! Thanks, Mat!

You’re an expert on internet marketing and share your opinions on MatNastos.net plus lecture and hold workshops on the subject. Luckily for us, you are also a comic book creator.

Comic book “addict” might be more appropriate! 🙂

What’s the first step for someone who doesn’t think of himself as a businessperson to adapt in the digital age of self promotion?

The answer I’ve got probably won’t make anyone happy. I’d say, put together a business plan, get a budget (of some kind) and figure you’re going to lose money for 3 years, just like with any other business. It’s fine to just be a hobbyist creator, so I’m just talking about for those who want to make this a career or make a living from their work. If you just want to do it “for fun” or whatever, completely ignore everything I say.

If you want to turn your work into a living, then start treating it like a business.

My next piece of advice is to start thinking about your market/audience before you’ve created your work. Start thinking about whom you’re going to sell to and where it will be sold while you’re in the creation stage. I’m not saying to let marketing dictate what you’re going to create. What I am saying is to use it as a guide for profitability.

Know your product. Know your audience. Research your market.

So you separate out your personal social networking profile and create one for your brand/comic/etc. Then what?

I don’t know that you really have to separate your personal social networking from that of your work. It just depends on your marketing/branding plan. I’d suggest creating a public persona that is based on your real self, just amped up a bit: something that is you and is real but is more interesting for public consumption. In my head, it is as important for creators to sell themselves as a brand as much as it is to market the work itself.

What I always tell people is this: Don’t be Jack Kirby. Be Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer. Your audience needs to connect and identify with you as a “person” as much as they need to enjoy your work. That is what differentiates, more so than “talent,” a good artist from a great one.

How different is the marketing approach for comic of franchised properties to new original small press books?

Marketing for the franchised/licensed properties should be a lot easier – in spite of what companies like IDW Publishing and Boom Studios have been showing us. The reason being, you’ve got an established audience to use as a base for your product.

With a new or original comic, you’re starting from square one and that is always much more difficult. Not only do you have to build an audience from scratch and without brand name recognition, but you also have to figure out where that new audience is. You may not even have an idea of who could be interested in your work. There is a lot more work involved.

However, the process and techniques are all going to be the same…they’re going to be the same or similar to what business do in terms of product research in every other industry out there.

Is it essential for people that want to make comics to always consider other media for their product like motion comics, TV pilots, and Hollywood options?

It just depends on what the creator’s ultimate goal is. Right now it seems like a lot of publishers (Top Cow, Aspen, Radical, to name a few) are more focused on creating what I call “movie pitch books” than in making comics that they’re going to support. For them, the most important thing is to bang out something quickly that they can then take over to a studio and pitch as a film or TV show.

While there isn’t anything innately wrong with that (aside from disrespecting your fans), as someone who genuinely loves comics and the medium itself, I find it to be a little sleazy. Comics should be about telling the best story you can within the medium and then, if the work is so mind-blowing that it cannot be ignore, if it gets picked up to become a film, tv show, video game or whatever, that’s just icing on the cake.

Of course, with that being said, comics are one of the easiest ways to get Hollywood types to take a look at your work. It’s easier to get an agent or producer to flip through a comic than it is to get them to actually read a 120-page screenplay or even a treatment. I completely understand that – my issue with the “movie pitch” companies is that they are asking fans to pay for their pitch books with no intention of supporting or following through with them. Seems a bit crappy to me.

Again, that’s my own opinion.

Do you have online options for your marketing workshops?

I haven’t really ever done marketing/sales workshops for the comic industry, most of what I do is for larger companies looking to up their Internet marketing game – I’ve worked with companies like Sony, AT&T and Canon, for example. In terms of the comic side, for the most part it’s just the articles I post up on my website (shameless plug: http://www.MatNastos.net). I’ve also done talks for Andy Schmidt’s online comic creator workshops, found at the Comics Experience website (http://www.ComicsExperience.com). Comic creators or publishers can always send me questions over Twitter, on Formspring or even leave comments on my site. There are tons of ways to get in touch with me.

If I thought there was enough interest, I might be open to doing panels or workshops at conventions down the road.

You seem to emphasize sci-fi and fantasy genres in your articles. What are your favorite examples of work outside that, in perhaps autobiographical/biographical comics, westerns, or horror?

I usually focus on the broader genres just so everyone can relate to what I’m talking about. The methods I discuss, however, can be used for any sort of comic series from the indiest of indies up to the stuff put out by the Big Two – any product at all, really. Genre doesn’t matter at all.

In terms of what comics I like outside of the sci-fi/fantasy genres? Eegads, there are so many cool books out. “Family Bones” by Shawn Granger from King Tractor Press, anything by the May Brothers (Jason and TJ), “5 Days to Die” by Andy Schmidt, “Gordon Rider” by Jon Murakami (ok, that may be considered “Sci-Fi,” but it’s so awesome I don’t care). On the web, I follow “Treading Ground” by Nick Wright and “Menage a 3” by Giselle Lagace, both of which I absolutely adore.

Why did you make the movie “Bit Me, Fanboys?”

Back in about 2000, I had become a bit disillusioned with working in film/tv. I’d been a storyboard artist for a number of years and had even done some television directing at that point, but it wasn’t something I love and, in a lot of cases, wasn’t even something I enjoyed.

A buddy of mine, who was a lot more savvy about early digital film production, sold me on the idea of putting together a low-budget film aimed at comic book/genre fans – a Kevin Smith type movie times ten in terms of the genre-immersion. He also suggested I write the thing, which was a bit of a concern for me since I hadn’t actually written anything at that point. Figuring it would be something that no one would ever see, I jumped in with both feet and put together what I thought (and still think) was an incredibly fun and funny little script about a couple of comic book fans who were being faced with becoming “grown-ups.”

We put the film together over a few months, shot it at nights at Comic Relief in Berkeley, CA, and then released it about 2 years later on DVD. To this day, in spite of the long hours on set (we were shooting from 6pm until 6am most nights) and crappy conditions, “Bite Me, Fanboy” is still my favorite filmmaking experience. I’ve started on a sequel script now that I’ve got a bunch more writing under my belt (8 SyFy Channel Films, along with writing on a couple of TV shows for Disney). I’ve also toyed with the idea of re-shooting the original with a bigger budget.

Now, the short answer you were looking for would probably be “I wanted to do something fun and aimed at comic book fans.”

Are there comic nerd stereotypes of the public perception you’d like to change?

Honestly, and this is speaking as someone who has been a comic fan since he was 3 (35 years now!), I think most of the stereotypes are well deserved. To be even more honest, I’d love to see the comic industry itself go away and have comic readers no more noticeable than, say, someone who reads a book or a magazine. I think comic fans (and genre fans in general) like to classify themselves or enforce the stereotypes because it makes them feel different, special or unique.

As much as comic fans hate the stereotypes, they enjoy and thrive on them. If you get rid of them, then comic fans are just normal people like everyone else and I don’t think they could stand that reality.

How badly do you want to be on my list of sexy guys in comics for 2011?

They only way it would work for me to be on your list of “sexy guys in comics” is if you can invent a rank up above #1.

Thanks for the great questions!

(I was going to say “I’m sexy like a box of chocolates because, when you least expect it, you’ll get nuts in your mouth,” but my wife said that was inappropriate…)