Speed matters

Choosing Speed Over Quality

“Quality is subjective.  Speed isn’t.”

The very title of this post is sure to be controversial.

But in a day and age where the news cycle runs 24/7, where people demand their favorite websites be updated 40 times a day, where webcomics have to stick to an accelerated schedule lest they be forgotten while their creators pump out more material for their Patreon patrons, where comic books ship twice a month, and where artists who can’t hack a book once a month become cover artists so their work can be seen in different places multiple times a month — is it?

Like it or not, we’ve already made our choice.  Maybe you think you haven’t.  Maybe you, indeed, aren’t one of those.  But the cold harsh truth of the situation is that speed does count over quality these days.

With one oh-so-important caveat: if you don’t have any quality, speed won’t save you.  Speed will just show what a hack you are and push you out the door faster.

If you’re good, speed is your friend.

 

Let Gary Vaynerchuk Explain

In his daily vlog for April 10, 2017, Vaynerchuk talks with a rapper named KYLE.  He’s sitting down to talk about the reaction to his first hit song and what’s his next best career move. ( Here’s the song. NSFW, to put it mildly.)

There are definite parallels to the comic book world, and I’m going to point them out now.  Before we get to that, a little background is in order:

It would be far too easy to listen to half of this video and make a quick judgment that would be terribly wrong.  You have to listen to the whole thing.  There are some subtleties.  There are concepts that you’ll want to immediately reject until they hit you.  You can see that happening even to KYLE and friends in this video.

Keep thinking.  Follow along.  Watch it twice.  It’ll all make sense.

It also helps to have followed Vaynerchuk over the years to know where he’s coming from, and to understand his personality and his angle on things. This vlog is part of an effort he’s taken for the last 200+ days to document the work he does to build both his personal brand and his company.

When he refers to “DRock,” that’s the guy who follows him around all the time with a video camera to shoot footage for Vaynerchuk’s mostly-daily vlog.

Also: Vaynerchuk swears a lot.  A whole heck of a lot.  Don’t listen to this in the office or if there are kids around.

 

Documenting Over Creating

Here’s the episode of the show, and I’ll link to it at the 2:00 mark, where the conversation starts.  It runs for about fifteen minutes:

 

Translate everything you hear in that video from the music world to the comics world.

Vaynerchuk’s own vlog is a central part of his current thesis of “documenting over creating.”

His current social media crusade is that you’ll get more people following you and paying attention to you and ultimately becoming a fan if you spend your time documenting your work.

Merely releasing some new piece of work every now and again won’t satisfy the modern social media world.

“If you’re good enough, it will happen.”

Or, to go deeper:

“Now the market is the gatekeeper. The internet is the middle man. Now what’s holding people back is that they’re using the old model.  They think they got to put out an album every three years. They need to be [expletive deleted] putting out a song every day.”

And if you’re not good at that, then try every other day or three days or whatever you can do.

“But whatever it is, you have to put out those songs.”

If you’re a comic book artist, that should be your mantra.  That’s how so many modern comic artists are coming up.  They are posting things religiously and often.  They show you what they can do or what they’re working on daily.  Or weekly.

Frequently.

Daily sketches. Works in progress. Character designs.  Warm-up sketches. Something from the archives. Videos of how they ink or pencil or color or letter something.

 

Webcomics as the Best Example

The webcomic is the documentation of the graphic novel.

It comes out regularly, whether that means daily or weekly or what have you.

The final graphic novel is the product that you’ve documented.  And, along the way, that documentation has led you to an audience, who are now primed and ready to buy your book.

In the process of documenting your work, you built up an audience that you can turn to when the product is ready. You have a built-in, warmed up audience who likes you, knows your work, and trusts that your creation will be entertaining.

 

Personalize It

People want to root for the artist.  They want a personal connection to the work.

If they like your work and they like you, you’re set.  People will line up to give you money.

You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there, almost as much as the work.  People smell fear and it’s rarely enticing. You need to break yourself of your self-loathing first, somehow, which I know can be the hardest thing as a creative.

You can’t hide behind your art anymore.

 

 

Let the Market Decide

An ampty audience of seats

KYLE points out is that his big hit song was one they almost didn’t release. This proves Vaynerchuk’s point:

“It’s binary. You are just talented.  You can’t judge yourself.  Just put it out. Let them judge.”

Let the market decide.  You, as the artist, will always be your own harshest critic, often to too high a degree.  Let the people judge you, instead.  If you’re any good, you’ll likely be surprised at how much good work you do that you might not think highly of.

If you stink, the market will also judge you in the opposite direction, and you learn a valuable life lesson and move on. Or pivot.  Or get help to get better.  Or try something else entirely.

Comic conventions are filled with tables of people who haven’t quite figured that out after a decade of attending conventions peddling the same tired boring old unsuccessful project without much success in the comics market.

Maybe that’s changed in recent years.  Maybe the growth in comic conventions and the rise in prices of tables has finally forced out the unprofitable creators who see the shows either as ego strokes or as “marketing expenses.”

Cons are very expensive marketing tool nowadays.  You’re better off spending those few hundred dollars on a website makeover (new WordPress theme, at least) than a convention table.

Here, I’ll sum it up in a very Tweetable way:

  • You’ll get further taking an SEO course for your website than showing up at SDCC with a 4 foot table in a sea of higher profile creators.

The hustle is still real.  This whole article only covers half of it. Putting your stuff out there is half of the battle. The other half is getting people to notice you.  That goes hand in hand with this concept of speed over quality. You’re fighting against the rest of the internet for attention.  You’ve got to keep up with everyone else, and find some way to stand out.

 

The Power of Momentum

There’s a power that you’re given when something you do “pops” — if you have something go viral, or become the flavor of the day.

Vaynerchuk explains how it works in the music industry to KYLE, after his first hit song.  I’m paraphrasing a bit here because Vaynerchuk’s speaking patterns are, well, tough on the reading eye:

“Now that you got eyes on you, you have to understand. They’re gonna like it by default.  The song you put out next week — if you put out that song four months ago, it would have been a four…

“Let’s make pretend for fun. There’s a music god.  You put out this song.  She says it’s a four.  If it was four months ago and you put it out, it’s a four.  But now after this song, it’s a seven.”

Now, there’s a cynical side of me that wants to raise his hand and say, “Yeah, but this is the internet.  We build people up so we can enjoy tearing them down.”

But you can’t beat momentum. You can’t beat that kind of attention you get after a hit.

It’s the same with money.  The easiest way to make a million dollars is to start with ten million dollars, right?  The easiest way to gain a hundred follows on Instagram is if you start with 1000. (“The rich get richer,” as the saying goes.  In the attention economy, the economics are very similar.)

It’s a numbers game, and that’s where speed comes in.  Strike while the iron is hot. If you get the internet’s attention, run as hard as you can to keep it.

There’s one other interesting phenomenon at work when something you do pops.  The benefit of the doubt kicks in. I’ll give you an example and let Vaynerchuck explain it best next.

Force Liking and For Example

Paraphrasing Vaynerchuk some more:

Do you know we force ourselves to like the songs of the people we’ve decided are the biggest people in the world? If I don’t like it the first time, I don’t like it the first time.  If it’s Drake, I’m going to listen to it 15 more times until I figure it out.

For the majority of people, this is right. Let’s face it, The Chainsmokers have never written a good song.  Not “The Selfie Song.”  Not that song about the mattress and the Rover.  Not their current piece of trash.

And when the one guy decides he wants to sing, he only proves that he can’t hit a note to save his life.  (Thanks, Auto Tune!) (They also can’t spell…)

But they have momentum and popularity. People will convince themselves that they like this trash because the radio plays it so often and the DJs are trying to jump on the bandwagon and everyone wants to be cool. So the next mediocre single sounds better to your ear because you want to like it because you thought you liked the last three “songs.”

Eventually, that’ll catch up to them.

But if they were actually good and kept going at this rate, they’d be set for years and years.

Put out a lot ASAP.

You have to capitalize on it.  It’s like that old Mark Waid quote:

I would have capitalized better on the success of KINGDOM COME. Kurt Busiek used MARVELS to launch ASTRO CITY; I followed KC with such stellar works as X-O MANOWAR.

(The old Comic Book Legends series at CBR kinda debunked the quote once, but the gist of the story is true.)

 

The Follow Up: Oversaturation Doesn’t Exist

Here’s Vaynerchuk only a couple days later talking to another rapper, A$ap Ferg.  Here, he gets to the topic of legacy and media saturation.  The video above starts at this point in the conversation, roughly 15 minutes in, and goes for about three minutes. You can bail after that.

“My concern is that no one can oversaturate because of supply and demand of the noise.”

There’s just so much stuff out there, that even the most frequent creator risks being drowned out by a thousand other tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, Snaps, etc.

The point here is that you can’t saturate anything anymore with your content.  The biggest news barely lasts half a day before the internet moves on to the next outrage or the next shocking thing.

So why worry about putting out too much stuff?  You shouldn’t. Put it all out there.

Produce, and produce often, and believe in your work.  Don’t let the losers in the comments section get you down.  Do it because you have to.  Do it because you can’t not do it.  Do it because you believe in it.

And then throw it all out there for the world to see.  How many times do we have to hear the stories about the songs that were album filler that became big hits, or the last minute songs that were slapped together in five minutes becoming radio blockbusters?

Put it out there.

 

Artistic Self Love and Legacy

Paraphrasing here again:

“You’ll put out a song next week and it won’t do well.  (By your new standards.) It’ll do fine. But you might love it the most 17 years later.  What are you going to do with it?  What the [Bleepity Bleep] was your plan with this song? You made it.  What the hell you gonna do with it?  Just keep it on a drive?

“Once you stop worrying about what everybody else says — for real… Once you actually go there. And you just make a binary decision that I’m an artist and I believe in my stuff and it’s all my stuff — the good, the bad, and the ugly… Then it’s game over.

“Be so attached to yourself that you know every piece is great.

“I think you could put out a song next week that doesn’t pop, that could really pop five years from now.

“Quality is subjective.  Speed isn’t.”

You can’t judge your own quality.  You need to believe in it and you need to put yourself out there because you do believe in it.

You can’t want to make public work and hide from it at the same time.

You also can’t guess what the public is going to like.  You’re an awful judge of that. Let the market decide. Put stuff out there as fast as you can to stay top of mind.

Choose speed over quality.

3 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais April 24, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    What an odd post.
    I disagree completely with the notion that speed prevails over quality. Especially when it comes to art.
    You seem to conflate that opposition with the ‘complete stuff and put it out asap’ vs ‘not complete stuff until it’s absolutely perfect’, which is 1/ completely different and 2/ a false dichotomy anyway.
    I’d rather wait one year for a Mike Kaluta book rather than have a new one by Al Milgrom every fortnight (these are just examples, I don’t mean to single these two out. Milgrom used to be good at one point).
    Only in cases where your product is run-of-the-mill, then speed becomes relevant. I’m sure either one of us can name a handful of musicians we’d rather wait for a good album rather than have a crappy one every few months.
    Saturation IS a thing. Regardless of the quality of your writing, if you put out 40 posts a day, I’d cut you off in a second.
    There IS such a thing as flooding the market, just look at how many people have given up on comics over the years just because they can’t keep up with the big two. I was one of them, up until about the end of the 90s and they drove me away. I still care deeply for the characters, but too much product of dubious quality brings up fatigue and even sometimes disgust. Listen to a good song a couple hundred times and see what happens.
    The way I see it, that’s just human nature.

    Reply
  • Jason Beckwith June 3, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I completely agree. The public is fickle and things are moving more rapidly than ever before. As a writer/editor, it’s even harder to post on social media. I am always laying in wait for the latest page my artists, and don’t have the luxury of doing an ‘in-progress’ post the way that an artist can. I’m already starting to throw GoPros all around me as I table at Cons. I think the documentation over creation has an important role in modern indy publication. I’ve already begun to produce some vblogs, and knocking out as many videos as I can will be my summer goal.

    Reply

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