Supporting Independents (or How You Can Make the World a Better Place in Four Easy Steps)

cartoonI woke up this morning, and like many independent creators, I worried about where my next paycheck was coming from, if my bills would be paid this month, and, of course, if my creative pursuits were a waste of time. As I crawled out of bed, with all this stuff eating away at me, I made myself a cup of tea, sat down to check my emails, and then found myself on Kickstarter donating to the campaign of some friends trying to finish their short film. Thirty minutes later, I had logged on to Drive-Thru Comics and purchased a graphic novel created by a friend. Keep in mind, my gas tank is on empty, and I ain’t got enough to fill it up. I suppose throwing money at projects like those I supported this morning may have been foolish—but then I’m an indie creator myself, which by definition makes me something of a fool.

I started to write a long post about supporting indie artists and independent retailers, but I don’t have the time for that, and most of you probably don’t want to read something like that. Instead, I came up with a very basic idea—something of a grassroots initiative to help support the independents. It is very basic, and very simple.

STEP 1 – You buy one independently produced creation—it can be a self-published novel or comic book, an album being sold directly by the musicians that recorded it, a self-distributed movie, an original piece of art, and hand-knitted scarf. I don’t care what it is, as long as it is something created independently, with money that came directly from the creator’s pocket (or from the pockets of people they borrowed money from).

STEP 2 – You buy another independently produced creation (book, comic, CD, DVD, scarf, wind chime made of old spoons, etc.) and you give it to a friend.

STEP 3 – You encourage your friend to do the same thing—buy something for themselves, and buy something for someone else. That’s pretty much it. You can do all of this for around $20 (or more if you want to be generous). And to be clear, I’m not asking you to buy product from me (although you are more than welcome to), just buy something from someone who is trying to make some money off their creativity. If you don’t think one or two purchases here and there of some self-published book or some self-produced album makes a difference, think again.

STEP 4 – Leave a positive review of what you bought, mention it and share a link on your Twitter or Facebook page. This is very important. Independent art is totally dependent on word-of-mouth. And when you leave a review or comment, don’t give a great book two stars just because Amazon said it would be there in a week, and it took ten days. In other words, review the product, not the seller, or the delivery service, or some other nonsense that has nothing to do with the book or DVD or CD you’ve purchased.

Some of you might not know where to find independently produced art. Start off by looking around on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr—you’ll find all sorts of great projects just by searching around on these sites and looking at the pages of your friends. Kickstarter is also a great place to discover indie projects in a variety of mediums.  Monkey Brain Comics is probably the best publisher of all-digital indie comics.  Drive-Thru Comics and Indy Planet both sell both comics and graphic novels by do-it-yourself publishers. Pledge Music and CD Baby are great places to find music. MoPix is a platform for self-distributed film, as is Vodo. Smashwords is great place to start looking for self-published books. There are a ton of other places to look for indie products, the important thing is that you search, support, and share.

And finally, whenever possible, support independently owned retailers as well. The Internet and corporate chain stores have killed a lot of indie retailers, but they still exist. If you’re lucky enough to have an independent record store or book store near you, give them your business, and encourage them to carry product by the creators you support. Thanks. That’s all for now.

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