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Monthly Archives: December 2017

Rethinking social media, the internet, and email newsletters for creators in 2018

I’m just old enough that email newsletters made my career possible. And I’m starting to think that they’re going to save us indie creators and freelancers all over again in the coming years.

Back in 2002, when I was taking my feature film Robot Stories around to film festivals, I’d pass around a notebook and collect email addresses from every audience I spoke to. By the end of our festival run, we had no real budget for publicity for our theatrical run, but we had a few thousand email addresses. And that was better than gold. I sent out email newsletters every week, asking our amazing supporters to get their friends in whatever city we were visiting next to come see, come see! And they did!

As the years passed, I sent out fewer and fewer newsletters and spent more and more time on social media. Social media was easier, and let’s be honest — it was more fun. At first it seemed like we were all just goofing around on Twitter, telling ourselves it was good publicity but mostly just cracking jokes. But Twitter proved its enormous value when I started doing Kickstarters. Without Twitter, we’d have been hard pressed to drum up the kind of support we did for Code Monkey Save World, The Princess Who Saved Herself, ABC Disgusting, and Kickstarter Secrets.

But with each passing day, the culture and administration of Twitter seems to get more overwhelmed with negativity and harassment. Something’s going to break. And when it does, where does that leave all of the creatives and freelancers who have put so much of their outreach efforts into the site?

And it’s not just Twitter that’s the problem. Just the other week, Patreon rolled out a new fee structure that killed the incentive for backers to make $1 or $2 pledges. Thousands of creators absolutely rely on those low dollar pledges — and some folks lost dozens of backers overnight. Patreon has since apologized for and cancelled the changes. But the episode demonstrates what we should always remember: any or all of the sites that we depend so much on could get ruined overnight.

The situation is made even more stark by the FCC’s determination to destroy net neutrality, which would allow internet service providers to throttle speeds and block access to sites they don’t like. So what happens if your business model as an independent creative depends on Kickstarter and your ISP throttles Kickstarter? It doesn’t even have to be your ISP — if anyone’s ISP throttles the site you depend on, you’re not going to reach potential backers as easily and your project could fail.

So in recent weeks, I’ve been thinking about the need to reach readers and fans without having to rely on the Twitters and Patreons of the world. And I found myself thinking about my good ol’ email newsletter. I’d let it fall into disuse partly because it was administered through my old webhosting company using 2005-era technology. So I started exploring newer email newsletter services like MailChimp and TinyLetter, both of which seem fine. But MailChimp’s formatting tools felt a little too complicated to me. And both MailChimp and TinyLetter seem to automatically create an un-deletable web version of every newsletter. That doesn’t seem wonderful to me — not everything needs to live forever on the web, and I already knew I wanted to give subscribers occasional digital freebies that I didn’t want non-subscribers to be able to find online.

Then the very smart Cheryl Lynn Eaton told me about MailPoet, an email newsletter solution that works as a WordPress plug-in. Since my website’s run on WordPress, it was very easy for me to set up and work with MailPoet, and I had the peace of mind knowing that everything would live on my own server and I could delete whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

I’ve been using MailPoet for almost a week now, and I’m pretty thrilled. I’ve had a few technical issues — today, the MailPoet mail server didn’t want to send out any emails, so I had to switch to my own webhosting company’s SMTP settings. I’m hoping that’s a temporary glitch — we’ll see.

But the big bonus is that I’m building a fresh email list and sending out beautifully formatted newsletters that are pretty darn easy for me to put together through WordPress. So far, my subscriber list is literally 1 percent the size of my Twitter following. But I’ve just been at it a week, and the longer and more consistently I put out newsletters, the more those numbers will grow. Furthermore, my strong suspicion is that someone who subscribes to a newsletter is five to twenty times more likely to actually buy one of my books than someone who’s casually following me on Twitter.

Most importantly, I’m building a list that will survive the collapse of any individual social network or internet service. I’m not at all planning to abandon all the other services I use overnight. Any tool that still works is a tool I’m going to use. But there was a point not too long ago when I was concerned with making sure I was pushing people who had subscribed to my email newsletter to follow me on Twitter. Now I’m realizing I got that exactly backward. I’m going to use all of these tools, but I’m going to use them all to grow my email list. Because as long as email endures, this list will endure, and I’ll have a way to reach my readers.

What’s old is new again, huh?

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

In the meantime, natch… subscribe to my newsletter! 😉

The newsletter goes out around one to four times a month and it’s the best place to get the very latest news about my comics, films, and other projects.

Just enter your email in the form below, and then please be sure to check your email and click the confirmation link in the note we’ll send you. Please check your spam folder if you don’t see the email right away — it might have gotten redirected!

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Thanks so much!

 

 

2017.12.13 – WEAPON X #12, in stores today!

WEAPON X #12 hits stores today, with gorgeous art from Yildiray Cinar, colors by Frank D’Armata, cover by Razzah, and letters by Joe Caramagna. Check out the preview and go get it today!

CBR interviews Greg Pak about WEAPON H, the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous hero!

CBR has just posted an interview with yours truly about the new WEAPON H book I’m writing and Cory Smith is drawing, along with some of Cory’s gorgeous art! Check out the excerpt below:

CBR: As a reader, it’s been interesting watching the development of Weapon H as he moves from mysterious character to antagonist to hero of his own story. What can you tell us about the evolution of the character from a creative and editorial standpoint? When you were first working on the character, did you ever think you’d be writing him in his own series?

Greg Pak: As a Wolverine/Hulk hybrid, Weapon H looks like a marketer’s dream, right? But the character developed organically through the story. Back when we were developing the “Weapons of Mutant Destruction” storyline, we established that the Weapon X scientists were collecting DNA from various mutants to turn people into killing machines. I said, “Well, we’ve got the Hulk in the book now. Seems like they’d want to collect Hulk DNA, too.” Suddenly, we had a Wolverine-Hulk hybrid on our hands.

We eventually revealed this Wolverine-Hulk hybrid as the ultimate weapon that Weapon X had been developing. And in the subsequent story that Fred Van Lente and I cowrote in Weapon X, we revealed that the man who was turned into this Wolverine-Hulk hybrid was Clay, a former soldier turned Eaglestar military contractor who’d been drugged and shipped out to Weapon X when he started challenging Eaglestar’s brutal operating procedure.

I loved all of this because it was a chance to explore familiar tropes of Wolverine and Hulk through a different kind of character. The big danger of both Wolverine and the Hulk is, traditionally, that they can lose control, go berserk. But Clay was chosen for this procedure because he has intense military discipline. The idea is that he’s the perfect weapon because he can control this tremendous power. But now Clay’s free from Weapon X — so the question is what a person with this tremendous discipline is going to do with this terrifying power?

Read the whole interview here!

New MECH CADET YU interviews from Comicon.com and Outright Geekery!

Interior art from MECH CADET YU #5 – line art by Takeshi Miyazawa, colors by Triona Farrell.

I’ve been interviewed by a few more folks about MECH CADET YU! The MECH CADET YU Volume One collected trade and MECH CADET YU #5 both hit comic shops on January 3 — please do call your local comic shop today and ask ’em to pre-order a copy for you!

Here’s an excerpt from the Comicon interview:

HMS: I think that as fun as giant robots are and can be in comics, animation, and film, they will fall a little flat if there’s not a bigger emotional component in some lead characters. In creating Stanford Yu, what main elements did you feel were core to his character? How did you develop those for the reader without getting too deeply into back story?

GP: Oh, the emotional story is always everything. We’ve all been to movies that are just spectacular in terms of action and visuals, but leave us totally cold and unmoved. Nothing’s more important than digging deep into your characters’ emotional lives and goals and conflicts. That’s the only reason we really care. In terms of Mech Cadet Yu, the most important details for us to establish were that Stanford’s an underdog–a janitor’s kid at an elite military academy. It’s also a subtle but important part of his story that his mother’s an immigrant and speaks to him in Cantonese, and his father died years ago, sickened by his work conditions, helping clean up in the wake of the first Sharg War.

This is a working-class immigrant family trying hard to make it in a world steeped in crisis and dominated by elites. We revealed those details mostly through showing rather than telling, bit by bit over the first few issues, doing our best to make it as organic and seamless as possible. The hope is that those elements help amp up the stakes for Stanford as he enters the Sky Corps Academy and provide depth to the conflicts he has with his fellow cadets–the General’s daughter, Park, in particular.

And here’s an excerpt from the Outright Geekery interview:

OG: How often do you and series artist Takeshi Miyazawa have the same vision of the mechs, the cast, and their first true threat, the Sharg?

GP: Tak’s one of my favorite collaborators on the planet. We co-created Amadeus Cho for Marvel back in the day, and from the beginning I knew we had something special going on. He just kind of gets everything I write. All the little character details, all the tiny bits of body language, all the subtle drama and humor… Tak gets it all. So whenever he sends in character or robot or monster designs, I pretty much just cheer him on. He’s soooo good.

This is a good place to plug the rest of the creative team. Colorist Triona Farrell and letterer Simon Bowland are doing tremendous work, and my BOOM editors Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn have just been fantastic. Everyone just gets this story and is doing everything they can to make it sing.

Review of the MECH CADET YU Vol. 1 trade from Geek Out Book Club!

The Geek Out Book Club podcast has released a rave review of the MECH CADET YU Volume One trade collection, which hits comic book shops on January 3.

Check out the review here — or play it below!

And call your local comic shop to pre-order the MECH CADET YU Volume One trade and MECH CADET YU #5 today — both come out on January 3, and today is the deadline for preorders for comic shops!

I’m upgrading my email newsletter! Sign up today!

 

Art by the great Marie Severin

Hey, fun news! I’m upgrading/relaunching my email newsletter and now’s the perfect time to sign up!

The newsletter goes out around one to four times a month and it’s the best place to get the very latest news about my comics, films, and other projects.

Just enter your email in the form below, and then please be sure to check your email and click the confirmation link in the note we’ll send you. Please check your spam folder if you don’t see the email right away — it might have gotten redirected!

Your email will be used only to send you the Greg Pak Newsletter and you can unsubscribe at any time by selecting “unsubscribe” at the bottom of any newsletter you receive.

Thanks so much!

Vote for MECH CADET YU in the IGN Best New Comic Book Series poll!

IGN has announced its nominees for Best New Comic Book of 2017 — and MECH CADET YU made this list! Please do feel free to check it out and VOTE for your fave today!

MECH CADET YU comic book trailer!

Hey, friends! Here’s the brand new trailer for the MECH CADET YU comic book, written by yours truly, with art by Takeshi Miyazawa, colors by Triona Farrell, letters by Simon Bowland, and published by BOOM! Studios. Music for the trailer is by the great David Libby.

MECH CADET YU tells the story of a janitor’s kid who bonds with a giant robot and joins the elite Sky Corps Academy — and ends up taking on the deadly Sharg invaders from outer space. It’s probably the best reviewed book of my career and I just love it and hope I can keep writing it forever. Hope very much you get a kick out of it, too!

The first collected trade and issue #5 both hit stores on January 3 — please do pre-order them from your local comic shop by December 11, the final order cutoff date!

2017-12-09 – Greg Pak signs at Anyone Comics in Brooklyn with Hama, Yarsky & Ma!

I’m signing comics at Anyone Comics in Brooklyn on Saturday, December 9, at 5 pm! Come see, come see! Larry Hama, Caitlin Yarsky, and Jerry Ma will also be signing!

All the details: https://www.facebook.com/events/381008305688812/

Mastodon Monday! Some thoughts on the new social network

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.11.20 AM

In the wake of multiple reports of Twitter failing to curb harassment, I’ve been hungry to find a decent social network alternative. So last month, like thousands of others, I dove back into the new social network Mastodon to see if it might fit the bill. So how’s it gone so far?

Overall, I dig Mastodon! The default interface is pretty reminiscent of Tweetdeck, which is familiar enough. The community vibe is great — as is often the case with a new social network, folks are cheery and happy to be poking around, willing to be a bit more goofy and earnest than they sometimes are on Twitter. The biggest usability knock against Mastodon right now is its system of servers or “instances,” which takes a little effort to wrap your head around. So let’s get that out of the way first…

Mastodon is actually a set of software tools rather than a centralized social network. So different people can run their own “instance” of Mastodon the same way folks can install and run their own WordPress blogs. You can generally follow anyone on Mastodon regardless of what instance you or they have registered with. But when you join Mastodon, you’re actually joining a single instance of Mastodon, which is administered by the folks who set it up.

You need to put a little thought into choosing your instance. The administers of each instance set their own rules, so if you want a Nazi-free environment, make sure to read the terms of the instance to make sure of its policies. And it’s worth considering the fact that if the administrators of your instance get bored or overwhelmed and abandon the service, that instance might get deleted and your posts and contacts could vanish. (I’ve found tools that let you export your follow/block/mute lists, but not your posts. I’ll update if I discover a way to do this.)

I joined the mastodon.social instance, which is run by Eugen Rochko, aka Gargron, the developer of Mastodon. I figure that instance will probably be around as long as Mastodon itself exists. And mastodon.social has a strong anti-harassment and anti-Nazi policy that seems to be enforced.

If you just want to use Mastodon as a Twitter alternative, now all you need to do is follow a bunch of people and start posting. The posts of people you follow will end up in your “Home” column and their posts and follows to you will show up in your “Notifications” column. But Mastodon also gives you a “Local Timeline,” which shows all the posts of everyone in your instance, even if you’re not following them directly. And it gives you a “Federated Timeline,” which shows you all the posts of everyone that people in your instance follow. In practice, the “Local Timeline” is pretty cool for small instances, like comicspace.masto.host, which only has 257 users right now. But the Federated timeline can be overwhelming, particularly for big instances like mastodon.social, which has 116,000 users.

My advice? If the “Local” and “Federated” timelines confuse or bother you? Ignore ’em! Otherwise, poke into ’em from time to time to find new users to follow or conversations to join.

The next question you’ll probably have is whether you need to join multiple instances. Many of us comics people initially joined mastodon.social — you can find me there at mastodon.social/@gregpak. But then folks started the comicspace.masto.host instance, which is moderated by @ladyvader99 and Ken Lowery. I joined that instance as well and I like popping in there to see what’s going on. But I do most of posting from my mastodon.social account, where I have the most followers. I don’t love the fact that you can’t register a single username with some central Mastodon authority and use it globally across all instances — that would make the whole experience much simpler than having multiple usernames and logins. (This one issue may be what keeps Mastodon from ever getting the kind of mass influx of users that could make it a real Twitter killer. For now, I’m not letting it bother me too much — I’m just using the service in a way that makes sense for me and enjoying it.)

Onward to bullet points!

WHAT I WANT FROM A SOCIAL NETWORK AND HOW MASTODON STACKS UP

1. Strong, enforced anti-harassment and anti-Nazi policies

The instances I’ve joined at Mastodon have such policies, which is fantastic. But it’s worth noting that each instance is run by private administrators who may or may not have the long-term time or ability to enforce their policies. Harassers can be very effective at dog-piling and overwhelming when they put their mind to it. But at least administrators can declare their policies and have the tools to enforce them. And if a bunch of harassers are coming from a specific instance, administrators can block that entire instance. For what it’s worth, right now the vibe at the instances I’m part of is great.

2. Twitter-like layout with a timeline of many short posts rather than a Facebook-like timeline of longer, blog-like posts.

Mastodon delivers here. The posts can be up to 500 characters, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all. Mostly seeing quick, short posts.

3. Strictly chronological timeline — most recent posts appearing first.

Yes! Thank you!

4. Decent interface, usability.

It’s fine, particularly if you’ve ever used Tweetdeck before. If you want a more Twitter-like interface, you can log into halcyon.social with your Mastodon username and you’ll get a very familiar layout. For iOS, I’m using Tootdon, which is fine.

Here's what my mastodon.social account looks like when I log in via halycon.social. Pretty familiar, huh? Some glitches, still -- including the note encouraging me to follow myself. :-) But not bad!

Here’s what my mastodon.social account looks like when I log in via halycon.social. Pretty familiar, huh? Some glitches, still — including the note encouraging me to follow myself. 🙂 But not bad!

5. Privacy and security.

My biggest caveats about Mastodon right now involve privacy, security, and long term viability. Since the instances are run by private individuals/administrators, there’s no global control over privacy and security. Depending on your perspective, you could see this as a bonus. But I’m unclear on whether administrators have the ability to view private messages, for example, so I’m not using that feature at all. (I’ll update this later if I learn more about how private messages work.)

I also can’t find a button to delete my account. Presumably, I could delete all my individual posts. But that could take a loooong time, depending on how much I’ve been using the system. And if I’ve joined multiple instances, I’d have to repeat the process for each instance. [UPDATE: Mastodon user slipstream has notified me that you CAN delete your account — go to Settings > Security and there’s a link at the bottom of the page!]  One good thing — I was worried whether deleting a post in my instance would also delete its retweets or “boosts” in other instances. But I just tested it, and deleting a post seems to delete it across instances, which is great.

6. Tons of people.

Here’s where Mastodon suffers. Lots of people signed up in April when the service got its first big wave of publicity, and a bunch more signed up last month when Twitter made a few big harrassment-related mistakes. But right now my Mastodon timeline feels pretty slow. Come play!

7. Other wing-dings like the ability to display gifs & video.

Mastodon doesn’t currently play gifs automatically, and it doesn’t have a built-in gif selector. Gifs are fun, so that’s unfortunate, but not a dealbreaker. [UPDATE: Eugen contacted me on Mastodon to let me know that gifs CAN autoplay — you just have to enable that in Preferences!]

Mastodon also doesn’t display a preview of pages you link to or playable videos. Again, it makes things a bit less fun and less likely to get clicked on or shared. But not a dealbreaker at the moment.

Mastodon doesn’t allow for quote-tweeting, which is something that I’ve gotten accustomed to using on Twitter. But I just did a quick Q&A on Mastodon and used the good 0ld fashioned manual RT method to show the questions, which is fine for now.

OKAY, SOUNDS COOL. WHO SHOULD I FOLLOW?

Glad you asked! Lots of fun comics people and writers are goofing around on Mastodon right now — here are just a few pretty active folks to get ya started! (I’ll add to this over time.)

Steve Lieber – https://comicspace.masto.host/@stevelieber

Trungles – https://mastodon.social/@Trungles

Wendy Xu – https://mastodon.social/@angrygirLcomics

John Scalzi – https://mastodon.social/@scalzi

Chuck Wendig – https://mastodon.social/@chuckwendig

Amy Chu – https://mastodon.social/@AmyChu

 

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