Just before crimbo, I finally got to a point where I was ready to get feedback on Red Night. Up until this point I had only talked with people about it in vague, broad terms and discussed specifics about plot points with my wife. But no one else had read anything about it, properly.
Normally I would like to get feedback throughout the development process. However, for me, that wouldn’t really work, because: a. I’m a one-man-band, and; b. the pool of people I have access to (i.e friends and family) are not all super versed in comics.
So - borrowing some methodology from the digital industry I work in by day - I decided that I would get most value from making a minimum viable product or MVP.
What’s an MVP?
Definitions of MVP vary and, for some reason, spark fierce (and rather pointless debate).
But what I mean is making the quickest, realistic but minimal version of a thing that can be shown to customers/users in order to get as realistic feedback as possible. It’s about expelling the least amount of effort in order to get good quality data, which you can use to keep iterating to make your thing better.
So for me, that meant showing a version of the comic with ‘good enough’ pencil roughs, dialogue balloons and layout.
So after finishing the script and thumbnails, I started developing the full sizes layout and pencil roughs with the Comic Draw App.
Comic Draw is pretty much an all-in-one solution for making comics on the iPad which you can export to pdf. I’m yet not sure whether I’ll actually make the final version with this, or use Procreate now that it has page assist - but I’m still learning and haven’t come down on one side of the other yet.
After I completed my MVP I needed a way to collect feedback. I couldn’t really find any specific resources for getting feedback on comics, so I put together my set of questions using this helpful primer as a guide, albeit the article’s questions are for novels. I didn’t use all of them and modified them for my needs.
Then I set up a Google Form with some instructions and a link to a pdf of the MVP on Dropbox. I also set it up to be anonymous and not collect any personal data - both GDPR compliant and will help get more honest feedback. I then configured my Mailchimp account to send an autoresponder to anyone who signs up to my newsletter with the form.
I couldn’t say yet whether all this is actually a good idea or not, but some responses have already started trickling through and have been both positive and enormously helpful to make the comic better.
I was worried that my beta readers may be put off by the rough artwork, but I added a couple of warnings on the form and in the MVP comic. I also know that my initial beta readers will likely be friends who I have already primed about this.
If you are also starting out - you might want to give this way a try. The only thing I had to pay for was Comic Draw - Google Forms, Mailchimp and Dropbox are all free (with limitations).
If you want a copy of the questions I used - give me a shout or sign up to my newsletter whilst the beta is still open to see it for yourself - feedback is more than welcome :)