Con. Smith wasinspired to create
her own superhero after a trip to
a local comic book store in L.A.
“I had trouble finding any books
with a black woman on the cover,”
says the North Carolina native.
So, she decided to create one.
“Women make up like 46% of comic
book readers, so it’s a no brainer
that we should be creating these
stories,” Smith says.
The learning curve for self-publishing a graphic novel is steep.
After writing the first book of her
planned six-part series and collaborating with artists, colorists,
and letterers, Smith was ready
for the publishing process. One
of the surprises was learning that
the print and digital editions of
her book required different types
of formatting: color printing
requires files in CMYK mode, and
digital requires RGB. This meant
a last-minute scramble to reformat
the digital edition. Choosing how
to publish the print edition was
another consideration. Publishing
in color on CreateSpace was too
costly, says Smith. Plus, she felt
that the platform catered to black-and-white, text-based publications
rather than graphic novels.
“I wanted to find a company
that specialized in printing com-
ics since I felt like they would be
able to address any issues that
we may have overlooked,” Smith
says. She opted for Texas-based
Litho Ninja, which does just that.
Smith then hand-sold the printed
books into traditional comic book
stores around her home in Los
Angeles, as well as more unusual
outlets. “I have books for sale in
pharmacies and newsstands and
even in women’s beauty supply
stores,” she says.
The first step in her publicity
plan was a trailer for the series.
Smith already had experience
writing and directing; her short
The Gestapo vs. Granny was a
finalist in HBO’s Project Greenlight
competition in 2015. She planned
to use the trailer to introduce
comic book fans to the series.
Smith has since expanded that
effort into a short 14-minute film.
“I really thought that having a
great trailer would help push book
sales, but that hasn’t happened,
at least so far,” she says. The discrepancy between trailer views
and book sales is something that
Smith hasn’t figured out yet—
although she says she often gets
inquiries from readers and viewers wondering about a feature-length film.
Next came outreach to real
comic book enthusiasts, which
meant launching the second book
at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic
Con in October. Smith says the
response was encouraging, par-
ticularly from women readers.
She recalls meeting a group of
girls who were on the hunt for
female superhero characters, but
who were discouraged to discover
the creators were all men. “Their
question was: where are the
women who are creating these
strong female characters?” Smith
says. “By the time they arrived
at my table, they were both excited
and relieved to find a woman who
was telling a story about a strong
and powerful woman.”
Smith has also sent copies of
her book to authors she admires,
as well as to public figures such
as Michelle Obama. “My strategy
for Rayven Choi is to turn her
story into a property that is just
as big as a Hunger Games or
Divergent,” Smith says. ■
Jennifer McCartney is a freelance writer, editor, and the
author of the novel Afloat.
The movie poster for the Rayven
Choi short film
Covers and back covers from Smith’s Rayven Choi series