Webcomic finance: big talk time?

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Webcomic finance: big talk time?

Postby Tim Tylor on Tue Aug 12, 2003 1:22 pm

R. Stevens of Diesel Sweeties brought this issue up and it's been bothering me too as a fan. Any thoughts, folks? :)
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Postby scrubbo on Tue Aug 12, 2003 2:39 pm

I tend to think that things aren't as bad as they are made out to be. With prices for bandwidth slowly creeping down, things get 'less bad' as time goes on for the online cartoonist. However, I don't think things will get as good as some people seem to think they will.

It's a rare phenomenom for web cartoonists to support themselves by cartooning. It's ALSO a rare phenomenom for newspaper cartoonists or comic book makers to support themselves with their work as well. Comic strips fail in the papers. Books last 2-3 issues. Artists struggle for years. Web artists will as well. You try and get what the market will bear out of your work and as artists, that ain't a lot.

However, as Mr. Stevens pointed out, most comics don't even TRY to get what the market will bear out of their work. But that's because it's a painful leap to make. If you offer your merchandise through a third party provider and storefront like Cafe Press, you get jack for your return per item. If you order up a bulk order so you can get a decent return on your investment, you get a huge up front investment. Both are quite scary!

What's a poor little toonist to do?

Talk to your readers. As R. Stevens pointed out, you need to interact. Your readers make the best focus group ever, because they are your actual target demographic. Find out what people would be interested in. Take pre-orders to guestimate how many you'd need. Print up a few extra of whatever merch it is, fill your pre-orders, and shill the rest on the FRONT PAGE of your comic. Let 'em know you gots da goods for them to buy.

I don't think webcomics will ever be much of a paying proposition, but I do think we can make it break even. Or at least come close. :)
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Postby NOW!!!! on Tue Aug 12, 2003 3:01 pm

scrubbo wrote:I tend to think that things aren't as bad as they are made out to be. With prices for bandwidth slowly creeping down, things get 'less bad' as time goes on for the online cartoonist. However, I don't think things will get as good as some people seem to think they will.

It's a rare phenomenom for web cartoonists to support themselves by cartooning. It's ALSO a rare phenomenom for newspaper cartoonists or comic book makers to support themselves with their work as well. Comic strips fail in the papers. Books last 2-3 issues. Artists struggle for years. Web artists will as well. You try and get what the market will bear out of your work and as artists, that ain't a lot.

However, as Mr. Stevens pointed out, most comics don't even TRY to get what the market will bear out of their work. But that's because it's a painful leap to make. If you offer your merchandise through a third party provider and storefront like Cafe Press, you get jack for your return per item. If you order up a bulk order so you can get a decent return on your investment, you get a huge up front investment. Both are quite scary!

What's a poor little toonist to do?

Talk to your readers. As R. Stevens pointed out, you need to interact. Your readers make the best focus group ever, because they are your actual target demographic. Find out what people would be interested in. Take pre-orders to guestimate how many you'd need. Print up a few extra of whatever merch it is, fill your pre-orders, and shill the rest on the FRONT PAGE of your comic. Let 'em know you gots da goods for them to buy.

I don't think webcomics will ever be much of a paying proposition, but I do think we can make it break even. Or at least come close. :)


I hope most of us doing this aren't expecting to support ourselves with this sort of thing... that would seem rather delusional to me, even in the case of a successful online comic... I do this because I enjoy it, and it's an excellent way to improve my drawing and writing skills, and because I can put this sort of stuff in my portfolio, and even if only a dozen other people get any kind of enjoyment or entertainment out of it and choose to come back every now and then, well, that's a bonus!


The section about talking to your readers in close-to-real-time (as a forum offers) particularly caught my eye too... I wonder just how big a difference that makes in general (not just to sell stuff, mind you, but in general...).
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Postby Syke on Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:36 pm

It makes a LOT of difference. I probably don't even have a twentieth of the readership Sluggy has,... but a lot of the people know me by my stop bys on the tagboard, livejournal and BIG attempts to be in my forums.

Right now,... they've come to my aid in a way that I could never have imagined in my time of need. (I do wish that this happened every month, the response that is... and not just when I have a daughter in ICU. If I got that kind of response every month... I'd be making twice what I make at my full time job. I'd be happy with a quarter of that every month,... I am happy with how generous they've been though and maybe someday I can show them just how much I appreciated it... guess I'll just have to drag my daughter around to all the conventions I go to once she can be around people. :D
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Postby NOW!!!! on Tue Aug 12, 2003 8:09 pm

Syke wrote:It makes a LOT of difference. I probably don't even have a twentieth of the readership Sluggy has,... but a lot of the people know me by my stop bys on the tagboard, livejournal and BIG attempts to be in my forums.

Right now,... they've come to my aid in a way that I could never have imagined in my time of need. (I do wish that this happened every month, the response that is... and not just when I have a daughter in ICU. If I got that kind of response every month... I'd be making twice what I make at my full time job. I'd be happy with a quarter of that every month,... I am happy with how generous they've been though and maybe someday I can show them just how much I appreciated it... guess I'll just have to drag my daughter around to all the conventions I go to once she can be around people. :D


Well, it probably helps to have some readership to begin with...

Does the 'Space offer forum hosting services for all the comics they host, or only certain ones?
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Postby Syke on Tue Aug 12, 2003 9:26 pm

All of them, you just have to go to the forum request section. :) *And I added a link to Rugg in my link section.. I will do banners soon as I can.*

And nope, I don't expect to support myself on it.. now.. as a secondary source of income, it works,... it just needs to work a little better. :)
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Postby justinpie on Wed Aug 13, 2003 7:57 pm

The joyful thought of seeing children's eyes light up as they beg for my overpriced product tie-ins on the shelves of the Grand Forks, ND Pamida store is payment enough for the work I do.

At the very least, it would be cool to keep all of my plasma for a few weeks.
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Postby Tim Tylor on Thu Aug 14, 2003 2:39 pm

justinpie wrote:The joyful thought of seeing children's eyes light up as they beg for my overpriced product tie-ins on the shelves of the Grand Forks, ND Pamida store is payment enough for the work I do.


Any luck with the fluorescent blue addictive "Killroy Crunch" breakfast cereal? And the toothpaste ads with Void playing the cavity? ;) (Sorry. I've just started reading K&T. I think it's pretty good, and very funny.)

There's an interesting newspaper article on the whole subject:
Making the web pay
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Postby justinpie on Fri Aug 15, 2003 11:40 am

Thanks from the complyments, Tim! I had to take Killroy Crunch off the market after it started messing up people's x-rays, ALLEGEDLY.

Also, Wraith is doing those toothpaste ads to avoid being typecast, but he's also dealing with some messy breach-of-contract dispute with Peter Jackson. As long as he shows up to work sober enough to read lines, I stay out of it.
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