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New Galaxion! And a rant on making $$$ with webcomics.

Posted on 2008.04.02 at 08:48
Page 71 is up!

And on a different subject...

On a couple of the webcomics forums I'm currently reading, the topic of how to make money as a "webcomicker" has come up several times. I know it's certainly on my mind. There's a growing crowd of people who manage the trick, st least according to Wikipedia's list of self-supporting webcomics. I'm very happy to hear that the system works-- people can not only make money at this game, but they can even make enough money for comics to be their main source of income! That's pretty incredible, considering the number of nay-sayers out there who've been yelling about how giving away your comics for free would ruin the market.

And so, on the forums and blog lists, there is much discussion among those of us who, ahem, are not exactly raking in the dough, about how an aspiring webcomicker can get in on some of this action. Potentially, there are t-shirts, buttons and other merchandise sales, original art sales, ad revenue, donations... and, oh yeah, books, if you happen to have any. It is generally agreed that some comics lend themselves more to t-shirt/mug/whatever slogans than others (I note that the majority of comics on that list I mentioned above are gag-a-day, for example). And the print-on-demand options make everything so easy.

But I find I'm starting to get that same kind of icky feeling about all this as I did when I first started going to comic conventions again in 2006, after six years of not being in comics at all. I remember looking around at the tables in the small press alley and seeing all the hats and prints and t-shirts and toys and thinking to myself, where are all the comics? Isn't this place-- this section of the show in particular-- supposed to be about comics?

This isn't a new trend, of course. I remember the process of watching Toronto's great Queen St. W. comic shop The Silver Snail slowly slide from a store that focused on comics to one in which the action figures and related toys starting taking over the entire first floor. Action figures have a much higher profit margin, and if that's what it takes to keep your store afloat, especially in a trendy area like Queen West... well, I can't really blame them. Comic books, the floppies, have been a dwindling market for a long time.

I understand, I really do, the desire to make a little bit of money at this webcomic thing. At least with print comics the path to making money was clear (although making enough to cover your costs was pretty near unattainable for young start-ups)-- you make the comics, you sell them to stores. Usually with a distributor in the middle. Voila, money. But it's a bit trickier when the audience gets to read the comics for free. If you can't charge the readers for actually reading the material (I think we've all come to the conclusion that the subscription or micro-payment models aren't working?), then you have to get them some other way. And it seems that way is merchandise.

There are plenty of webcomickers out there who are clearly doing their comics for the love of it, because they love to draw, or because they have a story they want to tell. But I can see the slippery slope ahead, where webcomickers will be tempted to retool their comics to ones that will look good on a white cotton tee. How many gag-a-day creators are discarding good visual jokes in favour of one-liners that make good t-shirt copy?

I guess this is the same sort of pattern that other bloggers have been complaining about in regards to using comics to pitch movies to Hollywood. Or the slew of self-publishers in the '80s and '90s who saw the wild success of certain other self-publishers and tried churning out comics in an effort to get rich quick. But I'm not trying to speak to them, the ones that are only in comics for the supposed money. No, my concern is for the webcomickers who started out with the best intentions, trying to make the best comic they could, and are now wondering why they aren't seeing their fair share of the money that other people seem to be making.

Please please please remember: it's about the comics, you guys. T-shirts and buttons are all well and good, but don't lose sight of the reason you started this in the first place. And anyway, I really wish more people would think about making money off of print collections of their comics, instead of Zazzle merchandise! Make something good enough for me to want to read it, and I'll happily buy a book and support you that way. OK? OK.


Donald Simmons
theengineer at 2008-04-02 15:22 (UTC) (Link)
I've already got more t-shirts, mugs, etc then I ever use, so when I want to support a webcomic I like, and they don't sell collections, I just hit the tip jar occasionally.

At Ad Astra last weekend Howard Taylor, of the webcomic Schlock Mercenary, was a guest, and I got all three of his current collections (which include original contact and lots of comments).
ttallan at 2008-04-02 16:55 (UTC) (Link)
So was Ad Astra a good time? I do miss going there with Bakka. On the other hand, when I was there at the Bakka table I never got to check out much of the programming....

I'm of two minds about the tip jar thing. On one hand, there's my experience with it out in the real world, where I see one at every last donut shop and retail store I walk into, and it really irks me. Why should I have to tip all these people for doing their job? If they're not getting paid enough, tips are not the answer. Anyway. On the other hand, webcomickers aren't getting paid at all, so I can see where a tip jar serves a purpose. Like the subway musicians, you can toss a coin or two into the hat if you like what they're doing. But... the thought of putting one on my website still makes me prickle a little bit.
Donald Simmons
theengineer at 2008-04-02 20:19 (UTC) (Link)
I thought AA went well this year. Good panels, good dealers room, adequate number of room parties, and the Masquerade was the biggest they've had in a couple of years.

If you're uneasy aboutthe tip jar, then I think you're best way to make some money is to sell new Galaxion comics! I'd certainly buy them.
jou at 2008-04-02 19:02 (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. I admire clever marketing/merchandising, but not at the expense of the comic/source material! It's like the endless parade of cute animal sidekicks in movies, for the express purpose of merch, merch, and more merch.

But yeah, I'm starting to ponder the money-making game regarding webcomics too. My new publisher-to-be specializes in web comics, so I'll be joining the group soon enough. This sort of thing is going to be at the forefront of my mind.
ttallan at 2008-04-02 20:18 (UTC) (Link)
Yay new comics! Is your new project something you've already announced, or are the details still secret...?
jou at 2008-04-02 20:26 (UTC) (Link)
Ummmm, it's only mostly a secret. I've been dropping hints here and there that I have a new comic in my life. I've been working out the details with my new editor, and while it's pretty much understood on all counts that the project is a go, I haven't signed anything yet, so I haven't actually annouced it.

...'Course, by the same token, I could talk about it all I want because I haven't signed anything yet. Aw, but I'd hate to jinx myself that way. ;)
Michael H. Payne
hyniof at 2008-04-02 19:46 (UTC) (Link)
I'm just happy:

That my webcomics don't really cost me any money. I've got a really terrific free host for the pages themselves, and as long as I make money with my writing each year, I can count the art supplies as business expenses when I do my taxes. Any more than that, well, I don't really draw well enough to figure anyone would pay for my comics on paper... :)

ttallan at 2008-04-02 20:33 (UTC) (Link)
Making a living with writing has got to be just as hard as making a living with art. And anyway, 9 times out of 10 it's not the art I that makes me stick with a comic, either in print or online. It's the story that counts!
Michael H. Payne
hyniof at 2008-04-02 21:31 (UTC) (Link)
Making a living with writing?

I've thought about giving that a go, but I enjoy my two other part-time jobs too much to want to give them up. A couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars a year--just enough so I have to fill out Schedule C at tax time--and that's fine with me.

I've recently been adapting my Daily Grind comics to a straight-prose format, actually, just to see if I could sell the stories to any of the SF and fantasy magazines who've bought my stuff in the past. So we'll see how that goes.

Mike Again
chestermingee at 2008-10-17 02:32 (UTC) (Link)
It's not just a pure art form; it's a commercial product. It's like television. There's really bad TV, and there's really good TV.
ttallan at 2008-10-18 00:47 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that's a good analogy. A good TV show might inspire me to buy a t-shirt based on the show, but I won't buy the t-shirt if I don't like the show. It's gotta be about making a good show first, and making good peripherals second.
krisztinahunzi at 2008-10-17 04:38 (UTC) (Link)
Css ); Story: Its my Life its how I live that counts, not how I die. Chapt. 1 | Get More Stories at Quizilla Skip to Content Skip to Navigation Skip to Login Return to Homepage The N | Quizilla Network Quizilla Imagine it.
jdalton at 2008-04-02 23:52 (UTC) (Link)
I agree, which is why everything I do online is designed to be printed as well. Not that I've got anything against T-shirts, or webcomic T-shirts, just that I got into this to draw comics not make clothes.
ttallan at 2008-04-03 11:38 (UTC) (Link)
That's it exactly. And not to seem wishy-washy about all this, but I do plan to make t-shirts. Eventually. I made t-shirts before-- I've still got a small pile of them sitting in my basement. But my goal is the graphic novel. I have a hard time justifying peripherals if I haven't even got the base product yet.
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