Living off your art

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d-tw
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Living off your art

Postby d-tw » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:31 am UTC

Hi there!

I'm working with a couple of friends to try and set up a small web comics guide, aimed at helping people who've just started out. Essentially, we want to pool the collective wisdom of the webcomics community to create a kind of "how to survive as an artist" guide.

Eventually, we'd like to cover as many aspects as possible, from developing your artistic/narrative style to setting up Amazon affiliate accounts, maybe even to help develop relationships with editors and printers if that's the road you want to take.

Our first milestone is to get a good idea of what readers think about webcomics, to help set the artists' expectations, especially regarding making a living, i.e. quitting your day job. Obviously, not every author aims to live exclusively from their work, but we think it's important that new/young authors have realistic expectations.

So, to get the discussion started, what do you think is the best way for an author to make a living from webcomics? Ad-driven? Donations? Merchandising? Pay-per-read? I ask this from point of view of both the reader and the author? What is a better user experience?

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SecondTalon
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Re: Living off your art

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Jan 20, 2014 3:25 pm UTC

From the author's perspective -

Ads, then Merchandising, then Donations, then Pay-Per-Read. Assuming I understand Pay-Per-Read to be "Insert money, get next comic" sort of thing, with I'm presuming a certain number of them free or else you're likely never getting readers.

From the reader's perspective - Donations, Merchandising, Ads, then Pay-Per-Read.

So.... you're looking at Ads and T-Shirts and occasionally the goodwill of your readers. If you make it long enough, hard copies of the comics...but those present their own problem as you want to make sure you've added enough content to make them worthwhile, but not spend so much time doing it that the book takes forever and/or the web version suffers.
heuristically_alone wrote:I want to write a DnD campaign and play it by myself and DM it myself.
heuristically_alone wrote:I have been informed that this is called writing a book.

d-tw
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Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:14 am UTC

Re: Living off your art

Postby d-tw » Mon Jan 20, 2014 3:41 pm UTC

Do you have any first-hand experience in this area?

I've been thinking about the different ways that artists make money from web comics, and wondering why exactly things have ended up the way they have — especially relating to ad-driven sites. Do you think it's related to the format, that people generally associate digital content with disposable, commoditized goods, and that there has never really been a culture of paying for digital goods? What do you think about freemium access, i.e. free users see ads and paying users don't?

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SecondTalon
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Re: Living off your art

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:54 pm UTC

I've got no direct experience other than observing what the long-running comics have done and how they describe what they do and why they do it. Speaking of, you might enjoy reading this.

Ads are popular because of the nature of the medium. A webcomic artist, particularly one more on the Gag-A-Day format than long running narratives - think SMBC, XKCD or hell, Real Life, SomethingPositive, Questionable Content or Girls With Slingshots where there is a long running narrative but it's not necessary to understand most, if not all comics... you have the Reddit, the Facebook, the Slashdot effect of sorts - you write a really funny comic, it gets linked and shared and passed around but maybe only 10-15% of the new eyeballs bother to look at the other comics, and maybe .1% become regulars. You gained barely any new readers but now owe a crapton in bandwidth overages. Those people aren't going to buy a T-shirt, they aren't going to sign up for the Superfan Club, they aren't even going to click on the ads to get you some extra coin... they're there, and they're gone.

Ads let you make money off those readers.

So I am fine with a pay service that allows you to skip seeing ads. But it does need to be reasonably priced. Using the worst prices I could find for Adsense, every 1000 hits will reasonably get you an entire $1. A regular reader is not likely going to hit your page 1000 times per month. So a regular month subscription would need to be less than a dollar. At that point, it makes more sense to have a year long subscription at $12. But unless you've got several thousand people subscribing to that, you can't quit your day job. Hence, you're still selling T-shirts.

Hell, the sites I mentioned are basically superstars of web comics... and it's possible you've never heard of some of them. Realistically, expecting that you'll be able to quit your day job and be a comic full time is something that simply won't happen. It's possible, yes.. but not very likely. It's also something that should be treated as transitory, fleeting, not lasting. Sure, the Penny Arcade guys are doing fantastic... today.

How many more fuckups on Mike's part will it take before sponsors start pulling out of PAX? Before various groups wrest Child's Play from Jerry and Mike's control and make it become it's own thing? While Mike's art is constantly being worked on via the comic and so is Jerry's writing, if Penny Arcade died, what would they do to make a living? There's very few web-comics out there that could afford to hire an artist, not to mention them not wanting the bad blood of firing the existing one to hire a failed webcomic artist. Jerry would be, at best, looking at a staff job on something like The Escapist if he wanted to stay in the game. Neither one of those are exactly high-paying jobs.

So yeah, always plan for the shit to hit the fan.
heuristically_alone wrote:I want to write a DnD campaign and play it by myself and DM it myself.
heuristically_alone wrote:I have been informed that this is called writing a book.


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