Back in the Tuesday again! Itís great, isnít it? Smell that? Doesnít smell like Monday, does it? Nope. Thatís pure Tuesday for you, baby! Yeah! Iíd dance a jig, but Iím not talented enough to dance and type at the same time. Besides, you donít wanna see me do a jig. Frolic? Sure. Do a jig? Not at all. Scary stuff, that.
But itís Tuesday, and weíre still talking about webcomics, so letís get into the Bolts & Nuts of that, shall we?
The last couple of times out, we talked about format, frequency, and something of creation. We also spoke about hosting, doing some comparing and contrasting, and the pros and cons of each. This time around, lets talk about creation some more, but this time, weíre going to add money to the mix.
You can do a lot of things with money, no doubt about it. Specifically, you can buy an artistís loyalty with the stuff. As a writer that has no talent for drawing, you have no choice but to get an artist by anything other than by hook or by crook. Money is a great enticement.
Now, with that said, anyone who does a strip [humor, more than likely] and is paying an artist out of his or her pocket is crazy and has money to burn. Instead of burning that money, give it to the Steven D. Forbes Fund. Iíll put it to good use.
Hereís what youíre doing: you are paying an artist to create a strip with you, a strip that is basically infinite in length. Look at Dilbert. Been going on for a long time. Garfield. (Peanuts.) Exactly. And youíre going to pay an artist to do this for you week in and week out, or possibly per strip? There are better uses for that money. You could buy a house, sponsor a starving child in Africa, pay some bills, give to charityÖthe other uses are as infinite as your strip. But instead, youíre paying an artist to do Zombie Clown Balloons of Fright on a thrice-weekly basis. Youíve lost your entire mind.
While you can buy their services for a strip, I honestly do not recommend it. What youíre doing is paying someone to do something that youíre giving away for free. (Huh?) Go to McDonalds. (Donít like Mickey DísÖ) [Iím a Carlís Jr/Hardeeís kinda guy myself, but go with it.] (Okay.) Go to McDonalds. Buy as many cheeseburgers as you can. Now, give them away. Do that often. As often as you can. (ButÖ) I knowóyouíre not getting anything back for what youíre paying. Itís the same thing in paying an artist to do a strip youíre going to be putting up for free.
(How am I supposed to get the work done, then?) Great question! I donít have a great answer for you. Marriages made in heaven can happen, but not often. Finding an artist to work with can be difficult, especially if you love fillet mignon but can only afford chopped steak on a regular basis.
Eventually, you can offer money, but I donít suggest offering money coming right out of the gate. Not for a strip thatís going to run multiple times per week. Like I said, thatís just crazy.
Instead, offer money on the back end, after the bookís been collected and sold [IF that is your goal and IF you make it long enough to have a collected edition of your strip AND there is a call for it].
(Wait. Youíre contradicting yourself! I can show you multiple examples of you saying that there are no back-end profits, and that weíre not going to get good artists by offering back-end deals, and that we have to pay good money in order to get noticed. You said it all over the place! What, are you backtracking now?! Iím so confused!)
Slow down. Deep breaths. Be calm. Itís going to be fine. Trust me.
Now, hereís what Iím saying: when you are trying to produce a traditional comic, either as a submission or as a self-publishing venture where youíre going to print your comics and try to get them into Diamond/Previews and thus, into comic shops, then yes, you need to pay for your talent. You need to pay for your talent because youíre trying to get readers to pay for your book. Itís an expensive gamble. Itís a gamble that is more often than not a losing proposition.
When youíre publishing on the web, with an eye toward collection and printing, youíve already done the research, youíve got the readers, and you know theyíre willing to pay for the story. Youíre basically giving the story away, in the hopes that your readers will want a physical copy of it. Totally different proposition, because if they want it, you know you have guaranteed sales.
See the difference? One way, youíre hoping for sales, and the other, you will have guaranteed sales, depending. The only thing youíre really wondering about with collecting and printing is how many readers want a physical copy of your book. You will have a VERY good gauge of reader interest, and you wonít have to pay any type of discounts to distributors or retailers. After printing, and passing on the cost of shipping to the customer, itís all profit.
Profit you can then share with your artist, whoís working on the back-end. Selling it yourself is a greater proposition for them, because youíre taking out the vagaries of the direct market. Youíre cutting out all kinds of middlemen, and selling directly to the customer. This means you have a greater opportunity to not only break even with any out of pocket expenses you may have had, but to turn a profit.
Nice, right? Make better sense now?
(Yes, thank you. Now, what about advertising?)
Do you mean you paying to advertise for the strip, or advertising money that comes in? You know what? Iíll answer it both ways.
If youíre paying money to advertise for a strip, I want you to go and re-read the first few paragraphs. After youíve done that, youíll know exactly how I feel about it.
Now, thatís not to say you canít do some link swappage. Go ahead and swap links and banners with other sites. [Iím talking sites you have confidence in and would not be ashamed of having your name and your work associated with.] That is nothing but helpful, because it gets other eyes on your site. Wonderful, right? Right. Just donít pay for it. Not yet, and not ever if you can avoid it.
Now, if you have some extra money lying about and want to advertiseÖI still donít advocate it. Not yet. Not when youíre just starting out. You donít have much in the terms of content yet, and no matter what you may think, content is king. If you feel you MUST pay for advertising, just wait until you have more content up. The amount of content will be determined by what kind of comic youíre running, either a strip or a graphic novel, and how often you update. Only you can say when you have enough content. Just try to be smart about it.
The flip side to paying for advertising, of course, is advertising money coming in. This assumes your strip is popular enough that businesses want to advertise on it. If that happens, kudos! Youíre ahead of most!
Now, Iím of the thought that any advertising money that comes in should go toward printing costs. [Understand, this is based off the assumption that youíre just starting to get money from advertising. Iím not talking Penny Arcade money here, Iím talking penny ante.] This keeps your out of pocket expenses down. If your strip is wildly popular and youíre raking in tons of dough in advertising, I suggest speaking with the artist/creative team to come to some agreement about the advertising money: setting some of it aside to pay for printing, and then splitting the rest. Itís just an idea.
When it comes to doing a finite story [graphic novel], Iím still not happy about laying out money [a page rate] for an artist. Not for something thatís going to be given away for free. It doesnít make much sense to me.
And yes, you will be giving it away for free on the web. Why? There are a few reasons for it, but weíre going to tackle the biggest, most obvious reason first: You havenít made a name for yourself. Sorry to say it, but to most, youíre a nobody. No one is going to pay to read your stories as yet. Not on the web. It just isnít going to happen. So, youíll be giving your stories away for free.
The second reason, which is just below the first by only a micron, is that as of right now, people are not used to paying for things on the internet. Sure, theyíll buy a book, theyíll buy a car on eBay, theyíll buy crystal dog skeletons dipped in curry, but they wonít pay a recurring charge for the privilege of reading your webcomic.
Even though people are coming in droves to the web, both as readers and creators, finding a way to monetize the web is the biggest problem facing creators using the web. Like I said before, people just arenít willing to pay for content on the web. Not unless itís porn, and even then, there are ways around that.
Look at Facebook. Look at Twitter. Both of these companies provide a ďservice,Ē both are free to users, finding ways to get money out of advertisers. However, if they could find something that was invaluable to a person, and have them become a subscriber rather than a member, then theyíd be ahead of the curve. Facebook is worth billions, and Twitter is worth a few hundred million. They havenít done it yet. If they havenít done it, what makes you think youíre going to be able to do it, and do it well?
Money is the big thing. Getting people to spend it on you is hard. You have to show that you not only have something of intrinsic value, but you also have to show that youíre loyal to your readers. This gets back to the constant updating of content. Thatís how you show loyalty.
Now, if and when you want to print your book, one of the things you can do is take pre-orders. You have to do all the math first, investigating your page count, contacting printers, find out where the price break comes, see if you can find out how much the book is going to weigh, and then price the book accordingly. (How much it weighs?) [Yep! Youíre going to pass on the cost of shipping to the customer, and the sooner you have the information, the more accurate youíll be when it comes to giving the numbers when it comes time to start selling stuff. As you know, things are mailed according to weight, and this is why you want to know how much your merchandise is going to weigh as soon as possible when taking pre-orders.] (Oh, okay. Got it.) Take that pre-order money, along with the ad revenue, and pay for your print run. Anything and everything that comes above the cost of the print run is profit. Congratulations! Now cut those checks!
Of course, there are other things to say about money and merchandise. Thereís a very good plan in How To Make Webcomics. I suggest getting that book and studying it, following the advice contained therein. I also suggest you do your own thinking. Your own investigating. You own experimenting. Only you can say whatís right for your needs. The more you know, though, the more self-sufficient youíll be, and thatís the name of the game.
The writers of How To Make Webcomics just work on those. Theyíve made their strips into a success story. They donít have to work outside the house in a regular nine-to-five that the bulk of us do. They have their own responsibilities to uphold, but theyíre doing it in a manner that they wish, and are still able to maintain a certain lifestyle. Theyíve taken the time to give you the a nice set of tools so you can attempt the same thing. With more and more books dropping out of Previews because of the change in thresholds, the web is looking more and more like a viable alternative. Your job, if you choose to throw your hat in that arena, is to find ways to rise above everyone else.
Good luck with it.
This is the conclusion of the short series on webcomics. No homework this week. Go out and enjoy the day.
See you next week.