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Web Comics

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** GH Note. Originally Posted 4/1/2006 ** 

Took the little heretics down to I-Con 25 over the weekend of 3/24-26/2006. This is a general media, sci-fi, fantasy and gaming con and one of the larger North East Cons and it was a blast as usual.

My favorite panel this year was run by the creators of Goats – P Karlson, Something Positive (S*P) - RK Milholland , and  a really quiet dude, who may have been a web comic creator or may just have been there to occasionally taser the guy who writes S*P.   At least I think it was the guy who writes S*P but he kept his name tag face down and swore a lot.

The panel was about the business side of web comics.  Now before you click on the suicide hotline link, remember that cartoonist live in a reality unlike those of mortal men and web cartoonist inhabit odder environs still.   These are folks who, probably in a drunken stupor, stared bleary eyed at their cocktail napkin scribbles and said “I must share this with the world.”

It was one hour of anecdotes, rants against café press and pissing matches about alcohol consumption.  If you manage to catch any of these folks speaking about their craft, it’s worth a listen.  Here are some key points

  1. You are not the creators of Penny Arcade, nor will you ever be. They are divine beings sent to preach the holy writ of Tycho.
  2. Café Press T shirts are terrible and you are probably better off selling art on toilet tissue.
  3. It is possible to make a living at this, a decent one, but you need to slowly build up your readership and then start pimping your wares.
  4. Micropayments do not work, they sound great, but unfortunately most folks don’t want to pay for web comics nor is the infrastructure there yet.  They are sort of like communism (I quote) sounds great on paper but tends to ignore the fact that people are greedy bastards.
  5. If your very very lucky, 2-4% of your readership will buy merchandise,  click on ads or even make cash donations.  The rest of freeloading bastards who are worth less then the ass sweat they leave on their chair.
  6. Expect a lot of flames.  Most of these will be from the freeloaders, but a few might have a nugget or two of useful advice. If its from a freeloader, feel free to tell up to F--- off (there was a loud buzzing noise at this point I think the S*P guy was tasered again)
  7. The revenue source for comics came from different places.  The Goats strip relies primarily on merchandizing (Republicans for Voldemort being the top seller) where the S*P guy relies on ad sales, and cash donations. Goats has had great success advertising with the big networks, where the S*P folks have decided to do their own advertising sales.
  8. Cash Donations – A few years back  RK Milholland (S*P) decided that he couldn’t support the comic and a day job. So he told his readers that the frequency of updates would be dropping.  When his email staggered under the flames, he challenged his readers to donate.  The response surprised him, he received over $2000 the first day and was able to support himself from the comic from then on.

The final bit of advice the folks imparted, which was surprisingly uncynical, is its ok to approach web comics as a business, in fact you must do so if you hope to support yourself with them, but you must first approach it with a passion otherwise your readers will become wise to you.