Alliance Chat 34

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Welcome to the Alliance Chat: where no topic has gone before!

In this podcast, Webcomics are a marathon. The benefits to a slow and gradual growth as opposed to over-night success. The process of slow growth and what would should appreciate and enjoy about it. Plus, it took like 30 minutes to get guest Lucas Turnbloom on Google Hangouts (thanks Google for making it such a convoluted set-up) and we start off on a roll and pretty much kept the jokes firing all night. A good time was had by all.

Warning: Podcast may contain some language not suitable for all-ages
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Posted in Chat Podcast, Featured News, Podcast.

24 Comments

  1. very enjoyable listening and great advice as ever. (I just decided to have the lettering on my gravestone done in comic sans as the last laugh on artists) (no im not planning that anytime soon) 🙂

  2. I want to commend Robin for taking the “hard” argument and advocating the benefits of slow growth. Gonna ramble for a bit here… About ten years ago, I started a small sports forum. Several years ago, I merged into a site with four bloggers. Over two years of often doing things wrong, we started to see real success with traffic and started getting local sponsors (the kind the pay real money). We were riding high and deservedly so; things were going great.

    So we expanded into other sports last year. What was a fun project turned into a frenetic mess. All of us bordered on burnouts multiple times as we just couldn’t manage 20 writers across three websites. We managed to get through it and now we have a second successful site. Having gained several months of valuable experience, we’re now moving on to launch a fourth and fifth site in the coming months.

    During this time, we had a few people in our group pushing hard for outside investment, which we *easily* could have received because the business model had such low overhead and decent profit structure built into it. Thankfully, there were enough of us to push back against that idea and push for slow growth (the push for outside investment would have meant we started 5-10 sites simultaneously). In retrospect, had we done this, it would have lead to complete and utter disaster. We didn’t have the experience or the mental bandwidth to handle that number of variables at once. I still don’t believe we’re in a place to handle that kind of growth across multiple sectors. It’s not money, it’s not even our experience level, which is rapidly growing with each new site. It’s the fact that the 5 core decision makers (myself and four others) don’t have the capacity to make that many decisions and vet them enough well enough to succeed.

    Anyway, that’s my experience with slow growth. We’ll get there in time (our sites should crest 2m pageviews a month this calendar year) but had we taken on more than we could handle last year, we could have lost much more than a chance at expansion. We easily could have crushed the established work we’d spent a decade nurturing into a successful enterprise.

    Anyway, that’s my personal experience with slow growth. I’m a big advocate of taking measured steps over jumping in head-first with no safety net.

    • Slow and steady wins the race, in most cases. It’s a hard temptation to resist rapid growth. Dollar signs start flying in everyone’s eyes and the next thing you know you’re in court being sued by every vendor on the planet.

      Been there, done that. Lesson learned. Keeping things manageable is always a good practice.

      Also, glad to hear things are going well with your sites!

  3. Slow work day so I’m just going to sit here and comment all day. 😀

    I have pretty good success with large prints. I know some of the WA folks have already read this blog entry but DIY printing is the only way to go IMO. I print 2-3 large prints – which I sell at over double the price of a smaller print but only costs me about 50% more – and if I run out, so be it. If it’s a local con, I can also go home and print more overnight if I need more.

    The bonus point is that my prints are *much* higher quality than what you get from offset.

    The negative point is that you have to maintain an inkjet printer, which is kind of a pain in the ass.

    Anyway, here’s my article about DIY printing for those of you that haven’t read it.

    http://schlockworks.com/blog/diy-printing-cheaper-think/

    • If you’re diligent about maintaining your printer, it can be a great profit margin. You print only what you need.

      I have found places like Fed Ex Office to be a good resource too if you don’t have a photo-quality printer. I’ve done 100 8×10 color prints for a good price (can’t recall what it was, but it was cheap enough I didn’t notice). That way I have some to give out and some to sell.

      Thanks for the link! Good info.

  4. I stumbled my way into webcomics, doing a strip for a site (Major Spoilers) with a significant established audience. It spoiled me a bit.

    When I left to do my new comic, I assumed a significant portion of the previous audience would follow me or find me. They did not.

    A bit discouraging at first, I came to realize Brain Teaser was radically different than the previous strip, with a vastly different sensibility and would have to find its own audience.

    I basically started over. Now in my third year, I feel like I’ve improved the strip in content and presentation. I have a second site for unrelated side projects, and have started some Project Wonderful advertising in an effort to grow my audience beyond my current social media promotional channels. There are days when slow growth in incredibly frustrating, but it is satisfying to see your unique visitors tick up 5 here 10 there over the course of a month, so that December is better than November, January is better than December. That growth comes from consistent updates, Twitter/FB interaction, etc. with people that read, enjoy and come back. Those are the ones you want anyway. If you go viral it could be that you get a massive one week spike, but doesn’t turn into repeat readers (not that I wouldn’t love for it to happen! 🙂

    • You’re on the right track. Adding 10 new readers a month is nearly a 1000 new readers in 3 years. That seems small, but that number will grow monthly to 15 or 20 and so on. Eventually, after 5 or 6 years, you’ll have thousands of new readers.

      It’s like the old saying: Take a penny. Double it everyday. In 30 days, you will have a million dollars. Doubling in the beginning is easy, at the end, extremely hard. Which is why a slow growth eventually will represent a large audience.

      Consistency is the key as well. Something I’ve stumbled on these past three years due to a variety of personal reasons. But my die-hard readers stay with me.

      Thanks for listening!

      • I had to take a brief hiatus at holiday time due to a computer crash and some un-backed up files. Came back at the beginning of the month and noticed lower numbers. Now that people know I’m really back the numbers are getting back to normal…and I was only away for about 6 weeks.

  5. One of the podcasts from Surviving Creativity called what happened to people who think they’ll make money quick from following how to make webcomics, the ‘9 month itch’.

    They found, they got a lot of emails around 9 months after the release of their book about not making all that money.

    So they do address it in their podcast. At least their book was unique for their category. If they had put it out now with all the online resources, then I woudn’t see the point (like how to make money on your blog. so many ‘consultants’ and ‘mentorships’ about blogging and building your elist).

    • Yes, people thought that by buying the book, they too would be as popular as those that made it. There’s no secret to success, it’s the result of hard work over a long period of time.

      Thanks for listening!

  6. Byron,

    I’d totally want to be in the Oatmeal’s shoes… cause that’s some real money.

    – Have the boxes assembled at the factory in China.
    – Ship directly to Amazon.com
    – Upload excel spreadsheet of backers.
    – Amazon ships to customers.

    Done and done.
    (It’s a little more complicated than that…sure, but they were very smart about not doing elaborate, crazy random pledges.) They’re making coin on this, and it doesn’t have to be all that hard.

    • I have stated, but not in the podcast, I do realize this is not their first rodeo and I’m sure they have the business savvy to handle it.

      I won’t get into it here, but you and I know a project of this magnitude will have it’s issues, it’s just life and business. I really doubt you’ll want to be in their shoes if the factory in China craps out, or the cargo ship the cards are on sinks (as they do) or one of a 1000 other issues that can occur.

      The temptation is there, but I would not want to be in their shoes in this particular case. I have had big money (a couple million dollars) deals crap out and it’s not fun. So I speak from experience.

        • But for a moment, allow me to play both sides of the net. I too would love to have a piece of that pie!! If things go right, and let’s face it, it’s a 50/50 shot at the moment, then there’s some REAL good money to be made!

          That said, what makes me pessimistic in cases like this is that I have a banking background and right now, they have a 4 MILLION dollar obligation sitting on their shoulders. I’ve seen banks call in loans and mortgages in cases like this so the banks can hedge their loses. Bastards.

          I wish them nothing but the best of luck, so I’m sorry if I’ve come off as overly negative. This is good for our industry too! So hats off to them and let’s hope it’s the most successful Kickstarter ever. 🙂

          PS: Insurance policy is a great idea!

          • The only difference is… that’s a $4 million dollar obligation…that might only take them $1 million to fulfill even if bad things happen, and as soon as the campaign ends, they’re going to have 4 million dollars transferred to their bank account.

            In most businesses, would take those odds.

            Regardless, I’m putting more exploding cats in everything I do from here on out!

  7. Fascinating talk! I was in small business for about ten years and learned about manageable growth the hard way – but it’s really difficult to apply those principles to art. Maybe it’s too personal? I’m not even looking to make money from my efforts – just doing it because I enjoy it, but somehow you still look for validation when you put yourself out there. You want to feel like there is justification for continuing and when you are “invisible” it is easy to feel defeated.

    While you were talking about the benefits of being invisible something clicked and I remembered reading this recently in The Dip by Seth Godin:

    “Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google told me, ‘We knew that Google was going to get better every single day as we worked on it, and we knew that sooner or later, everyone was going to try it. So our feeling was that the later you tried it, the better it was for us because we’d make a better impression with better technology. So we were never in a big hurry to get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better.'”

    Also, I learned a long time ago to listen to this particular podcast with earbuds when the kids are around… 😉

    • First, thank you for listening. Second, I am very guilty of having a potty mouth. We do put an “Explicit” tag for iTunes, but I imagine I should put one on THIS page too. I shall do so for the future. I hope we haven’t offended, we really are just out to have fun.

      The invisible thing is very true. My first year of drawing, I did put some comics up on-line, but really did nothing to promote it. One, it taught me how to post them (in the days before WordPress/CommicPress) and it also allowed me to learn how to draw again. Doing that privately was important for me in 2007, as I was far from being a good artist.

      Again, thanks for listening. We’ll try not to teach your kids any more bad words. 🙂

      • No offense! I probably struggle more with language now that I HAVE kids! I love the podcast and have been lurking for a long time. Keep it up! =)

        • Cool. I know what you mean. My Dad was a sailor from WWII, so I heard a LOT of four-letter words growing up. I got a letter from one of my son’s teachers commenting he used the word “crap” and I replied “Be glad he didn’t use ‘shit’ as that comes out of my mouth almost as often as crap.” The teacher was not amused. 🙂

          • I grew up in a profanity-free environment, so I have no idea where I picked it up. I don’t see much difference between swear words and slang – they mean the same thing, right? But I try to be really careful – most people don’t want to hear a four-year-old curse like a sailor. =)

  8. Another great listen folks, thanks! I think most (if not all) of us fantasize about hitting it big from the get-go no matter what you see, read or hear but then you realize if you really want it to happen you have to be in it for the long haul. And like Robin said you have to love what you’re doing, love making comics, telling jokes, telling stories. I would go as far as saying I’m more storyteller than artist, so I do love bringing my stories to life.

    I too think there’s valuable info in both Webcomics books and yes they include plenty of warnings about it not working for everyone. The books are great road maps for our chosen path. I do think it’s geared for the gag-a-day strip more, especially when it comes to building ad revenue traffic. As an all-ages long-form comic maker I wonder how well being online is actually ever going to work for me. We have to consider that we have to become alchemists, finding that perfect unique mix of ingredients for our comic to reach it’s audience and make (hopefully someday) a living creating it.

    Thanks again!

  9. Like the KEvin Costner movie, I do it for the Love of the Game. (How is that for a baseball reference, Chris? )

    I really did just want to make TnC so I could show my grandkids years later that grandma and grandpa were in the funny books. If someone wants to come along for the rider, all the merrier.

    That goes to Robins point of “love what you do”. and I think when that stops, so will TnC. However, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I have fun doing it, and it’s extremely difficult not to post strips ahead of time.

    I enjoy the podcasts. It makes for an easy ride to and from work each day.

    Cory

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