Hi folks – if you’re a regular listener to the WA podcasts, you’ve heard me talk about tapastic on a few occasions. As a group, some of us have been interested by the concept, but none of us have really been committed to trying to make it work for our comics. Until now.
In this two-part series, I’m going to explain how I went from a passive early adopter, to a skeptic, and back to a full supporter and advocate for tapastic.
If you’ve been too busy working on your own properties, or have been living under a rock for the past two years, tapastic is a platform that allows creators to upload and promote their work, and creates an easy and accessible form of receiving and displaying comics for readers.
The platform is still in its early days – there are some issues that are still being ironed out, but for the most part, it has become one of the leading comics aggregate sites in the world. The traffic and readership statistics alone are larger than a number of other comic collective sites combined. This shows you the popularity of comics (globally) and the sheer number of independent creators who have stories to tell. Tapastic offers something to both of those groups – and so far, it has been managing just fine.
I sense your trepidation: On the surface, you see a business built from venture capital, featuring a big site with lots of comics, using ad placements to generate money, and a user based patronage system, where the company takes a percentage of the money in exchange for free hosting and some front page exposure/features (based on your popularity). You’ve probably got some questions that I’ll try to answer before I get into my story.
So how do I fit in, and how will I not feel like my work is being taken from me,
or exploited for profit.
Here’s the reality: tapas media (tapastic’s parent company) is a business. They saw an opportunity to create a platform to distribute comics on the internet, catering mostly to a demographic that has been under-represented. Mobile users.
In order to appeal to artists (who don’t have a lot of money to begin with) and fans of great comics (who may have some money to spend) the service is free. You don’t pay for the app, you don’t pay to contribute to the site. Your work is YOUR work – there is no transfer in ownership. Based on the popularity of your work, you’re promoted on their highly visible front page, featured in their e-mail distribution to subscribers/readers, and plugged by fellow artists and readers in the community.
I understand that some may see this as exploitation for profit. But I’m sure you’ve never been a fan of the syndicate model in the first place. Understandable – this isn’t a hard sell by any means. I’m just providing the facts and I’m not here to convince you otherwise.
Okay, what’s the catch – how does the model work financially if everything is free?
One of two real caveats (that I’ve seen as a contributor) is the distribution of ad revenues.
ASIDE: let’s be realistic here: tapastic is hosting your files and giving you access to eyeballs in one little package, so you can understand the need to generate some money for shouldering the load of the ugly work (maintenance, bandwidth, hosting, support, etc.)
Even at that, you have to meet some minimum requirements in order to be eligible to receive a cut of ad revenues. Just like any other free publishing platform, there are going to be ads. Bandwidth still comes at a cost, so that is the tradeoff.
Tapastic also has a support program (similar to the Patreon model) where fans can pitch a monthly sum to their favourite creators, and a percentage is taken by tapastic to cover the management of these transactions. Patreon takes 5% + credit card fees, where tapastic takes closer to 15%. It’s actually pretty competitive.
I get what some of you are thinking. I can do all of this myself – I don’t need someone skimming off the top, I can easily set up a tip jar through PayPal, and start a campaign for support on my own site through my own means, sell my own merchandise, manage my website.
I applaud you for your motivation and DIY attitude. This is the spirit of entrepreneurship and in the long run, you probably will be rewarded for your efforts, and you rightly should. But the approach I’m explaining is for folks who aren’t exactly interested or able to invest in the time to manage these things. It’s a convenience – and with ALL conveniences… you have to pay. 😉
Remember how I talked about the different tiers of the webcomic world in my Webcomi-nomics article? Well, if you’re a frequent visitor of this site, or just starting out – chances are, you’re in that majority group of folks who are at the bottom rungs of the popularity ladder.
You are in a position to make a decision – do you go the ‘syndicate’ route and allow a parent company to dictate how your comic is distributed, or do you go your own way and forge ahead like so many pioneers and trailblazers before you?
Many of us have opted to be independent publishers of our own work, creating businesses around our work, attending conventions, meeting with fans and promoting our brand. This is fantastic – and a bit daunting. But the thrill of being your own boss, capable of generating an income doing the things you love most, is exhilarating.
But some of us have limited desire to wade into the ocean of self-employment. Some of us have families to support, benefit packages, or simply love their jobs too much and use comics creation as a creative release – but still crave that bit of exposure in order to keep that energy flowing.
It would be nice to have a platform where you could upload your work and have it displayed to an audience, with minimal maintenance and without the pressure of dealing with the back-end issues that plague people who run their own websites.
And this, is where MY story begins. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you the rest…
Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is an illustrator, author, and podcast personality. In addition to creating the comic book series ‘El Cuervo – the Latin Assassin,’ he provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic process and their production.