Open For Debate: Ditching the Webcomic Business Model

 

Zorphbert and Fred wasn’t a webcomic when I started it in 2006. Actually, I had no idea webcomics were a “thing”. I figured people may post them online if they, you know, wanted to give their stuff away for free. I had no clue anyone could effectively monetize their comic online, especially without the help of a syndicate. Going it along was a long, hard, and pretty much impossible road. Really, it still is with webcomics and the odds are just as poor… but I was thinking more along the lines of getting an appointment with editors of newspapers and trying to sweet-talk my way in without a syndicate or rep to back me up. But, as I was sending in my Z&F syndicate submissions, I realized a website that I could link to would be helpful- just like my portfolio website. Plus, I could draw & post MORE comics there for the syndicates to browse if they liked the hard copy submission. Suddenly, I was a featured artist on drunkduck.com with an actual readership (not huge, but noteworthy), and going to comic cons to meet more of these “web cartoonists” who did it on their own, without syndicates or big publishers. A whole new world. I have options.

For the next 5 years or so, I studied up on the “webcomic business model”. Growing an online readership, pageviews, unique hits, referrals, advertising and ad revenue, collectives, voting/rating/popularity websites & incentives to GET people to vote, to mirror or not to mirror your archives, self publishing, zazzle & cafepress… the list goes on, and we all know it well. We’ve all done it. We’ve tried each and every tactic, hoping this next endeavor will be the one that gets our comic the exposure it needs to get to the next level. We follow the main rules of the webcomic business (you know, if you’re serious about it):

  1. Be consistent and stick to your schedule. NEVER miss updates.
  2. MORE updates. More deadlines. More blog posts. If you’re sleeping, you’re a slacker… FIVE days a week or you’re not serious! (well, maybe not that harsh, but you know that voice in your head has said it.)
  3. Be a social media whore. Promote, promote, promote.
  4. Guest comics, fanart, share other’s work, comment on their sites… you have to give back, too.
  5. Find/join/create a collective. Network. Start doing comic cons.

I followed the rules. Where’s my success?

Instead, I see a plateau. I have kept the readers I have made over the years. I have a handful of very passionate readers whom I deeply appreciate. I want more of those, but just can’t seem to find where they are hiding. They certainly don’t seem to be the general “webcomic readers” demographic: men & women(to a lesser degree) in their late teens, 20’s and early 30’s. My demographic seems to be mainly.. well… everyone else. Preteen boys, men 30-50 years and men and women 50+. Whu-oh.

Then, I start to do comic cons. And craft fairs. And book festivals. And whatever other events I can that could yield people in my demographic. I sell books. Actually, I do pretty well. Mind you, not well enough to quit my day job, but I notice I’m pretty good at pitching, selling and marketing my comic. (Plus, I have a side project kids book series, to boot). In 2 years of doing a decent amount of conventions, I have seemingly found more success than I have online in 6-7 years.

Recently, I have even decided to make my comic “seasonal”, meaning I post strict 5x-a-week (3 comics, 2 blog posts) for 4 months, and then take 2 months off. This helps with the inevitable burn-out that happens when you have 3 huge projects going on BESIDES your day job. My writing suffered, and I knew I needed to find a way to allow comics to work with my life, not against it.

But even with this, the plateau I have found myself in has lead me to this conclusion:

So, maybe Zorphbert & Fred doesn’t make a good webcomic.

There, I said it. Yes, maybe I’m just not a very good artist, or writer, or both. Maybe the market is just too saturated. Maybe I don’t follow the rules to the tee enough. Maybe I’m just damned unlucky. Or maybe Z&F is a worthwhile comic, just not a WEBcomic. Maybe the audience I need to find just doesn’t exist in big numbers online. Maybe what I need to do is let go of the “webcomic business model” that has been beaten into my brain, and find other avenues with the time I’ll have left over. Maybe I need to focus more on what actually earns me the most cash: the books. How so?

Dawn’s New Proposed Z&F Business Model:

  1. Screw page views. SCREW ‘EM. It doesn’t matter. If Z&F isn’t going to suddenly be popular among the webcomic readers demographic, then ad revenue is never going to be a viable source of income. So, page views, unique viewers, stats in general are practically worthless to me. Therefore, anything I do to pad my stats– like shamelessly promote my comic any & everywhere, paying for Project Wonderful ad campaigns, or voting buttons & incentives– is a waste of time and money. I am promoting myself to people who, generally speaking, aren’t going to be interested. I can use this time & energy to promote in different ways.
  2. Goodbye 3-5 days a week updates. The idea behind sticking to strict, multiple updates a week was to keep your online readers intrigued… and coming back for more. And that’s very true, especially for short-form comics. However, if I am focusing more on the book form of the comic, then the concern should be that books come out on a consistent basis, depending only on how fast I can produce the content. Provided I don’t slack off completely, I only need to focus on the bigger project, rather than individual comics.
  3. No need to ditch the website completely, though. It’s always beneficial to have a website to direct people to. And obviously, I still have an online readership I don’t want to disappoint (too much). I am proposing 1 new comic post a week, with a blog post with news, convention appearances, and fanart. Per season, only half the comics I create would be posted online. (see below for more on this)
  4. Don’t give it ALL away for free. This is a key point to my new proposed business model. Successful webcomic creators can give their content away for free, yet still get their readers (or a percentage) to pay for merchandise and books, so the free content is worth it to HOOK their readers. However, Z&F being deemed “NOT a successful webcomic” means I don’t have to or need to give all my content away for free. Posting enough content to A: keep current readers happy, and B: give potential readers a taste of what the comic is like, is a very well-tasted model. iTunes/Android apps have already broken people into this process. Try it, if you like it enough, buy it. The new focus is not on online readership, but on the BOOKS.
  5. New direction for promotion, and possibly book formats. I am no longer a “web cartoonist”. I am a self-published author & illustrator, and need to affiliate myself with that business model. Getting involved with my local community(libraries, schools, workshops, etc.) will help me network in new ways and can lead to a support circle & repeat buyers. Keep doing comic cons, but also expand these events to include even more craft fairs, book festivals and other events that may bring in my demographic. Study up on other similar books/comics like Z&F, see how they format their book line. Consider altering the 200-comic “volumes”, and making them smaller 10-comic books that can be released quicker and make the collection look that much more expansive. Also consider small publishers who could help your books reach a wider audience… see if they’re worth the possible hassles, to reach that audience.

So, there you have it. Feedback, Anyone?

Call it a revolution, call it a pipe dream, call it throwing darts in the dark. Either way, I’ll be the Guinna Pig. In the end however, every comic is different and has a different audience, and in no way am I saying this is the direction all creators should go. Sometimes good comics earn the audience they deserve, sometimes crappy comics find a niche that works for them and earn an audience. And sometimes a wonderful comic never finds its groove and it dies a sad, sad death. I’m hoping to try different avenues before throwing in the towel.

And I need your opinion, fellow creators!

Is the webcomics business model “tried & tested” for a reason- if you don’t make it, blame yourself? Is it outdated? Is it all a crapshoot? What are your opinions on my proposed plan? Would you try something similar yourself?

 

Note: If you are a podcast listener, you may have noted that this topic was discussed prior. However, I wanted to open the discussion to our readers here, to gather opinions and ideas!
 

Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the sydication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.

 

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124 Comments

  1. I really like the idea that you have here and I’m very interested in the results that it yields. I’m working on a graphic novel myself and will be approaching that in a very similar fashion. Give away content for free but make the whole thing available behind a pay wall.

    It’s a risky idea because you can turn off some fans but if you’re free to try out different methods of selling, I say you should go or it.

    I am curious though to how your website does with the comic to blog ratio. I know that people will come to your site to read comics, do your blog post have the same pull? Is a blog post as entertaining as a comic? They seem like such different content that I’m curious to how your audience will respond to it.

    • Thank you Dustin! I have to keep reminding myself that I’m the boss, an therefor I can push the boundaries and try new things. I think the reward may out-weigh the couple complaints I may get for not, basically, giving everything away for free.

      Per your question, my comics definitely get more views than the blog. Although, I have a “Clipart FAIL” blog series that has gotten some attention, even though it has no relation to my comic itself. I have seen some people, whom are great writers, put out really nice blogs that bring in readers and interaction… I’d like to emulate that, but as usual– it’s only as good as you have time for. I don’t have the spare time to put as much into my blog, so it’s basically there as icing on the cake.

    • A graphic novel lends itself well to this type of structure. Enticing people with a chapter from the book and then having them pay for the rest is an approach that could work, given that the content has a lot more perceived value than just the book. (ie – behind the scenes stuff like sketches, how-tos, the making of… etc)

      People LOVE bonus content. Giving them the rest of your comic PLUS the bonus content is sure to entice readers to plunk down the money. They do it for print versions, so why not for the online version as well.

      • I already have bonus content, but having entire new storylines of “bonus” comics should add even more value. Something else I plan to do: post only the gag-a-day, one-off type comics, or short storylines online. Save the longer arcs for the books. It’s become clear to me (per Byron on our podcast) how hard/annoying it is for readers to keep up with longer storylines, especially in comic strips. The DRAW of a comic strip is that it’s easy to get into and you don’t need to “catch up” to understand it. They are easily sharable & relatable. I want to focus on THAT for the site, but the Z&F adventures can be part of the books.

  2. It’s very much true, the problem with being a webcomic artist is that there are JUST SO MANY OF THEM that digging your own little niche out of the crowd simply doesn’t work anymore. You need to think outside the box, find new audiences, and leave the incestual system of advertising to other webcomics as a means of networking and staying in the loop but not expecting to have it be your main source of growth. It’s much easier to sell a product in person than it is online, and it’s also easier to convince people to seek you out in person as well. Getting to conventions, selling merch directly, and interacting with the potential audience as an actual person is much more effective in bringing in fresh new faces. They might not come around for your regular comic updates, but they’re usually on the lookout for new books and other merch on the way… which they should be much more likely to buy NEXT year at the con, if not on your website. It’s undeniable that the website is a fantastic tool but it is not the end all and be all of your arsenal, and it’s success should not dictate the extent of your product’s success.

      • It’s actually one of the prime reasons I started my card game, to get webcomic content off the internet and into the hands of fresh new audiences that likely haven’t heard of the involved comics before. The card content sells the webcomic content and gets people to want to check you out to learn more.

      • I disagree. The problem most artists have is getting stuck in a comfort zone and not being able to see outside of the protective bubble of our “industry.”

        Think of it this way – if you are a supplier of a certain item, you don’t sell your product to others who sell the same item. You sell to people who need and want what YOU have to offer.

        The difficulty lies in finding WHERE these people are. That includes the INTERNET. In person, the typical way of breaking out of the usual convention route is to attend literary events (since you sell books) and other local events (to promote your homegrown talent in your community) and make your pitch to those crowds.

        On the internet, its all about variety of content that allows you to engage with people. They say that forums are a dying entity, but there are still communities that exist around blog comments, message forums and social media hubs that allow you to interact with fans of specific genres. Its a matter of going out and spending the time to engage with those people.

        It is a lot of work – but its a necessary evil in order to get people to visit your site.

        I remember Ken saying he wanted to use Google+ as a way to have people push to his content from ‘the stream’ rather him trying to pull them in. That strategy still isn’t effective enough – you still have to do the song and dance to get noticed, because the stream is so jam packed full of content that it is very easy to get lost.

        Anyway – food for thought.

        • I should have clarified: the internet is not that place for me, for Z&F. The people who love to throw money at me aren’t reading webcomics. They are fans of traditional comic strips and all-ages content, or they want their kids to read more and jump on any instance where their kid seems interested in a book.

          Speaking of Ken’s idea on G+, I also want to make another alteration to my usual social media promotion: since I am not begging for page views, I will start posting my weekly comic ITSELF on social media, with a link to read more comics. Things can go viral on social networks. By only posting a link, and not the comic itself, I am limiting my opportunities, and we all know people are more likely to look/read an image if it’s posted directly, as opposed to taking the time to click a link, & go to that website.

          Without obsessing over page views or hits, the world opens up for me.

  3. You have given me a lot to think about. I understand what you are getting at here. Maybe it is time for a new season for your comic. I hope you stay involved with the online cartoonist community no matter what form you take. I think that the coolest think about a webcomic is there is really aren’t rules. The format can be different from post to post. If I want to do a 1 panel today and a 4 panel next week, we have that freedom. So however you decide to do it, it’s all good. My goals have changed over time so why shouldn’t the delivery also change? Personally I do my comic, because I have to. If others read it, that is great. I have been successful only in that I have reached people on some levels at various time, especially in the last year, Even if that is a small group the bar of what I consider succesful has changed, and lowered in my case. So as far as what the answer is, I’d say all of the above. Try new things and if it brings success keep doing it, if it doesn’t do something else.
    I hope you find what works. All in all I don’t think there are any rules. There are those if have “made it”, but I’m not sure that is a model for the rest of us. I do know you will be succesful, because you already are. Now that said I hope you can make a full time living doing what you love, because I guess that is the ultimate for anyone of us. Good luck! Regardless, keep drawing for your joy and I hope you find what brings your the most joy.

  4. I love making webcomics. I love the community and the interaction amongst creators and readers. As a creator it’s very fulfilling. That said, I think the webcomic business model is terrible and I applaud you for trying something new.

    When you consider how much time most webcomic creators put into their work vs what they (most of them) make off it it’s embarrassing. It’s not even sweatshop money. The problem is that each comic and it’s audience is so different that one model can’t possibly fit all of webcomics. As a webcomic AWARENESS model, it works great but begins to fall apart at the money level. Each artist is ultimately responsible for comic up with their particular comic’s business model. That’s a big challenge.

    • Thanks Bill. After reading the How to Make Webcomics book, I have always had my doubts that there is only ONE way to become successful in this field. The pioneers of that era found it worked for them, but like everyone is saying here, it rarely does now for the next generation. If that’s the front door to success, we need to look for windows, back doors, basement hatches, vents, or just blow out a wall, to get in. I think most us just feel like we’re knocking, but there’s waaaaaaaaa-hay too many people inside to hear us. Time to blow out a wall.

      • I love your comment here, Dawn. I think it is a great graphic representation of what is happening. I applaude your decision of going forward and try new ways of doing things. I think it is a great example for all of us.
        On the other hand, I am happy we still can enjoy your comic once a week. :)

        My best wishes. Good Luck!!!!! :)

  5. “Or maybe Z&F is a worthwhile comic, just not a WEBcomic.”

    That.

    I’m really beginning to question if giving *everything* away for free on the web is a truly viable option for anybody doing anything other than pop-culture based gag strips.

    People pay for things that they enjoy. And even if it’s not a HUGE number of people, you’re likely to make more money that way than by giving everything away to the masses and depend on ad revenue.

    We’re sort of at that place right now, too. As we mentioned before, “numbers” don’t mean you’re up dollars. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. And I have to question whether or not we’ve made the business model of *purchasing* our comic obsolete by giving it away for free on the web first.

    I think the webcomics “pioneers” got in early, built huge audiences on the sheer novelty of it all, and were able to keep it chugging along on (mostly) ad revenue.

    No, I don’t think that model works any more. At least, not if you expect to somehow be *paid* for your work.

    • Appreciate it, Thom. I’m at the point where earning an income is necessary for me to keep this going. Call me a sell-out, but when my main goal in life is to make a living off of drawing, the “make a living” part requires the moolah.

      • Sympathize completely. Kam and I are in a similar place right now. It seems like while our comic “pays for itself” we’re still down free time that could be used to make much more money or, you know, spend time as a family like normal people. :-/

        If we’re going to do this, it needs to be financially viable on some level to be able to justify all the time spent on it.

  6. Interesting. I came to a similar conclusion about Chippy and Loopus and decided to end it. I wound up putting BOTH of my strips on hiatus due to my ever-increasing workload at my day job. One day, I will return to my webcomics, however, and I believe I will be giving your model serious consideration. It will definitely guard against burnout, and end my obsessive stat chasing. Good thinking, Dawn!

    • It’s a interesting dynamic we have, John. My comic is too “all-ages” for the web, where as you’re too NSFW for the web (as silly as that sounds, but people DO tend to read webcomics at work!) I wonder how C&L would sell at a book expos like APE or SPX… one that celebrates edgy, quirky work moreso than mainstream “clean” work.
      It’s a shame you had to end C&L, but I understand.. and I look forward to whatever you do in the future!

    • John,….I was happy to see you chime in here! I loved C&Loopus!
      I’m a Cartoonist/Illustrator that has amassed a huge library of characters with stories just waiting to be told in a strip or comic book form and these are the results of many years worth of sketches and model charts still sitting on my Motion Tablet PC.

      I also work full time in a big corporate environment and with a family, home, cars, insurance and blah blah blah….my time is obviously something I hold with the highest regards.

      The business side of my brain NEVER quite could get wrapped around the webcomic business model and as I sat back and watched everyone else partake in it, here we are several years later with very little clear direction or solid footing in that business.

      At age 49, you might think that I’m the guy with the white t-shirt, striped circa 70’s gym shorts and black socks screaming at the kids playing on my front lawn when I’m trying to prevent bare spots from forming.

      You would only be partially right (grin). Actually, although it may be hard to relate to the 20’s crowd of creators in webcomics and I often cringe at their lack of a good business acumen and professionalism when speaking on a podcast or social related outlet, I applaud the many others who are so obviously talented and making an honest attempt at living off of their work.

      I think everyone’s definition of “making a good living” is different and often in direct correlation with whatever stage of life they happen to be in.

      We all may get to a point when just seeing our work “out there” is no longer enough if you are going broke or barely getting by in the process of getting it there. Like it or not, we need money to survive and flourish in our society.

      The current business model with webcomics, in my humble opinion,..just plain stinks. Coming from an older guy like myself, I guess it’s no surprise. Funny, whenever I see a webcomic that I may been following, just die or disappear, I’m saddened BUT the first thing that comes to my mind is that, “oh well,…I guess reality just entered into their life.”

      The same reality that slaps you in the face and tells you that you have to move forward and follow the money and stability so that you can provide for yourself and/or family.

      So if you switch gears and find the right outlet for your work Dawn, I applaud you and I think you are doing the right thing regardless. Thinking outside of the box here is the only way that this cartooning and comic industry is going to survive and prosper. I’m constantly thinking about this as well and trying to find a way to get my stuff out there in a way that I can justify the means to the end (the time away from the family while drawing)….and keep peace in the household.

      • Hiya TogoTooner, thanks for the input. It definitely seems like many people feel the way we do about the “current” business model, if it still exists. I think a HUGE point to make it that it worked in the past, for the pioneers who introduced webcomics as we know it to the world. As the market became more saturated, and the novelty of a webcomic wore off, people were less likely to pay for something they could get for free. As the demand dips, the supply needs to be altered– hence my plan to give only HALF of my work away for free.
        Thinking outside the box, whether about the business model, or the art/concept/writing itself, is what makes you a great creator. Otherwise you’re a robot doomed to fail once the market changes.. which it will inevitably do.
        Do what you love, figure out who would compensate you for your work and find more of that crowd, and go with the flow of the market.
        Best of luck to ya!

  7. I like it. I’ve only briefly browsed Z&F, but I think shifting your focus to the books will still net you quite a bit of content, which you can then pass along to keep your web readers happy.

    My question to you (and one I ask myself all the time) is this: What’s your criteria for what goes in the book as content and what goes on the web/social media as promotional ‘bait’?

    • Thank you Delphina. The bonus content I include tends to be sketches, some how-to’s, some info on my process, old comics from yore, fanart submitted just for the books, and yes… some content I posted online but maybe wasn’t seen as it wasn’t specifically a Z&F comic. I think with this proposal, more bonus content will be brand new to most people reading the book.

  8. First off, I have to start this by saying, congrats Dawn on you massive “brass set.” To not only put this in motion but to make it this clear is a damn brave thing to do. That being said, you may be on to something.

    I know in the case of my comic (which I have stopped marketing as all-ages because of the stigma that goes with that) getting page views has been hell on earth this go around and I’m still in the early stage where audience building is supposed to be the easiest.

    I do love the idea of making it all about the book releases, in a sense you are becoming an indy book author and the z & F site just became your “blog” where you can tease up new releases and just what you are up to. My only thought about this is, in order for you to keep a strong presence I think you’re con schedule is gonna have to be pretty large and diverse. The nice thing about the web, is it goes pretty much everywhere. If you are giving that permission to sit on the back burner I just worry about you staying on the top of the fan’s minds you’ve already made that may not live in a city with a con near them, or a con you plan on attending…

    All and all… really thought provoking post Dawn and seriously BEST OF LUCK!

    • thanks Ryan! I’m thinking this proposal may work for your comic as well, being all-ages and not typically in the webcomic demographic’s interest. You need to find a similar audience– kids, but also adults who like classic comic strip collections!

      • I was running into that “all-ages” barrier a ton. Which is why I’ve stopped promoting it as such. Now basically my rule is, pretend this is the newspaper. So I don’t worry so much if little Suzie’s mom would be ticked about a punchline and just have fun making the strip :)

        • I had started putting up an “kid-friendly” sign at cons, thinking it would draw more parents. Now I wonder if it deters my other demographic- adults who like traditional comic strips. While I get a lot of compliments from parents who are thrilled to see “something for kids”, I want people to know it’s for anyone. So, maybe I’ll use that sign on “kids days” at cons, and otherwise, ditch it.

          As for what you write in the comic, it’s just best to write what feels natural. If you have a natural inclination to push the boundaries, your work is going to be funnier/better that way. Personally, I have been writing all-ages comics for so long, that when I try to do an adult comic, it seems forced and fake. (despite the fact that I’m no humor-prude outside my comic’s universe)

  9. ‘The rules’ are a bit of a red herring because A. it’s a webcomic so there are NO RULES, and B. they make webcomic artists think they are unsuccessful because they aren’t updating often enough, or don’t have enough traffic, or they posted off-schedule. This is despite there being webcomics that update reliably every day of the week and still make ziltch. But no one questions it because it seems like good practise and working HARDER should work, right? Also we’re all a self-deprecating lot that think if we’re not a success it must be because there’s something wrong with us. But, erm, yeah. Webcomics aren’t particularly geared to make money. Why? Because webcomics are free. Where’s the money going to come from? Inevitably if you want money you have to sell something. That’s what it comes down to.

    • yup, in the arts… be it music, books, comics… working harder and having talent are only part of the puzzle… there’s that extra piece that’s either got to be offer TO you, or you stumble upon, that gets you to that next level. The problem is the “rules” leave that last part out, and make it seem like if you have the first 2 pieces the puzzle will be solved. Not only the “webcomic rules” but how our generation was raised…. that you can be anything you want to be as long as you try hard enough. Sadly, not true… but you can find happiness even if your plans do not work out, you just have to find lots of things that make you happy and appreciate and revel in them. I try to keep this in mind, because it is more than likely possible that I will never achieve my goals in terms of making a living off my goofy little drawings. :0)

      Thanks for the input, Amulettes

  10. Thanks to everyone so far, for commenting with your feedback, ideas, suggestions and support. It seems we’re all on the same page thus far. My proposal, despite not following the “rules” of the original pioneers who earned success, seems acceptable… at the very least, acceptable in that I’m gonna try it first, LOL.
    and honestly I’m NOT the first. Other people have been doing this. They just tend to be more of the traditional comic book artists– they release a few pages as a teaser and then sell the book itself. I’m releasing half the comic strips as a teaser (a strictly-scheduled teaser that lasts 4 months), then offer the actual book for sale to read the rest, as well as an e-book (also a new venture) if the printed book is too pricey.

    It’ll be interesting to see how my readers react, but I have a feeling most of them will understand.. specifically because they are NOT to usual “webocmic demographic”.. they are people who love the nostalgia of comic strips or something to read with the kids… and are used to paying an artist for their hard work, in form of a comic collection a la Calvin & Hobbes or Fox Trot.

    • the replies to this article have been amazing and insightful! being that I, like most of you, am always swamped with comics/promotion/etc…. I am having a hard time keeping up and responding to each of you. But I’ll do my best, just give me time! no really, GIVE me time! Like one day with 26 hours, how’s that???

  11. I failed, failed, and failed again with all my comics. I did Croaker’s Gorge daily for a while. Never achieved much of an audience. Burned out. I did Moon Town 5x a week for 6 months. Never achieved much of an audience. Burned out.

    My book sales have been tepid. My reception at cons, tepid.

    My work is amazingly well received, critically.

    I think your solution is a good one. “Unsuccessful” webcomics like yours, and mine, and like 98% of them out there, should NOT follow the so-called Webcomics Business Model, because the Webcomics Business Model is non-existent, or so rare as to be a species of mythical animal. Unicorn, perhaps. Or faerie. The fact that 10 or so people out there have been able to eke out a middle-class existence with comics doesn’t mean the rest of us will be able to do that. What if every musician expected to succeed like The Beatles? There was one Beatles. The world didn’t need a second.

    Well, the world already has the top of the webcomics food chain. Though most of them are ugly and not funny, they update regularly and attract a loyal, paying audience. They have my admiration for having gotten that to work, but I don’t admire their product.

    So, I guess where I’ve come down is that I’d rather be poorly paid with a product I can be proud of than try to achieve financial success with a product that shames me.

    Hopefully I will attract an audience by offering a quality product, but who knows? There’s a lot of noise out there. Sex sells, and loud sex sells better. I’m offering really well-made buggy whips in the era of flying cars. I’m counting on buggy whip fans finding me, but we’ll see. Those flying cars are really something.

    • See, Oggie, you’re a perfect example of talent that is having a hard time finding your niche, a foothold, a place to flourish. I mean, how frustrating is to receive high reviews, impress critics, but never find the readership that your work deserves???!! The phrase “Before your time” comes to mind.
      Your attitude is a good one. You have to love what you do. If you try to cater to the audience you want, A: your product won’t be natural and therefor not that good, and B: you’ll burn out much faster and it won’t be fulfilling to you.
      Sex certainly sells. I’ve opted to ignore that, and stand on my soapbox screaming “CUTE sells too!” I think that’s my draw: cuteness… but it’s the writing and the humor and the social commentary that keeps the readers. At least, the handful of passionate ones I have, LOL.

  12. Sometimes what is old is new again. For the grand history of publishing artists/writers produced their work, released it as a whole (or in parts for periodicals) and CHARGED for it… and consumers expected to PAY. It wasn’t about this one being free and that one costing something, at most it was about competing price points within the market.

    Yes, for a decade or more a number of people made a living working the “all content should be free” angle and they are very clever people whom I admire – but so much of that is based on time, place, and the mojo of the time.

    Content isn’t free anymore, and consumers accept that. There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to continue to self publish larger volumes of complete content at the pace you can set for your lifestyle and not expect to benefit from the process.

    The ONLY tricky thing I can think of relates to your own personal habits and ability to set out a project plan and stick to it. The fact that people “expect” you to deliver a product frequently does indeed keep you on your toes and on schedule. Without that pressure, you would want to guard against slacking off.

    With Z&F, I would highly recommend you approach booksellers, libraries, and possibly even publishers with completed projects.

    And of course, you know I don’t believe Z&F is a poor product.

    • Ditto.

      We have an entire generation of consumers used to everything being free.

      Our generation? We tipped hard-working creators. We bought their merch to support them.

      Kids these days want everything for free and they want it yesterday.

        • For content they deem valuable, or can’t otherwise get… music, games, movies.

          I think comics kinda get the shaft.

          Because there’s a LOT of free art out there.

          Much of it quite good.

          • Thats why you need more of a value-add.

            Video of your process, insights, podcasts, behind the scenes stuff. Anything you would find on DVD/Blu-Ray extras is what you should consider if you’re putting your stuff up behind a pay-wall.

            People are smart and can sniff out a great deal. They can also smell if you’re ripping them off or re-hashing content. If you’re going to give them something exclusive for their money, it should be a bit more than just the comic. That’s how you turn fans into BIG FANS. They crave that stuff.

          • thanks guys and very well put, Drezz.
            Lets MAKE people want to pay for our comics! Offer MORE value, more stuff, BETTER stuff. Think outside the box.
            For me, that means only putting out enough comics in a season to whet your appetite. I don’t have time to make MORE than 3 a week, so 1x a week online posts is my only option. You want more, buy it… and I’ll give you 2 options- ebook or real book. Each will offer DIFFERENT extra stuff. Buy them both for everything I offer!

            It’s a lot of work, but hopefully it’ll fit into the spaces that I open up by not shamelessly promoting new comics 3x a week, and as long as I do 2 a week, I’m on track. That gives me an extra day for this bonus content.

    • Thank you Don. You and your son are some of the biggest fans I have, I and make staying up until 3am (as I did last night) worth it.
      I have a feeling my transition won’t be as harsh as it would be with a bigger online readership. In fact, if you already HAVE a large readership online, I would NEVER suggest this proposal… it would do far more harm than good. Your readers EXPECT your comics to be free. My dedicated readers tend to not be webcomic readers, they tend to not EXPECT things for free, and they tend to BUY my books when released, to share with their families and kids. I recall a “standard percentage” cited from one of the bigger webcomic creators- stating that maybe 1% of your readership will buy something from you. I have a small readership, but I think my percentage is slightly higher (maybe 15%?)– BECAUSE they are not typical webcomic readers.
      So, the question is, where do I find more of these non-webcomic readers? Your suggestions (booksellers, libraries, publishers) are a great start, and with the extra time I’ll have doing 2 strips & not 3 a week, I can start contacting some.

  13. Nice article. I think it’s always a good idea to experiment and try different approaches. I haven’t seen the kind of uptick I was hoping for either and things have somewhat plateaued. I haven’t been on the scene nearly as long though so I wasn’t sure if I’m just being impatient.
    Anyways, there is a lot to consider here for sure. I’m thinking about finding a small publisher(or big publisher if even possible) as well to help distribution.
    Thanks for the great article.

    • It’s hard to know how log is “too long” or “too short” to wait it out and see if your readership will grow. I doubt it matters, it’s all a crapshoot it seems. Provided you have quality content and you are consistent, it could be a right-place-right-time deal. I think most of us need that extra intangible element and we just need to stumble into it.
      So in the end, keep drawing your comic if it inspires you and you’d want to do it anyway!
      We’ve discussed the idea of submitting to publishers on the podcast. It all depends on the contract offered, but it could be an avenue worth trying.

  14. Hey Dawn,

    Very timely article for me. I’ve gradually stopped worrying about pages hits and ad dollars myself–I make more money selling books at a single con appearance than in an entire year of ad revenue. Putting out three comics every week ensures that I can put out books in a timely fashion. And most of my buyers at cons have never even heard of my comic. I think relating to your product as books rather than a daily webcomic is spot on.

    Chasing page hits is a dead end in my humble opinion. I think a lot of us go in thinking, “if enough people just see my comic once they will become fans and keep reading it.” Unfortunately it doesn’t pan out that way for most of us. Page hits are a result of something, not the cause, and I think we’ve mostly gotten this backwards as a community.

    I’ll be ramping up my con appearances next year and focusing my efforts on book sales. Hope to see you at a con!

    • You sound like you’re in a similar situation as I am, David. Lots of cold-sells, and lots of repeat-buyers at cons! I feel terrible if a fan comes to my table and I have nothing new to offer him/her. Another reason why I have thought about making my books smaller- 100 comics per, instead of 200. I can have releases of new books more often. But not sure if it’ll add up, profits wise, as I have to charge less and the 100-comic book costs about the same from Createspace as a 200 one (B&W interior).
      The internet is a flighty mess with a lack of attention span. This is why long form comics have a harder time. Heck, even a comic with reoccurring characters is hard to grasp, compared to Oatmeal-like one-off gags. This is why I will ONLY be posting the gag-a-day type comics, and I’ll leave the Z&F storyarcs for the books. Aiming to make the online-posts something people could share on their FB pages and have go viral…. that may be the key. fast, easy, relatable and funny.

      • Steve Ognden just shared this with me on FB. As I just mentioned the Oatmeal, here’s a quote:
        “Even Inman with his $500,000 blog says he needs to update more when he feels like it rather than on a schedule to satisfy the Free Content Militia out there (sorry, “readers”). He rightly points out that updating occasionally feels great, updating more frequently makes you feel abused, and updating all the time burns you out.”
        Plus a cartoon! Yay cartoons!
        http://theoatmeal.com/comics/making_things

  15. Dawn, I like the approach you’re taking here. This is still a relatively new industry, and this type of experimentation is a good idea. I’m anxious to see how it works out for you.

  16. The way I see it, a lot of the ‘web’comics business model is irrelevant now.

    It isn’t as simple as creating consistent updates, pounding the pavement at cons and in public to get eyeballs to your site, generating ad revenue, merchandise, etc.

    If you look at the most well known creators of webcomics, they all managed to gain leverage through different means.

    Penny Arcade and PvP debuted on game forums that had a built in audience, and the content in those comics was very niche oriented. They’ve made a very comfortable living off of that particular crowd, and have branched out in certain areas (PA with conventions and events, PvP with comedy/animation and ther forms of media).

    Hark! A Vagrant creator Kate Beaton did funnies for various small print publications (College Newspapers, Magazines,) but was commissioned to do Illustration work for some very high profile publications. When she made those contacts, people started taking notice of her work and appreciated the intelligent humor and subject matter.

    The Oatmeal was a gag site with comics and quizzes about topical media items (and common annoyances that people shared) which eventually took off like wildfire because the comics catered to specific areas (teaching, service industry, technology) The writing was good, and having bite-sized pictorial representations makes things easier to digest and enjoy. The comics from the Oatmeal become viral due to their subject matter and delivery. Each comic is a one-off, with a relevant topic that provokes discussion or a sympathetic response.

    XKCD is well written, catering to the analytical mind, but has enough charm to be enjoyed by creatives.

    None of these comics followed a set plan – things happened and it worked out in their favor. Sure, you want to have discipline when you’re working – but that discipline isn’t going to be what gets you ahead. You need to make better connections that will make your career path jump, not roll along.

    • And none of the comics you cited would work in traditional print syndication model but are brilliant examples of taking a new medium and making it their own.

      Can everyone follow their game plan? No way. Success doesn’t work that way. You have to develop your own plan and create your own success.

      And how did a Canadian get so smart? Must be the blows on the head from hockey sticks…
      😛

    • I guess in a way, we still need a “lucky break”, and have to maximize our opportunities to find one. Me sitting and drawing comics until 3am and then burning myself out, isn’t doing that. I need to shift my time allotments. One less comic a week, opens me up to promoting in different venues– like Don suggested, libraries, schools, and possibly getting a publisher to take on my books. I have a better chance for a “lucky break” in those places, than in the gigantic webcomics swimming pool, as much fun as it is in here.

      (okay, now I am imagining everyone floating around in those inner-tubes with their character on the front. Antoine has swimmies, of course, as well as a cooler raft full of beer)

  17. If you’ve decided not give the whole cow [moo] away, udders and all and you want to try having your readers sample the sliced cheese instead, why would that change be a bad thing?!?

    Comics are going through a transition right now, I think what works for others is a tool to learn from, but it’s not going to be the same reality for everyone. Publishing houses are going through their own identity crisis, while independent publishing is tripping around trying to find it’s footing as well. In the middle of that, is a chorus of creators trying to find a balance between what has worked and what will work and are all singing a similar tune of frustration.

    The one thing I would slap your hand about is in suggesting you don’t have enough talent. I’ve been reading your work for years, if I like it, it has to be good! [grin] …and I’m being conceitedly serious! I’ve said time and again, you need a better marketing mechanism, I just don’t have the intellect to know what that would be, but I do know that what you are putting out there w/ Z&F is quality and worthy.

    • The more I thought about this article in my sleep last night, the more I realized that what you’re on to here is actually a legitimate game changer for those who need one. I’ve tried the semi weekly, weekly, seasonal approach and no matter how well I prepare, I have a job and a life that I have to balance along with my creative desires. It might be beneficial for those of us with challenging schedules to actually consider dialing back how we offer our content and actually rethink the delivery system.

      Maybe it would be better to just create your work offline until you have enough content to throw into a print or e-book. Once you have a completed block of work ready to go, you put that content out there in whatever way you desire and use your website to bring that content to life and decide how you want your readers to get it. It allows you get past the production phase and focus solely on the marketing of the work thereafter. Your content is active when you have it available, like a musician, or a writer and when your ready to do it again, rinse and repeat.

      I’m not saying this shoe will fit everyone out there creating a comic, but for those of us who enjoy creating, but can’t work within confined schedules, this might be a different kind of way of approaching the work one wants to do!

      I’ve been struggling with my work, mostly due to time constraints and trying to work within the established parameters most other creators adhere to and I just am unable to meet it. However, if I just withhold content until it’s ready to go and simply make my work available then… who’s to say it can’t work?

      You’ve given me something to ponder Dawn! [thanks]

      • good stuff, Jynksie. I think, like you mentioned, if I was to start a new comic, I would get a whole book done first. Post some teaser stuff, sure. And then post SOME of the comics online, 5x a week, for a month. Promote it LIKE CRAZY. at the end of the month (enough to time to get people hooked and/or sick of me), promote the book LIKE CRAZY.

        Wait for the next book, rinse, repeat.

        I could do that with Z&F but it would mean a LOOOOOONG hiatus. Like, a year, to get one whole book of 200 comics done. Plus, as discussed, I doubt I would suddenly find an online audience. This plan would have to be for a comic that better fits the “webcomic reader’s” interests.

  18. I think doing a strip with the same characters day after day may be a problem sometimes with webcomics because if a reader is new, they can’t just get into the comic, they need to know the players, figure out if it’s a continuing story and if it is, they need to start from scratch. I think comics like The Oatmeal, Toon Hole and SMBC do incredibly well because anyone can click on for the first time and “get it.” There are no characters or stories to follow. I do this, I have a single panel (sometimes multi panel) comic, but it stands alone as an anthology.

    As for blogs. I think all the key words in the blogs help bring readers, there are of course more key words since every word in a blog is a key word, where with the comic strip itself, you may choose a few key words but the blog is where all the content is. Even if you just write about your own life or your pet or whatever, you need to write a blog. Many web cartoonists write a sentence begrudgingly as their blog post.

    As for taking time off, I thought of the concept, that the webcomics would run like tv shows do. They have a season and then they are off for awhile. But not sure if that will work, readers may leave and never come back. I did that with the Sopranos on tv, they took so much time off that I never went back.

    • You raise a good point, Tom. The webocmics that really take off, might do so because they are easy to absorb quickly. Like I said in an earlier comment, it’s something else I want to focus on in this new model for Z&F.

      1. Post the gag-a-day, one-off comics, leave the storylines (which are harder to get into, posting only 1-3x a week) for the books.

      2. SHARE the weekly posts on social networks. If I’m not obsessing over page views or getting people to my site, why not just put it RIGHT in everyone’s stream? (with a link, for more comics). That improves the chances of having a comic go VIRAL!

      3. I also want to put out ebooks, with different bonus content than the books. Offer special links inside the ebook for a “members only” page of videos, extras, etc. Have the ebooks connect with the website, like an extension of it.

      The key words in a blog are helpful. Hopefully this new model will allow me more time for blogging, to go with the 1x a week post. I am already doing a seasonal schedule like TV shows. 4 months on, 2 months off. It gives me a much needed breather and time to recharge, and also get other work done.

      Thanks for the input!

  19. Great article. I certainly find myself falling into the trap of hunting for page views, but am coming to realize that this’ll be a slow burn process. And who am I really doing this for anyway? I’m learning a ton just posting a weekly strip, listening to podcasts and fiddling with the WordPress. While I’d love Crosstown to be a commercial and critical smash-hit, it’s good to just step back, take a breath, and appreciate it as a self-development exercise. You’re helping to take that pressure off with this post. Thanks for sharing.

    • I never sweat over pageviews. Never did. They are what they are. We have better ways to judge our successes then by pageviews. Comments on the site, reader participation in projects, etc.

      I knew I had a good audience when I introduced my first Member’s Only section back in 2009. I have a great set of loyal readers who ante up each year for exclusive content. That’s worked for me and now I’m building on that model along the lines of what Dawn is doing.

      Thanks for reading!

    • I think any time you ever feel overwhelmed or disappointed with your progress, you have to ask yourself that question, GPM: “Who am I doing this for anyway?”. That should be the end-all-be-all. Do this because you love it first and foremost. Once that slips to #2 behind money, fame, or whatever else, the quality will slip, and it won’t even be FUN anymore.

      so, I guess “fun” should be #2, but it ties in to #1 as well. DO what you LOVE, because it’s FUN. Okay, yeah, that.

  20. Well Dawn, you probably already know what I’m going to say – and that’s that I think you have the right idea, bottom line. I liked your idea of seasons, and I see more comics doing that.

    I think part of the problem is that there never really was a “webcomics model” – a one-size-fits-all solution. While you can look at certain aspects of comics that make it work, ultimately you have to serve your own audience. You cannot copy X comic’s success and expect success for yourself. The internet is a wildly changing, evolving place. What was true even a year ago is suspect today.

    Next, if anyone is in comics for the money, I say “woe to you, foolish artist.” I can’t think of a harder, tougher, more unrewarding way to try and actually make money. Quality and hard work are not always rewarded and are no guarantee of success.

    Anyway, as you know I agree with Don and Og – we’ve been talking this way for quite some time now. It’s time to stop completely giving everything away for free – especially if you are making quality content (and we all can see that Dawn is certainly doing that.)

    My own current thoughts revolve around figuring out who your audience is, what your niche is, and then making sure what you do serves those things exclusively. And I’ll say that that is NOT easy to do.

    With Marooned, I have the same problem as you – plateau of readership. While the numbers are decent, it’s very hard to get them to move. And you know what? I found out that when I stopped advertising and doing the full press with social media – things didn’t change much at all.

    I’ve build a core audience that likes my work. My future projects will not be free. I’ll expose some free preview content, but people are going to pay to see the whole product. And I believe in doing a lot more “traditional” promotion work just like you are planning on, too – libraries, local scene, etc.

    Best of luck, and keep us in the loop about how things are going!

    • Hey Tom!

      I’ve seen what you’re doing and you’re headed in the right direction. We “webcomic” artists have begun the evolution from the “give it away and hope we make money” model to a true business model that allows people to sample our product and then buy the full package if they so desire.

      Thanks for reading Tom! We need to get our quartet going again… I need a break and could use a beer or two!

    • all well said Tom, and thank you. I think I sell well at cons mostly because of my salesmanship and affable attitude. I’m pretty friendly and willing to chat about anything, and I think people like that, appreciate it, and want to support me. It helps that they seems to like the actual product as well, heh. Point is, I think there’s still something to an in-person transaction, even in this day and age. Website stores are cold, you don’t see me, get to talk with me.. all an online store says is “BUY STUFF” in a grid format. If that was my only sales pitch in person, I doubt I’d do any better. Even with social media, blogging, comments… there’s nothing like meeting a person face-to-face, and the glory of the impulse purchase! It certainly helps when the book is RIGHT THERE, in your hands, and it could be YOURS!
      So, yes, “traditional” in-person promotion work might work a lot better for me, and you, than web advertising, social networks, or even a connection to communities like this!

      best wishes to you Tom, we are very much in the same boat between the all-ages genre, sci-fi genre, and level of talent & dedication.

  21. I gave the we comic model a 2 year shot and what I walked away with, besides a small group of readers that started to follow me loyally on twitter, was pizza money every 2 months. I agree with your assessment of the situation dawn. I gave it up, went to cons and showed my portfolio to traditional independant comic book publishers and got gigs that let me pay rent and half of our grocery bill every month. I get to go to local cons for free (including Tampa bay and megacon) and i get to meet folks who not only order commissions on the spot but also hit me up weeks later via email or twitter for more. Over all, for me, the traditional way is working out better. Maybe i was doing it wrong with the whole we comic system, but it had virtually nothing to offer me except a time sink that i loved but ultimately yielded very small results.

    I know others have been far, far more successful with it, but it seems to me that was a fluke and their place has been set in stone. Everyone else just has to either have 10 years to wait for a modicum of success or be very lucky. All in all, i would say that the we comic platform is in the exact same place the print newspaper comics were in 20-25 years ago. Where in you were either peanuts, marmaduke, Dennis the menace or you weren’t. If you get what i mean.

    • We comic = web comic. Gotta love auto correct on phones. Also, I want to add, I’m able to make money now and I’m still a nobody. But I can only go up from here and yea, I do any and all local shows I can so I can pimp myself out. Even going so far as to do what I did today which was volunteer my whole day to go to a local middle school so I could teach kids cartooning and comic art.

    • I agree, Rob. And as much as I don’t want to admit it, giving up my own property to get gigs with “real” publishers could very well get me what I dreamed of: making a living off of drawing comics. Trouble is, I think I need an amendment to my dream: be my own boss and write my own comics as well. Yup, now I’m just getting greedy and completely unrealistic!

      I do also have my other project– a kids book series with 4 books thus far and a self-esteem message for girls that compels any mother to throw money at us (the author and I). Same as with Z&F though, we just need a lucky break somewhere.

      If and when one of these really starts to take off, the other project will have to be set aside.

      • Oh it isn’t greedy or unrealistic, it’s the goal we all want for ourselves. That said, I don’t see what I do as really working for someone else. I am a freelancer and usually work with more than one person at a time. Right now I am working for two different Indy publishers and a book publisher doing the artwork for an upcoming book. So in a way, while I do work for clients, I decide which jobs to get and which to pass on and I set my own hours and terms (payment and delivery).

        So yeah I do have to take their input into account on the finished product, but I see that as a small concession in order to get my name out there in multiple industries, get paid while doing so, and feel happy about doing what I love for a living. Also, it gives me enough psychological breathing room so that I can fool myself into thinking that I am my own boss..if that makes sense.

        I would love to be like Charles Schultz or even the much hated Scott Adams (at least he’s his own boss). I really had hoped to be like them or Kurtz or the PA guys; but, like others have said already, that model is a non starter now for most of us newbies to the web side of comics and cartooning. I agree that what we all need is to find new ways in and to be honest, I don’t think it’s that hard. I think what we need to do is use the resources we already have available. Resources that even Kurtz and them didn’t have when they were first starting out.

        Resources I am thinking of, off the top of my head:

        Digital distribution centers (Indy planet, comixology, graphic.ly).

        Note: Comixology will soon be opening up their borders to independent publishers. Sweet eh?

        Taking our properties to established comic publishing houses and pitching it to them for printing. Didn’t Kurtz have PVP published through top cow many moons ago?

        Crowd funding (which I think we have all either tried or will try)

        all of those take a lot of work and a little bit of luck. but if this were easy, wouldn’t everyone do it?

  22. I’m still fresh in the webcomic business and haven’t started to make any income yet. But the one idea I have, being that I’m producing a long form webcomic, is give the whole main story away digitally for free, and charge for printed copies or digital PDFs of parallel side stories, for those fans that want that little bit extra.

    But if anything, I’d say “don’t give up!”. There is always a slight chance you might get you’re big break. You just have to keep aiming for it.

    • this is an interesting idea, Beep Club. Long form and short form comics are very different, and attract different types of readers. I think the main element people expect from a short form gag-a-day comic is that it’s FUNNY. You can tell that from just a couple strips. After that, maybe the characters, if they’re relatable, and the artwork. For long form, getting sucked into the STORY is HUGE. Putting out just a chapter for free may not be enough to get people to pull the trigger on a book. However, your work is worth asking for SOMETHING. Maybe a chapter for free, a $1 ebook, a $1 side story, and the printed copy for more….?

  23. I’ve come to the same conclusion with my comic, actually. It’s doing much better in the printed book world and now with a newspaper publisher I’ve had much less time to dedicate to the “webcomic” and all of the work that’s needed to get those page hits I once so desired.
    So yeah, while I’m not following your new business model to the letter I’m totally with you philosophically. Congrats on this new chapter in the life of Z&F! :)

    • The doctor is in! I think most of us have found an audience, but now we need to give them what they want, or are willing to pay for. That may or may not be a comic published on the web.

      I see the 1977 website becoming more of an information site on what’s new and available and leaving the current archive there to whet people’s appetite. The future is releasing volumes as Dawn has suggested. I know I have the fan base to support it if I deliver it properly.

      Thanks for reading!

  24. I guess it all just depends on what you want out of it. If you want your property to be a mega-million dollar empire that’s one path, and if you want to create and tell your stories your way that’s another. Don’t judge your comic as a success or failure just because it can’t be all things at once.

    It is great that you have taken the time to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t; just make sure you’re being rational about it and don’t get too encompassed in “the big picture” (‘will my comic ever be the bestest comic out there?’).

    I could go on, but we all know this sermon. Comics are a labor of love. Just choose which one you want to emphasize: “labor” or “love”.

    • I think a lot of folks tend to think this way, and that’s fine to a point. The problem is that making comics IS a labor. There is a lot of time that goes into this. Time and effort. Wanting to see a decent return on investment is ok. The more I hang out with other artists locally and at cons the more I realize that it is perfectly normal and ok to want to be paid for what you love. Especially if you put the kind of effort dawn and Drezz, etc. Put into it. If you allow yourself to think that not making money or being successful is ok, then you never will be because you’re not setting a bar for yourself. And that’s ok if your goal is to just do this as a hobby. However, If you want to be a professional that implies payment and advancement along with recognition. All of which are ok to want.

  25. I’m in a transitional period right now but I’ve been convinced of a “pay first, free later” scenario with my new comic. Work ahead, complete a book, then sell the thing. Afterwards, I will start releasing free content on the site.

    Second, like anything else, you need capital to make a business work. Ka-Blam is great for screwing around and selling a few books here and there but if you want to make money, you need to do full off-set printing. It’s a huge difference when you front $4-5k and make $9-12 per book instead of $3-4 per book allowed by Ka-Blam and other on-demand printing. The same applies to merchandise with Zazzle, CafePress, etc.

    Third, I’ve never felt that page views matter. It’s why I continue to play around with different formats for presenting my comics. What I want is to get people visiting the site and being interested in the comic… I never expect to make much money from advertising. I run several other sites and know exactly how many page views you need to successfully live from a website. You need a minimum of 2,000,000 page views a month to just scratch together a living from a website. With a webcomic, that’s probably not going to happen. So, if you can’t earn much money from a site, you need to figure out a different way to make your money. And in the world of comics, that means selling books… Which brings us back to point one: capital.

    Anyway, great article, Dawn. I’m glad to see some of the community is realizing that there are other options out there and that the “general webcomic” model isn’t the right fit for many of us.

    • Any business requires upfront capital and it takes anywhere from 2 to 3 years to turn a true profit. Most artists don’t have the business savoy to understand that you have to be patient, produce a consistent product (whether it’s books or weekly comics) and promote the heck out of your work. That means going to conventions, going to local stores, press releases, etc., etc. It’s hard work, but no successful business was ever easy to build.

      If you fail, try again. Make adjustments and learn from your mistakes.

      Thanks for reading Brock!

  26. Hi Dawn, I have been mulling this over for a while now myself. I haven’t released a new comic in over a month on my site and my Whiskey Falls reruns have temporarily halted due to it getting busy at work again. I have never made much money from project wonderful and haven’t even hit the threshold for payment from Google. Plus I have yet to sell a book through my site (although I have sold a few prints and originals). I have also noticed at cons I get people who never even heard of me, flipping through my books and buying things from me. I am not sure having a regularly updating webcomic is doing anything to make any sales. So as I said, I have been mulling this over for a while, then I heard your podcast. I have a rough plan laid out for Whiskey Falls. I’m going to keep the reruns in color going until I reach the first 200 strips. Before I reach 200 I plan to have the first WF book come out. I will hold off on running the second 200 strips until I have book 2 released. Then I will promote and sell those books at cons and possibly have small floppy collections of thirty strips available for people who don’t want to buy the entire collection. Right now it’s all just planning, but I hope to get a hold on the future of my comics in 2013.

  27. This might just be one of the most important articles I’ve read regarding webcomics…EVER!

    I’ve been feeling very so-so about the typical model over the past few months. My stats (which were NEVER anything to crow about) have flat-lined and perhaps may even be on the decline as my loyal reader who regularly leave comments reinforce the notion that the quality of my (web)comic has been on the rise. I felt that my flat/declining stats correlated to the fact that a) I update 1/week, b) my comic has become much more serialized, and c) the current running storyline is much less humorous and more melodrama. All big strikes.

    I’m going to read and re-read this article and squeeze every drop of wisdom from it. There is such eye-opening value to behold!

    Thank you!

    • wow, thanks Denver! I am basically just saying “you know what… lets just try THIS, and forget about the voices in my head that say YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!”, not that I’m so wise about anything (hey, I could be flat-out wrong about this). If people agree that it may help their comic too (or help them justify it by funding it better), they are welcome to join me on my journey! Your comic is one that got a lot of social media buzz when it first started, and it’s sad that it hasn’t ended up bringing you much in terms of profit or expansive readership. That’s just how tough this field is. It makes us question our talents and skill set and wonder if the REAL reason is that we’re just not that good.
      I think my new proposal mirrors that of apps. Give a little way for free as a taste (as few will buy a comic based only on a cover or an avatar)… offer a digital version for cheap (beats FREE anyway, and if it takes off online, it could really add up), and offer the super fans (or traditional readers) books with all sorts of extra stuff and original sketches. I think it’s a model most understand. If people can accept that Words with friends costs money if you want the non-annoying version, and not pissed that *gasp* the programmers need to be paid somehow, then they’ll accept this format eventually too.

  28. I’ve always admired you and your comic, Dawn, so I’m excited to see what works for you. Since I’ve made no real efforts to monetize my own site, I’m watching from the sidelines with selfish interest. My gut instinct tells me that you’re on the right course, here, and will be more profitable and creative with this direction.

    I’m very happy you and the others in the Alliance have given out good, experience-driven advice so consistently. In the past, I think there’s been a lot of good people somewhat deluded by bad advice.

    • sorry for the late reply. Thanks Stephen, I appreciate your support & kind words. While I’d love to see this plan work for me, I also don’t want anyone to take this proposal as “the new model”… I have absolutely no idea if this will work better, earn me more cash, or kill the comic’s readership all together.
      It is still possible that my only route to success is to work even HARDER.. 5-7 updates a week.. better quality comics… more promotion. The only way I could do this is quitting my dayjob, which isn’t an option for me, or most people. If I could, I would. This is my Plan B, as the “half-assed” Plan A wasn’t working, per the 6 years of very little growth.

  29. Hey Dawn! Great article! 😀

    For myself I feel like I’m still doing okay with the webcomic model — my growth is modest, despite having done this for 6 years already, but I also haven’t really had the opportunity to do conventions the way I’d like (not to mention that I only managed to publish about 2 comics in all of 2008 due to a lack of working hardware). I’m still not where I want to be — I’m still in the red on profits — but I wanted to give you an idea of where I’m coming from before I throw out a crazy suggestion.

    My crazy suggestion is: syndication. ;P I know you’ve tried it before, but hear me out. When I first started “cartooning” in 2006, I was inspired primarily by the Far Side and my first thought was to get into newspaper syndication like Larson had. I gave up on that idea when I realized that the newspaper business was shrinking and syndication was becoming harder and harder to get into.

    One of the other things I remember hearing from a friend at the time is that you really can’t do anything “edgy” in newspapers and some of my material was definitely headed in that direction. There’s absolutely no way that my current story arc about attending a fetish panel at AnimeFest would ever grace the pages of a newspaper, despite the fact that there’s no nudity in it at all and even my dialogue is relatively tame. I’d been told that even just having published edgy material might turn the syndicates off even if they liked my other material because they’d be worried that I’d try and get edgy material into their syndication.

    But here’s why I’m suggesting that you go back and try it again. That demographic you described – preteen boys, men 30-50 and people over 50 — that’s the primary demographic of newspapers… well, not the preteen boys, but they read the newspaper comics because their 30-50 dads and their grandparents share those comics with them.

    I think you might be right that your comics might not be really well suited to being a webcomic specifically and I think you’ve laid out a good business model here. But I think it might also be worth a shot to try getting into syndication again and if you do, then you can merge the syndication with this business model you’ve laid out here. The syndicate would help you reach a newer, wider audience of people for whom the newspaper was their equivalent of the internet — it was their direct line to the outside world, to keeping up with what’s going on around them. Those people are by and large not really on the internet yet (although I’ve read that they have been migrating in that direction), and are still reading their newspapers, so I think that would be a big boost to getting you in front of your demographic.

    Of course, making the comic edgier might be another alternative, since that’s what’s popular amongst the internet crowd (a lot of shock and awe), but I get the impression you’re more of the “children’s books” type and “edgy” isn’t really your style.

    So anyway that’s mu suggestion… I certainly don’t think there are any “one size fits all” solutions. Every comic is different. I may read Cyanide and Happiness, but that doesn’t mean Woohooligan has the same demographic or that I should market to my readers the same way C&H does theirs. It’s not a matter of “finding the right model” (as though you could get it prepackaged off a shelf), it’s about continually tweaking your own strategies to find ever-more-effective solutions for your work.

    p.s. I’m becoming something of a Project Wonderful ninja lately. If you’re interested, I might be able to help you tweak your PW efforts so you can get better results with the same investment… more bang for your buck as it were. 😀

      • Glad to be part of the discussion! 😀 This is the first time I’ve actually engaged in a discussion on WA — I’ve seen the site sort of in passing, but been busy and not really gotten involved and now I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t get involved sooner. D’oh! 😛

    • Sorry for the late reply Sam. I am pretty much done with syndication, unless syndicates can prove they are trying new avenues, with the slow death of newspapers on the horizon. Z&F is, believe it or not, “too edgy” for newspapers… so I have been told by syndicates. I think the only way I’d be accepted is if I lose the aliens and just keep the talking dogs. Boooooring. The “alien” aspect is just too much for the old bitties who read the newspapers to fathom.
      BUT.. I am considering submitting my books to indie comics publishers. With comics like Bone out there, maybe they’ll find a nook for Z&F to flourish in.

      • LOL now that’s comedy! The idea that an alien is too edgy for someone who reads comics about talking animals. ;P Honestly I can’t see how the aliens in Z&F make them any edgier than BC or Hagar the Horrible. It’s not like their readers can really relate to cave-men or vikings either. ;P

        No worries re: the delay — hectic schedules get us all. 😀

  30. I love this article, Dawn. It’s good to hear some honesty about the webcomic game from someone who’s been at it for awhile. I hope that it truly works out for you.

    I’ve been trying to get away from the term ‘webcomic’. When I meet someone in person and they ask what I do, I tell them that I make comic strips. Their initial reply is “Oh, do you? Are they in the newspaper?” In turn, I hit them back with “No, but you can find them easily online.” Then I hand them a bizness card.

    Most of your average folks have no idea what a “webcomic” is (heck, the term still upsets my spell-check). I’m trying to find ways to bring those people who don’t live on their computer 24-7 over to my side. :)

    • Honestly, the term webcomic is truly dying and we all need to get away from it. We create comics and they’re published on the web. I think the term webcomic does more harm than good, in my own humble opinion.

      Dawn’s approach leave a sampling on the web and then pushes traditional print and digital versions of her books. I think it’s a worthy idea and one I’m sure to “steal” here soon myself!

      Thanks for reading George and everyone should be reading your comic for sure!

      • YES: “Honestly, the term webcomic is truly dying and we all need to get away from it. We create comics and they’re published on the web. I think the term webcomic does more harm than good, in my own humble opinion.”

  31. Oh something I forgot to mention, having a loyal readership already should really work to your favor if you decide to try submitting to the syndicates again. (There are only like 3 of them right?)

    But that also got me thinking — you should call your local newspaper and find out what it would cost to have one of your comic strips run in the paper as an advertisement. I’m not suggesting that you just start paying to publish in newspapers in general, but if it’s affordable for you, test-running one of your comics as an ad (hopefully in the comic section, but maybe just in entertainment would work), might help you get some more insight into your demographic and test the waters in the direction of newspaper syndication if you’re interested. Put your URL on the ad definitely, but I would suggest also putting a phone number on and letting people call you to inquire about your books, i.e. “If you enjoyed Z&F, you can read more at [URL] or call [phone] to order books.”

    • Hmmm… not sure a paper would take a comic as an ad or not. Certainly wouldnt’ hurt to ask. I know they’re particular in their content these days.

      But certainly reaching out to local newspapers and providing a comic to them for a small fee would be a step in the right direction.

      My problem is my comic is NOT newspaper syndicate friendly. But Z&F certainly is.

      Thanks for reading and the idea!

      • Yeah, there’s no way they’d accept mine in a newspaper, but I’m pretty sure they’d accept Z&F… and if they’d accept it in syndication, then I would imagine they’ll be more than happy to run it as an advertisement as well. You may be right about their content rules, but I think those are mostly about avoiding publishing things that are too edgy or racy and I think they already run things like Kalvin Klein ads and such that are probably racier than Z&F.

    • This puts me in mind of a concept I’ve wondered about off and on again for years, and that is the notion of the free weekly. I don’t really know the economics of how it would have to work, ad rates, printing costs etc, so it’s all conceptual and theoretical. Just trying to imagine another possible model for creators.

      Every town of significant size has racks of free publications near coffee shops, bars, bus stops, bookstores etc. Would it be possible for 10-20 (or more) creators to collectively publish a weekly ad-supported free paper of nothing but comics?

      Mix strips and gag-a-day panels with longer form serialized comics. Perhaps have humor, romance, political and adventure ‘sections’. My model would have the collective (the content creators) selling and sharing ad revenues for their profit (and the production of each issue) The creator’s buy-in is that they provide content and in return get a share of each published edition(perhaps a page rate determined by overall revenues)as well as a platform to promote their own websites, and sell books and products through their comic.

      In addition you could also sell ‘franchises'(the right to distribute the theoretical publication in a given market for a given amount of time). The ‘Tidbits’ weekly paper uses a similar model.

      Each issue would have local ad space that the franchisee would have to sell for his own profit, local printing and distribution costs. Under this distribution model, and in enough large cities around the country you could get distribution at the level of a mid to high selling Marvel or DC book assuming the economics would work.

      Like I said, I’m no expert on this, but everybody loves the funny pages right? Just be sure to include something for everyone. This could even be multiple publications. A family friendly one vs. a more hip-urban one for example.

      • That’s probably a pretty good idea actually… And there’d be a kind of brand recognition right out of the gate if you just named the thing “Funny Pages”.

        I suspect the challenge would be in the initial launch — finding enough advertisers willing to buy advertising without knowing the circulation in advance or eating the cost of the first run in order to find out what the demand / circulation might be in an area.

        I’d probably start with some market research first to get an idea — try and pin down a number of people who frequent a given grocery store for example who already grab those free weekly papers and maybe even survey those folks who’re taking them and see if they’d be interested in comics. From there you can figure out how many stores you’d have to supply to in order to break even after supplying the little stand with the sign to hold your collective’s papers.

    • this is an intriguing idea. Problem is… does my demographic still read newspapers, or just the comic strip collections? Reagrdless, advertising in new areas, not Project Wonderful or online, is something to chew on. An ad Sci-Fi magazine? Or Parenting magazine? Submit my books to school library catalogs? options….

      • My thinking is that even among the members of the shrinking number of newspaper readers, I’d bet almost all of them read the funny pages. If those funny pages were free, they might be MORE likely to read. I read The Onion on the web all the time, but anytime I see a physical copy I pick it up for the brilliant humor, but I haven’t picked up a regular newspaper in years. In my thinking this publication would merely be another tier in presenting comics to the public to work in conjunction with other strategies.

        Distributing this theoretical paper in restaurants, at bus stops, etc. where you have a semi-captive audience that need to kill 10 minutes and have the kids along.

        Speaking of restaurants… Here’s an out there thought…maybe you could offer kids menus for restaurants featuring Z&F comics, coloring, word games and other activities cracking wise about ‘Human Food’. Most big chains have kids menus with characters specific to the chain, perhaps you could offer high quality character menus to independent restaurants with themed menus for Mexican, Italian, Subs, Burgers etc. Do quarterly updates or something to keep your content ‘fresh’ for frequent visitors etc…Sorta spitballing here…:)

        • some great thoughts. I have been meaning to make up a coloring page with little games, to give out to kids at cons, events, etc. I could also give them out to restaurants. I also want to give out stacks of bookmarks to comic book shops, mom-and-pop bookstores, vet offices, libraries, pet stores, with a little table tent that says “We Support Local Artists” with a description of me and the comic– also mentioning the books. It looks good for the store/business to promote local talent, especially if it’s not a big chain.

          lots to think about with this new proposal!

  32. Great article, Dawn! I love your ideas and look forward to seeing how it all works out. Personally, I would love to read a long form comic book version of Z&F. I’ve always felt that your characters would work well in a graphic novel style story sprinkled with humor.

    For me, I had a feeling that my comic wouldn’t bring in the masses so I only update two days a week. Two strips a month in color. That works well and gives me time to work on other comic projects.

    One of my goals is to create a long form comic version of my Fried Chicken and Sushi strip and sell the books but not put those comics online. That way, fans can read the short comic strips online for free twice a week and read the more in-depth adventures and stories in the long form books they buy. We’ll see how it goes!

    Thanks for all of your ideas here and on the podcasts!

  33. More than anything, I say do whatever you need to in order to avoid burning out. My wife (also a Dawn, woo for confusion!) and I have only been “in the biz” for a little over three years, but I’ve seen a depressing number of peers throw in the towel, frustrated and saddened, after finding themselves unable to meet their self-imposed deadlines with a quality they were happy with.

    And happiness is very important, here in these dusty corners of the Internet where most people don’t even know what you’re doing, much less give you money to keep doing it. Dave Sim wasn’t a webcomic artist, but he held himself to a strict ideal that he had to produce at least one comic page a day in order to be considered a professional. Eventually, that led to an exhaustion breakdown and a loss of a lot of his friends (his anti-women rants didn’t help, but who knows, maybe they wouldn’t have happened if he’d just gotten more sleep?)

    At conventions we occasionally get people asking if we plan to update more often than weekly, and we tell them truthfully that we feel we’re at a nice balance between getting the story out and living the rest of our lives. We did have one guy online who quit vocally after chastising us for not being able to update 5 days a week like Endtown, but there were other readers who defended our right to publish at our pace. They’re getting it for free, after all… I’m not saying every creator should go MegaTokyo as far as updates, but in the end I’ve concluded sanity is more important than page views.

  34. Great article Dawn. There is a lot here to think about, along with a lot of ideas that validate what many of us have been thinking.

    Especially in comics, there is more than one way to skin a cat. The creator community has been stuck on this idea of a “business model” for so long, and it just doesn’t work. It takes more than just following a formula. We’re not running hot-dog stands – showing up at the right time with a cart full of wieners. Making art doesn’t work that way. Selling art, especially, doesn’t work that way. It’s a lot like trying to break into any other art form: music, acting, writing, fine art, dance, interpretive mime juggling… To make the big-time you have to be one of the tiny few that reach the necessary critical mass, the sweet-spot of huge readership and huge buzz. It’s possible, but the chances of doing so are too slim to rely on the same worn out path thousands of others have tried and failed. A model with a 99.9% failure rate is not a recipe for success. And of course, I’m only referring to “failure” in this context as not being able to monetize ones comic enough to live on the income.

    I have such huge respect for your decision and the fact that you’re brave enough to *not* do what everyone else is doing.

    • Hey Jeff,

      Dawn is the official “Crazy Chick” of the group and I applaud her decisions. All decisions come with risk, but you don’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Success always comes after failures. No one makes it the first time. So we try and try until we find what works for our comic. If we don’t try, then we’re doomed to follow in the same path of others and eventually fail.

      Standing out is the first key to success. Having talent and the product to follow up on that counts as well. Many of us have the talent, now we just need to figure out how to get noticed.

      I’ll be watching Dawn’s experiment as well as she and I are pretty much on the same page these days.

      • Absolutely. It’s all trial and error to find what works for each of us, individually. I hope my comment didn’t seem pessimistic, as I really meant the opposite. I’m inspired and excited about comics precisely because there is no formula.

        Likewise, I’ll be keeping a close eye on where both you and Dawn go from here. It was you two that nudged me to finally put my comics on the web. Meeting you both at C2E2 and talking via Twitter afterward was invaluable inspiration. The insights you’ve all provided via this site have been extremely helpful as well. I think this move Dawn is making will be a watershed moment for many creators that have been struggling with these same questions.

  35. I also believed the traditional model, but have come to the conclusion that there was a window of oportunity where several webcomics, good and bad, became success stories. Their authors got the impression that the reason for their success was that their model was great, or sometimes that they themselves were great, and everyone else has followed on their footsteps. Only a very small percentage of authors who started after that small window of opportunity closed have been able to achieve any measurable success.

    I can’t speak from experience, because I have been a lousy follower of the model, but reading what you say, and seeing others do the same and not reach critical mass,I have to conclude that the model is not working. I have been working on a new format meant in part to facilitate book publishing and have been looking at other things as well, but I will probably never be able to go 5-days a week, so other venues will need to be considered.

    I wish you good luck in your model, and keep us posted. Maybe you find the holy grail 😉

    • Certainly being first in a new medium is an advantage, but I don’t think just being first guaranteed their success or that market saturation now is really the big bad boogie man some folks are making it out to be… If for example, you compare this explanation you’ve given about the webcomic medium to other mediums like print comics, TV and movies, does it still apply? Was DC guaranteed to succeed not because of their quality, but because they were “first”? Or did earlier and less successful dime-novels pave the way for DC to come in on their coattails and experiment and tweak and tweak until they eventually found the stories and the art styles that appealed to a much wider audience?

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  37. Hi, folks, & Hi, Dawn —

    I’ve been wanting to comment on this article for several days now, but I’ve only just now managed to read through the last of the comments. What a discussion you’ve sparked!
    My advance apologies if this gets long in the tooth, but I want to see what folks think about how I’ve been processing the conversation.

    By and large, it sounds like a lot of us commenting here are in the same boat, and generally of the same mind as Dawn: the model of using your comic as a free loss leader for the sale of books and merchandise does not seem to be giving financial success to most of us. I’d argue it is still a viable option, but targeting it and pursuing it slavishly as a system may not tend to be rewarding, because the folks for whom it works have largely fallen into it rather than met it by careful planning. There are still new “successes” in webcomics (I think of Kate Beaton and Axe Cop as relatively recent additions to the “glitterati”), who–like Drezz said–have each come to it in their own unique way.

    Here are some things that have come to mind while pondering this whole thread:

    1) In his book, The Dip, Seth Godin suggests that, in order to be successful (for the sake of this point, let’s say financially and/or in generating a sizable readership), you need to be “the best in the world at what you do.” It’s vital to note that “world” and “what you do” are variable terms that each individual needs to define. For example, if your goal is to be best on the Internet (the “world”) at making funny comic strips (the “what”), then you have a very hard climb ahead, because–as others here have noted–that’s a very tall mountain with people already at the peak. If your goal is to (taking my comic as an example) be best on the Internet at making funny sweet comics about an international family, then I’m much farther ahead of the game, but the world itself (that is to say, your potential audience) may be small enough that the current level of success is all it can offer.

    2) Tthere’s another book (I swear I’m not an Amazon affiliate) by a guy named Nassim Nicholas Taleb, called “The Black Swan,” in which he defines a black swan as an event that is: fundamentally unpredictable, game changing, and explainable only in retrospect as something we could have predicted. 9/11 is the classic example. It also applies very well to the success of creatives like us, and the ultimate advice was to maximize your exposure to positive unpredictable events–serendipity–by putting yourself in environments where serendipitous events can easily occur. (Comic cons come to mind; you strike up a conversation with the right person, and wind up with a good idea for a joint project, or a word of mouth note on the blog of a more popular creator, etc.)

    3) Last night, while talking about the relative success–or lack thereof–of Odori Park, I was asked whether I’d ever calculated it’s Net Promoter Score (a measure of how engaged your audience is calculated by taking the total of people in a given set who’d actively speak positively of your work, minus the number who would actively criticize or speak negatively of it; the silent middle grounders are left out). I hadn’t thought of applying NPS to OP before, and it got me thinking: I’ve got a good direct line to my readers through emails and comments on my site, but for the most part, people have only made positive comments. Those with negative reactions are either too few to be of concern, or too tame in their reaction that they don’t feel a strong desire to express it.
    How, then, can I know what’s NOT working in my work?

    So, to put it all together, what your article made me think, Dawn, was:

    To achieve a satisfyingly large readership and related financial gain from our comics, we have to define our world broadly enough that it can support that level of success, but tightly enough that we can feasibly leverage our skills to be best in that world at our craft. Assuming that as a threshold, the other puzzle piece is potentially–but never with certainty–filled by exposing ourselves to opportunities for good luck (which is to say, putting your work, and yourself, out there). The missing piece is figuring out what’s NOT working, but given that game changing success is unpredictable, does it make sense to try and figure out what’s not working, or to just put more of yourself out there–different venues and formats, different projects with different audiences, etc.–until the tumblers fall into place?

    Any thoughts?

    • We have mentioned “The Dip” many times on the podcast and other articles, an excellent read. Much of what you said I agree with, Chris. We have to give ourselves as much opportunities as possible, to get the exposure we need, but also to position ourselves best for the right door to open. I have seen many of these so-called opportunities come and go, each time thinking “this could be the one!”It can be disheartening when nothing seems to pan out, the trick is sticking to it… and looking outside the box.

      Thanks for all this great feedback Chris :0)

  38. I’ve been reading this thread for days, trying to think of a way to respond. I, like many others here, are in the same boat thinking that if we give the product for free, merch sales will follow (IF we provide enough incentive for them to buy it, like bonus material, etc.) I was actually kind of surprised that I’m not the only one with this issue, so I’m glad to know the business model is to blame, not anything I may or may not have done on my end.

    I’ve learned a lot in the last couple months about what I’ve should have done in the early days. I’ve also learned a lot about what I need to do to move things forward. My comic is almost 3 years old and I’ve been wondering about it’s future for some time. In March I’ll have enough episodes to complete a volume 3 printed book. I had made up my mind that that was going to be it, no more, but now I may consider carrying it on and just release volumes in printed form and never put another episode online again.

    I am also considering retroactively removing all the episodes off my website that are in volumes one and two, just to see if that will bring my sales up. (which currently, are zero.)

    Thank you Dawn for writing this article, because it really gave me something to chew on!

    • you’re quite welcome, Todd. Most of my sales come from in-person events- cons, fairs, festivals, etc. The ones I get on the website tend to be people I have met in person, friends & family, or long-time readers– who are mainly parents who enjoy reading Z&F with their kids. So, don’t feel bad about not getting sales online. If you can muster up the finances and the courage– try out a small comic con. Or craft fair, book festival. What you learn about SELLING your comic there may greatly affect how you promote it online.

      I am not saying the outdated business model is to blame. In some cases, it may be. In others, it could be lack of promotion, lack of interaction with your readership, lack of community give-back, or a small niche demographic. Of course, being a great artist or writer (preferably both) also is needed. The business model you use depends on the content you are trying to sell, and your demographic. Your job is figuring that out.

      best of luck to you!

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  43. As a green horn comic maker with a shelf full of scripts and about to launch his first webcomic I found this very interesting. ( like most things on this wonderful site).

    I am now closer to launching and thought I would share my idea of a business model and approach with you people who are old hats at this game.

    For starters I thought to myself I know nothing about making money from advertising and so I decided if im going to try this I might as well go for it no matter the size of the rock im placing around my neck. I noticed that a lot of webcomics fail because people are doing them around a main job.
    what I aim to do is dedicate myself to my comic hence along with drawing caricatures it will be my job. To work this out I worked out a target number of paying subscribers to aim for and then worked out the monthly price of membership.
    I also decide not to have this stuff printed but to have it dedicated as a webcomic. in time i might sell archive stuff on dvd or something but for now I aim to have a number of free pages and a membership fee.

  44. As a green horn comic maker with a shelf full of scripts and about to launch his first webcomic I found this very interesting. ( like most things on this wonderful site).

    After convincing someone that comic creation is more than just a hobby, I am now closer to launching and thought I would share my idea of a business model and approach with you people who are old hats at this game.

    For starters I thought to myself I know nothing about making money from advertising and so I decided if im going to try this I might as well go for it no matter the size of the rock im placing around my neck. I noticed that a lot of webcomics fail because people are doing them around a main job, this is why i have taken so long before taking this step, if i do something i like to do it 100%

    what I aim to do is dedicate myself to my comic, hence along with drawing caricatures it will be my job. To work this out I worked out a target number of paying subscribers to aim for and then worked out the monthly price of membership.
    I also decide not to have this stuff printed but to have it dedicated as a webcomic. in time i might sell archive stuff on dvd or something but for now I aim to have a number of free pages and a membership fee whit lots of extras.

    I will add that I live in England and comic conventions are not a huge thing here, from what i understand most are full of people touting tv and movie stuff so I dream of the day I can visit over the pond and attended a real convention.

    so wish me luck peeps im getting ever closer to the big jump :/

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