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Ted Rall, Rich Stevens, others debate webcomic impact on cartooning

Editorial cartoonist and United Media’s Acquisition and Development Editor Ted Rall, Rich Stevens, creator of online and print comic Diesel Sweeties, along with web cartoonist Dean Haspiel, Raina Telgemeier, Collen Venable were at the first Graphic Novel Symposium held on March 15th to discuss the impact and viability of webcomics in the cartooning industry.

The item that generated the most discussion was the topic of “the economics of free” – making money online by giving away the comic online for free. Ted, who has written extensively on this topic last year in a 3-part article on the future of newspapers (see Future Imperfect) has maintained that giving away comics for free online has hurt the industry and made it more difficult for cartoonists to make money from their creations.

If I were in charge of the world … I would force everything offline. All cartoonists, all newspapers, no more archives, nothing. And every cartoonist would make fifteen times as much money. Giving it away, I think it’s insane and stupid.

Other webcartoonists maintained that, like the recent success of Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead who put their music online for free while selling it in stores, putting their comics online for free builds an audience and community that buys the cartoonist’s merchandise and can allow for a modest living.

The debate that followed was noted by Fleen blogger Gary Tyrrell:

Rall responded:

Only print pays. Otherwise, you have to be in two businesses. You have to be a cartoonist and a businessman, and not many can do that.

Stevens, not quite close enough to his mic:

Great! You’re trying to keep people out [of the cartooning business] and that’s great. It’s less competition for me. If you have a story that’s compelling …

Rall:

I can’t make money on t-shirts. I can’t design a t-shirt that will sell.

Stevens:

You can sell novels and books. You have bestsellers.

Rall:

A book will only sell for 6 to 12 months. They don’t pay enough to live on.

Stevens:

So? Adapt!

Rall:

And what kind of hours do you have to work to make a living, Rich?

Stevens:

Not enough! I’d work 24/7 if I could.

The rest of the blog post regarding other debate items is interesting as well as the 70+ comments that was generated. It’s an interesting read as a very successful print model of newspapers and syndication is transitioning through the emergence of the internet.

Community Comments

#1 Wiley Miller
March/25/2008
@ 6:40 am

I note that no one there refuted anything Ted said, nor said he was wrong in any way.

#2 Rick Stromoski
March/25/2008
@ 7:18 am

Adapt….like get used to moving back in and living with your parents.

#3 Anne Hambrock
March/25/2008
@ 7:48 am

A lot of very interesting points made in the comments section of that site. The internet will only be good place for artists of any stripe to make money when it more successfully follows the model of previous media outlets. I am thinking specifically of TV and Radio which both delivered their content for free to the masses for decades while being supported almost solely by advertising revenue. Newspapers have long relied on both Ad revenue AND paying subscribers. Since the advent of cable television consumers have made the switch to paying for TV content. So much so that paying for almost all TV, whether cable or sattelite, has become the norm rather than the exception. The creation of “on demand” programming has contributed even more money to the television pot.

I forsee a future where the internet more successfully nails down the subscription side and becomes a place where you can still get a ton of stuff for free but all the best stuff will cost money. The syndicates will need to lead the way on this and be tough about not giving content away free and also not letting their web subscribers (such as big newspapers) do it either. If the syndicates can continue their role of finding and developing the best talent, including wooing over web cartoonists who meet their standards, then they will be in a good position to charge for their product.

#4 David Willis
March/25/2008
@ 7:57 am

Ted Rall is right about cartooning the same way communism could TOTALLY work, we swear. And all you have to do is get rid of the free market so there’s no choice but to pay everyone huge sums of money!

Meanwhile, everyone working in television is starving on the streets, forced to “move in with their parents,” because they dare to give away their content for free. I’m telling you, that’s a failed market, and it will doom us all.

#5 Anne Hambrock
March/25/2008
@ 8:13 am

Televison no longer gives all its content away for free. That stopped with the advent of cable and sattelite. While it is still possible to get free television, a huge portion of the population has accepted the idea of paying for it – especially with the creation of “on demand” programming. That is the business model the internet should be following. Lets just hope it doesn’t take the 25 years it took for TV.

#6 Wiley Miller
March/25/2008
@ 8:41 am

Want to try that without the snark and point out where Ted is wrong and how one can realistically make a living doing cartoons on the web? Any professional cartoonist would love for a new, viable market to open up.

The operative words here are, “realistically” and “viable”.

#7 Corey Pandolph
March/25/2008
@ 8:59 am

I agree with both sides. I think it is possible to make money on the web, while still giving your comic away for free. However, it requires one to be very business savvy, marketing savvy and work insane hours.

That said, I make money on both the web and in print and I’d be really scared if all my print jobs dried up and I was left only with web revenue. My print gigs are the steady paycheck, where as one has to be constantly selling on the web. Some cartoonists aren’t built to do that. Some just want to create and get paid.

I think it’s based on the kind of cartoonist and creative you are and being able to admit your weaknesses and strengths. Sit down and decide what you want and what you’re good at. If you suck at selling and marketing, then put all your energy behind the pursuit of syndication and print media. If you think you have a viable feature not right for print, and you can sell 1000 books a year, try the web.

Neither are easy to make money in. Each requires a huge sacrifice and an abundance of perseverance in the face of diversity.

Or not. I dunno. I just want to draw comics, laugh and collect checks… And be loved. By all.

When did everybody get so serious about comedy anyway? I’m still amazed that I can exchange a joke and some india ink on bristol for money. We should all laugh at that and feel lucky.

#8 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 9:03 am

I think we’re all operating under different definitions of “viable” and “realistic.” I would be interested in seeing a comparison of the number of cartoonists making a living from newspapers, and the number of cartoonists making a living from the internet. (“A living” is not defined as a cot in your parents’ Ramen-box-strewn basement.)

I’m disappointed by Rall’s responses in that thread, a guy I would have assumed would be more progressive. It’s about the fear of the word “cartoonist” being diluted — but is income the sole standard of inclusion? Now $50K a year isn’t success? Let’s call it $500K then. A couple webcomics are either there right now, or will be in a year or two. Do we raise the bar to $5 million?

#9 Alan Gardner
March/25/2008
@ 9:11 am

Wiley, it takes some time to read through, but in the comments section of that Fleen article, there are names/URLS of web cartoonists who are making a decent amount of money off of their feature. Granted it’s not everyone, but neither is a syndicate contract a guaranteed gravy train. How many cartoonists with syndicate contracts are still working a day job?

These web cartoonists ought to be studied at how they’re succeeding on the web as they’re pioneering where the future generations will practice the cartooning trade. Heck, if I were a print guy, I’d try to incorporate as many of their revenue making efforts as I could to maximize my own income. Why put all your eggs in one basket?

#10 Corey Pandolph
March/25/2008
@ 9:14 am

I think “a living” is relative to what ever makes that person feel secure. A cot in the ‘rents basement may be a successful living for some, where as $500k is still not enough.

Are you happy at what you’re doing? Are you paying your bills and able to enjoy some extra scratch? That’s a successful living to me.

#11 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 9:14 am

To be fair to Rall, he said he wants to believe, but just hasn’t seen it yet. I worry we’re somehow talking past each other.

I don’t think anyone is trying to posit that a 15-year-old who uploads pages of his World of Warcraft parody strip to xanga.com, drawn on lined three-hole paper with a Bic, should be accepted as a successful and professional cartoonist.

#12 Corey Pandolph
March/25/2008
@ 9:16 am

“Why put all your eggs in one basket?”

‘zactly.

#13 Rick Stromoski
March/25/2008
@ 9:17 am

���If you think you have a viable feature not right for print, and you can sell 1000 books a year, try the web.

1000 books at let’s say $12 a book amounts to $12K a year. This after working as Cory puts it “insane hours”… That wouldn’t be enough to move me out of my parents basement much less pay my beer bill.

Giving content away for free just makes it that much harder to get people to pay for it in other venues.

#14 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 9:22 am

â?¥â?¥â?¥ 1000 books at letâ??s say $12 a book amounts to $12K a year. This after working as Cory puts it â??insane hoursâ?â?¦ That wouldnâ??t be enough to move me out of my parents basement much less pay my beer bill.

You’re not including advertising, original art sales or any other merchandising, which ups that number by 300-400%. Now it’s getting somewhere. It’s not a guaranteed percentage for everyone, but neither is a syndicate contract.

#15 Corey Pandolph
March/25/2008
@ 9:30 am

“Youâ??re not including advertising, original art sales or any other merchandising, which ups that number by 300-400%. Now itâ??s getting somewhere. Itâ??s not a guaranteed percentage for everyone, but neither is a syndicate contract.”

Nail on the head.

Again, success in both the web and print require a large commitment and perseverance. The big difference for a lot of cartoonistsâ??and what makes the web so attractive to someâ??is there’s no submission process on the web. A talented cartoonist, with some web savvy can set up a nice website of his comics and merch, without being vetted through a syndicate.

You can argue that the syndicates and editors are there to keep quality at a higher standard, but as we all know, that’s not necessarily true. I always worried that the web would allow any idiot with a pen pad to make money, but with the competition that’s out there lately, one really needs to buckle down and produce something great to get a decent audience.

#16 David Willis
March/25/2008
@ 9:43 am

“Televison no longer gives all its content away for free. That stopped with the advent of cable and sattelite.”

How much of that money goes to the people actually creating the content, versus the content providers? Is the money I pay for WOW! cable television going to the writers of “Scrubs,” or is it going to WOW! cable television?

I bet the writers of “Scrubs” see as much from WOW! Cable as I do from WOW! DSL.

#17 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 9:59 am

“1000 books at letâ??s say $12 a book amounts to $12K a year. This after working as Cory puts it â??insane hoursâ?â?¦ That wouldnâ??t be enough to move me out of my parents basement much less pay my beer bill.”

Maybe you have books materialize for you, but at $12 a book you would probably net $4 a pop…and that’s if you self publish. You have to subtract printing costs, shipping, advertising, and the fact that you sell to retailers at 60% off cover price.

#18 Alan Gardner
March/25/2008
@ 10:07 am

And a print cartoonists gets a larger piece of the book publishing pie? What we’re also not discussing is when one signs with a syndicate they get only 50% of all revenue generated from the sell of the comic AFTER the syndicate takes their slice (including expenses). I’m sure book sales are similar. All I see are a few enterprising cartoonists who have proven that you make “respectable” income on the web without the middleman.

Again. It ought to be something studied by all cartoonists (and syndicates).

#19 josh shalek
March/25/2008
@ 10:16 am

When people ask me why I don’t do more marketing online, I ask them if they’d like to be my manager. That’s the brilliance of print. You do the work, the other person does the distribution, you both get paid. I know I’m being simplistic, but why should I try to be a businessman when someone else is really good at it? When you try to do both drawing and marketing, you’re essentially competing in two venues.

Working full-time and drawing a daily comic strip is just about all I can take at present.

#20 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 10:19 am

“And a print cartoonists gets a larger piece of the book publishing pie? ”

No, it’s just that books sales don’t sustain you. What cartoonists need is an outlet that PAYS them for their comics–a weekly or daily newspaper, the few websites that pay, etc–and not just count on “exposure” as payment and somehow flipping that into bib and tote bag sales.

#21 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 10:19 am

>>> Maybe you have books materialize for you, but at $12 a book you would probably net $4 a popâ?¦and thatâ??s if you self publish.

Oh, no, not at all. I self-published, and sell my books for $15, and “Artist Editions” (where I sketch in the front) for $25.

The unit cost per book was $1.80. I’ve heard others with even lower.

The total cost to me might be $4 with shipping, but I net between $10-20 per book sold. It’s much the same for other webcartoonists. I did sell a handful to comic book stores at a 60% discount, but I’d actually rather sell the bulk of them through my site and keep the money.

#22 Andertoons
March/25/2008
@ 10:26 am

I suppose if you count a promotional widget as “giving cartoons away,” then, yes, I give some cartoons away.

I also earn a living solely as a cartoonist that any reasonable person would agree is “successful,” in that it pays the mortgage, buys food and diapers for the kids, etc…, and I earn it mostly off the web.

That being said, there’s plenty of room for a few different business models in cartooning.

I say ‘toon and let ‘toon.

#23 Anne Hambrock
March/25/2008
@ 10:26 am

David, my point was that television transitioned from a “free” model to a subscription model. It took many years to convince people to pay for a service they could already get for free but it did eventually happen. Does that mean that subscription TV material doesn’t show up for free somewhere on the web? No, but that loophole is closing and that is essentially what the TV writers strike was about. Writers wanted a piece of the internet pie that producers are divying up. Compare it to a show like Gilligan’s Island. Those actors made nothing on aftermarket syndication. As the business evolved and syndicated re-runs generated big money actors made sure to get a slice of that $ put into their contracts. I’m sure the actors on a successful show like “Everybody Loves Raymond” are getting residuals. Syndicates need to figure out how to close the same loophole on the internet and then, after they do, cartoonists will have to make sure they are adequately compensated for the new model.

#24 Danielle Corsetto
March/25/2008
@ 10:27 am

I’m surprised anyone thinks the future of comic strips remains in the newspapers. Last I checked, newspapers were dying. Weren’t they?

There are three reasons I moved to the web rather than submitting work to syndicates: One, I won’t be censored on the web. Two, I’m not keen on doing a month’s worth of family-friendly comics and sending them off to a syndicate for a 1 in 5000(+?) chance to be picked up by them. Three, I like knowing that the amount of time, effort, creativity, research and business sense I put into my craft is equal to the amount of money I’ll get out of it.

People who do comics on the web have the benefit of being their own bosses and writing about whatever they want to write about. The downfall, as is the downfall with ANY small business, is the incredible hours and dedication we put into our work. Ask anyone with their own small coffee shop, or small dress shop, or small construction company, how many hours they put into their job per week. I’ll bet it’s the same story for them.

We’re entreprenuers, which means we’re doing the work a syndicate would otherwise be doing for us (not necessarily in the same fields, but the same amount of work nonetheless) and keeping the cut that the syndicate would have otherwise been taking. I think it’s stellar. I think it says a lot about the people who are doing it (I’m not tooting my own horn here – I barely have enough business sense to make a living at this, myself).

Besides, doesn’t United Features put all of their syndicated comic strips online for free at comics.com?

#25 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 10:31 am

Are you using a print on demand service or a professional printer?

Please share–if I could get good quality books for that low of a cost I’d be interested in using them if I ever print a book.

#26 Alan Gardner
March/25/2008
@ 10:35 am

What cartoonists need is an outlet that PAYS them for their comics–a weekly or daily newspaper, the few websites that pay, etc–and not just count on “exposure” as payment and somehow flipping that into bib and tote bag sales.

I completely agree. Ideally one would hope to find a print outlet, but many of these successful webcomics are niche comics that couldn’t find a home in the homogenized world of newspapers. That they’re making money off of “bib and tote bag sales” is the same licensing model that created the billions of dollars over the years for Charles Schulz or Jim Davis. Nothing to belittle them about.

#27 Danielle Corsetto
March/25/2008
@ 10:42 am

PS. After reading Josh Shalek’s comment I want to add that I don’t think the webcomics route is for everybody. If you don’t have a mind for marketing, if you’re not web-savvy or if you simply don’t want to spend the time on it, I think having someone represent you and take a cut for their work is just what the doctor ordered.

I’m just surprised that Rall would have the nuts to TEST someone like Rich Stevens, whose comic is supporting him and who seems to enjoy the business end of things. The webcomics route seems to be just right for Rich.

#28 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 10:42 am

>>> Are you using a print on demand service or a professional printer?

They’re professional, in Canada. There’s a couple of them. I know people who bought from China too, but imagining my books on a boat for a month makes me anxious.

Print-on-demand margins are way too high — that’s where someone is only netting $4 a book. The unit cost on a comparably-sized collection jumps to around $8-9. I used to do it that way, but once I had a little money saved up I bought a small print run elsewhere.

#29 Rick Stromoski
March/25/2008
@ 10:45 am

â?¥â?¥â?¥Besides, doesnâ??t United Features put all of their syndicated comic strips online for free at comics.com?

Yes they do and I hate it.

#30 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 10:46 am

“Iâ??m surprised anyone thinks the future of comic strips remains in the newspapers. Last I checked, newspapers were dying. Werenâ??t they?”

Your right. They are basically dying.

But about 95% of all the money I’ve made from cartooning and illustration is from a paying newspaper. It’s the reason I don’t have a “real job.” All of you that make a good living through donations and merchandising–that’s amazing and I congratulate you. Seriously.

The problem is even though news websites get far more hits than people who pick up print editions, those print versions still produce most of the revenue. They pay the editors and reporters and, yes, cartoonists. There isn’t a model to replace this revenue stream online. Simple banner ads won’t do and people won’t pay.

As an editorial cartoonist I’m not too convinced I could make a living from the web. I think the prospects are different for daily strip.

#31 Wiley Miller
March/25/2008
@ 10:53 am

So far, all I see here is a lot theory and wishful thinking. Again, dealing with reality and having a viable market to sell our work is what’s needed, and quite lacking here. Yes, the newspaper industry is dying, but it won’t disappear. I would love an alternative where I have the time to create while having someone else deal with the marketing, which is what I currently have through syndication.

The best claim here is that a few people have been able to “make a living” doing comics on the web. That’s not exactly encouraging in light of how long the internet has been around and how many other enterprises have made millions on the web.

And please don’t turn this into a print-guy-trying-to-kill-webcomics nonsense. I would dearly love to see some hard facts on how putting your comics online for free can replace the livelihood I have now through syndication. Show me something viable and I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

#32 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 10:53 am

Alan, I’m not belittling them. It’s great that some web cartoonists are making a living from their own websites and have found a way around syndicates and newspapers.

It’s just that this is often touted as the future of comics and I don’t see how everyone can make it work. We can’t all sell 30 different shirts on our website like Rich Stevens. Props to him. But people only need so many shirts.

And my specific field, editorial cartoons, is a whole other issue with even less of a bright future.

#33 Dawn Douglass
March/25/2008
@ 11:07 am

I’m about to enter this discussion by spilling the beans regarding what my company is trying to do and why.

I’m launching a new blog, hopefully today. But I’m running into technical problems.

Anybody here who has used comicpress, knows how it works and wouldn’t mind guiding me on a few posting issues, please contact me at dawn at inkswig dot com.

#34 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 11:13 am

>>> The best claim here is that a few people have been able to â??make a livingâ? doing comics on the web. Thatâ??s not exactly encouraging in light of how long the internet has been around and how many other enterprises have made millions on the web.

I don’t know where to progress from there though; it’s true that the same models for print don’t work online, or have to be augmented somehow by other revenue streams. A lot of webcartoonists lament the practice of becoming T-shirt salesmen first, cartoonists second.

But that’s the nature of it, at least at this point. Some people love it, some just accept it, some don’t. We can also talk about the value in connecting directly with your reader, until the only property you’re really pushing is yourself and not just your strip, or the value of the viral nature of webcomics, etc. (Four of us including myself just published a book on this through Image Comics called How To Make Webcomics. Call me a book peddler first, T-shirt salesman second, cartoonist third.)

But there is no positive answer to “let me do exactly what I’ve been doing, except have it do something with the internet, and have it be as successful for me as print is.” That doesn’t exist. It’s like Rich said: “So? Adapt.”

I think one of the misconceptions about webcomics is “ah, every syndicate rejected my strip Poorly-Drawn Lawyer Horse. Thank God there’s the internet, where everything is accepted and can be a success!” An audience can reject a strip there too.

I don’t think having a successful webcomic is any more theory and wishful thinking than having a successful syndicated strip. Here on the other side of the fence, I have a much harder time seeing how the latter is possible.

#35 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 11:17 am

Matt, I can genuinely, genuinely sympathize with you regarding editorial cartooning.

I can name 15 ways strips/panels can still make a living under varying Webcomics business models, but I have yet to see anyone monetize editorial cartooning online that approaches their on-staff or syndication rates.

If you’ll forgive the repost from the Fleen thread, here’s what I said to Ted on that matter:

There are, what 120? 130 full-time editorial cartoonists working in America? And 200-250 full-time syndicated strip/panel cartoonists? Letâ??s be generous and say 500, total.

Now, letâ??s ignore all the men and women who (I personally know) have to maintain a second job, despite their syndication contract. Letâ??s say there are 500 working, full-time editorial and strip cartoonists in America today.

Can Webcomics replace those jobs? My thought is that yes, in time it canâ?¦*but only for the strip folks*.

And this is where Ted is right: not every type of cartoon can be monetized on the Web. My personal feeling is that the editorial folks are really, really boned in this paradigm shift.

I have yet to see someone monetize editorial stuff online in a way that even approaches their old on-staff or syndicated salaries.

So itâ??s not helpful to tell an editorial cartoonist that you have to adapt and monetize your work onlineâ?¦ their genre of cartooning is damn near impossible to monetize on the Web.

Thatâ??s not without historical precedent in cartooningâ?¦that an entire genre of cartooning be destroyed by the advent of a new technology. With the advent of the photograph, literally THOUSANDS of workaday American illustrators could no longer find an income, all within the span of ten years. Once the price to take, develop and reprint a photograph dropped to a certain point, people who had worked in newspapers, advertising, catalogs, and magazinesâ?¦all found their jobs made irrelevant in a technology paradigm shift.

My gut reaction is that a similar thing will happen to editorial cartooning. It will continue, but in a far diminished cultural presence. The economics of getting readers to pay to read editorial cartoons just isnâ??t there. (Yet, anyway.)

And maybe thatâ??s what Tedâ??s referring to: Itâ??s definitely raining for editorial cartoonists, so hearing how sunny it is for web strips doesnâ??t help much.

#36 David Willis
March/25/2008
@ 11:25 am

“David, my point was that television transitioned from a â??freeâ? model to a subscription model.”

And my point is that the subscription money doesn’t go to the creators, which is what we’re talking about. Advertising pays the bills, same as webcomics. The subscription money only pays the cable providers.

#37 r stevens
March/25/2008
@ 11:37 am

Couldn’t agree more with Danielle. If you don’t enjoy being an entrepreneur and doing extra work that isn’t cartooning, you have no business in the free-plus-merch paradigm of webcomics. There’s still great money to be made in print for the few who hit that top rung, but the web gives a more democratic shot to every single one of us.

I’ve learned tons from print folks. I love print comics. To be completely frank, any traditional cartoonists who don’t want to learn from those of us on the edge of things take no skin off my nose and less cash out of my Paypal account!

And as far as syndicated cartoonists with day jobs go, add me to the team. My “day job” is my website, which has supported me for almost six years now.

#38 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 11:38 am

Here’s an interesting thing that’s worth pointing out:

Wiley, Kris Straub above mentioned that there were a few Webcomics that were at or above the 500K mark in terms income (and I can think of at least one, if not two or three, that are in the multiple-millions mark). Additionally, I can think of a few dozen that are at or near the 100K mark.

I’m a “small” Webcomic at 15-25,000 daily readers, and I’m at that mark.

Yet you say “all I see here is a lot theory and wishful thinking. Again, dealing with reality and having a viable market to sell our work is whatâ??s needed, and quite lacking here.”

I hate it to consistently come down to the crass conversation of “What do you make???”, but is that what it will take? Do you literally need us to start busting out our corporate or sole-proprietor tax filings?

Can’t we move the conversation past “There is no money to be made in the Webcomics model” to “How can I best incorporate some of those income streams into my existing syndication income?” Isn’t that a more constructive conversation?

#39 r stevens
March/25/2008
@ 11:40 am

PS to Matt:

Editorial cartoons really don’t work in the free-plus-merch sphere. Every time I try a strip along those lines, my sales for the day tank. That’s one arena where folks should AVOID our business model and larger media entities SHOULD pay the cartoonist for work that can’t be translated to action figures.

You shouldn’t stress out or care about our model. A different one really should be applied to your kind of work. You’re saying things people don’t always want to hear, as opposed to goofishly entertaining. (which I’m proud to do)

Perhaps this is why Ted’s viewpoint is what it is!

#40 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 12:00 pm

Kris wonders: “Now $50K a year isnâ??t success?”

Today $50,000 is less than an average income. I guess if you’re making far less than an average income, and reaching an average income is your goal, then yeah, I guess you could call reaching an average income level a “success.” But for most people being “average” is not a goal. They shoot for things that are “above average.” Did I really need to explain that?

And it’s silly to be approaching artists making, say, $100,000 and telling them “You should conduct your business like I do so you can potentially cut your income in half!”

And of course, income isn’t the most important thing in the world. There’s also reaching new readers (newspapers are good for that), having creative control (the web is good for that), etc.

As far as editorial cartoons and the web and the future go, yeah, I think it wil be tough for the retro-styled elephants-and-donkeys editorial cartoonists. But for the new, different, more contemporary stuff that Matt Bors, Ted Rall, myself, Tom Tomorrow, David Rees, etc. do I think there’s plenty of audience for that.

#41 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 12:08 pm

Plenty of audience, but no way in heck to monetize it. Cagle.com uses, what, advertising? Corporate sponsors? Anything else?

By way of comparison: my site only brings in 10K a year in advertising. If I was on Cagle.com and had to split that with MSNBC and Daryl Cagle, I’d probably be looking at 3-5K, I’m guessing. (Maybe less, I haven’t seen their contract.)

No one argues that editorial cartoons aren’t immensely, immensely viral: It’s trying to make a buck out of them on the Web that’s tricky.

#42 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 12:16 pm

Dave, you wonder why more artists aren’t asking â??How can I best incorporate some of those income streams into my existing syndication income?â?

I’m not sure what you mean by this. Do you think we (artists on the web) invented selling t-shirts? Books? Stuffed animals? Our artwork?

To me those are obvious things we learned from the newspaper and comic book artists that came before us, not things that we’re going to turn around and go “Hey Ted Rall, here’s a shcoking idea I’m sure never occured to you in your life: You should really consider selling books or original artwork.”

#43 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 12:25 pm

Webcomics invented nothing. Not one thing.

In form, function, audience building and branding, income streams and business management…Webcomics have lifted strategies from print comics, syndicates, comic books, music, movies, bloggers, teen-identity companies, and authors. I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been done 4,000 times before me.

I guess I’m not sure I follow your point. Ted was saying “It can’t be done.” I was saying “It can be done, here’s how.” There was no implication that I had invented selling original art.

#44 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 12:28 pm

>>> â??Hey Ted Rall, hereâ??s a shcoking idea Iâ??m sure never occured to you in your life: You should really consider selling books or original artwork.â?

Then why are we having this conflict in the first place? That’s why I’m confused.

Print guy: “I’m a syndicated cartoonist. I get paid by my syndicate for my work in newspapers. They also handle my book rights and sales, licensing for merchandise, and I get a cut of the internet advertising. I make a good living.”

Webcomics guy: “I’m a webcartoonist. I get paid directly by my readers via book sales, merchandise that I manage the license for, and I get all of my internet advertising. I give the strip itself away. I make a good living.”

Print guy: “Impossible. Where does the money come from?”

Webcomics guy: “I just said.”

Print guy: “Well, that’s nice to theorize about, but I’m not sure it’d ever work.”

Also, average household income in 2006 was $48,000. I imagine that includes TWO people working in many cases. So how is $50,000 below average? Do I need to be married and then take the average? How is $50K not “successful?”

How many cars need to be in my garage before I’m a cartoonist?

Here, let’s finalize the income metric. You are a professional, successful cartoonist if you are making $68,441.37 per year or more. I don’t know if that includes money between couch cushions. Any less than that and you’re a piker.

#45 Corey Pandolph
March/25/2008
@ 12:36 pm

“How many cars need to be in my garage before Iâ??m a cartoonist?

Here, letâ??s finalize the income metric. You are a professional, successful cartoonist if you are making $68,441.37 per year or more. I donâ??t know if that includes money between couch cushions. Any less than that and youâ??re a piker.”

HA!

Based on the new metric, and the 1969 Karmann Ghia in my garage, not only am I a successful cartoonist, I’m a Fake Rockstarâ?¢ successful cartoonist!

Right?

Jeez guys, lets go draw something funny and drink our faces off. I’m buyin’… And I’ll put the seat down in the ghia, so the $50,000 per year guys have a ride.

#46 David Willis
March/25/2008
@ 12:36 pm

“So how is $50,000 below average?”

Well, it costs Five Bojillion dollars to own your own island off the coast of California, so after averaging out those dudes with the rest of us folks who would be fine with $50K in Ohio or Texas, we are apparently living in poverty.

#47 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 12:39 pm

Erik, just so we’re clear on tone…I’m not taking an argumentative voice with anyone here.

I have a genuine desire to explain to people (many of whom I know personally in syndication, who are very, very nervous for their future) that there are business paths they can take in-step with, parallel to, or diametrically opposed to the one they’re on now. They may not like some of those paths, but they exist.

That’s the whole reason we wrote “How To Make Webcomics” for Image. We literally get hundreds of e-mails a week from cartoonists asking how we do it…how we make a living at it. The fact that Image might have to do a second printing tells me there’s an audience very receptive to that information.

This isn’t a “who’s bigger” contest for me, or “who’s better”. Would I rather be Get Fuzzy in print or Penny Arcade online? Does it matter? Both cartoonists are making a great living. It’s just that less people understand how Penny Arcade is doing it. So I’m trying to help explain that side of things.

#48 D.J. Coffman
March/25/2008
@ 12:52 pm

SHHHHH!!! Don’t explain to these guys how they can do it too, it’s more money for the rest of us! ;)

Seriously though… and I think it’s safe to say this openly since Chris Crosby mentioned it on Fleen, but he says he’s made what now, 80k with Wowio downloads of his comic collections? In six months, I think. That doesn’t include his ad revenue or other stuff too. I know another guy with a similar model who has made 60k in the past 6 months as well. So yeah… it’s working for some, there’s no theorizing or wishful thinking about it– just hard work and long hours. A lot of these guys looking for a “cookie cutter” approach to making money with cartoons online, it’s unrealistic even in print– but it’s easy if you start using your comics as SOCIAL OBJECTS instead of just product you produce for other people’s sh-ts and giggles and collect a paycheck for you labor.

Cartoonists, young or old, who want to succeed with their work online will have to adapt to the “multiple streams of income” approach, and learn to be more of an entrepreneur like Danielle and Rich have said. I don’t like people belittling it as “t-shirt” salesman, because it’s still their art on a product that’s being sold, and they’re not splitting it with a big company.

#49 Dawn Douglass
March/25/2008
@ 1:03 pm

LOL Geez, Everybody, you’ve crashed my new blog site and we haven’t even launched it yet!

Stop looking, please! :)

I’ll let you know when it’s up…Hopefully, later today. If not, tomorrow.

#50 Ted Rall
March/25/2008
@ 1:09 pm

I guess Iâ??m not sure I follow your point. Ted was saying â??It canâ??t be done.â? I was saying â??It can be done, hereâ??s how.â?

Actually, I’m saying that it hasn’t been done.

As far as I can tell, a handful of webcomics creators are earning a modest living. The vast majority is earning nothing at all.

Compare that to the print model, where a handful of creators are multi-millionaires. A substantial number–hundreds, even thousands–are making well into six figures. Many more than that are making a modest living. Then there’s everyone else, trying to break in.

I hope webcomics become lucrative someday. But they’re not now.

#51 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 1:11 pm

We all have so much we can learn from each other. What an opportunity we’re squandering here.

I want to learn as much as I can from Wiley and Rick and Ted. I want to share with you guys what we’ve learned. We’re all in love with the same lady here. Why are we always fighting?

If Ted could show me a way to make 5 times as much money offline, I would start tomorrow. I’m not married to any camp. I’m not loyal to any path to this mountain. I just want to make a living doing what I love.

I’m so sick of everyone being so angry and snarky at each other.

We’re f—ing cartoonists, man. We won the professional-calling lottery. Why can’t we just be happy helping each other out as best we can?

#52 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 1:22 pm

I’m getting the feeling here that some of you feel that our efforts on the web are hindering your efforts offline. Is that the case?

#53 Daryl Cagle
March/25/2008
@ 1:27 pm

I agree with Ted. We make our income from print customers, and make very little from the web. We’ve also tried selling products and our online readers are not interested in buying anything.

It is interesting that Ted seems to be at odds with United Media’s strategy for Comics.com, as was pointed out here; UM claims that Comics.com is very profitable with advertising revenue. I don’t get it.

#54 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 1:39 pm

>>> Weâ??ve also tried selling products and our online readers are not interested in buying anything.

Maybe we just need to reframe the conversation and all get on the same page. Is it that the internet isn’t doing anything for current *print* cartoonists? The buying habits of a Diesel Sweeties reader and the reader of an editoral cartoonist at Comics.com would be profoundly different.

#55 Rick Stromoski
March/25/2008
@ 2:04 pm

>>>Iâ??m getting the feeling here that some of you feel that our efforts on the web are hindering your efforts offline. Is that the case?

No.
Personally I believe anyone who’s in this business knows that the future is on the web. I’m just not seeing anything offered that is any different than what print cartoonists have done with their features. We all sell T-shirts, mugs and other licensing but unless the feature is a blockbuster that warrants extended licensing, most features cannot sustain an income based on products (like someone said earlier, how many t-shirts and mugs can your fan base own. From what I see, web cartoonists are just giving away the most valuable commodity they have to offer, their strips.

Not that print gets off the hook, they do the same and it royally honks my nuts that they do because it’s contributing to the demise of their own business.

#56 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 2:19 pm

Rick, thanks for clarifying.

I recently got a gig drawing a comic strip for a website. I’m being paid to draw the comic. The comic is still given to the public for free, but I’m being paid directly for the work. I didn’t have to set up secondary models to provide compensation for my time. It’s a wonderful set up, but I don’t see how many opportunities out there exist like this.

I prefer selling my work to giving it away and supporting it with advertising and products related to the work. The closest method I can find to getting paid directly to make the strips is to sell book collections.

The work itself is being paid for. I sell a lot of books both directly to fans online and via publisher (Image) and distribution model (diamond).

What I’m desperate to learn from you guys, is what I more I can do to get more people seeing my work and interested in buying THE WORK. I love the money I make from tee shirts and toys but I would rather sell the work itself.

Advertising is great money too, but it’s flaky and fluctuates with the month or the market.

So what can we do to improve things? Is it really doing what Ted suggests and just backing up the clock 10 years and getting everyone offline? Were things so much better back then?

#57 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 2:38 pm

The sad truth is, we’re repeating the same conversational path I described in the Fleen thread. Whenever I describe the Webcomics business model to guys that grew up modeling their professional life for syndication, it goes through three phases. First, they say:

1.) â??Thereâ??s no way to make a living around comics online.â? Then you begin to show them your bank statements, and eventually they concede that point.

2.) Then they say â??But there canâ??t be more than five of you doing it.â? Then you start to list out the dozens of Webcomics doing it, including Penny-Arcade, xkcd, Achewood, Cyanide and Happiness, Diesel Sweeties, PvP, Questionable Content, Schlock Mercenary, Sheldon, and dozens moreâ?¦and they concede that point.

3.) Then they say â??But *I* donâ??t want to have to adjust my business model to do it that way. I just wanna draw comics and get paid for it.â? And thatâ??s the rub, really. They donâ??t want to change. And hell, we can all respect that. If I had worked for decades to build a career around a certain business model, and was in mid-to-late career and rightully earning the fruits of my years of laborâ?¦I wouldnâ??t want to change, either.

Based on Rick’s most recent post, I think we’re still on number one. Rick: We’ve met. We’ve talked. What will it take for you to believe me that Webcomics are making me a great income? Does it literally take me faxing you my tax records? Do you not have enough of a sense of me as a human being to give me that trust when I say it can and is being done?

I wouldn’t have quit my comfortably paying job desiging toys for Mattel if I was going to be making beer-n-pizza money…or forced to move back to mom’s cot (referencing your first post, above).

I’m still paying my LA mortgage. I’m still putting away a healthy chunk each month into my retirement SEP-IRA. It is a do-able thing. So can we at least acknowledge point number one…and move on to arguing about point number two?

#58 Ted Rall
March/25/2008
@ 2:48 pm

What will it take for you to believe me that Webcomics are making me a great income? Does it literally take me faxing you my tax records?

No need to post your Schedule C here. But it would be nice if you could be a little more specific when you say that you’re earning a “great income.” The problem is, so many webcartoonists are breathless at the prospect of earning $20K or $30K or $50K. Us old folks are just wondering if you’re one of those.

#59 Ted Rall
March/25/2008
@ 2:50 pm

So what can we do to improve things? Is it really doing what Ted suggests and just backing up the clock 10 years and getting everyone offline?

I didn’t suggest time travel! What I’m suggesting is a more realistic appraisal of the webcomics business.

Were things so much better back then?

Yes. They were. Things still sucked, of course. But they sucked less.

#60 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 2:52 pm

Kris says: “Also, average household income in 2006 was $48,000. I imagine that includes TWO people working in many cases. So how is $50,000 below average?”

$50,000 is below average according to:

NY Times: â??â?¦ the average income in 2005 was $55,238, still nearly 1 percent less than the $55,714 in 2000 â?¦â?

USA Today: â??From 2001 to 2004, average family income fell 2.3%, to an inflation-adjusted $70,700 from $72,400 â?¦â?

But again, yeah, if you used to be making $25,000, then sure, relatively speaking $50,000 is a smashing economic “success.” But for someone making more than $100,000, it isn’t.

Then again, money isn’t everything, do whatever fits your priorities, etc.

#61 Danielle Corsetto
March/25/2008
@ 2:52 pm

I don’t know that it will help, but to back up Scott, I too have been offered an opportunity to draw a webcomic (other than my own current strip) for the website of a huge company in the UK. Unfortunately, big business moves VEEEERY slow and I’m not sure when we’ll begin, but they’re offering me enough to make a handsome living on. (To go along with what Dave K was saying, $50K in my little home state of West Virginia could buy… well, West Virginia). The strip is intended to bring customers back to their company website on a weekly basis.

On the flip-side, a woman’s magazine in the UK (those British people love me) is also looking into having my current online strip printed in their mag. They’ll just pick the strips that are appropriate for their publication from my archives, pay me, done deal.

I’ve done print comics before (The Weekly World News) and just those 4 strips a month made up 30% of my income. So while I don’t discount the definite advantages of doing print work, I’ve pretty much stopped fantasizing about doing comics for regular newspaper syndicates, which was always my childhood dream.

Instead I’ve worked via the inernet for 3 years and begun looking into magazines, college newspapers, and small alternative papers. I’m not saying there’s always a ton of money in those venues either, but the bottom line is that there’s no one way to make a living doing comics.

Actually, that’s the main point altogether; that there is no standard “way” to make a living doing webcomics yet (I’m guessing there never will be). You just have to do your homework, find out who will buy what, and get creative. As if you don’t do enough of that already, right? :)

#62 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 2:53 pm

>>> But it would be nice if you could be a little more specific when you say that youâ??re earning a â??great income.â?

Dave has literally mentioned his income two or three times in this thread and the one at Fleen. To quote him:

“I came close to six figures last year, and may end up making it this year. Give me two more decades, and I have every expectation of being in mid-six figures.”

“Ted, to answer your question: I told you in the above posting how much I made this yearâ?¦just shy of six figures.”

“Additionally, I can think of a few dozen that are at or near the 100K mark… Iâ??m a ‘small’ Webcomic at 15-25,000 daily readers, and Iâ??m at that mark.”

Dave, at this point, do us a favor and post your Schedule C.

In some circles, $15,000 a year is close to six figures. (Hopefully you’re making more than $68,441.37.)

#63 Mike Lester
March/25/2008
@ 2:54 pm

Let’s go w/ that: if you’re a Nut Honker and you are forced (or choose) to honk said nuts on the web, then you’re going to have to accept that the medium is limitless and therefore lousy w/ other Nut Honkers (and Lord knows there’s some bad ones out there). Couple that w/ fact that web audience knows they can hear the honking of nuts for free all day long and suddenly, what was a labor of love (“I’d honk nuts for free!!”) becomes a hobby (“When are you going to quit drawing ROBOT STORK and get a job?!!!”)

But you’re working hard on ROBOT STORK (“honest, Honey”) putting in the sweat equity and hopefully getting better and attracting attention of the TRall’s because -right now, biz’s like his are the only place to get paid a livable wage to honk a nut. Maybe print dies, the pool of cartoonists dwindles to 5 dead and 2 living and all content becomes public domain the minute you ink it. I don’t know the answer. But we’re not marketing people or salesmen. They are and if you think you can be, in the long run you’re wasting your time.

I get the feeling I’ve got a few years on most of you so I know it’s tough. But there’s inherent value both monetarily and mentally in charging for your work. Don’t give it away. Whatever the compensation, it means YOU value and respect your own work which is priceless.

Nut honking aside.

#64 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 2:56 pm

It really does take me posting my tax records, then, proverbially?? We can’t trust each other enough as human beings to advance the conversation further along from “you’re sleeping on your mom’s cot” without me literally dropping my drawers??

Fine. It was $92,000 last year. Probably breaking six figures, this year, if things continue on current growth. That’s in the first full-time year of working on the Webcomic.

Thank you for proving to me that this conversation literally could not have proceeded past condescension without me stating my income. I am heartened by your generosity of spirit.

#65 Barry Deutsch
March/25/2008
@ 2:57 pm

I earn some money from my editorial cartooning, mostly from magazine sales, but it’s not a living.

Now, maybe I just suck; but I don’t think I’m totally hopeless as a cartoonist. In college, I won the national Charles Schulz award for my cartoons. In the last year, three syndicates have sent me kind, enthusiastic, personally-written rejection letters, telling me that my work is great but they don’t think there’s any way to make money with it.

Ted did the most to convince me that I’ll never earn a living as a political cartoonist, at the Stumptown comic book convention, with his passionate speech about how hopeless the economics for editorial cartoonists are, and how they’re going to get much worse.

At this point, it seems to me my choices are to give up on ever earning a living with cartooning; or to try being a webcartoonist. So, I’m trying webcartooning. I made my first online sale about an hour ago. It’s a purely electronic edition, so nearly 100% of the sale is profit.

Is it likely I’ll earn a living this way? No, but if I spend four or five years building an audience, it’s at least possible. There is no viable route for earning a living as a newspaper cartoonist, for a cartoonist like me.

And I think, in the years to come, there will be a lot more new cartoonists who share my view.

#66 Mike Lester
March/25/2008
@ 3:03 pm

If SHELDON is making (web only) six figures, forget everything I just said and tell TRall to lose my number.

#67 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 3:19 pm

It’s sad, really. It’s sad as cartoonists that we can’t trust one another to try to talk over and share solutions to the common paradigm shift that we’re all facing.

Look, I would much rather be George MacManus or Al Capp, too, cartooning for a massive audience that thought the newspaper was the be-all, end-all…and who became megastars and megawealthy in their day. I would much, much, much rather not have to deal with the business ends of “Sheldon”, and let a New York syndicate staff handle all the dirty work for me.

But more and more each passing day…we don’t live in that age. We live in an age of spread-out audiences that touch on ultra-niche interests…and which have aculturated to not directly paying for anything on the Web. It is the natural trend of Capitalism and technology: Prices trend toward zero.

Even with newsprint, the cost of any individual comic strip (to the consumer) was 1/1000th of the twenty-five cents it cost to buy a newspaper. Now it has moved from a perceieved value of 1/1000th of twenty-five cents to zero.

I can’t change that. You can’t change that. But that’s where we are. So the trick is all of us, ALL of us, sharing our best ideas on how to move forward into a very different age for cartooning.

As Scott said, we have so much to learn from each other if we all get off our silos.

#68 Anne Hambrock
March/25/2008
@ 3:22 pm

“subscription money doesn’t go to the creator’s”

Well David, yes it does if the syndicates set it up that way. King pays their creators directly for their dailyink sales. While they have not clamped down on papers that run strips for free, they are very serious about offering their cartoonist’s strips through a subscription model rather than just putting it all out there for free. As far as I know they are the only syndicate doing this. Is the money great? No, but it’s a start.

#69 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 3:34 pm

I can’t state this enough. We’re selling our work. We sell our work all the time. I draw comic strips, I put them in monthly comics and quarterly collections and I exchange that entertainment for money. The work is not being cheapened. It’s being purchased.

I charge for my cartoons. People want to pay for them. I get paid by the consumers of my work directly. I get paid by my publisher who gets paid by distributors who get paid by retailers.

My model is the same as Garfield. People read the strip every day for free in the paper and then buy the books and shirts. I don’t understand how anything but the medium of delivery is different.

Ted, How did people make money from their work before when things were much better but still sucked a little. I guess I don’t understand that.

#70 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 3:38 pm

And just to help move the conversation along past my conversational point #2, I will direct you to this chart:

http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/sheldoncomics.com?site0=sheldoncomics.com&site1=penny-arcade.com&site2=xkcd.com&site3=pvponline.com&site4=www.explosm.net%2Fcomics%2F&y=r&z=3&h=300&w=610&u%5B%5D=sheldoncomics.com&u%5B%5D=penny-arcade.com&u%5B%5D=xkcd.com&u%5B%5D=pvponline.com&u%5B%5D=www.explosm.net%2Fcomics%2F&x=2008-03-25T21%3A41%3A08.000Z&check=www.alexa.com&signature=dBqpYlH8ZtUBu6jWPxuSmkqn8Vo%3D&range=6m&size=Medium

(Hint: “Sheldon” is the tiny little blip on the bottom of that tracking. Sheldon has a tiny little audience. Sheldon is nothing, compared to the big boys of Webcomics….the guys that are making serious dough.)

#71 Alan Gardner
March/25/2008
@ 3:44 pm

Here’s that chart comparing Sheldon with comics.com, gocomics, and dailyink.com

#72 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 3:48 pm

Ha! Yeah, Sheldon’s audience is OK, but trust me Alan….you don’t wanna know what kind of money Penny Arcade is pulling in every year with their audience.

Let me share this little comparison with you. Penny Arcade (one Webcomic) vs. Comics.com (80+ comics, if I recall?)….

http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/sheldoncomics.com?site0=penny-arcade.com&site1=comics.com&y=r&z=3&h=300&w=610&u%5B%5D=penny-arcade.com&u%5B%5D=comics.com&x=2008-03-25T21%3A52%3A38.000Z&check=www.alexa.com&signature=Ndp5LR%2FUnNtYUdwuRfPIlwrEdvo%3D&range=6m&size=Medium

#73 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 3:54 pm

>>If SHELDON is making (web only) six figures, forget everything I just said and tell TRall to lose my number.

If? It’s like you guys just can’t bring yourself to believe anyone.

Hey, why don’t we all just whip out our dicks, and whose ever is biggest wins the argument.

I just don’t understand this forum.

#74 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 3:55 pm

Dave, I don’t think anyone doubts that some of us from the “webcomics” generation are making good money.* It seems they just don’t think that it’s incredibly widespread, or that it will necessarily translate to everyone else.

* Or maybe I’m wrong, and we need to start wearing some flashier clothes …

#75 Rick Stromoski
March/25/2008
@ 3:57 pm

>>>Based on Rickâ??s most recent post, I think weâ??re still on number one. Rick: Weâ??ve met. Weâ??ve talked. What will it take for you to believe me that Webcomics are making me a great income? Does it literally take me faxing you my tax records? Do you not have enough of a sense of me as a human being to give me that trust when I say it can and is being done?

Dave, nobody’s trying to be confrontational here…I don’t think. I’m all ears and we should put our collective heads together on this No you don’t have to fax me your tax returns (I threw my fax out 8 years ago anyway). I think the point is that most established print cartoonists here have been down that road where you hustle 24-7 and we’re at the point in our careers where that’s not as appealing as it once was. I think most want a return that’s worth the effort.

I’m just curious as to how much effort goes into promoting the feature and what the return is on that effort. If it involves 18 hour days, constantly soliciting potential clients and updating a web presence every week for $50K to me it’s not worth it. My free lance illustration efforts are less labor intensive and pay a h@ll of a lot better and I can actually have a life.

I may be wrong but is the the approach that web guys use similiar to what traditional methods illustrators and cartoonists use? You create mailing lists (langerman,creative access, labels to go, adbase) streamline your promotion to a target audience( AD’s, creative directors etc.) keep a database of positive responders and continually promote to them, while continuing the process on an ongoing basis to potential new clients? This model worked very well when I first started freelancing and still does to a great extent but has been hurt by the proliferation of stock and creators undervaluing their work. I have to work twice as hard to get the same well paying clients that I did 20 years ago because of it.

That’s why I believe giving content away for free is a bad practice.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong.

#76 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 3:58 pm

“Hey, why donâ??t we all just whip out our dicks, and whose ever is biggest wins the argument.”

Will everyone please fax me their traffic report, taxes, and a photograph of their penis*? I’m trying to figure out which career path is the less likely to end in defeat and bitterness.

*be honest: no photoshop!

#77 Corey Pandolph
March/25/2008
@ 3:59 pm

I don’t make a whole lot from The Elderberries, but I can’t tell how much better I feel knowing I get to do a strip that’s in newspapers.

It may be in a dying medium, but its a dream realized and it allows me a bit of financial freedom to pursue other interests, like getting TOBY, Robot Satan in more papers and websites.

As corny as it sounds, its still a thrill to pick up a paper or magazine and see your work there.

Last post for me. I wish everyone here, in print and online, luck and wealth. We all work hard and we all are deserving. I’m going back to work and then to Gritty’s for a pint. Who’s with me?

Cheers all,

CP

#78 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 4:00 pm

>>> It seems they just donâ??t think that itâ??s incredibly widespread, or that it will necessarily translate to everyone else.

Yeah, but that’s true of anything. That’s true for people wanting to get syndicated too.

I’m not going to espouse a Paris Hilton Method of Repeatable Fame and Success, but surely webcomics have demonstrated a little broader viability than that, yes?

#79 Kris Straub
March/25/2008
@ 4:01 pm

>>> Will everyone please fax me their traffic report, taxes, and a photograph of their penis*? Iâ??m trying to figure out which career path is the less likely to end in defeat and bitterness.

What DPI?

#80 Matt Bors
March/25/2008
@ 4:03 pm

At least 300 dpi. I’d like to make bibs and tote bags with the best shots.

#81 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 4:03 pm

Scott, I think what he means by “web only” is non-bookstore sales, non-art show sales, etc. Maybe he means even “non-tangible goods”? Selling artwork isn’t a :web only” sale? I don’t know, but I’d rather just ask him what he meant by that rather than treat this conversation like an “argument” and talk about your dick or whatever.

Scott writes: “I get paid by the consumers of my work directly. I get paid by my publisher who gets paid by distributors who get paid by retailers.”

That doesn’t sound very direct. When the money changes hands between five groups, that’s not direct. Direct would be from consumers straight to my PayPal.

Scott writes: “My model is the same as Garfield. People read the strip every day for free in the paper …”

Does Garfield run in free papers now? Have the alternaweeklies actually gotten that watered down?

#82 r stevens
March/25/2008
@ 4:12 pm

I have decided that only Twitter followers determine who is a successful cartoonist. Who’s got more than me? Screw web 2.0, let’s take it to web ELEVEN.

#83 Jeff Vella
March/25/2008
@ 4:12 pm

Sure I saw it, but I just can’t believe it… I just saw Dave’s tracking chart of the online traffic between “sheldon” (a far more superior comic between the two) and “xkcd .com” (which has child like stick figures and less than average humor) and I don’t understand how “xkcd” has SOOOOO much more on line traffic than Sheldon has. I mean…. LOOK AT IT!!! The art on “xkcd” looks like it was draw by a 5 year old, and writen by a 6 year old! What kind of audience is “xkcd .com” aiming for???

#84 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 4:16 pm

“writen by a 6 year old”

Honestly, I’d say the drawings are only a half step below Cathy’s, but the writing is 100 times better.

#85 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 4:18 pm

Actually, I take that back; a lot of Munroe’s drawings (the diagrams especially) are also 100% better than those in the Cathy school of cartooning.

#86 Danielle Corsetto
March/25/2008
@ 4:18 pm

Okay, so wait. Sheldon’s waaaaay the heck down there below Comics.com on webpage hits, right? And Dave has already VERY generously shared his income with us. Do you mean to tell me that you think the majority of those cartoonists featured on Comics.com are making around $96K a year? And I’m not just talking about income from Comics.com, I mean their entire yearly income from their syndicated comics. I doubt that’s true.

Additionally, my comic (daniellecorseto.com/gws.html) is riding just above Dave’s (sheldoncomic.com) on the Alexa chart. I most certainly do not make $96K. This proves two things: One, that the amount of hits you get IS NOT equal to the amount of money you make, and two, that Dave has WAY more business sense than I do. :)

#87 Danielle Corsetto
March/25/2008
@ 4:31 pm

–Whoâ??s got more than me? Screw web 2.0, letâ??s take it to web ELEVEN.–

Pffffft!! Rich. Hehehe.

So I think the topic’s shifted a little, right? How can print cartoonists help webcartoonists make more money in print/get more readers, and how can webcartoonists help print cartoonists make extra income online? It sounds like that’s what everybody REALLY wants…

#88 Kevin Chu
March/25/2008
@ 4:31 pm

Jeff, Just because you don’t understand (or “don’t get”) something doesn’t make it false. Deserving, or not, xkcd *is* popular and makes money. Just because you can’t fathom its success doesn’t negate it.

There is no magic formula for success, but it takes talent and luck and the business sense to leverage both. If you begrudge other’s success because you lack it then that’s a poor reflection on you.

#89 Jeff Vella
March/25/2008
@ 4:35 pm

“a lot of Munroeâ??s drawings (the diagrams especially) are also 100% better than those in the Cathy school of cartooning”

OK, I’ll give you that one, but I was comparing the artwork on â??xkcd .comâ? to The artwork on the “Sheldon” comic strip.

Actually, I shouldn’t have said, that the art on â??xkcdâ? looks like it was drawn by a 5 year old, That’s an insult to the 5 year old.

#90 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 4:45 pm

What’s the cost of a newspaper to a consumer? It’s so negligible that yes, I think it’s safe to consider it free. I mean, what does a paper cost? 50 cents?

Would anyone ever say that they paid to read Garfield? No of course not.

#91 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 4:47 pm

If any of you guys can please just let me know what business model I should adopt that will net me more money that what I’m doing now, that doesn’t involve time-travel or returning to “the good-old-days”, I’ll adopt it tomorrow.

Just tell me what it is and I’ll do it.

I am begging you guys to enlighten me on how to do this so I can do it. I want to. I’m ready. Just detail it out to me so I can put it in motion.

Ted?

#92 Rick Stromoski
March/25/2008
@ 5:16 pm

I think I did so in my last post Scott and asked a question whether it was similiar to what the web guys are doing but it went unanswered. So I’ll lay it out again as to what I do and maybe a constructive dialog could begin.

In my freelance work I use list companies, in the old days it was crack and peel labels for direct mail, now I use a web based promotion service that is quicker and still incorporates direct mail to an extent if I want it.

I create specific lists supplied to me by the service and create a visual promotion appropriate to that list ( Ad’s, art buyers and creative directors forchildrens book publishers , business, food products and publishers, advertising firms etc.) I use a service that sends the email promotions and tracks them for me letting me know who opened the promotion, which one’s clicked through and even which image they clicked through if I had more than one in the promotion. From those initial 2,000 or so names I whittle it down to 250 or so that have shown an interest in my work and I target them with several additional email promotions throughout the year as well as direct mail promotion. I slowly build a fairly decent client list that ideally
keeps me in steady commissioned work. The idea is to keep your work in front of them as often as possible without becoming an annoyance. about six promotions a year with follow ups are about right.

I spend one day a week creating , sending tracking and responding to my various promotions. the rest of the time I’m working on any projects that came my way and my strip.

Is this similiar to what you web guys do? What specifically do you do to create a clientele and how do you make it profitable? Saying that you make a living at it is all well and good and I believe you. I just would like some specifics as to how you go about it.

#93 Howard Tayler
March/25/2008
@ 5:23 pm

When steam technology was first introduced in boat engines, the sailing ship manufacturers poo-pooed it because it was not robust enough for ocean vessels.

50 years later, every last one of those sailing ship manufacturers was out of business.

The pioneers of the magnetic storage industry poo-pooed some technological tweaks to speed and density of storage. Disks needed to get BIGGER, not smaller. Five years later the people they fired or laid off for wasting time on small hard disks had driven them out of business. Ironically, that second group of people got forced out of the disk-drive business about eight years later by people THEY’d fired.

The “disruptive technology” principle spans multiple industries. Dave gave us the example of illustrators being pushed out by photographers. It’s happened in the record industry (several times BEFORE the current MP3/RIAA mess… radio was a real shake-up, as were cassettes), the steel industry, the software industry, it’s happened in tabletop games, and it’s obviously happened (and is still happening) in comics.

If the wooden boat-builders of the 19th century could have seen the coming shift, and seen how steam (and later diesel) would develop, they probably would have invested in the new technology. But perhaps they just couldn’t. Perhaps they lacked the skill set, the training, the funding… whatever. It may be that some of them DID see it coming, and decided instead to milk the old tech for all it was worth.

If they could have put the genie back in the bottle, would they? Not all technological advance is “progress,” but by the same token, not all traditional values (or whatever you want to call a conservative approach to societal change) are actually valuable. And the point is moot. None of us have the ability to put the genie back in the bottle. Pandora’s box is open.

It’s easy for me to be nonchalant about it. Schlock Mercenary pays my bills, and the business is growing at about 30% or more per year. We hate shipping all our own merchandise, but we’re positioned to make enough money this year that we can hire somebody else (at about $35k/year) to do that job FOR us. The new model requires me to have a lot more business sense than a mere writer and illustrator should have to have, but since I’ve got it, I can make it go.

I’ve been cartooning for eight years now. When I submitted to the syndicates in 2000, their online FAQ said that entry-level salaries were around $20k/year. When I took my cartoon full-time four years later, I struggled for about a year and a half on $20k/year. Then, with the help of guys like David Kellett, Dave Willis, Scott Kurtz, and Kris Straub (scan the comments thread) I got my business shaped up. This last year I made about six times that much (though in fairness over half of that has been reinvested in the business.)

In short, money-wise, I don’t see what’s different. The only change for me is that under the old model, I couldn’t get into print. And that’s something Ted and others may not be taking into account: under the old model, there were 10,000 submissions per year, and roughly 10 of those were accepted and put into print. The working cartoonist model was all-or-nothing. These days the curve is a little smoother.

Of course the ride is a little rougher.

#94 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 5:35 pm

Scott writes: “Would anyone ever say that they paid to read Garfield? No of course not.”

Actually, Scott, comics are for a lot of people their favorite part of the newspaper. Reader polls show this. Any time any editor tries to change their comics page, readers go nuts. And, yes, people do cancel subscriptions over comics. Newspaper readers place a lot of value on their comics.

Why am I explaining on a comics blog that people like comics?

Scott writes: “let me know what business model I should adopt that will net me more money that what Iâ??m doing now, that doesnâ??t involve time-travel …”

And there’s the rub. I can tell you how I’ve made my career, but without you getting in a time machine and going back to the same art school I went to and building the same artist’s website back in 1996, you’re not going to be able to duplicate what I’m doing today. And since I have no idea how much money you make I can’t tell you whether building that time machine would actually change your present day income for better or worse. The same is true if I were to start telling Wiley and Rall they gotta do it my way.

And they’d have to factor in the sanity they’d lose by having to relive the nineties, the money they’d make on all those insider-info NCAA brackets, plus the irreparable damage to the space-time continuum …

Anyway, back in this time stream, as far as the mostly-newspaper comic artists go, I see them all doing exactly what they ought to be doing — taking enough steps into the digital world to get a taste for things and orient themselves and position themselves for the all-too-soon future, but definitely don’t focus on it so much you totally screw up the newspaper side of things. Keep working to make newspapers better, etc.

#95 Howard Tayler
March/25/2008
@ 5:40 pm

Is this similiar to what you web guys do? What specifically do you do to create a clientele and how do you make it profitable? Saying that you make a living at it is all well and good and I believe you. I just would like some specifics as to how you go about it.

Growing clientele:

1) Maintain a discussion forum. Encourage readers to talk about your work with each other in a place where still others can read and respond. This builds a community.

2) Be a part of those discussions. Respond kindly to criticism, and warmly and graciously to praise. This ensures that the community is really built around YOU.

3) Post news about yourself, about your work, about appearances, and (most importantly) about new merchandise, art auctions, etc. But the blog posts can’t just be sales pitches or product pimping. You have to get people interested in reading about you before the pitches will really work.

4) Create link graphics, hosted on your site, that people can use in their signature files. Let them deep-link the graphic (provide them with the source code, complete with a link to your site) and watch as your artwork and funny phrases start appearing in forums across the web.

5) Go places. Comic conventions are, in my experience, good for meeting peers. Go other places where you can meet prospective fans. I do a lot of literary Sci-Fi conventions, and I participate in panel discussions on topics ranging from character dialog and believable plots to world-building and hard science. Every one of these discussions is an opportunity for me to put my smiling, funny face in front of potential fans.

6) Answer your email. I usually set aside an hour or two every three days to grind through it.

Does this help?

#96 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 5:49 pm

Rick writes: “Is this similiar to what you web guys do? What specifically do you do to create a clientele and how do you make it profitable? Saying that you make a living at it is all well and good and I believe you. I just would like some specifics as to how you go about it.”

Basically it’s somewhat obvious. Try everything until you find something that starts working for you.

– Advertising works well if you have a large audience that has a narrow interest. Video game comics for example.

– Reader subscriptions work well if you have a large, dedicated audience. Some of the alternative graphic novelists, for example.

– T-shirt sales work well if your audience likes to wear t-shirts and you like to write t-shirt slogans. Diesel Sweeties shirts are cool, t-shirts about how your mom died of cancer not so much.

– Posters and prints work well if your artwork is the type of thing people want to hang on their wall. I can sell someone a crazy zombie dinosaur poster, but Randall from xkcd probably doesn’t sell many stick figure posters. His maps and diagrams? Sure.

– Art commissions or original art or higher end prints work well if you’ve got a wealthier audience as well as, again, the art chops.

– Big book collections are good if your comics have a shelf life. If they’re more topical comics that go out of date quickly, try the monthly pamphlet style comic book.

etc. etc. etc. It all depends on what type of comic you make, what type of audience it attracts, etc.

My advice: If you make a comic that is intensely loved by millions of billionaires, you should have no problems.

#97 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 5:54 pm

Rick wrote: Iâ??m just curious as to how much effort goes into promoting the feature and what the return is on that effort. If it involves 18 hour days, constantly soliciting potential clients and updating a web presence every week for $50K to me itâ??s not worth it. My free lance illustration efforts are less labor intensive and pay a h@ll of a lot better and I can actually have a life.

I may be wrong but is the the approach that web guys use similiar to what traditional methods illustrators and cartoonists use?

Sorry Rick….stepped away from the computer for a bit.

To your question!

If it’s helpful, “client-services” may not be the best metaphor to use. A better metaphor might be “draw a huge crowd, to sell to a percentage of that crowd”.

Here’s the best analogy I’ve heard given on how the business of free works:

1.) Traditionally, Costco gives out a free, promotional muffin, in the hopes that 1 person out 100 would be convinced of it’s tastiness…and would then buy a pack of 10.
2.) With a Web-to-merch distribution model, you give out 100 free muffins (since your costs are neglible to distribute digital goods), in the hopes of getting 10 people to buy 1.

So, the underlying business model is to give it away for free to as laaaaarge an audience as possible, with the expectation of gleaning ad revenue from 100% of them, and book/merch/art sales to (roughly) 10% of them. 100,000 readers buy 10,000 books…that sort of thing.

Along with that, there’s a minimizing of profit-sharing: No publishers, syndicates, or agents taking a percentage, and a minimized use of distributors or fulfillment houses.

This usually means dealing and selling directly to the audience: Both from a brand-building perspective, and an income stream perspective…the goal is to deal as directly as you can with your audience.

But here’s where things get tricky: All of that is a hell of a lot of work. It’s wonderful work, and I personally love it, as it’s built around and on and about my cartooning, but it’s definitely work.

But at this point in your career, after years of building “Soup to Nutz”, I can understand not wanting to go down a similar path. In fact, for you, I wouldn’t recommend it, necessarily! But for guys just starting out in syndication, I’d advise them to make sure, sure, sure they don’t include web rights into their contract â?? as Rich Stevens wisely did â?? to make sure you can control and steer the biggest income grower in the next 10 years.

It’s kind of like switching majors in college: If you’ve only done your freshman year…it’s a little easier to make the change. But if you’re a senior with 90% of your credits finished, you’re understandably loath to have to start over and take a lot of new classes.

So for you, who has spent years building up a career in syndication and with client services, and who is happy with your status there…no switch or modification might be necessary at all. I’d be the last one to tell you to fix something that ain’t broke.

But for guys newly syndicated on their first strip since 2001 (not one of which I can think of that doesn’t have a second job), they might want to pursue multiple revenue streams.

Does that help somewhat?

#98 Howard Tayler
March/25/2008
@ 5:56 pm

My advice: If you make a comic that is intensely loved by millions of billionaires, you should have no problems.

I only require the intense love of ONE billionaire.

Sure, the patronage model may have gone out of style with powdered wigs and buckets for the nightsoil, but it can still be made to work. All you need is a friendly billionaire.

#99 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 5:57 pm

And what Howard says is true — since you’re your own editor, ombudsman, etc. your interactions with readers are a lot more frequent and important. You’re working directly for readers most of the time, not for editors.

Which is one of the things working against political stuff. In newspapers a large portion of your intended audience is people who disagree with you. On the web, you really can’t expect your haters to buy your t-shirt or whatever.

#100 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 5:59 pm

Howard: “I only require the intense love of ONE billionaire.”

Yeah, but I have a different standard of living over here says Dick Cheney who stole my keyboard.

#101 Howard Tayler
March/25/2008
@ 6:03 pm

Lemme echo what Dave Kellett said, if for no other reason than to point out to you that he’s absolutely right. He’s doing it the way I’m doing it, I’m doing it the way he’s doing it, and we’re both working really, really hard.

I buy my books at about 10% of the cover price, and sell them direct to my readers. When the time comes to ship 2000 packages, I head down to the comic-book store and have a “shipping and handling party,” where my friends and fans can gather for free food (paid for out of the S&H budget) and about eight hours of stuffing books and invoices in boxes, and then sending ’em out.

The community-building aspect of my earlier post is absolutely critical here, because it’s that community that comes together to help me with my shipping.

Hopefully those days are nearing an end. Our shipping events have become large enough that the S&H budget alone can just about cover a decent hourly wage for a part-time or seasonal employee, who would handle all this himself/herself.

#102 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 6:03 pm

Also, Rick, if you’ll forgive the cheek: We devote a few chapters towards building, branding, interacting, and monetizing an audience online in How To Make Webcomics.

Don’t buy a copy! I’m not mentioning the book to be skeevy! :) I only mention it because it has chapter-length writeups on your question that would take me hours to retype here.

Lots of libraries bought copies from Image, and most bookstores and comic book shops have one. Hopefullly one nearby will have a copy you can thumb through.

#103 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 6:13 pm

Rick,

I would be surprised if many webcartoonists had considered just pitching themselves as cartoonists/illustrators to different markets. I think it’s a revenue stream a lot of us could do well at but I imagine that the work involved and the competition might deter some of us. Especially those of us already spinning multiple plates in the air.

I would say a large percentage of us created our strips FIRST and then have been trying desperately to find a way to earn money continuing those strips.

Growing up, I never aspired to make cartoons in magazines or do spot cartoon illustrations. I always aspired to have my own strip and my own characters. I wonder if that’s a flaw in our thinking.

Most of us got into this because we have stories we want to tell or characters we want to bring to life. I don’t think many of us ever considered our cartooning ability as a marketable skill that we could sell. I think everyone sees their cartooning ability as the ends to the means of telling the stories we want to tell.

You have to also understand that I think a lot of us come from a different generation when it comes to work ethic. The idea of making money by drawing something that we may not want to draw is not appealing enough to bear through. That might be some misguided vanity.

I know one cartoonist who’s day job is drawing cartoons for product design and he hates it. And I never thought about it until now but yeah…that must be our generation. We want to draw for ourselves. I think a lot of us do.

So we are trying to force it I think. We come up with our own creations first then try to build a way to earn money from that 2nd.

Does that make sense?

#104 Malc McGookin
March/25/2008
@ 6:13 pm

>>Iâ??m so sick of everyone being so angry and snarky at each other<<

OK what have you done with the real Scott Kurtz?

#105 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 6:17 pm

Rick, email your shipping address to kurtz@pvponline.com and I’ll send you a book.

We basically collected all the stuff we know how to do thus far between myself, Kris, Dave and Brad and put it in a book. It’s a good way to see what we’re doing and I’m happy to send you a copy.

Also, I would like to suggest that some of us talk…with voices…and introduce ourselves and have a conversation for real.

I use an online service called Talkshoe to host conference calls. We could all pick a time, call in and chat.

It would be a great way to pick each other’s brains and learn more about each other.

Anyone game?

#106 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 6:18 pm

>>I replaced him with a 37 year old man who got tired of being a jerk and decided to start over. It’s just that I’m repairing my reputation in a circular motion and it’s probably not gotten out to your particular ring yet.

#107 Eric Millikin
March/25/2008
@ 6:37 pm

Howard: “Lemme echo what Dave Kellett said, if for no other reason than to point out to you that heâ??s absolutely right. Heâ??s doing it the way Iâ??m doing it, Iâ??m doing it the way heâ??s doing it …”

Right, because you two have fairly similar comics. Different things work for different artists and audiences.

And Dave, I’m with you all the way until you suggested artists might choose a major during their freshman year. What?

And Scott: I do plenty of illustrations. It brings in good money, is usually for really good causes and publications actually run them much bigger than comic strips. But again, that’s more for people on the artistic end of things, not the stick figure end. I’d be happy to throw my two cents I mean $50,000 around with you in a conference call.

#108 Dave Kellett
March/25/2008
@ 6:45 pm

Rick, email your shipping address to kurtz@pvponline.com and Iâ??ll send you a book.

Lord above! I love how that didn’t even occur to me….I went the circumlocuitous route.

My apologies Rick! E-mail either one of us and we’ll happily send you copies. :)
dave@davekellett.com

#109 Howard Tayler
March/25/2008
@ 7:51 pm

Re: Illustration clientele — I paid the bills for a year that way, from late 2004 through late 2005. I used my “Write a Statement of Work” skills from day-job land, and billed myself as a contract humorist for the software industry. I had schedules of deliverables, cost breakdowns, exit clauses… the works.

I produced some absolute crap, but it kept the family fed for a year.

Those folks come back to me from time to time and ask if I’m interested in more work. I have to inform them that these days I LOSE money working on contract projects.

@Eric Millikin, who wrote: Different things work for different artists and audiences.

I should have made that clearer. Or said it at all, for that matter. Point taken. We discuss this all the time in webcomic and blogger circles. There is no “best way,” but there are dozens of “best practices,” only a few of which are going to be useful for a given artist’s material.

My point was that Dave and I are doing essentially the same thing. But even between the two of us there are notable differences. He makes a bundle selling original strips, and I make next to nothing in that vein. Single Schlock Mercenary strips, though technically gag-oriented, don’t do well alone on a wall, I guess.

#110 Abell Smith
March/25/2008
@ 7:59 pm

Great conversation. I agree with what Dave and Rich suggested earlier, that some of the block in the conversation might be due not as much to “print vs. web” as to “editorial cartoonist vs. ‘niche’ webcomics.”

My problem is with the suggestion that “print pays” and that print is still, in any way, a “viable market.” I think most incoming freelance editorial cartoonists are finding that, sometime within the last few years, editors and art directors (on the whole) COMPLETELY lost interest in risking a single dime on new content. This is particularly true with the altnewsweeklies.

“The Web” may be a fairy tale for us editorial cartoonists, but I think I can see some light at the end of the tunnel (or maybe I just really want to believe that I can). I see nothing but darkness ahead for newspapers…

#111 Dawn Douglass
March/25/2008
@ 9:16 pm

Yeah, we’re up and running now!

http://www.inkswig.com

Cartoonists probably won’t be too terribly interested in what I have to say for a few days yet. ;)

But I hope you’ll all take a look and participate in the discussion.

Thanks much.

#112 Malc McGookin
March/25/2008
@ 9:38 pm

Scott, you seem to have had an epiphany. Please tell me you haven’t found religion.

#113 Scott Kurtz
March/25/2008
@ 11:23 pm

No, Malc. It’s not that bad. :)

#114 Andertoons
March/26/2008
@ 4:53 am

Scott, anytime you’d like to set up a conference call, I’d love to pick everyone’s collective brain…

#115 Rick Stromoski
March/26/2008
@ 5:27 am

>>I produced some absolute crap, but it kept the family fed for a year.

>>You have to also understand that I think a lot of us come from a different generation when it comes to work ethic. The idea of making money by drawing something that we may not want to draw is not appealing enough to bear through. That might be some misguided vanity.

I believe you could ask any illustrator working today and they could tell you about taking on a project for the money as opposed to the esthetic experience. It all depends on your perspective I guess. Sure you could turn down a freelance project that pays well ( I doubt many would) because you have this arbitrary ideal about your artistic integrity but then you have to go to your cr@p job at the Safeway for $8 and hour for a month and a half to make the same money. Either way you’re spending time away from the kind of art you want to do. Which is the better path? Personally I’d rather take an art job that I may not be as enthused about but have the opportunity to make it my own versus stocking shelves. Sometimes those cr@p art projects allow you the financial freedom and time to create the type of art you really want to do. To be honest, I haven’t been offered a project that did not appeal to me in over 20 years. I get to do art and be paid for it. An incredible priviledge which beats any conventional employment I ever had. It’s about creating your own voice whatever is thrown your way. That’s the challenge. I don’t buy in that it’s a generational work ethic issue. The implication being that those who take on work you wouldn’t are somehow sacrificing their artistic integrity. If that’s what you mean, you’re correct in saying it’s misguided vanity.

The primary focus from the model described above seems to be establishing relationships which isn’t very different from traditional models. The difference being a focus on individual readers versus art buyers. The approach is very different but the essence is the same.

#116 Randy Glasbergen
March/26/2008
@ 6:13 am

In print, you (the cartoonist) don’t sell directly to the reader, you sell to the publisher, ad agency, greeting card company. I don’t see much difference with the web and electronic markets. Don’t try to sell directly to the reader, sell to the webmaster, publisher, art director, blogger. The web is very profitable for me, but not from selling T-shirts on Cafe Press or a few books on Amazon. I use the web as a tool to sell to traditional print markets like newspapers, magazines, newsletters, but ALSO to newer electronic markets like blogs, web sites, e-mail viral marketing, corporate and education intranets, PowerPoint presentations, e-books and public plasma screens. In other words, I sell to the guy at the top of the pyramid, not to all the individual readers. This method works for me because I create cartoons that help my clients communicate their message with humor, I help them do their job better. If you’re doing a webcomic about a foul-mouthed flatulent goat from outer space, it might be a harder sell.

#117 Randy Glasbergen
March/26/2008
@ 6:47 am

I guess I strayed a bit from the original topic. I’d like to add that in my experience, you don’t have to give you work away for free. Websites, blogs, intranets, online newspapers and others are happy to pay for good content if it improves the appeal of their site and helps them achieve their purposes. You can have exposure and a paycheck. I’ve got plenty of samples on my site to help someone decide whether or not my cartoons are worthwhile for them.

#118 Howard Tayler
March/26/2008
@ 7:13 am

Randy,

You’re right. You don’t have to give the content away for free. But look at where you’re selling your stuff, and what THEY do with it. Odds are, a lot of them are turning around and giving it away for free.

How, then, can they afford to pay you? Easy. The “Free Content” business model is traditionally supported through advertising. That’s how the Television Industry worked for decades (and I suspect it STILL works that way, though I don’t know for sure.) You’re getting a slice of that pie, but the web publisher is staying in business because it’s a big pie.

The point I’m making is that most webcartoonists would not consider that a superior model. They’d look at it and say “why not cut out the middle-man.”

The answer, of course, is that many, many, many artists don’t want to be publishers. It’s hard work, and it’s much less secure than selling to somebody who writes checks promptly.

#119 Randy Glasbergen
March/26/2008
@ 7:50 am

Howard, I just got back from your website to get a better idea of the point you’re making in your post. I think what you’re doing with your ads is another great way to make comics pay off. How did you go about getting your advertisers? Did you use some sort of agency or did the advertisers contact you? How does this work? (I’ve avoided ads on my site, though many have offered, because my site is essentially set up to advertise me and my services. My site is my ad.)

#120 Eric Burke
March/26/2008
@ 8:38 am

These web cartoonists ought to be studied at how theyâ??re succeeding on the web as theyâ??re pioneering where the future generations will practice the cartooning trade. Heck, if I were a print guy, Iâ??d try to incorporate as many of their revenue making efforts as I could to maximize my own income. Why put all your eggs in one basket?
I’m late to this party, but wanted to plug Kris, Dave and Scott’s book HOW TO MAKE WEBCOMICS. I got mine in the mail last Thursday and it’s a very informative read so far.

I’m impressed with the number$ Dave threw out. $100k? Niiice. Dating any super models yet, or does that come with the more successful webcomic numbers?

HOW TO MAKE WEBCOMICS

And let me be the first to express concern for Rick’s $12k/year beer bill! That’s alot of hops my friend. I’m hoping you don’t wind up on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew!

#121 Ted Rall
March/26/2008
@ 8:53 am

Of course, we’re all giving away our comics for free. Probably 90% of my readers are online.

What I’ve learned and found dismaying, however, is that 95% of my income comes from those 10% who read me in print. First, print newspapers pay for the cartoons themselves. Then, cities where my work runs in the newspaper buy lots of my books. They also tend to invite me to speak, which means more money.

In cities where my work only appears online, there’s no longer any pressure on editors to pick up my stuff. Turnout at events is much smaller. Book sales are poor.

I’ve talked to other cartoonists. They’ve had similar experiences. Bottom line: 10,000 print readers are worth 1,000,000 online readers. Online readers are cheap. They don’t buy much.

To turn this around, imagine if (example) PVP were in print newspapers with total circulation equivalent to five percent of the number who read it online. Scott would sell many, many more books than he does today.

What’s going on here is what I call the Success Fallacy: A company CEO considers himself happy that his profits increased 20% each year. Wall Street pats him on the back. Everything is great. Except–it’s possible that the company is really SUPPOSED to increase its earnings by 40% each year. In which case, it is failing to make as much as it should. It is, actually, a failure. The CEO should be laid off.

“Successful” webcomics are like that. They’re earning money, sure. But not nearly as much as they should.

Scott asked:

My model is the same as Garfield. People read the strip every day for free in the paper and then buy the books and shirts. I donâ??t understand how anything but the medium of delivery is different.

Well, there is the stuff I wrote above. But also, Jim Davis gets paid syndication revenue. I’d bet that, despite the licensing success of Garfield, that represents a big chunk–maybe more than 50%–of his income. So he sells the cartoons AND the books.

The idea of getting together to brainstorm and share ideas is a brilliant one. I’m in if anyone wants me.

#122 Larry Levine
March/26/2008
@ 9:04 am

I draw a webcomic & open to ANY venue that generates income: syndication/self-syndication, web, animation, licensing, etc.

#123 Eddie Pittman
March/26/2008
@ 9:13 am

I don’t have much to add other than my support to the webcomics models Scott, Dave and Kris have been talking about. What truly appeals to me is taking the content directly to the reader without the filter of a newspaper editor (who probably isn’t a fan of comics anyway) or a syndicate (who’s job is to make sure my work will appeal to everyone’s grandma).

This is the business model that is scaring the collective crap out of the music industry. It empowers both the artists and the audience. No longer do the consumers have to listen to what the record labels tell them is good music; they get to choose for themselves.

Can you imagine what this could do for the comics biz? Giving the readers what they want? It’s crazy that the idea seems so revolutionary.

#124 Kris Straub
March/26/2008
@ 9:26 am

Coming back to this thread this morning, I’m thinking about the idea that maybe webcomics is shooting itself in the foot by giving strips away. But then, they’re born of the internet, where content is readily available. Many, many attempts to create the internet equivalent of cable TV, where users pay to browse, have failed, and we haven’t yet really seen the “it” property that gets people to fork over a dime just for the privilege of reading.

Remember Salon.com going to the subscription model? That almost killed them and they converted that to a forced interstitial ad system (that can be bypassed if you subscribe… but now Salon works like TV.)

The closest you get is premium content, where you’re still giving strips away, but if readers pay they get more of them. Even that often requires a rabid following. Achewood has that.

If webcomics formed some united “no more free content” front, all it would take is one guy to break ranks and start the whole process again. Not to mention the revolt of angry readers. Unworkable. We’re here now.

Ted, you’re right that online audiences are a lot cheaper (I’m not sure how much), but it makes me wonder where we’re headed in the next decade, where today’s ten-year-olds, who were raised on the internet and by the internet, wouldn’t know how to pick up a newspaper even if they wanted to.

Webcartoonists offset the cheaper online audience with multiple tiers of products, and lean on the diehard fan a little to buy the limited-edition hi-gloss original sketch. Newspaper strips have to go broader, while online we (generally) have to go niche to inspire that kind of fealty.

#125 Eddie Pittman
March/26/2008
@ 9:41 am

>>Many, many attempts to create the internet equivalent of cable TV, where users pay to browse, have failed…

Kris, my thoughts on cable TV is we pay for the conduit to the content. The content is still decided by the provider. I pay my ISP for a conduit to the internet as well, with unlimited content.

The model of the future may be “syndicates,” of sorts, who collect talent in one hub (so readers don’t have to look under every virtual rock) and handle all the tech stuff, marketing and merchandising that so many cartoonists don’t want to do. I know there are a few places like this on the web already, but they seem to take anyone who signs up rather than the build a quality stable of artists.

I have been very impressed with the quality of work found on the Transmision-x site (www.transmission-x.com). It is more of a loose co-op, but the idea of a central hub is there.

But what do I know; I’m just a cartoonist.

#126 peter murphey
March/26/2008
@ 9:46 am

“To turn this around, imagine if (example) PVP were in print newspapers with total circulation equivalent to five percent of the number who read it online. Scott would sell many, many more books than he does today.”

Iâ??ve always been against the syndicates giving away their stuff for free online, as well as newspapers, itâ??s like competing against yourself for readers. But for web cartoonists like Scott and Dave K, the papers are not necessarily a place where they can thrive so the comparisonâ??s moot. The newspaper model has limited slots, and the web is wide open. If you can make appealing content that can attract enough readers to help you generate a modest income, it makes no difference if you are â??giving awayâ? your content. As somebody has alreay mentioned, that’s the television model, and it’s a tried and true method. I donâ??t think the percentage of syndicated print cartoonists that make a more than $50,000 per year is very high, and that market is definitely shrinking. I believe Daveâ??s post about his income figures can put to rest any arguments about examples of a â??working online model,â? and he certainly isnâ??t alone. The real issue is whether newspaper syndication can continue to be a working model, and whether the online model for newspapers themselves helps them generate more or less income.

#127 Corey Pandolph
March/26/2008
@ 10:01 am

Does anyone else find it comical that we’re talking about print media dying, but then claim we make money on the web by selling books… in print… of cartoons that already ran online…

And kids/adolescents claim they won’t buy a newspaper for a buck fifty to see a brand new strip everyday, but will drop upwards of $20 bucks to buy a book that contains strips they already read online?

I know the print books and the paper are two different things. I just think it seems like a funny circle back to nowhere:

Guy 1: “Here’s my strip online. The web is the future of comics. Print is dying.”

Guy 2: “That’s a funny strip, I’d love to hang it on my wall.”

Guy 3: “Let me print you out a copy.”

Before you jump all over the loopholes in my analogy, remember I’m only trying to be funny. Its sorta what I do.

#128 Gary Tyrrell
March/26/2008
@ 10:10 am

“Dating any super models yet, or does that come with the more successful webcomic numbers?”

Having met Dave’s lovely wife, let me assure you that he’s doing far better than a mere supermodel (the dirty secret of the Sheldon empire: Gloria’s the funny one).

#129 Howard Tayler
March/26/2008
@ 10:21 am

@Randy: regarding my ads — I use turnkey systems, where the ad network handles the shopping for advertisers AND publishers. Publishers sign up at one end, advertisers at the other, and the network itself (be it Google, Doubleclick, ADSDaq, BlogAds, Project Wonderful) takes a cut. Usually it’s between 15% and 30%.

I tried selling my own ads for a while. That was too much work. Forty minutes of emailing back and forth, spread out over two days, in order to confirm a $25 ad buy? Not worth the time, not by a long shot.

@Ted: In the corporate world we called that “leaving money on the table.” Just because you think you made out like a bandit by increasing your investment by 20% doesn’t mean you did a good job.

Most webcartoonists ARE settling for less than they should be. They’re not businesspeople, and they leave money on the table. The Free Content business model requires content providers to be editors, publishers, and very business-savvy, and most of us still have a lot to learn.

The solution, in some cases, is to bring in a third party. Penny Arcade (Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins) brought in Robert Khoo to run their business a few years back, and now they’re a multi-million dollar enterprise with around a dozen employees, an annual charity, and an annual convention that draws some 30,000 people or more. Can this be duplicated by other webtoonists? Maybe. We won’t know until somebody does it. Robert Khoo has not offered clones to the marketplace yet.

In other cases, the solution is just some learning and sharing. My income went way up when I joined the Blank Label Comics collective (which included, at the time, Dave Kellet, Kris Straub, David Willis from this comments thread, and we had Scott Kurtz pitching ideas as well). The guys helped me see where I was leaving money on the table.

That’s why discussions like this one are so important. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, we can’t close Pandora’s box, and we can’t really overcome the fact that some of us are in direct competition with each other. For all that, however, we can come together and recognize that it doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game. “A rising tide lifts all ships,” as the saying goes. We can learn to leave less money on the table, and we can find ways to grow the market, and increase consumer consumption of this wonderful art form we’re so hooked on.

#130 Kris Straub
March/26/2008
@ 10:34 am

Guy 1: â??Hereâ??s my strip online. The web is the future of comics. Print is dying.â?

Guy 2: â??Thatâ??s a funny strip, Iâ??d love to hang it on my wall.â?

Guy 3: â??Let me print you out a copy.â?

The first thing I put on the back of one of my webcomic collections in large type was “PRINT IS DEAD. Please enjoy this book!”

It is silly. The internet is good for short attention spans, and not so much heavy reading. At least with current audiences. I don’t think books will ever, ever, ever be supplanted by Kindle; people still want to hold something in their hands.

This doesn’t translate to newspapers as easily anymore because most people start their day in front of a computer, so why not catch up on the day’s disposable news there instead of spreading out giant sheets of paper?

Plus, you can’t alt-tab from a newspaper to stuff you’re supposed to be working on when your boss shows up.

#131 Corey Pandolph
March/26/2008
@ 10:41 am

“Plus, you canâ??t alt-tab from a newspaper to stuff youâ??re supposed to be working on when your boss shows up.”

No, but it’d be effin’ cool if you could…

“Hannahan! Were you just reading the paper?”

“Uh, no… I’m working on the Stevenson file. See?”

#132 Stephanie McMillan
March/26/2008
@ 10:42 am

Thank you to everyone who’s participating in this discussion! There’s so much to learn from everyone here. I’ve been trying to do a bit of everything. My strip is on comics.com, my dream is syndication to print, I’ve been sending out stuff like a maniac to get freelance print work, and figuring out how to improve my boringly designed website and get some ads on it. It’s tough, especially for those who have terribly inadequate marketing and making-pretty-websites skills, such as myself. I just ordered the Webcomics book and can’t wait to read it. There are so many interesting directions that a comics artist can go.

#133 r stevens
March/26/2008
@ 10:55 am

Wait, web readers don’t spend as much money as print readers per capita? Anyone who thinks that lives on Bizarro world!

#134 Kris Straub
March/26/2008
@ 11:15 am

Rich, I could believe it given raw percentages, but the types of audiences and purchasing patterns are so different I don’t think it matters. I would rather sell to a more niche group of people that will each spend $50-100 in my store every year, rather than a giant, casual audience that will buy a $15 book and be fully satiated by it for the rest of their lives.

It’s like Peter said, PvP isn’t going to be carried between Sally Forth and Love Is anyway, so we don’t need to speculate on its book sales through a giant syndication contract.

#135 Howard Tayler
March/26/2008
@ 11:19 am

A good follow-up to this whole discussion is Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans” piece, where he discusses microcelebrities and how their businesses work.

LINK!

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

I didn’t know this was what I was doing when I got into this business, but it nicely describes how I’m making money.

#136 Eddie Pittman
March/26/2008
@ 12:09 pm

Howard, another great resource is http://www.thelongtail.com/, chock full of real life stories on the “free” economy.

#137 Eric Burke
March/26/2008
@ 1:13 pm

The model of the future may be â??syndicates,â? of sorts, who collect talent in one hub (so readers donâ??t have to look under every virtual rock) and handle all the tech stuff, marketing and merchandising that so many cartoonists donâ??t want to do. I know there are a few places like this on the web already, but they seem to take anyone who signs up rather than the build a quality stable of artists.

How successful was Keen Spot(Space?…the “pro” site) for the cartoonists? I’ve always thought that webcomics should have one main site like the regular syndicates do…except charge for viewing! KING seems to have the best model sofar, where they offer a small archive free and the current content and more is found on Daily Ink. I’m not going to pay to read one comic when I read so many, I’d go broke! But put all my fav webtoons in one spot and it’s worth it.

As much as I love The Norm, I don’t love the strip enough to pay $20+/year for ONE comic. That’s crazy. I’ve bought many of the books, though.

And thanks, Gary. I’m glad to know that Dave is married to a hottie. He’s living his cartooning dream, making bank, and married to a hottie. Who’s saying webcomics aren’t worth it?

#138 Dave Kellett
March/26/2008
@ 1:36 pm

Kris presented a great summation of the readership situation. Would I rather have my 15-25,000 daily Sheldon readers (who actively choose to follow Sheldon every day, and who actively tie their day and (a part) of their identity with the strip), or the 400,000 to 10 million newspaper readers who tepidly, passively read Blondie or Gasoline Alley because it’s one of only 25 strips in their newspaper, and Lord knows it’s not going away.

Honest-to-God truth: I’d love to have millions of readers (and plan on it!), but I’m not sure I’d trade my active fans for passive consumers.

Are online readers worth less? I’m not so sure. I can almost guarantee that Sheldon’s earnings-per-reader is as high, if not much, much higher than almost any syndicated strip you could name. And, given the fact that my readership continues to grow 2-5% EVERY MONTH, and additionally given the fact that I have zero middlemen between my readership levels and it’s translation to income…this is a situation that can only improve, financially.

And more importantly than money (because, c’mon, that’s not why we do what we do) I have a personal, emotional, active bond with my readership. I talk to them every day…and they talk back. Even more, they are my evangelists: Virally spreading word of the strip, and growing the readership consistently every month, without any ad dollars spent on my part. In e-mails, forums posts, and blog entires on their sites, they give me the kindest of praise in the most immediate of ways. They help out with projects on the site, the publishing, conventions, and more. They volunteer to transcribe â?? for free â?? my entire archive of 2,300 strips so that all of my strips can be database-searchable by word, character, punchline, etc. They actively, actively help my career in 10,000 ways that are too long to describe. I give them my strips for free…and they give me so much more back in return. They care about me…and I care about them. THAT’S why we all choose to be artists, and in that way, I feel much more of a blessing than any silly dollar amount.

#139 Larry Levine
March/26/2008
@ 2:02 pm

The concept of Comics Sherpa is for Go Comics’ syndicated strip readers to venture over to the webcomics menu, which indeed offers greater exposure for us unpublished cartoonists. The downside is that we pay Sherpa to post on there with no option to add our own advertisement clients to the strip’s page.

#140 Kris Straub
March/26/2008
@ 2:17 pm

I’m not really sold on stuff like Comics Sherpa. Everything in webcomics points to the success of people who managed to find a way outside of the audience on the beaten path. I’m sure Comics Sherpa has a healthy sitewide readership, but you’re still sharing the attentions of all those readers. Webcomics that take off are ones who convince an audience that they’re the first, the best, the only game in town.

Howard gave this example once — it’s not enough to be on a reader’s top 10 webcomics list. If you’re sitting pretty at number 6, that doesn’t mean a lot of sales for you, because the reader will have blown their cash on their Number 1 and 2 — their absolute favorites. The 1000 True Fans article supports this idea.

It doesn’t matter if you have 1,000,000 readers who think your strip is just okay, a minor diversion on a list of other diversions. You’ll go a lot further with 5,000 who can’t wait for tomorrow’s update. I think newspaper strips trend toward the former, webcomics toward the latter.

#141 Rick Stromoski
March/26/2008
@ 2:35 pm

>>The concept of Comics Sherpa is for Go Comicsâ?? syndicated strip readers to venture over to the webcomics menu, which indeed offers greater exposure for us unpublished cartoonists. The downside is that we pay Sherpa to post on there with no option to add our own advertisement clients to the stripâ??s page.

Then why do it?

#142 Lefitte
March/26/2008
@ 2:42 pm

My plan is to be build up a readership on Sherpa — which I have at a pretty good clip — more than 400% from last year to this (still modest of course) and when I reach a number I’m comfortable with — I’ll migrate over to my own site — and maybe continue to use Sherpa to direct people to my site as long as my subscription is paid for.

I think starting out cold with just a Web site in the ether makes it too hard to gain audience. With Sherpa I can get my readership stats on a daily basis and see that I’m growing. If it wasn’t growing, I’d probably change plans or ideas.

#143 Rick Stromoski
March/26/2008
@ 2:51 pm

ok

#144 Larry Levine
March/26/2008
@ 2:51 pm

“Then why do it?”

Both for the readership exposure on Sherpa & chance for the strip being picked up for Universal Press Syndicate’s Go Comics line which does offers payment to the cartoonist.

#145 Dave Kellett
March/26/2008
@ 2:56 pm

If it’s any help to those considering Comics.com, GoComics, etc., let me offer my own subjective take:

When Sheldon was on Comics.com, its readership level â?? while not dropping â?? most definitely stagnated. Growth was not what it was when I was running my own site in the years before or after. I can’t recall the exact percentages, but trust me when I say it was significantly less growth (e.g., >50% difference).

My leaving Comics.com to re-establish an independent presence on SheldonComics.com was a no-brainer, in that regard.

The basic reason? Comics.com’s subscription walls and accompanying limited, 30-day-free content. I understand, from a corporate perspective, why they wanted to go with a subscription wall. In a traditional corporate ROI scenario, some Senior VP is gonna demand that people pay for the IP they read, by God. But the sad truth is, you can’t grow an online comic strip audience using that tactic. Ask any venture capitalist who’s invested in a Website reliant on subscription walls. As much as we’d all love them to, subscription walls don’t work online.*


*Unless, it’s worth noting, you’re the Wall Street Journal, which, it’s also worth pointing out, is both a necessary online business-information tool, and a tax writeoff as a business expense. Entertainment sites, not so much.

#146 Larry Levine
March/26/2008
@ 3:22 pm

Dave, How do you draw (no pun intended) the readers to SheldonComics.com?

#147 Corey Pandolph
March/26/2008
@ 3:36 pm

As much as I hated being on comics.com only, it would have taken a lot more work and time to attract the readership I gained, and that followed me afterward.

In some cases, comics.com and gocomics.com can be good exposure for someone just starting out. It helps you learn that deadlines are real and that producing a strip, every single day isn’t always for everyone.

After a while, I think it’s a natural progression to branch out and form a new web presence, by bringing the established fan base from those sites with you.

#148 Lefitte
March/26/2008
@ 3:40 pm

For what it is worth, on Sherpa you can read the entire archive of the feature.

#149 Dave Kellett
March/26/2008
@ 3:48 pm

Larry Levine wrote: Dave, How do you draw (no pun intended) the readers to SheldonComics.com?

The short answer is by making a quality comic that people want to share with others. 1.) Word-of-Mouth is more powerful than any ad buys or corporate associations I could buy or set up for myself, and 2.) It’s an extension of the “free” philosophy. I give it to them for free, they freely share it with their friends or co-workers, for free. Who dive into the free archives they were heretofore unaware of. And then they freely spend their next 8 hours at work (true!) transmogrifying from “casual reader” to “fan”. And then the process repeats itself as they introduce a friend to the strip.

The longer answer is: Providing “reminder” buttons for social bookmarking underneath the strip; providing postcard functionality for readers to e-mail any strip to a friend with a personalized note; offering free daily e-mail deliveries (which then get forwarded on to friends); offering free RSS feeds, which get incorporated into blogs and LiveJournals and all sorts of public spaces; creating friendships and link backs with fellow cartoonists whose style and tone my readers will love as well; attending 3-5 conventions a year; and participating in a polite, helpful way in communities hither and dither across the internet.

But the primary drivers to generating new readers are a.) Quality and b.) Free.

#150 Scott Kurtz
March/26/2008
@ 5:17 pm

I would like to set up a conference call for all of us to call into and talk in “person.” I can do this via our podcasting host Talkshoe.com for free.

All we need to do is pick a date and time, I’ll set up the call and you can call in either with a phone (it’s a call to philly I think) or with your computer using a mic and your headphones.

I really think we should do this. Who’s interested and when would be a good time for everyone.

We could even make it a regular thing.

#151 Alan Gardner
March/26/2008
@ 5:49 pm

Scott – I suggest you set a time and let everyone else join in if they can. Trying to schedule a dozen to a few dozen people’s schedule might be difficult.

Let us know when it’s convenient for you and we’ll all join in.

#152 Andertoons
March/26/2008
@ 5:59 pm

Ditto that. Schedule it, and they will come.

#153 Jamie Smith
March/26/2008
@ 6:23 pm

This posting is a perfect opportunity for passing along a marketing concept that embraces both arenas, on-line and print: crucial for cartoonists (and other artists, musicians & writers).
Kevin Kellyâ??s blog recently had an article about a theory called â??1000 True Fansâ? and some advice and experienced perspective on earning a living as a creator:

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

The original posting (and comment thread) as it appeared on BoingBoing also has some great ideas, critiques and insights:

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/04/howto-earn-an-artist.html#comments

Both are very informative on basic and simple steps to take in establishing clientele, maintaining a relationship with a community and seeking profitability, complimenting the excellent suggestions and points already outlined by Taylor, Millikin and Kellet on this thread.

Having had one foot in both worlds for many years – fine art vs commercial, and personal efforts vs freelance illustration â?? juggling and meeting multiple artistic demands is a skill equal to the demands of the craft: it really isnâ??t that hard to be an artist or learn how to draw well, there are thousands of them around better than Iâ??ll ever be, but content, perseverance, vision and encouragement from peers all factors into success.

My own experience has borne out the balancing act of doing hack work to suppliment freedom-of-expression material; the gigs cycle back around and eventually everything gets done – not one at the expense of the other, but a holistic result where everything comes out in the wash. That’s what allows me to do essentially donated work for non-profit causes and then based on that exposure, turn around and be compensated handsomely for bigger clients.

Same with “giving material away”: it might seem as if it devalues the work, but based on the potential return, it is an investment in building a fan base that will ultimately sustain you. Case in point: I have three different free exhibits in this city of my cartoon work (in a brewery, a cafe and a gallery), all to promote the release of two upcoming new books. Literally thousands of images are circulating via emails and fliers and posters etc., this blood-in-the-water blitz serves to simply increase exposure and whets the appetite for anyone who wants to buy a book or tshirt, or hire me to illustrate their next project. Past few weeks I did demonstrations at several conferences and art openings also in part to promote the feature and upcoming books: I can give away an original sketch to a spellbound youngster who watches me draw it, and yep, turn right around and sell another one for $100 to a grown-up. you bet.

Another observation is in the music industry: record companies are suffering the exact losses as the newspaper media is, for essentially the same reasons. My favorite band posts soundboard bootlegs in lossless format of all their shows, I have over 500 performances in my collection. Yet every single new studio recording, tshirt, DVD etc. they release I buy directly from them via their site, not to mention flying across the US to catch shows at a couple festivals every year. While not everyone has Deadhead-caliber obsessive fans, this model of exposure works in building and sustaining a base (as per the “1,000 Fans” approach linked to above).

I remember years ago while, working at a copy shop, seeing a customer come in and xerox a bunch of copies of one of my own cartoons that had just ran in the newspaper. Did I get indignant? Nope – I stayed anonymous and secretly humbled that someone was defacto viral marketing on my behalf. Would I have been rightfully angry and said something if they brought in one of my entire books and proceeded to copy it? Oh yeah. Same logic applies with the 72dpi thumbnailed previews you can see on-line – it keeps rippling out until I catch a wave big enough to ride.

Maybe being raised by gardeners and farmers has something to do with understanding the metaphors of tilling the ground/planting seeds/pruning/compost heaps etc., and also being a waiter for many years has honed the ability to peddle my wares and interact with folks. Plus you get bonus access to free food.

What Iâ??ve found hardest of all is eliciting sympathy as a struggling cartoonist when everyone around me seems to be having trouble making ends meet â?? if they buy a paper it is to check the help wanted section. But if you can cheer someone up and make them forget there troubles for a minute, thatâ??s priceless, right? Oh wait â?? my Ramenâ??s doneâ?¦

#154 Rich Burlew
March/26/2008
@ 7:07 pm

I think what many of the newspaper cartoonists are not seeing here is that most webcomics appeal to a targeted audience that is NOT the newspaper-reading audience. Comic strips with heavy science fiction or fantasy themes, complex plots that require regular references to past events, and scenes that use explicit sex, violence, or language are not candidates for the print model. Being in a newspaper was never an option to begin with for them, so it’s a waste of keystrokes to argue about whether or not they would be better off in a newspaper.

I’m going to spill some of my own background on this, as my comic has appeared in both print and online sources. I create a comic strip that is an overly-complicated fantasy story but, more importantly to my point, is a parody of D&D and roleplaying games. Not newspaper material, right? Ah, but you’re thinking, “Surely, there are magazines for such topics that would pay you.” And there were; Dragon Magazine was the oldest, most widely-read publication in the entire roleplaying game hobby, having run for over 35 years. It was the 800 lb. gorilla of roleplaying game press. Well, I managed to get my comic in Dragon. After building an audience on the web for three years, Paizo, then-publishers of Dragon, approached me at a convention and asked for my comic to appear in their magazine. So by the “print model” proponents, getting my comic into a print magazine that paid me should have been the best way to be financially successful, correct?

The Order of the Stick ran in Dragon for 22 monthly issuesâ??for which I was paid the princely sum of $500 per issue, and not in a timely fashion.

And then, the makers of Dragon canceled the magazine and started hosting their content online, and I was out of a gig.

So, as a revenue stream, print was less than worthless for me. Do I regret my decision to appear in Dragon? Not at all, and here’s why: I viewed the entire exercise as a glorified advertisement for my free online strip. The URL to my site appeared at the bottom of every strip. Basically, Paizo paid me $500 to take out a huge full-page ad in the back of their magazine every month. Because it is my free strip that actually drives my income, through compilation books, board games, t-shirts, and such. When I started in Dragon, I had about 80,000 readers online, but now I have more like 400,000 readers. Yes, less than 10% buy my merchandise, but that’s still nothing to sneeze at when my full-color books retail for $25-$30, and I sell more than 30% of my total sales direct to customers. And those 400,000 readers are four times the stated print circulation of Dragon Magazine at the time it was canceled anyway.

So in the final analysis, while appearing in it gave me a big boost, I was already making my living on free content before they came along and am doing better than ever in the months since they went away. If I hadn’t already been able to monetize my online readers before Dragon, I would have REALLY been “leaving money on the table” when I ran in their magazine, because the pittance that they paid me was only worthwhile as part of a scheme to increase my online readersâ??who read OOTS for free and love it so much that they pay me to have a hardcopy of it for their shelf.

My somewhat rambling point is this: If a new cartoonist wants to work in any topic other than broad family-friendly comedy or editorial comedy, any opportunities in print that DO exist simply do not translate into the sort of financial security the editorial cartoonists are talking about here. It just won’t happen. Ted, I know you’re saying we would make more money in print, but when one draws a stick figure adventure comic based on Dungeons & Dragons, that just ain’t true, as my experience has shown me. Your argument is founded on the assumption that for every already-successful cartoonist on the web, there would be a print source capable of paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to publish them if they hadn’t ruined it by putting their content online for freeâ??and that’s simply not the case for most webcartoonists.

So, on one side, we have editorial cartoonists unwilling to change their business model, and on the other side, we have webcartoonists unwilling to change their content just to fit in with the editorial cartoonists’ business model. The problem is, at the end of the day, the editorial cartoonists need the web to survive in the future, while webcartoonists such as myself don’t need the newspapers for anything. We’re making plenty of money where we are. Those of us making these arguments in favor of free content don’t NEED to convince you of anything, because our business will chug along whether you agree or not. We’re doing so out of a belief that as fellow cartoonists, we have an obligation to show you how to make a career on the web before its too late for you to join the party.

If you don’t want to listen, well, as Rich Stevens said, less competition for us.

#155 Howard Tayler
March/26/2008
@ 7:40 pm

On the subject of learning from people, I learned from Rich Burlew’s self-publishing adventures (specifically, from some of his early mistakes — he and I talked about this a couple of years back at a mutual speaking engagement.)

Long story short, we webtoonists may have figured out how to pay the bills, but we’re continually learning new things from each other, and (I hope) from the community of print cartoonists.

#156 Rich Burlew
March/26/2008
@ 7:54 pm

Exactly, and hopefully the print cartoonists can now learn something useful from us in return. Circle of life, kumbaya. The alternative is to continue holding a funeral for the golden goose, which isn’t coming back.

Also, both Howard and I were paid to attend that speaking engagement, at which we compared notes and improved our respective businesses. The subject of the speeches? “How to make money from free content.” See, simply knowing how to make money from free content can make you money! It’s just THAT powerful!

#157 Eddie Pittman
March/26/2008
@ 8:20 pm

Scott, I would like to sit in on the conference call as well, if that’s ok. Although I don’t currently have a webcomic, I have been developing one to launch in the very near future.

Hopefully, it won’t get me kicked out of the NCS :p

#158 zieglarf
March/26/2008
@ 10:45 pm

[quote]Eric Millikin March 25th, 2008
Scott writes: â??My model is the same as Garfield. People read the strip every day for free in the paper â?¦â?

Does Garfield run in free papers now? Have the alternaweeklies actually gotten that watered down?[/quote]

Yes, Garfield does run in free newspapers. I can get one everyday at my local library.

The webcomics don’t run on free internet anymore than Garfield runs in a free newspaper.

The consumer still makes a purchase. The consumer still has a choice of what to read and what to skip. The consumer doesn’t feel like he’s paying for a comic or a webcomic. But if they like it enough they’ll buy that merchandise!

#159 Frank Zieglar
March/26/2008
@ 10:47 pm

Sorry about that ‘zieglarf’ is my online ID.

#160 Eric Millikin
March/26/2008
@ 11:45 pm

Rich wrote: “Comic strips with heavy science fiction or fantasy themes, complex plots that require regular references to past events, and scenes that use explicit sex, violence, or language are not candidates for the [newspaper].”

There’s really no good reason it’s that way. Seems like it used to be (in the ’30s?) that newspaper comics like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were at the forefront of that sort of thing.

#161 Mark Ashworth
March/26/2008
@ 11:49 pm

Speaking as one of the throngs of hopefuls out here, I’m looking forward to listening to the conference audio afterwards (I wasn’t anywhere near the convention where the original panel was held).

Presuming there IS a recording, of course.

#162 Kris Straub
March/27/2008
@ 2:11 am

Yes, Garfield does run in free newspapers. I can get one everyday at my local library.

I can’t remember the last time I actually entered a library!

Rich wrote: â??Comic strips with heavy science fiction or fantasy themes, complex plots that require regular references to past events, and scenes that use explicit sex, violence, or language are not candidates for the [newspaper].â?

Thereâ??s really no good reason itâ??s that way. Seems like it used to be (in the â??30s?) that newspaper comics like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were at the forefront of that sort of thing.

I don’t think attention spans are anywhere near what they used to be in the 1930s. Also, gone are the sprawling, page-filling comic strips of that era (the syndicates wanted it that way, right?). Nowadays a three-panel drama barely has time to advance the plot, what with having to catch the reader up on yesterday’s strip in the first panel, and foreshadowing tomorrow’s in the last.

#163 Rich Burlew
March/27/2008
@ 6:27 am

What killed the adventure strip in the newspapers was the comic book; in the 1930’s, comic books existed largely as reprints of newspaper strips. Once companies started running original stories, though, it became easier to tell complete adventures in one issue. No more recapping every third panel; even if a story stretched over two issues (a rarity at the time), you only needed one page to recap. That left more room for the “meat” of the story. Eventually, as comics like Superman and Batman started exploding in popularity, people became accustomed to reading multi-page stories all in one sitting, and interest in the serialized newspaper adventure comic waned, until it pretty much died.

#164 Rich Burlew
March/27/2008
@ 6:30 am

Which, incidentally, is not a problem on the web. I don’t need to spend ANY time recapping, even though my plot-heavy comic is released one page at a time…because if a reader forgot what happened last strip, they just need to click the “Back” button and read the previous one. The web has revitalized the serial adventure delivered in short bursts, which just proves that if you wait long enough, everything comes back in style. It only took, what, 60-70 years?

#165 Eric Millikin
March/27/2008
@ 7:52 am

Hey Rich, Kris, I’m up on the history and the conventional wisdom about why sci-fi just wouldn’t work in today’s newspapers, but I’m just not convinced that it needs to be that way. For some reason sci-fi works for the web, in magazines, on TV, in the movies, in comic books, in seemingly every other medium, etc. The only reason I can really buy for why we don’t see an updated for 2008 equivalent of Flash Gordon is just inertia.

#166 Kris Straub
March/27/2008
@ 8:40 am

Well, sci-fi is in the newspapers inasmuch as strips like Brewster Rockit: Space Guy are in there, but that’s sci-fi in the same way Pearls Before Swine is a nature documentary. You can put a ray gun in a character’s hand, but there isn’t room to do anything nuanced.

#167 David Reddick
March/27/2008
@ 9:12 am

OMG. I am so loving this thread. (please forgive this long comment, but I’m jumping in late to the discussion) …
It amazes me the print vs. web comics conversations that continue to take place. I cannot wrap my head around why there is even such a “versus” feeling, usually coming from the print side of things. It makes me think of fine artists, old-school cartoonists from WAY back in the beginning of comic strips… how this very same things transpired with the constant advent of new ways of doing things. Hell, when many fine artist’s in the early 20th Century started using Acrylics instead of Oils, the earth nearly cracked in half in the art world.
I imagine when two cavemen were having this discussion, one, Brak, was drawing with a stick in the dirt and touting his accomplishment, and his buddy Thok decided to take some blood from the evening dinner carcus and draw a picture of Brak drawing in the dirt. Then Brak got ticked off and said drawing on walls was just not the way we cavemen did things.
I am in the fortunate position of making my living equally, right down the middle, in print and on the web. I work for a major comic strip and its creator, as well as freelance to magazines, comic books and newspapers, and I also create various webcomics for the internet. I also worked for a daily newspaper for 6 years as the staff cartoonist, so I am painfully familiar with newspapers and their impending demise. There is a real interest I have found, in websites wanting extra content for their readers. Not unlike the 100+ years ago days when Hearst was hiring cartoonists to add the same for his paper. For the enterprising cartoonist, there is an abundant way to make money, to earn a living, and be fortunate enough to do what you love out here. We are the content providers.
I know I have talked with Jim Davis about this very thing, and he told me how, in the early days of Garfield, he took it upon himself to boost Garfield’s readership by pushing the first book heavily himself. He did a massive book tour to various cities to push the book (i.e., Garfield) and it was incredibly successful. Thereafter, Garfield was adding newspapers by one a day or more. This is commercial art at its core, folks, and there’s no shame in pushing the comic, t-shirts, books, toys, or locks of your hair if it gets the word out to share your creation with the world. My webcomics so far have all been for large websites who paid me to create said content, like STARTREK.COM, Roddenberry.com, etc. For me, there really is no “webcomic vs. print comic” mentality. It’s all COMICS. And I get PAID to do them. And there are readers out there. Wonderful and loyal fans. Obviously, the the reason sci-fi comics, genre comics, etc (not to exclude the WONDERFUL “Brewster Rocket” as one fine example) may not be so visable in print newspapers is because syndicates are more interested in the broad demographic appeal, which means you get so many watered-down strips that cater to everyone (especially the syndicate’s needs). Webcartoonists typically start off doing their comic for the sheer NEED and desire to do what it is THEY love, with no thought of “hey, the syndicate editor might like this, cause I haven’t seen this in the papers yet” mentality (which I have been guilty of, naturally).
And Kris and Dave make EXCELLENT points on the financial side of things… it’s absurd to generalize a cartoonist’s success based on a specific number of income generated. A famous cartoonist once told me that the moment I got paid one cent for my cartoons, I was successful. The million-dollar earners in print comics are generally (not all) the creators from way back. And it’s berating to those who do not make those hundreds of thousands at their creations to suggest that their mere number is not successful. How dare someone suggest that. Even Scott Adams worked for about 10 years at his IBM job before Dilbert took off. Jim Davis worked for almost 10 years for Tom Ryan as his assistant before Garfield took off. Charles Schulz freelanced his cartoons to magazines and his local paper before Peanuts took off.
We do whatever we can do because we are ALL passionate about what we love. So get off the high-horse, some of you. We’re all on the same ship. Toss a swimming lesson or a life-preserver out to some of us instead of berating us because we don’t own an expensive raft of our own YET.
Guys, gals, like Scott Kurtz said, we’re all in love with the same lady. Just because one half of her is dressed in old-school cotton with a cool print comics section print on her dress, and the other half of her is laced with shiny borg implants that allow you to check your e-mail doesn’t mean we don’t love her jus’ the same.

#168 Dawn Douglass
March/27/2008
@ 9:26 am

Hey, Everybody.

I’m going to be posting two videos at inkswig.com this afternoon that will explain what we’re up to. So far, I’ve just been laying the groundwork there.

While I greatly appreciate the emails I’m getting, it would be a lot more helpful if you would post your comments and questions straight to the blog, instead of writing to me. There are people watching to see what happens with this, including a venture firm that is getting closer and closer to saying yes. My goal is to get $500,000 soon, to start development of the permanent site, and then a few million more down the road.

I don’t care if you don’t like the model or want to challenge what I’m saying. I’m not looking for made-up enthusiasm…I just want honest feedback. And the more feedback the better.

I have doctors appointments this morning, but I hope to record the videos and have them up around 2pm Pacific time. Thanks.

#169 Eric Millikin
March/27/2008
@ 9:47 am

Hey Kris, yeah, I’m not talking about anything like Brewster Rockit, or the old sci-fi fan FoxTrot kid, or even Diesel Sweeties robots in love. This probably isn’t the type of conversation comments sections are good at but basically, for example:

Back in the early ’80s USA Today was started. They in a lot of ways reinvented the newspaper; they went full color everyday, emphasized visual storytelling with big color illustrations and graphics, etc. One of the the things they couldn’t reinvent was the comics page, because of syndicated comics are exclusive to differnt markets and USA Today wanted to be distributed everywhere. So, no comics in USA Today. When USA Today took off and started selling millions of copies per day, everybody else started following their lead. Of course, following their lead equaled making full-page full-color weather graphics, color advertising, color photography, lots of charts and graphics, and absolutely nothing to do with comics.

Now, if back in the ’80s someone at USA Today had said “Color comics sections on Sundays have always been extremely popular. We should have big, full color comics every day. I know we can’t run those existing exclusive comics, so let’s get the best comics artists and writers to make new comics exclusive to us. We’ll do humor and sci fi and drama. We’ll run them at half and full page sizes, and sell half and full page ads around them.”

If that were the model everyone had started following, we’d be in a much different position right now.

Oddly enough, right now we’re in a position where it’s easier for me to sell full page color illustrations to a newspaper than it would be for me to sell a tiny black and white comic strip. While that’s pretty cool in a lot of ways, I don’t think having tiny black and white comics is the best thing for newspapers.

The position newspapers are in right now is based on a series of decisions (and often horrible ones, as the market has shown) that have been made by artists, syndicates, newspaper editors, corporations, advertisers and readers. But just because things are in the current shape they are in doesn’t mean things had to end up this way, or that they can’t or won’t be changed.

#170 David Reddick
March/27/2008
@ 9:50 am

Good points, Eric, but it appears they won’t be changed. The newspaper business for now, ironically and sadly, does not appear to be a forward thinking business.

#171 Eric Millikin
March/27/2008
@ 9:53 am

David: “A famous cartoonist once told me that the moment I got paid one cent for my cartoons, I was successful.”

OK, by that measure we were probably all successful professional cartoonist in the first grade. Now to just convince our landlords and grocery store owners and car salesman to buy into this …

Seriously, if someone wants to convince me to make some major, risky career move because it’s going to be really “successful” for me, “successful” better mean a hell of a lot more than a penny.

#172 David Reddick
March/27/2008
@ 10:13 am

haha – veeery good point. Obviously, I was just making a point…

#173 Ted Rall
March/27/2008
@ 11:17 am

I don’t think there is a “webcomics vs. print comics” thing. Rich Stevens and I both work in both worlds. So do a lot of cartoonists.

I have learned a TON from this thread. One of the biggies is that I’d better redo my website yesterday.

#174 Eric Millikin
March/27/2008
@ 11:39 am

Yeah, what Ted said. There is no clear line in the sand, binary opposition, whatever. Pretty much everyone’s both on the web and in print.

#175 Abell Smith
March/27/2008
@ 12:01 pm

Ditto Ted

#176 Larry Levine
March/27/2008
@ 1:32 pm

Some very successful cartoonists from other mediums are now creating excellent webcomics, like Chris Sanders’ “Kiskaloo” & John Sanford’s “Chippy & Loopus”.

#177 Dave Kellett
March/27/2008
@ 1:54 pm

Here’s a question that never got answered from the Fleen thread. Can anyone name one cartoonist, syndicated on their first strip after 2001, that doesn’t have to maintain a second job?

That’s seven years of syndication career-building, there, and I can’t think of one.

Please note, I’m not revisiting this question to raise more confrontation. I ask this because we have a role as professional cartoonists to tell younger men and women where the livable wages are.

Is there a even one cartoonist, newly syndicated since 2001, who doesn’t have a second job? Can anyone name one?

#178 Ted Rall
March/27/2008
@ 2:01 pm

Is there a even one cartoonist, newly syndicated since 2001, who doesnâ??t have a second job?

I can think of at least ten without breaking a sweat. I won’t list them online because it would be rude to drag people into a discussion they’re not currently involved in.

#179 Kris Straub
March/27/2008
@ 2:09 pm

Yes, but did they have to move back in with their parents?

With that, we’ve come full circle. Good night everybody!

#180 Alan Gardner
March/27/2008
@ 2:10 pm

I’ll back Ted up. I can think of several as well.

#181 Dave Kellett
March/27/2008
@ 2:13 pm

That’s genuinely heartening to hear! Because, second-strips like Lio aside, the newly-syndicated-since-2001 guys I’ve talked to have found their incomes to be far, far below their expections or needs. It’s good to hear there are still careers to be had in papers!

#182 Dave Kellett
March/27/2008
@ 2:36 pm

Ted, since you’re a gentleman to think of propriety on a public thread, let me rephrase it this way, as it’s far more appropriate:

Let me extend an invite to any and all cartoonists, newly-syndicated-on-their-first-strip-since-2001, to chime in on the conversation. Since they’re succeeding in an extraordinarily down market, theirs’ would be particularly powerful voices for all of us to hear. Myself included: I’m just as worried about the recession as the next cartoonist.

Plus, more voices just add to the overall quality of the conversation! So if you’re making a living off your first strip, syndicated after 2001, come forward and share!

#183 Rick Stromoski
March/27/2008
@ 2:55 pm

I can think of about 10 off the top of my head.

#184 r stevens
March/27/2008
@ 2:58 pm

I can think of more than 10 webcartoonists, but don’t know of any print ones who fit Dave’s description.

#185 Corey Pandolph
March/27/2008
@ 3:06 pm

I’m syndicated with Elderberries. I don’t do anything but cartooning and comedy writing, 18 hours a day. I could survive on the The Elderbrries alone, but I have a taste for ether and absythe, so I chose to draw three other comics to support my habits.

I’ve been in this conversation from near the beginning.

#186 Dave Kellett
March/27/2008
@ 3:26 pm

Here’s why it’s important to me that we establish how viable an income stream syndication remains for *new*, young cartoonists.

I get a lot of younger cartoonists â?? especially since the “How To Make Webcomics” book came out â?? asking me how to I’ve structured my career. When I explain it to them, there’s always a percentage of them that go “Oh, whoa, wait a minute. I don’t wanna handle the *business* side of things. I just wanna draw and have someone pay me to draw.” And to those kids, I always say, “Well, syndication is still a great option for 2-5 new cartoonists a year.”

But is it? In side conversations at San Diego Comic-Con, or at CAPS meetings in LA, or any other cartoonist meetup I attend…the newly syndicated guys always tell me the horror stories of how little they make…5 to 7 years into their syndication contract. But you never hear this in public. No one ever talks about it in public. All you hear is people like Ted, saying that syndication used to provide people with eight-figure incomes. So kids remains starry-eyed about it’s current potential for their careers.

So here I am, with a 16-year old asking me what path to pursue. What do I advise them? The hallway whispers I hear from syndicated guys with second jobs ring like a bell in my heart, when I’m talking to younger kids.

#187 Kris Straub
March/27/2008
@ 3:38 pm

Iâ??m syndicated with Elderberries. I donâ??t do anything but cartooning and comedy writing, 18 hours a day.

Those sound like the “insane hours” previously only associated with webcomics in this thread!

#188 Rick Stromoski
March/27/2008
@ 3:45 pm

I would never steer a 16 year old towards a path in newspaper syndication . The odds are so great against it that the only ones that will do well are those that have a great premise and incredible timing. It’s too crowded as it is.

#189 Corey Pandolph
March/27/2008
@ 3:57 pm

“So here I am, with a 16-year old asking me what path to pursue. What do I advise them? The hallway whispers I hear from syndicated guys with second jobs ring like a bell in my heart, when Iâ??m talking to younger kids.”

I tell them the truth. I tell them that they may want to think about something else, because its certainly not the career choice for everyone. There are no guarantees that even when you make it, you’ll succeed. You have to have thicker skin than most and a great passion to work hard and succeed.

This is part of the entertainment business. VERY few find the ultimate success. How many comedians and actors do you know that are so talented, may have even found a decent gig or moderate success, but still wait tables? Do they give up, even though the mountain seems impossible? Maybe. But some don’t.

You have to know the odds before you go in, so you don’t become disillusioned. There is no holy grail, gold at the end of the rainbow when the syndication boat comes in. Yeah, maybe only 2 or 3 out thousands get in, but isn’t that what drives a lot of us? Isn’t that the cool part? It is for me. The fact that I worked so hard, failed again and again, but still got in.

I love every minute of what I do. I get tired, drunk and depressed, but its still pretty cool… AND I don’t have to leave the house for work.

#190 Wiley Miller
March/27/2008
@ 4:02 pm

The advice I’d give to a young person hoping for a career in cartooning, would be aim toward animation. I think they’d have a better chance of finding a career there than anything else today. And the skills they’d learn would translate to so many other areas they might wish to pursue, especially in web cartoons.

#191 Dawn Douglass
March/27/2008
@ 4:06 pm

Okay, ran into some technical issues, but today’s Swiggle post is up now at http://www.inkswig.com. The second video there is what several people have been asking me about. More details to come tomorrow and next week.

#192 Dave Kellett
March/27/2008
@ 4:25 pm

That was my gut feeling on advice, Rick, to “never steer a 16 year old towards a path in newspaper syndication”. Thank you.

But (…and I recognize this is probably poking a cat to revisit this, but it’s bothering me) I’d like to go back to the idea that we can’t or shouldn’t name these 10 newly-syndicated cartoonists since 2001 who don’t have to maintain a second job. Because I genuinely can’t think of one. And it kind of bothers me that we’re maintaining that myth, espeically after telling that 16-year to avoid syndication like the plague.

Why can’t we be honest, and say it’s been a helluva row to hoe for the last 7 years, too, and just admit that no one’s been able to make syndication their sole income since 2001?

I have no hesitation naming successful Webcomics since 2001, even guys and girls I’ve never met: Control Alt Delete, Least I Could Do, Something Positive, Megatokyo, Goats, Achewood, Girl Genius, Cyanide and Happiness, Dinosaur Comics, etc, etc. I think it’s a testament to cartooning to name them publicly, and give them that accolade of recognizing the fruits of their hard labor.

If these syndicated cartoonists were “failures,” or were struggling financially, I could understand not wanting to call them out publicly. That’s not cool at all. Lord, I wouldn’t want to be named, either!

But shouldn’t we be screaming from the rooftops these 10 cartoonists that have made a go of syndication in a painfully contracting market since 2001…and don’t have to maintain a second freelance or contract job? Especially in a thread about income streams and careers that are worth pursuing?

Are we afraid that Ted might ask them to publicly to state their income, too? I’m genuinely confused.

#193 Scott Kurtz
March/27/2008
@ 4:25 pm

>>I can think of at least ten without breaking a sweat. I wonâ??t list them online because it would be rude to drag people into a discussion theyâ??re not currently involved in.

Why would it be rude to list people as success stories? I’m not buying this.

————

How about we set up what will hopefully be the first of many regular conference calls tomorrow night right before we record Webcomics Weekly. This way I know Dave, Brad, Kris and myself will all be available.

We can do more if you can’t make it. If everyone involved doesn’t care, we can even record it and turn it into a podcast for the people who can’t attend or listen. If anyone feels uncomfortable being recorded, or if we all agree that we’ll be more open if not recorded let’s go that route.

So here are the details:

Title: Cartoonist Meeting
Episode Notes: re: the Daily Cartoonist thread
Start Time (EDT): 03/28/08 07:00 PM EDT
Duration (minutes): 60

How do I join?
A little bit before showtime, you call into talkshoe via your phone. Phone Number: (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 5786

If you’re a computer nerd, sign up at Talkshoe.com and use your mic and headset to talk for free using their built in software.

#194 Alan Gardner
March/27/2008
@ 4:34 pm

Thanks, Scott. I’ve posted this up on the main blog for greater visibility.

#195 Corey Pandolph
March/27/2008
@ 4:45 pm

Man, I have to say… This was my big try to really be involved in the discussions of cartooning and cartoonists.

And I’m really sorry guys, I still don’t like it. I don’t why it makes me uncomfortable, but it does. It just isn’t who I am.

Have fun on the call, everybody. I hope you fix everything so everyone’s rich, online and in newspapers, ruling the world.

I’m out and back to work.

Cheers,

Corey

#196 Scott Kurtz
March/27/2008
@ 4:56 pm

I’m sorry Corey.

Hey, I wanted to say that I’m jealous you got to work with Phil Frank. While visiting San Francisco with my family my Aunt bought me Going Local with Farley and I fell in love with Phil’s work.

#197 David Reddick
March/27/2008
@ 7:04 pm

I’m with Ted, I have learned so much from this one thread alone. Man, I need to hang out with you guys more often. Ultimately, I think the obvious passion everyone has here to talk this out and try and LEARN is such a positive thing. Koombyah!

#198 Rick Stromoski
March/28/2008
@ 5:18 am

>>>Are we afraid that Ted might ask them to publicly to state their income, too?

Dave , you’re being a bit disingenuous making this statement. Nobody on this thread asked you to post your last years earnings in this thread, you did that on your own and were a tad shrill about it. Let it go man.

#199 Ted Rall
March/28/2008
@ 8:00 am

Syndicated cartoonists, having had little success making money online, don’t believe it’s possible that webcartoonists are doing well. Webcartoonists, having had little success making money in print, don’t believe syndicated cartoonists are doing well. Either we’re both right or we’re both wrong. I’m more inclined to believe we’re both wrong–there are success stories in syndication (I can think of a millionaire or two who started since 2001) and there are obviously success stories in print.

What works for you is the right model. These days, all Americans have to draw incomes from disparate revenue sources–a little of this, a little of that. Cartoonists are no different. I draw for syndication, do freelance cartoons and illustrations, write a column for syndication, freelance for magazines, write books, sell originals online, you name it.

I’d like reset my general point, which I’ve contributed to obscuring: There is no chance of any webcartoonist becoming a millionaire. There are newly minted millionaire syndicated cartoonists. There is almost no chance of a webcartoonist earning an upper-middle-class income. There are plenty of syndicated cartoonists doing that. Webcartoonists have a decent shot at subsistence wages–but then, syndicated cartoonists have a better shot at that, too. In other words, we’ve replaced print dollars with digital pennies.

One irony of this discussion is that the big names in syndication probably stand to be the biggest successes online. Name recognition drives a lot of traffic. Conversely, the biggest names in webcomics could, for the most part, have success in print.

I would echo Rick’s statement that he wouldn’t recommend that a 16-year-old kid strive to become a syndicated cartoonist: the odds are long, the rewards unlikely. But I’d broaden it: odds of making it–really making it–as a webcartoonist are probably little better. Cartooning–not just print, but cartooning itself, is in trouble. That needs to be addressed.

#200 Ted Rall
March/28/2008
@ 9:10 am

…there are obviously success stories in print.

I meant: …there are obviously success stories online.

Stupid non-working brain!

#201 Howard Tayler
March/28/2008
@ 9:11 am

Iâ??d like reset my general point, which Iâ??ve contributed to obscuring: There is no chance of any webcartoonist becoming a millionaire.

“No chance?” Really? I think Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, who currently run a million-dollar-per-year charity and a 30,000 attendee annual convention as part of their online comic property Penny Arcade have demonstrated that there’s at least SOME chance.

My online cartooning business grossed $120,000 last year, and we’re on target to grow that number by 50% or more this year. My take-home is still in the five-figure range, but I’m growing the business and fully expect to be taking home six figures in a year or two (depending on how much I reinvest in growing the business, hiring employees to help with merch, etc.)

Saying that there is “no chance” is just flat-out wrong. There’s a really, really GOOD chance that several webcartoonists will be millionaires three years from now. In fact, it’s such a good chance that I’ll argue that it is a statistical certainty. Whether or not I’m one of them, whether there’s a good chance of that for somebody starting out right now? That’s much less certain. But that’s still not the same as “no chance.”

#202 Ted Rall
March/28/2008
@ 9:17 am

A millionaire is someone who has one million dollars. Free and clear. After taxes. Net.

Not someone who runs a million-dollar charity, or grosses a million in sales before factoring in expenses, or sees a million dollars on TV.

There will be webcartoonists who become millionaires, but will there be webcartoonists who become millionaires from being cartoonists (and selling merchandise)? Maybe. But not yet. And not many.

#203 Kris Straub
March/28/2008
@ 9:20 am

Syndicated cartoonists, having had little success making money online, donâ??t believe itâ??s possible that webcartoonists are doing well. Webcartoonists, having had little success making money in print, donâ??t believe syndicated cartoonists are doing well. Either weâ??re both right or weâ??re both wrong. Iâ??m more inclined to believe weâ??re both wrong

Whew, good. I think we’re both wrong too. Now, let’s —

There is no chance of any webcartoonist becoming a millionaire. There are newly minted millionaire syndicated cartoonists. There is almost no chance of a webcartoonist earning an upper-middle-class income. There are plenty of syndicated cartoonists doing that.

… wait, what? How can you say these two things in the same breath? We’re both wrong, except it’s the web that’s really actually wrong?

Dave, youâ??re being a bit disingenuous making this statement. Nobody on this thread asked you to post your last years earnings in this thread, you did that on your own and were a tad shrill about it. Let it go man.

No one was willing to even entertain the possibility that webcartoonists aren’t living in rec centers and hostels on $16,000 a year until Dave posted his figure. Then everybody woke up. He said multiple, multiple times that it was “close to six figures” and yet there was STILL the assumption that that somehow meant no more than $25K. I know the man — it takes a lot to drive Dave to post personal info like that.

To me there’s no reason not to post the strips syndicated in or after 2001 that are making their creators a full-time living. “I know ten people but I won’t say which” thing is a content-free statement. Is there shame in being known as a savvy, successful syndicated cartoonist? Is that a fact to be concealed?

Three people in here said they knew of 10 off the top of their heads. I guess that puts it between 10 and 30.

Same as the web. And the names of their strips appear in this thread!

We can say “I know 12 syndicated cartoonists since mid-2006 who now own gold yachts” and “I know 17 webcartoonists since 2001 whose kids are going to Harvard twice,” but if there’s nothing to back it up, why even mention it?

I don’t understand why there is this insistence that no one will ever make good money on the web when it is currently being done, now, today, right now, with equal success/frequency as cartoonists who were syndicated in the same timeframe.

#204 Dave Kellett
March/28/2008
@ 10:11 am

For what it’s worth, I’m finally ready to step away from the discussion. I thank you all for this. It was good to air some of the misperceptions, miscommunications, and flat-out myths as to the current state of income generation in cartooning.

Because the truth is, Rich Burlew (a cartoonist I’ve never met) said it far better than I could when he wrote “Those of us making these arguments in favor of free content donâ??t NEED to convince you of anything, because our business will chug along whether you agree or not. Weâ??re doing so out of a belief that as fellow cartoonists, we have an obligation to show you how to make a career on the web before its too late for you to join the party. If you donâ??t want to listen, well, as Rich Stevens said, less competition for us.”

I’m not out to convince Ted or Rick or anyone with an established career to change just for the sake of change…that would be counter-productive at this point in their careers. Print will last long enough for them to retire on a similar income to the one they’re making now.

But I am out to convince younger cartoonists to ignore Wiley and Ted (and Rick, I’m sorry to include, at the beginning of this post), who, prior to me actually listing my income, refused to believe that any money could be made from the free content model, and were very quick to insist that we’re all sleeping in our mom’s rec room (see the top of this thread for a refresher on their mindframe).

So it’s good for younger cartoonists that this thread exists. They’ll read through, see who was polite in their responses and forthcoming in their information, and judge accordingly the best career path for them.

That’s good enough for me. Best of luck to all, and I thank you for the chat!

#205 Lefitte
March/28/2008
@ 10:14 am

Thanks, Dave. I learned a lot.

#206 Matt Bors
March/28/2008
@ 10:30 am

I could care less about becoming a millionaire. I’d settle for being able to work less than 70 hours a week to make the same amount an entry level fry cook at Red Lobster makes. Print pays, but the future is grim. The future is bright for the web, but it’s not the greatest cash making plan for cartoonists. Maybe I’ll buy Dave’s book.

This conversation has been great. I’ll try to be on that call.

#207 Wiley Miller
March/28/2008
@ 10:33 am

“But I am out to convince younger cartoonists to ignore Wiley and Ted (and Rick, Iâ??m sorry to include, at the beginning of this post), who, prior to me actually listing my income, refused to believe that any money could be made from the free content model, ”

Why did I get lumped in there? All I ever said, at the very beginning of this ridiculously long thread, was that no one refuted Ted’s contention. I have said many times that, as a professional cartoonist, why would I be against a new market opening up? I’m still not convinced that your model of giving away the work is a viable one for the typical cartoonist trying to break in.

I think one’s time would be better spent going out and actually doing it and showing that it works rather than wasting time here trying to convince others that it can work. What do you care if anyone believes it or not? The best way to do things is to go out and do then say what has been done.

Go out, make your fortune doing comics on the web and laugh all the way to the bank.

#208 Scott Kurtz
March/28/2008
@ 11:05 am

I have a lot to learn from all of you guys. And I want that knowledge. I want it and I’m going to take it and use it to improve my life if I have to drag it out of you kicking and screaming.

I’m willing, nay PASSIONATE, about sharing with you everything I’ve learned in this short little existence making a living as a cartoonist. I’m going to keep trying to share this knowledge with you even if it’s metaphorically like running into a brick wall continually.

I’m not married or loyal to any business model. I’m loyal to what makes me the most living with the least amount of work and allows me to maintain my creative convictions. PERIOD. If that’s in papers….I want to be in papers. If that’s online I’m gonna have a website. If that means cartoons move to tatoos and body modification, I’m going to buy some needles and ink (that’s really gross so lets hope it never comes to that).

For the first time ever, after reading this thread, I saw how my business model could be a threat to YOUR buisness model.

Some of you sell your SERVICES as a cartoonist/illustrator/spot illustrators to whoever would be interested in such things.

If one of these “buyers”….say Wired Magazine, wanted a tech-cartoon to go along with an article, they would have to pay the going rate for it. But maybe the editor of said article read a funny PvP or Starslip Crisis and thought it appropriate for the article as well. He would call me or Kris and ask if they could reprint it and we would say HELL YES. Why not? It’s great exposure. We’ll charge them NOTHING if they just include our URL. This totally EFFs Rick and Randy who normally would have made a payment for that.

Now…would Robert Khoo let Wired take a Penny-Arcade cartoon for free? I can tell you right now f*** no. In fact, he would probably get them to let Mike and Jerry do a whole insert for 60k.

So what’s to learn from this? Maybe we shouldn’t ALWAYS give or cartoons away. Maybe there’s a balance. Maybe if we all offered a solid front we could suddenly open a new business model for ourselves.

So look. All I’m saying is this: I want you guys to open your eyes and minds a bit about what WE do. And all I can offer you in return…my only CURRENCY is to promise that I’ll do my best to open my eyes and minds about what YOU do.

That way, maybe we can all learn how to squeeze more blood out of this rock.

#209 Matt Bors
March/28/2008
@ 11:44 am

“Why not? Itâ??s great exposure. Weâ??ll charge them NOTHING if they just include our URL.”

In the end it would hurt everyone including you. Wired magazine (to use your example) can and should pay for content just as any commercial enterprise should. I get the merchandise thing on your own website but not why you’d be willing to give them content for free. I think that’s why a lot of us are confused (and feel underminded a bit). Imagine if freelance writers operated this way.

And besides, webcartoonists should know, it’s acceptable to print publications to both pay AND include your url. Most comics carry them somewhere as we all have websites. Commercial clients should be charged market rates for illos and comics…I hope we can all see how this benefits everyone.

#210 Steve Horton
March/28/2008
@ 12:16 pm

Test

#211 scartoonist
March/28/2008
@ 12:23 pm

I see distortion going on regarding the economics of web comics.

I think that since high revenue web comics are disproportionately about gaming themes, they have to be regarded as a distinct phenomenon.

A hard numbers analysis of revenue models and experiences at comics based on more traditional themes would be invaluable.

An example would be Girl Genius. Questionable Content and Scary-Go-Round also come to mind.

We would also benefit from comparing the experiences of comics that make short, frequent updates and those that make less frequent, more lavish updates, like Girl Genius.

Some of you are in a position to obtain and present this sort of data. I am not.

Who am I? http://scratchinpost.synthasite.com/

#212 scartoonist
March/28/2008
@ 12:24 pm

scartoonist = Ben Gordon

#213 Steve Horton
March/28/2008
@ 12:26 pm

Coming in late to this discussion.

Interestingly, print comic book creators have also been wary of the Web as a viable avenue for their creations.

Phil and Kaja Foglio created a mildly successful comic book called Girl Genius. In 2005, they brought it to the Web. They’re now extraordinarily successful, both in popularity and monetarily. Girl Genius remains in print, but the web model supports print reprint collections.

Sites like ComicMix are now paying creators a page rate to create comics directly for the Web, with no loss of creator’s rights.

Chris Crosby isn’t the only creator finding success on the Web. My Wowio-based publishing company has earned in the five figures, the large majority of which has gone back to creators, since last April. I plan to hit six figures by the end of 2008. Crosby’s success with web advertising networks is motivating me to get my ComicPress-based site finished and explore that opportunity.

I also wrote a how-to book on webcomics, with artist Sam Romero, called [url=http://www.amazon.com/Webcomics-2-0-Insiders-Writing-Promoting/dp/1598634623/]WEBCOMICS 2.0.[/url] It takes a different angle than the Halfpixel book, coming at it from more of a comic book perspective. (I do disagree that the short attention span and viral nature of the web precludes long-form comics on the Web. Certainly Order of the Stick, with its full pages and ongoing storylines, is one counterexample. As well as the aforementioned Girl Genius.) I hope readers check out both books and get something useful out of them.

Myself and Sam will have a table at Emerald City Con, as well as the Halfpixel crew. I predict a terrific meeting of the minds, if we can get a panel or two together.

#214 Steve Horton
March/28/2008
@ 12:27 pm

Coming in late to this discussion.

Interestingly, print comic book creators have also been wary of the Web as a viable avenue for their creations.

Phil and Kaja Foglio created a mildly successful comic book called Girl Genius. In 2005, they brought it to the Web. They’re now extraordinarily successful, both in popularity and monetarily. Girl Genius remains in print, but the web model supports print reprint collections.

Sites like ComicMix are now paying creators a page rate to create comics directly for the Web, with no loss of creator’s rights.

Chris Crosby isn’t the only creator finding success on the Web. My Wowio-based publishing company has earned in the five figures, the large majority of which has gone back to creators, since last April. I plan to hit six figures by the end of 2008. Crosby’s success with web advertising networks is motivating me to get my ComicPress-based site finished and explore that opportunity.

I also wrote a how-to book on webcomics, with artist Sam Romero, called WEBCOMICS 2.0 (http://www.amazon.com/Webcomics-2-0-Insiders-Writing-Promoting/dp/1598634623/) It takes a different angle than the Halfpixel book, coming at it from more of a comic book perspective. (I do disagree that the short attention span and viral nature of the web precludes long-form comics on the Web. Certainly Order of the Stick, with its full pages and ongoing storylines, is one counterexample. As well as the aforementioned Girl Genius.) I hope readers check out both books and get something useful out of them.

Myself and Sam will have a table at Emerald City Con, as well as the Halfpixel crew. I predict a terrific meeting of the minds, if we can get a panel or two together.

#215 Steve Horton
March/28/2008
@ 12:32 pm

I would disagree that high-revenue comics are just about gaming themes.

Questionable Content and Something Positive are slice-of-life comedy dramas.
PvP is a pop culture humor strip – it’s not really about gaming as such. :)
Megatokyo is a romance manga.
Achewood, Perry Bible Fellowship and Dinosaur Comics are humor strips that defy description or categorization. Again, not about gaming whatsotever.

#216 Ted Rall
March/28/2008
@ 1:15 pm

All Iâ??m saying is this: I want you guys to open your eyes and minds a bit about what WE do. And all I can offer you in returnâ?¦my only CURRENCY is to promise that Iâ??ll do my best to open my eyes and minds about what YOU do.

Scott, I hope we cross paths in the offline world sooner rather than later. I feel exactly the same way. (I’ll be at NY Comicon, MoCCA and San Diego Comicon, BTW.)

I think the web guys and the dead tree guys are suspicious of each other, largely because we don’t know much about each other. It took me the better part of a year to research “Attitude 3,” my book of interviews of webcartoonists, yet I barely scratched the surface. It’s apparent from this thread that there’s ignorance on both sides.

This is an isolating business; we really would all benefit from talking to one another about what we’ve learned.

#217 Scott Lincoln
March/28/2008
@ 3:27 pm

I think it’s really ironic that there are people discussing how science fiction and adventure strips could never again penetrate the newspaper market.

This thread is actually about the very development editor who has actually had the courage to take that very risk and develop a strip for United Features which is both very sci-fi and an adventure strip by nature. Ted Rall.

That’s right! I know this because the comic strip in question is mine. I have been working with Ted for just over a year on my comic, “Ralf the Destroyer”. I knew that if anyone could look past the typical corporate mantra of what can’t be done, it would be Ted Rall.

I’ve talked with Ted and I think what’s being expressed is that the time we are in is a time of transition. But just because things are changing doesn’t mean we should lose hope. Ted has expressed hope to me by believing that it is possible to bridge the gap, with a different way of thinking for the printed newspaper AND web.

I hope my comic “Ralf the Destroyer” can be a part of that change in newspapers AND on the web.

If you’re interested in seeing what Ted and I have been developing, stop by my new website at: http://www.ralfthedestroyer.com

Thanks

#218 Scott
March/28/2008
@ 4:20 pm

Ted,

I don’t know if you remember but we met once. I think it was Gencon or something. You met up to have drinks with John Kovalic. You guys spent the night drinking margaritas and discussing music.

I would say that was around…shit..2002? 2003?

I’ll be at Emerald City Comicon and San Diego Comicon.

#219 Ben Gordon
March/28/2008
@ 4:54 pm

Steve Horton probably rushed through my post and missed my working. I do that myself at times.

I suggest anyone interested in my comment about high revenue comics being disproportionately about gaming scroll up a bit and review what I said.

I’m sure many of you could say something about this point and I would like to hear it.

I concede it is hard to know where to draw the line when linking comics to the world of gaming. Thus, my choices should be regarded with some looseness.

Steve’s background on Girl Genius is appreciated.

#220 Mike Peterson
March/28/2008
@ 5:34 pm

A couple of points:

First, the idea that network TV was distributed “free” is a bit naive. It was distributed with commercial interruptions, and the Net has pretty much determined that users won’t accept that model — they block pop-ups and resent those “but first, watch this … ” screens, hitting the “skip” button to move on.

Commercial TV (and radio) was based on sponsorship, and you had to convince some network to take your idea to a sponsor and get the money to develop and air it. That’s essentially the same model as syndication, and it’s invalid to hold up “free” TV as a parallel model to the web.

In fact, broadcasting began much as the Internet — radio was a medium accessed only by nerds, and then it became more accessible, and then the question was, how to pay for it. Here’s an important moment in the discussion:
http://nellieblogs.blogspot.com/search?q=sarnoff

What I see in web comics is the removal of that middleman who approves your idea and agrees to pay you and to help market it. I also see the removal of the limited distribution model, in which a comic strip for gay, left-handed gardeners can’t possibly succeed because the distribution model can’t really reach niche markets.

On the Internet, you have the chance to assemble all those gay, left-handed gardners and, at that point, it’s up to you to amuse them and coax the money from their pockets.

Whether artists ought to be forced to market their own work is the real question at this point. Van Gogh wasn’t terribly good at it. Peter Max was. Find a spot in the middle and you’ve solved the problem.

#221 Anne Hambrock
March/28/2008
@ 6:34 pm

The TV comparison is valid in that, except for buying a set and paying for electricity, a consumer who chooses to watch only network TV is getting their programming for free. THEY are not paying for the ads with anything other than their time, the sponsors are the ones paying. Especially when one can fast forward through ads any time they wish to. This is one reason VCR’s caused such a stink when they came out. There were both copyright issues (fear of unbridled bootleging of movies and programming) and issues over what would happen to sponsorship if people stopped watching the ads. When a web cartoonist agrees to put ads all over their website in lieu of charging for content the model is exactly the same. The reader has a choice to read the ads or ignore them completely. Very few of the sites I visit have pop-ups anymore – the successful web advertising is in sidebars like in a magazine or – dare I say it – a newspaper. My eyes slide right past all ads in the newspaper and on the web as well but maybe that’s just me.

What TV figured out 25-30 years ago is that people will pay for a subscription TV service if it offers a few things: exclusive content (ask HBO and ESPN about that one – especially the boxing matches and NFL network brou-ha-ha), uncut movies – both uninterrupted by commercials and also unedited, a reliable clear signal just to name a few. There are now satellite radio services offering subscription service packages. The key is that the consumer can get the content they want wherever they are without relying on tower signal strength. The latest big draw to pay TV is “on demand” programming.

I’m not saying subscription services on the web are ever going to replace the current model completely, many papers and magazines have had to abandon their attempts at subscriptions because it doesn’t work well for them – first of all they don’t have enough exclusive content, especially all the AP wire stuff. But there is room on the web for any subscription service that offers a high level of exclusive content and convenience. I really enjoy my dailyink subscription – it allows me to read all kinds of comics conveniently packaged for me and delivered daily and I don’t have to take a lot of time to visit a lot of different sites to find what I want. If the other syndicates offered the same service for their strips, I would subscribe. I don’t currently because I believe in the artists being paid for their work
and don’t view strips online for free. Again, that’s just me. Maybe eventually someone will come up with a comics subscription service incorporating the “on demand” model but encompassing all comics regardless of syndicate affiliation – true “one stop shopping”. I love other people to do the legwork for me – especially when it comes to the time siphon that is surfing the web – so if there where a place I could truly get ANY comic I want, any time I want regardless of whether its a web comic or a print comic, I would happily pay for it.

#222 Mike Peterson
March/29/2008
@ 6:20 am

In addition to dailyink, there is mycomicspage.com (UPS) and comics.com (United Media). All cost about the same, so for about $50 a year, you get a very large number of comic strips delivered to your digital doorstep daily.

As for the TV comparison, the idea that people got TV free until cable offered an alternative remains problematic — the work arounds for cheating the networks out of their revenue source (VCRs, Tivo, etc.) came about the same time Ted Turner turned cable from a way to deal with mountainous terrain into a separate entity with added value. So TV was not free until a good 30 years in, which is what this old gaffer was talking about. (I worked in local TV when cable penetration was at 30 percent and VCRs were not even that dominant, but we knew the storm was coming. In fact, one of our engineers quit to go work at WTBS because he wanted in on the revolution.)

If you skipped over it before, you might want to go back and click on the link I supplied to a 1920’s discussion of how truly free radio was to be monetized. It has some parallels to the present that are relevant.

#223 Ben Gordon
March/29/2008
@ 5:38 pm

I’ll give this another shot, since my last attempt was trampled by a reckless participant.

My assertion: Lucrative web comics are disproportionately about gaming.

My comment: If we remove gaming and pop culture comics, how is the economic performance of the more traditional leading titles that remain?

I have read this string, read Allen’s book, searched the web, but there is very little data.

We cannot talk authoritatively about the economic performance of web comics until this data gap is addressed.

Come on, experts: address it. :)

Ben

#224 C. A. Bridges
March/29/2008
@ 8:06 pm

I don’t know that that your first assertion is borne out. Let’s see:

Gaming-based strips: Penny Arcade, Order of the Stick, Ctrl-Alt-Del, 8-Bit Theater. Then there are strips like PvPOnline and Megatokyo with heavy gaming themes or situations that have grown into richer, deeper situations. Still, for our purposes we’ll put them in the gaming file.

Off the top of my head, that leaves Questionable Content, xkcd, GirlGenius, Something Positive, Achewood, Sheldon, Schlock Mercenary, Cyanide and Happiness, Sinfest, Diesel Sweeties, The Perry Bible Fellowship, American Elf, Fetus-X, Sluggy Freelance… and I’m sure folks here can easily fill in more. Few of those use more pop culture references than, say, Doonesbury or Zits.

I would not say that the top webcomics are weighted towards gaming. I do think that the top webcomics tend to be idiosyncratic and not necessaily family-friendly.

#225 C. A. Bridges
March/29/2008
@ 8:28 pm

A list to start with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_self_sufficient_webcomics

#226 Ben Gordon
March/29/2008
@ 10:15 pm

Well done. That is a excellent start toward filling the knowledge void for me.

Ben

#227 Scott Lincoln
March/30/2008
@ 7:23 am

I agree with Mr. Bridges that many top web comics are not necessarily “Family friendly”. I think that is the primary reason we haven’t seen more successful cross overs from web to print. Newspaper readers want “friendly” and web readers want “edgy”. While “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”, I’d like to think it is possible to create something that is legitimate and entertaining for both audiences. That’s what I’ve been hoping to do with my work anyways.

#228 Garey Mckee
March/30/2008
@ 12:46 pm

“I agree with Mr. Bridges that many top web comics are not necessarily â??Family friendlyâ?. I think that is the primary reason we havenâ??t seen more successful cross overs from web to print.”

I would agree with that as well. I’ve stayed silent through this topic thread because it’s over all point and skewed directions seems ambiguous at best. But what I can add is my belief that web comics are great for smaller more specialized audiences. Like technology and, in my case, law enforcement. Subjects whose punchlines and topics may not be known to those who aren’t familiar with those fields. These may then in turn be able to be further developed into something more mainstream if the author so desires. The web, for me, is a great development tool, but I really don’t have much desire to attempt to make much money from it. For the time being, I can make money from cartooning and illustration alot easier off the web.

#229 seann
March/30/2008
@ 3:00 pm

Id like to ask some questions before I really contribute:

Are the printbased artists in the house referring to the editors’ the audiences’ or another base of income, like non-repeating-non-newspaper cartoon buyers’ estimation of the value of a cartoon’s single worth dropping? or all three?

Obviously, few of us aspire to be rich stevens’ level of working hours.
what is a ‘sucessful’ weekly time spent on cartooning to weekly salary coming from cartooning, versus merchandising, versus advertising sales?

#230 Winston Rowntree
March/30/2008
@ 7:01 pm

You know why I do a webcomic instead of looking at syndication? Because of CONTENT! You can argue about what’s a better way to earn money until the cows come home, but if you’re like me and you want to be able to say whatever you want, whenever you want, with as many panels as you want, then you can forget about print comics. You can FORGET about them. To those of us who care about art and communication rather than becoming a millionaire, this isn’t even a contest. To us, print is already dead. On the web, there is no editor. That’s why I do it. I don’t wanna be a friggin’ millionaire–I wanna make comics. That’s my perspective. There are many kinds of cartoonist.

#231 Hal Manning
March/31/2008
@ 2:11 am

The vast majority of print cartoonists are NOT millionaires, not even close.

And to say that print creators don’t care about their art and/or communicating with readers is utter rubbish.

My guess is that web cartoonists who make such statements are most likely creators who failed to gain entry into the world of print.

It’s self-preservation. The ego rejects what it can’t have.

Sour grapes.

#232 Wiley Miller
March/31/2008
@ 8:39 am

“You know why I do a webcomic instead of looking at syndication?”

You say that as though you had a choice between the two, and chose to work for free rather have a career as a professional cartoonist. Somehow, that doesn’t ring true. Or rational.

#233 C. A. Bridges
March/31/2008
@ 9:27 am

Well, he did. His choice was between a webcomic and “looking at syndication,” not actually being syndicated. If he never intended to attempt syndication, it was a choice.

However, I’m not quite sure where mocking print cartoonists for not seeing the glorious future of web comics or mocking web cartoonists for not being good enough to be in print helps anybody. Suggesting that print cartoonists as a group have no artistic integrity or that web cartoonists don’t want to make money is ridiculous, almost as much as saying that web cartoonists as a group aren’t good enough for the big leagues.

Aren’t we all better off trading success stories and coming up with ways to raise all the boats?

#234 Wiley Miller
March/31/2008
@ 10:27 am

“Well, he did. His choice was between a webcomic and â??looking at syndication,â? not actually being syndicated. If he never intended to attempt syndication, it was a choice.”

No, the statement presupposes that he could have had a career in syndication if he wanted to, but chose to do a web comic for free. I find that rather difficult to believe. But I completely agree with your sentiment about trading success stories. That’s pretty much my point. Every professional started out as amateurs, hoping their work would some day gain recognition. Learning from those who made into the profession is how one gets on the road to success. I see little willingness on the part of web cartoonists to take advantage of that resource.

#235 Dawn Douglass
March/31/2008
@ 11:15 am

“You say that as though you had a choice between the two, and chose to work for free rather have a career as a professional cartoonist. Somehow, that doesnâ??t ring true. Or rational.”

Wiley, I don’t think that’s fair. I’ve come close to syndication, including having a development contract with Universal Press in 2000. After they booted me in favor of James (which I don’t blame them for, obviously), I decided to stop trying. I do believe I could get syndicated, but it’s not worth it. Even if I didn’t need to share half with an artist (since I just write and don’t draw), the typical money in syndication and the future of syndication is such that it isn’t attractive to me, esp. vis-a-vis being tied to a long contract that demands so much while offering so little.

I had a web cartoon for a year and would have kept it going if not for my husband becoming ill, and now I have another one. And yes, for free. I enjoy doing them. If that doesn’t “ring true” to you or isn’t “rational” to you, then I can only conclude that even as an artist, you don’t understand artisitic motivation.

#236 Winston Rowntree
March/31/2008
@ 11:23 am

“Suggesting that print cartoonists as a group have no artistic integrity or that web cartoonists donâ??t want to make money is ridiculous”

Whoa–that is NOT what I was implying, even if it sounded that way via my sweeping generalizations. I was saying that, logically, a medium without content restrictions is better able to facilitate communication. And I was NOT saying that webcartoonists don’t want to make money–I was saying that I, personally, prefer to sacrifice money rather than artistic freedom. If, in the long term, I even am sacrificing money.

“My guess is that web cartoonists who make such statements are most likely creators who failed to gain entry into the world of print.”

You’re right! I did fail to gain entry into the world of print. I gave up, at any rate. And I’m glad I did. The strips I did as syndicate submissions are crap when compared with my other stuff. I can’t work well within content restrictions, and, crucially, panel restrictions, so I’m glad I failed. The ego rejects what it doesn’t want. Can others work brilliantly within those restrictions? Well, my two favorite cartoonists (Bill Watterson and Ruben Bolling) are both print guys, so I guess so! But even Watterson had to fight to get more space for his Sunday comics, and he was dropped from a couple of papers as a result. Even a couple is too many.

“Iâ??m not quite sure where mocking print cartoonists for not seeing the glorious future of web comics or mocking web cartoonists for not being good enough to be in print helps anybody”

I’m not mocking you, I’m mocking the editors that tell you you can’t use the word “sh*t” and you can’t do a full-page color comic on a whim and you can’t do this and you can’t do that. Or, as written in Wikipedia, “Stephan Pastis has stated that the “unwritten” censorship code is “stuck somewhere in the 1950s.”” I’m gonna mock THAT until I’m blue in the face. Print cartoonists deserve much, much better.

#237 Steve Horton
March/31/2008
@ 11:39 am

Hi Ben,

Apologies for misreading your original point – I should have rephrased my response as “I would disagree that a disproportionate number of high-revenue comics are just about gaming themes.”

#238 C. A. Bridges
March/31/2008
@ 1:35 pm

Winston – thanks for clarifying.

Both print AND web cartoonists need to learn from each other on both improving the work and making money at it, and I just wanted to avoid any antagonism that would distract from that.

#239 Tom Dell'Aringa
March/31/2008
@ 4:05 pm

For a beginning cartoonist such as myself, this is a mind-blowing comment thread. There is tons of great discussion here. I haven’t been able to read every comment, but I certainly will.

It’s a daunting task launching a new strip online and marketing yourself – I agree it takes a certain amount of marketing knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit. I’m lucky that I’ve been in the web development world for 12 years. This allowed me to quickly launch a fairly sophisticated web site – for me that was the easy part.

Like any cartoonist, the rub is getting fans. Like I said – daunting. Then the key is how you monetize your fans, and I guess that is what we are really talking about. Ted is right about one thing – online fans are cheapskates.

You have to attract that core fan who is passionate enough about your strip to purchase (item x) – and not just once, probably more than once. I do believe the success of a strip involves getting to channels outside of other comic people.

Anyway, I’ll shutup now, like I said I’m brand new here, but this is really valuable and I appreciate it. I’m going to listen tot he TalkShoe call next, looking forward to it.

One thing I will say – regardless of whether I can make a living at this, I really enjoy it. To be able to have this creative outlet is a reward unto itself. Sure that doesn’t pay the bills, I need a “real” job for that now. But it does have a certain amount of value for me.

Tom

#240 Malc McGookin
March/31/2008
@ 8:58 pm

http://www.quotedb.com/quotes/268

#241 Gabriel
April/1/2008
@ 5:00 pm

99% of syndicated comics could never succeed as web comics because they are boring as dirt. No one would read Hagar if they had to type in a URL to see it.

#242 dan reynolds
April/1/2008
@ 7:40 pm

Gabriel
That’s not true. What is true is there ARE a number of syndicated cartoonists that I think or you think that are boring. There’s people that like cartoons I think are not only about dogs but are actually written by dogs. But there are some excellent cartoonists in syndication (not as many as I think there should be) As a professional cartoonist myself, I also think my cartoon work has been overlooked for years by the syndicates (see http://www.reynoldsunwrapped.com for a peek), but I’m sure there’s people that think it’s written by flying monkeys. The poing is that it’s largely a matter of preference. Still, all that said, I tend to feel I’m right about my work and the syndicates have totally missed the boat. I have objective proof – I earn a good living at what I do and millions of people actually buy MY work in greeting cards as opposed to buying a newspaper in which there are various cartoons present. I think there is no better objective proof of peoples’ preference than when an individual slaps money down on the barrel head for a particular person’s cartoon work.
I think if there was a way for a “great vote” from all the cartoon reading public – a comic census of sorts – to jusge ALL the syndicated and non-syndicated cartoon in the country, there would be a great awakening in cartoondom.

#243 Malc McGookin
April/1/2008
@ 8:45 pm

There are a great many syndicated comics which are “boring as dirt”, but weigh them against a similar proportion of webcomics which are plain garbage.

Neither genre occupies the high ground when it comes to throwing accusations.

#244 John Cole
April/1/2008
@ 8:55 pm

Gabe (if I might be so casual):

Once more I’ll cite Too Much Coffee Man’s deathless observation: “95 percent of everything is crap. Except crap. 100 percent of crap is crap.”

And that goes for webcomics, too.

(I gotta lay off that quote. Shannon Wheeler’s going to start charging for royalties).

#245 Gabriel
April/1/2008
@ 9:43 pm

I agree that most web comics are crap as well. I just think it’s silly to try and convince some of the print guys that the web is where it’s at when the web would not work for most of them. Just like syndication would not work for most web comics PA included.

#246 Dan Reynolds
April/1/2008
@ 10:04 pm

What cartoons DO you guys like???

#247 Matt Bors
April/1/2008
@ 10:53 pm

Jack Chick tracts

#248 Tom Dell'Aringa
April/2/2008
@ 3:21 pm

There’s enough people who like Hagar to keep it in syndication. I hate to see this turn into a mud-slinging contest. It’s a real challenge to put together and product a good cartoon, no matter where you publish it. If anything, the one thing the web does is allow me to practice my craft and show it to an audience – even if that audience is small (very).

At some point, I’ll have enough strips to pitch the syndicates and go around to some Cons and promote myself. Add that to some very innovative ways to promote a web comic and you never know what can happen. But you do have to be something of an entrepreneur, I think that much is obvious.

#249 Dan Reynolds
April/2/2008
@ 4:56 pm

Personally, I think it’s all about getting yourself into a niche, whether it’s syndication, cards, magazines, whatever. If you can make a living at what you do, then you’re a success. Success, I think, should be measured also by your feeling that your getting paid for having fun. Maybe you’re digging a ditch and you love it. Bingo, you’re a success! You see, you can be in the “hole” and still be a success.
I think the only reason we’re having a discussion here about syndication in newspapers is because people remember the “glory” days of the newspaper…the Far Side/C and H days of yore. The fact that one or two cartoons in every syndicate earn the motherload of financial suuport for each syndicate should remind people that even if you become syndicate, you’ll STILL be most likely working for peanuts, and that’s even if you make it past the 5 year mark which most of them don’t) STILL, if you can make a living at it, why not? I guess it’s a good thing that there are so many opportunities for the cartooninst EVEN IN THE MIDST of the slow newspaper syndication extinction.
My thoughts on the whole web cartoon situation is that the web did two things…it brought more good cartoonists out in the open by way of creating a new door to the public eye and, at the same time, it opened another window to the dump heap of wanna-bes who, God bless them, love to cartoon, will never be more than never-will-be. I can even see the good in that…these folks get to play guitar hero of the cartoon world… They’re not REAL cartoonists. They just play them on the web. Let them have fun with it. Hey, you never know…don’t forget someone made a bazillion bucks with the pet rock. If you can see a piece of granite, you can sell anything. Don’t take anything for “granite”.
check out my schitck at http://www.reynoldsunwrapped.com Don’t look for it in the newspaper. It is obviously not newspaper-worthy. As my work is seen by many millions by way of greeting cards and Reader’s Digest (in which I’m the most published cartoonist in the magazine’s history), I’m guessing the syndicates don’t know everything. Oh, and I’ve never won ONE cartoon award or honor. I just try to be funny and have fun at what I do. That’s the secret formula.

#250 Dan Reynolds
April/2/2008
@ 5:46 pm

REYNOLDS UNWRAPPED by Dan Reynolds gets new syndication deal – 1300 papers worldwide!

The wacky, off-the-wall cartoon, REYNOLDS UNWRAPPED was chosen by the brand new syndicate, MAMMOTH Syndicate, in what is being touted as the syndicate’s first mammoth deal.

Reynolds said of the deal, “Who, me?” Mammoth Syndicate cartoon editor, Les Morely, said of Reynolds, “His ability to erase pencil lines prior to inking his work is only surpassed by his consistency in coloring inside the lines.” Reynolds will be taking his first sabbatical immediately upon the start of his new syndication feature’s release. “I find my creative ability is enhanced
dramatically when I’m not actually working”, said Reynolds as he spoke to to reporters from underneath the covers of his modest quarter-acre estate in the suburbs outside Syracuse, NY.
“I’d like to thank all the small people who I was able to step all over on my ascent to the big time. If not for them, well, who knows who I would have had to step on”, Rreynolds said as he finally got up to releive himself.

REYNOLDS UNWRAPPED http://www.reynoldsunwrapped.com can be seen in newspapers draped in bird cages and blowing down empty alley ways in locations near you.

Oh, wait…April Fools was yesterday. Shoot.

#251 Pab Sungenis
April/2/2008
@ 8:00 pm

Tom: there are some strips (I include “Hagar” and “Beetle Bailey” among them) that are funny, yet are not compelling enough (or necessarily funny enough) to make someone seek them out. On a page with 15 other features, they fulfill their role, but if they had to stand alone, and be sought out on their own, I’m not sure they would have enough of a draw to survive.

People don’t “just happen to read” XCKD, or PvP, or other webtoons; they have to seek them out. Even those strips like mine (or Bleeker, or Mythtickle, or BoaSaS) that have “deals” with services don’t just appear on a sheet with everything else; they have to be actively selected.

We wouldn’t survive on a printed page, but if Hagar and Beetle Bailey were held to the same standards we are in selection practices, then they wouldn’t survive in our domain, either. I’d dare say they are two separate audiences, if not two separate worlds.

And that’s not a qualitative judgment, either. One sphere is not better than the other, they’re just different.

#252 Tom Dell'Aringa
April/2/2008
@ 9:17 pm

I can tell you one thing unique about XCKD and it’s success: it’s gets tossed around the web development community on a *daily* basis. (I’m part of that community). Fans are constantly posting the strip to various social networks to the point of redundancy – and to the point where people in those networks actually complain “can we stop posting every single XCKD comic please!”

The point goes back to those people who become true fans and your best advocates, and its purely on online phenomenon. I see XCKD strips every day practically by accident, and I’m not much of a fan to be honest. But so many people pimp his strips, it gets all over the place.

This works for him because his strips speak to that community and identify with a lot of which he writes. Anyway, if you can tap into your audience in a similar way, that’s golden.

#253 Rick Stromoski
April/2/2008
@ 9:18 pm

Gee Dan…returning to form?

#254 dan reynolds
April/3/2008
@ 12:09 am

I don’t get it. I try to do something humorous (you know like I’m a cartoonist and I do funny for a living) and Alan sends me an email saying I’m spamming him and asking me if I want to buy ad space for to advertise my spot. Rick posts me about returning to form.
Come one. I thought cartoonists were supposed to have a sense of humor. My post was an over the top attempt to be funny. This IS a cartoonist site, right?
What the heck is wrong? Seriously. Lighten up guys! I have no malicious intent here. Really.

#255 Maritza Campos
April/28/2008
@ 2:44 pm

I’m not really interested in the “who’s a real cartoonist” and “what does making a living mean?” thing. It would be an endless debate over a subjective question.

I have never got the “if you’re giving someone for free it hurts everybody else”. I mean, sure you can pick up a couch from a garbage container, but other than absolutely broke people, no one does.

Same argument for Cable vs free TV. Free TV is not crippling Cable. Radio doesn’t break the record.

The free vs paid debate assumes that all content is pretty much interchangeable, and they would prefer free Crumb over paid Sparky. It is not, and it’s frankly appaling that you guys think it is.

I don’t know if the future of the world is free, but I do think the future of the world is online. User-generated content, personalized, customized, instant.

By the way, I have never been a t-shirt seller. I have almost 10 years with my strip and from I have seen, every online cartoonist has to find a solution that works for him and his audience. Selling shirts is not my strong point so I found some other ways to pay for my time making comics.

#256 Rod McKie
April/28/2008
@ 4:34 pm

I think I eventually discovered, through Darrin’s Toontalk site, that having a comic strip syndicated in print was often a dream that formed part of the American cartoonist’s psyche. In that respect it would never, or at any rate hardly ever, be about money, but rather it would be about a percieved ‘goal’ and a ‘dream’ and like all dreams even the reality that it would not necessarily pay well wouldn’t put anyone in search of it, off tying to achieve it. I thought then that the dream was one of the thing’s holding Scott Kurtz back fom realising that he had already ‘made it’, in terms of cultural impact if not quite financially. It was an idea I ran past the late Arnold Wagner who was interested in this debate, and is still sadly missed.

As a cartoonist from the UK, which never had much of a history of comic strip production, I found it difficult to get my head around the fact that some cartoonists would swap success and a reasonable income, for the glory of syndication even when it meant making less money. And even if it meant ghosting someone else’s characters from the shadows of a studio for decades.

I also found it difficult to understand why comic strip cartoonists had such an overinflated opinion of their work, but then my yardstick for real cartooning success was being published in major publications with a tradition of cartooning like Punch, Playboy and the New Yorker, or with comic publishers like IPC and DC Thomson here, and DC and Marvel in the US – as I said comic strips do not have a major role over here. It was, in my cartooning universe, and it may be true of many magazine cartoonists, about being accepted by other cartoonists, whereas I think the cartoonists who longs for syndication wants to be accepted by the wider public. It may well be part of the wider phenomenon known as The American Dream.

When we do get down to talking about this business as a going concern, reality has a way of seeping in and let’s face it, even dreams need funding. As far as the money goes, the big debate amongst cartoonists is whether or not money can be made online. Of course we are not just talking about small additional income, we are talking about an online presence generating enough money to give up the day job. To be sure I think we have all profited already in small ways from being online, either directly or inderectly, whether its a simple advertising ‘click’, or selling a tee or from emailing work directly to a publication or a client, or from an emailed commission deal, or a book publisher dropping a line after seeing a portfolio on a website, it has impacted upon us and we have profited from it. The question is though, can the web generate enough income for enough cartoonists to justify the rumour that the web is the future of cartooning?

To date no cartoonist online has made Peanuts-like billions, not even Garfield-like millions, but then only a handful of print cartoonists have done so. There are, however, quite a few examples of web cartoonists doing ‘very nicely thank you’ and I have to say there are enough print cartoonists doing ‘not really very well at all’ for that to look like more than a good start.

The truth is that there are a handful of superstars in print cartooning, and there are a great number of people not doing very well at all. At least those not doing well on the web, are not working to negative equity, the way some print cartoonists are; but this has always been a business that hides its poverty well, or behind a smile.

The consensus even among print cartoonists is that the web is, in some as yet slightly mysterious and intangebile way, the future of cartooning…but how? Well, to be honest endlessly debating ‘how’, is a luxury that can be ill-afforded if the current recession hits the papers and the magazines and the cartoon pages disappear, perhaps never to return. For me debating ‘how’ when Penny Arcade and PVP have already shown ‘how’, is a frankly ridiculous position. Especially for those cartoonists who are barely scraping a living from print. What anyone saying ‘how’ seems to be saying is ‘I’m happy with the way things are’, which is fine. If you are happy with the way things are then stay put – and anyone unhappy with the way things are should be content to leave the ones who are happy with the way things are, where they are. We have already spoken about how this is about a ‘dream’ and one should never try to rubbish the dreams of others simply because we do not share them.

That said, the ‘online dream’ is surely the most appealling of the two dreams because there is no editorial panel saying who can and who cannot be seen. There is nobody taking 50% of the earnings, and nobody sending back work to have you remove the word ‘suck’ or ‘hell’. In addition, a succesful online cartoonist can convert that success to print as PVP and some other products have proved. And these days online cartooning is gaining some hard-won respect with books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Mom’s Cancer, both of which began online, illustrating that critical success and financial reward is not limited to the world of print.

In the print world, things are not what they were. I have sold cartoons for a long time now, and I have watched the traditional cartoon markets disappear year on year. I have no inside knowledge about syndication, but I’d be surprised, given the current climate, if anyone new to that game can ever roll over the numbers Peanuts and Garfield and the Far Side and a handful of others managed in what was very likely the last Golden Age of newspaper cartooning – in financial terms at least.

#257 Dawn Douglass
April/28/2008
@ 5:15 pm

Rod said: For me debating â??howâ?? when Penny Arcade and PVP have already shown â??howâ??, is a frankly ridiculous position.

Okay, so cartoonists are all supposed to host large conventions like Penny Arcade in order to make big money online? Get real.

And if Scott Kurtz has figured out “how” then why has he been here asking others how?

What’s “ridiculous” is thinking that the way things are online today is the way things will always be. The Web is evolving a hell of a lot faster than newspapers are declining.

What’s true today isn’t going to hold true tomorrow. That goes for newspaper cartoonists AND web cartoonists.

So regarding this endless “web vs. print” debate, I’d just like to add a juicy PPLLLPPT.

#258 Malc McGookin
April/29/2008
@ 12:50 am

People should really study the history of the big cartoon successes and find out how and why they are as big as they are.

It’s not rocket science, the reasons certain strips became successful are all available to those who wish to scrutinize, even using the info on the web would be an education. It would certainly help prevent people from scribbling their lives away in fruitless search for fame and glory.

The fact is that the system, the whole infrastructure (two or three paper towns, etc) that allowed individual cartoonists to pile up fortunes is no longer there.

#259 Phil Wohlrab
May/1/2008
@ 8:09 am

Forget comic strips, flash cartoons are the future. By that I mean, what site would get more traffic on the web, comic strips or flash cartoons? Comic strips serve a purpose in the newspaper. They’re drawn a certain size for print media, they’re a nice fun addition to your daily news. Comic strips are something your average person would search their bland newspaper for, but on the web the average person I feel would seldom search for comic strips on the internet when there is so much other content calling for their attention. Games, comedy etc… Why make a comic strip at all if it’s only intended purpose is to be on the internet? Why not do a flash cartoon with characters and the like? It’s much more suited for the internet that a short 3 panel cartoon that is disconnect from it’s true home— the newspaper.
-P

#260 Vlad Kolarov
May/1/2008
@ 11:14 am

Good or bad, who knows…

The whole civilization and progress is based on that dilemma…

Ah, well… This post has no point, other than adding my name under 260 other comments :-)

#261 Rod McKie
May/3/2008
@ 3:29 pm

Quite what your point is Dawn I don’t know, but as usual you helped make mine. As you seem unsure of what I was saying I’ll sbridge it for you. I’m saying that people have an exageratted and over-inflated notion of what ‘making it’ is, when they think that you haven’t ‘made it’ until you make $2 billion a year from cartoons and merchandise.

I’m saying that is not the case and it’s curious that some cartoonists will be regarded as ‘making it’ when they are pulling in $20,000 a year from syndication and yet someone online making $26,000 will be regarded as less succesful. That is the economics of the madhouse.

#262 Dawn Douglass
May/3/2008
@ 5:26 pm

Whether it’s “syndication sucks and the web is the future” or “web comics suck and syndication is still the mark of success,” these arguments are old, boring and have never done anything to improve a single cartoonist’s situation.

It’s typical for people to cling to “us vs. them” arguments and resentments when they’re bitter about their own economics. Just ask Obama.

So yes, some syndicated cartoonists feel superior to web cartoonists and vice versa. It’s all nonsense.

#263 Larry Levine
May/3/2008
@ 6:12 pm

I just want to earn a living doing what I love, regardless of turf.

#264 Phil Wohlrab (
May/9/2008
@ 12:53 pm

If i were a cartoonist that made 20,000 or 26,000 a year I’d consider myself a failure. That is too little money for full time work. Like I said, Comic strips can break out of their format on the Web, so why even bother doing a traditional strip? Flash cartoons are way cooler.

I probably make about as much or more than most syndicated cartoonists working full time as an illustrator…and I havent even started selling vector art on shutterstock yet. look out!

#265 Wiley Miller
May/9/2008
@ 12:57 pm

“If i were a cartoonist that made 20,000 or 26,000 a year Iâ??d consider myself a failure.”

I think that depends entirely on what one’s goal is and how long they’ve been at it. Both “success” and “failure” can be defined rather loosely.

#266 Phil Wohlrab
May/9/2008
@ 11:36 pm

Well if I could make 20-26,000 on top of my full time salary, I could say that’s a success but only if it were easy money. My own personal sanity is worth it’s weight in gold. Drawing and writing a comic is hard, especially after coming home from a creative job.
Life isn’t fair.
I’m sure there are a lot of great artists out there who might try their hand at a comic strip, but don’t because they’ve got a creative day job.

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