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Study examines webcomic economic model realities

Ben Gordon, a webcomicker who created Scratchin Post and Li’l Nyet, has dug into the economic model claims used in the best selling book “How to Make Webcomics.” Ben believes the oft boasted “10% Rule” (the number of webcomic fans who will purchase merchandise that sustains a webcomic) is questionable and has spent a month investigating the reality of the HalfPixel business model and found that 10% is indeed unrealistic for most comics.

He writes:

The bible is flawed.

“How to Make Webcomics,” which presents a serious working business model for making a living from webcomics:

  1. cannot be verified by the majority of case studies; and,
  2. appears to offer incorrect guidance about what sort of webcomics are most likely to succeed.*

Doing some fact-checking (for I am using the HalfPixel plan for my own comics), I discovered that the 5-10% figure, called the sell-through rate, seems unique to the book. Every sell-through rate I found on the internet pertaining to t-shirts and similar merchandise was 1%, and in one case, half of 1%. The last is from one of the most successful names in webcomics, Chris Crosby.

The obvious situation is either HalfPixel has over-optimistic forecasts, or something special is happening in webcomics. Perhaps a special sort of fan loyalty has emerged to drive higher sell-through rates. (To check that, I developed a statistic for fan loyalty that as statistical instruments go isn’t fantastic but isn’t bad. It tells me that comics with unusually high fan loyalty scores might turn moderately insufficient traffic into sufficient traffic, but it wouldn’t perform miracles. We’ll visit that another day.)

Disclaimer: Ben has been an advertiser on this blog.

Community Comments

#1 Bill Holbrook
October/2/2008
@ 7:32 am

I’ve been doing “Kevin & Kell” since 1995 and I can attest that a 1% response rate is much closer to reality. The key is building up a large enough audience so that 1% becomes an effective means of support.

#2 Dave McNamara
October/2/2008
@ 8:50 am

The question we should be asking, is of the halfpixel guys how many of them are actually making their living through webcomics? How many of them have taken full time or part time jobs? How many of them rely on their print work?

#3 Howard Tayler
October/2/2008
@ 10:26 am

1) Naw, this article won’t spawn much commentary. ;-)

2) To my knowledge two HalfPixelers — Dave Kellett and Scott Kurtz — are full-time cartoonists making more than 75% of their income from their own intellectual properties (as opposed to cool T-shirts that may or may not have anything to do with their comics.) Dave has a much smaller audience than Scott, but may actually be taking home more money. He’s mastered monetizing the small audience.

3) For my own work (www.schlockmercenary.com) I’ve got about 40,000 daily readers, and about 2,000 repeat customers (unique IDs registered with my store). That’s 5%.

#4 Chris Crosby
October/2/2008
@ 10:29 am

“Every sell-through rate I found on the internet pertaining to t-shirts and similar merchandise was 1%, and in one case, half of 1%. The last is from one of the most successful names in webcomics, Chris Crosby.”

In fairness, merchandise sales have never been my strong suit.

My experience is that T-Shirt sales success in particular is based almost entirely on the appeal of the design you’re trying to sell, not your readership numbers. You could have a million readers a day and still find it impossible to sell even one shirt with a design nobody wants to wear. Or you could have 1,000 readers a day and sell 500 shirts because your design is kick-ass.

#5 Jim Thomas
October/2/2008
@ 10:40 am

To be fair:

Two of the Halfpixel guys, Kris Straub and Brad Guigar have jobs outside of comics. Brad works as a graphic designer in a newspaper full-time and Kris seems to take on temporary work when his income flow demands. They have been very open about this however, and it should not come as a surprise to anyone.

To Dave McNamara I would ask how many print cartoonists are left with second jobs, work for hire, or other illustration work not directly associated with their comic strip? Especially cartoonists that have been running their primary strip for less than 5-10 years, which is the case for both Mr. Guigar and Mr. Straub.

Perhaps the wording in the book is a bit more authoritative, but generally on the podcasts (Webcomics Weekly) they talk about that 10% being an ideal, or “at best” situation. I have never gotten the sense that they claim all web cartoonists get 10% of their audience to translate into paying customers, but that if that 10% can be reached, a cartoonist could preform well economically, even with a comparatively smaller audience to say, a print cartoonist.

But, I believe it is safe to say that the business model for a web cartoonist is about as stable as that of a print cartoonist. The only point that I would make is that while the print model has been stagnate for decades, the web model is still in its relative infancy and is still finding its way. It would be helpful to narrow down the polling of webcomics to some consensus of professional strips. Within the democracy of the internet, there are hundreds if not thousands of “cartoonists” not pulling in 10% of their audience that consists of their mothers and a couple friends.

It is also important to look at the sites that are under- performing (within the HTMW business model) and discuss why this is. Is their strip not really geared to pushing product? Do they consistently produce new material or have they been selling the same t-shirt and book collection for the past four years? Are they working WITH the internet and growing their audiences through Facebook, Twitter, Digg and other sites that can improve traffic? To simply say the business model is flawed and not evaluate the business practice of those comics polled would be a mistake.

To be honest, of the four, the cartoonist that seems to be running a business in such a way that a traditional cartoonist could find most comfortable is Dave Kellett. He runs a fairly traditional comic strip for all audiences and does comparatively less sales from t shirts, buttons etc… and makes most of his income from sale of original art and collections of his strips. He says he also makes money from ads, but it is not a work horse for his business model. I do not want to put words in his mouth, so this is simply paraphrasing from podcasts. He has also not been shy to state his income on both this website and also on WW.

Perhaps if one or all of the Half Pixel guys came around they might be able to better state this position. I just hesitate to say that their model is wrong when, if you think about it, how many traditional print strips live up to the full potential of their business models?

#6 Wiley Miller
October/2/2008
@ 10:52 am

“But, I believe it is safe to say that the business model for a web cartoonist is about as stable as that of a print cartoonist.”

Considering that hundreds are making their living entirely (many a very good living) in print, and only a few are able to make a living on the internet in cartooning, I’m wondering just what you’re basing this statement on.

The business model in print is nothing like that what has been stated about the business model on the web.

#7 Bill Holbrook
October/2/2008
@ 11:06 am

I’d like to emphasize that I’m not questioning anyone’s claim; I’m just providing my numbers. As in all things having to do with the web, mileage varies. :)

#8 Jim Thomas
October/2/2008
@ 11:09 am

But how well is the print model working for new cartoonists? The print model is still working for the old pros because they are established within the system. But from most discussions on even this website, relatively few new cartoonists are succeeding at a rate faster than those on the web. So of those hundreds of cartoonists you know making their very good livings, how many have been working for less than five years, which is the case for most web comics?

It was not my intention to turn this into a web/print argument. The main article was not about that, so we should stay on topic. With the opportunities in print shrinking for new cartoonists and seemingly wide open on the web, lets talk about how to successfully monetize the growing medium, so that the art of cartooning can continue to grow.

#9 Alan Gardner
October/2/2008
@ 11:17 am

It was not my intention to turn this into a web/print argument.

Yes, please. Let’s not turn this into a print/web debate. We’ve all established that to some extent every cartoonist in today’s market is a “web cartoonist.”

The issue being examined is what is a realistic economic model or expectation for merchandising one’s creation on the web.

#10 Jim Thomas
October/2/2008
@ 11:19 am

I also never claimed the two models to be the same, just that, for new cartoonists, either starting on the web or print, the chance at financial success is fairly similar for either model. Both depend on the strip being quality. From there the models change completely. Yet, I do believe that the chance of faster growth and success lies within web, do to the viral nature of the medium, and the decline in new readers in the print medium. I never inferred that the models were the same, just the chance of finding a working income is become more balanced.

#11 frank white
October/2/2008
@ 11:20 am

The 1% percent rule is a rule of life. 1% of actors, musicians, artists etc are regularly out of work. The reality is that the top people in these fields have the 100% in-work all-the-time hit rate.This dwindles down throughout the leagues to 1%.
BUT….there is a difference when you talk of a business on the internet. Currently , income derived by businesses with high-street stores AND web stores attribute 10% of sales to being online ones. Hence because internet sales are still in their infancy every online sale is worth ten times that if say everybody did their shopping online and high street stores ceased to exist.
If we take that and apply it to webcomics ,then the people who now have 10% of their audience buying stuff really have 100% ( not saying here that every person buys, some may buy three or four times thus making that average) and the people who have 1% now actually have 10%.
Just thought you should all know that :)

#12 frank white
October/2/2008
@ 11:24 am

Correction above comment of mine should read
1% of actors, musicians, artists etc are regularly in work.

thanks

#13 anne hambrock
October/2/2008
@ 11:45 am

It does seem as though a number of cartoonists working in both mediums have second jobs. What would be interesting to me would be: the percentage of a cartoonists income from said second job vs their cartoon, the breakdown of man hours devoted to the second job vs the cartoon, and the number of extra man hours involved in the merchandising/website maintenance end.

Generally producing a good strip and holding down a second job is pretty intense without essentially also having to be your own agent and distributer as well. My impression of the web guys who are managing it is that their hours are even more insane than regular comic artist insanity. Do these types of percentages (if they’re accurate) adequately pay back the tough work schedule?

#14 Howard Tayler
October/2/2008
@ 11:51 am

Wiley wrote: “Considering that hundreds are making their living entirely (many a very good living) in print, and only a few are able to make a living on the internet in cartooning, Iâ??m wondering just what youâ??re basing this statement on.”

Tens of thousands of people want to be working as cartoonists. Print has been supplying a few hundred jobs for the last several decades. Many established print cartoonists are very well-compensated.

Webtooning has been in place for 15 years, tops (a sesquidecade? Is that what it’s called?) and is supplying around 50 full-time jobs. Some webtoonists are being very, very well compensated.

Both traditional, syndicated print cartooning and webcartooning are drawing on the same, ginormous pool of wannabe cartoonists. The difference is that many of those wannabes are also de-facto webtoonists (website + comic strip = qualified.) If everybody who ever xeroxed one of their comics and handed it to friends was called a “print cartoonist” you’d see the average income of print cartoonists skewed to about where webcartooning is today.

the point? As stated above, we’re all in the same business. Some of us are doing it differently, and our delivery mechanisms and business models do not necessarily predict our levels of success.

The business model in print is nothing like that what has been stated about the business model on the web.

Really? How many Garfield readers buy books? 1% or less, I suspect. That particular statistical measure (I call it “merchandise penetration”) is critical in all kinds of businesses. I used it as a record producer 15 years ago.

I’m not suggesting that the models are the same. They’re obviously not. But they’re not “nothing like” each other. They’re similar enough that we squabble with each other ALL THE TIME. [grin].

#15 Howard Tayler
October/2/2008
@ 11:58 am

The issue being examined is what is a realistic economic model or expectation for merchandising oneâ??s creation on the web.

Oops! Sorry.

Realistic?

I’m grossing around $3 per reader. Maybe $5. Maybe less. Readership is hard to measure accurately, and my numbers aren’t in for the full year yet.

That doesn’t mean every reader sends me money in some way. That’s a blend of ad revenue, merchandising, and book revenue.

It’s also not par for the course. It’s well above par. I’m one of the fifty or so full-time webtoonists. My comic pays all the bills and socks away savings for a family of six. Neither my wife nor I have outside jobs. I’ve got a large following of loyal readers, and as I stated above, I’m seeing around 5% merchandise penetration — five times the expected average of 1%, and half of the brass-ring 10%.

#16 Ted Rall
October/2/2008
@ 1:01 pm

“Webtooning…is supplying around 50 full-time jobs.”

Maybe I should have been born in Missouri: Show me. Please name 50 webcartoonists who earn full-time livings, i.e. at least $25,000 net, after expenses, from their comics and merchandise. Remember, this is $25,000 declared income to the IRS–after deductions for traveling to cons, web hosting costs, T-shirt printing bills, etc.

I doubt there are ten.

“Some webtoonists are being very, very well compensated.”

It depends on the definition of the word pair “very, very.” In print, “very, very” means millions of dollars a year. Several hundred print cartoonists–newspaper comic strip artists, editorial cartoonists and comic book creators–earn at least $100,000 a year. (That’s net–after expenses.) To me, that’s “very, very.”

From what I’ve been able to figure out, many webcartoonists conflate gross and net when they talk about how much they “earn” from their webcomics. In the post above Howard says he grosses $3-5 per reader. How much does he net? That’s the real question.

No one wants webcartoons to succeed more than me–a viable economic model for online would solve a lot of problems for cartoonists, syndicates and newspapers. But the numbers just aren’t there. Moreover, they probably never will be.

The webcomics business model is like Amway–the only people who make money are those who sell the business model.

#17 Ted Rall
October/2/2008
@ 1:12 pm

Sorry for getting off-topic. The topic, as Alan reminds us, is what is a realistic economic model or expectation for merchandising oneâ??s creation on the web.

For most great cartoonists (there’s no point talking about the inept ones), there is next to zero chance to make a half-decent living drawing comics and selling merchandise on the web.

At this point, and for the foreseeable future, the Web offers exposure and beer money. Which is fine for some people. But not for long. And it’s not much of a way to convince the best and most talented young artists to choose cartooning as a career path.

#18 Jason Nocera
October/2/2008
@ 1:20 pm

I think the problem with discussing merchandise is that there are the serious business-minded people and the people just dipping their toes. For instance, if I was serious about selling merchandise, I would go direct to a t-shirt printer and have t-shirts printed at probably a base cost of $5.00. I could probably then sell the same t-shirt at $15.00. If I was just dipping my toes in merchandise (which is what I do), I would use a print on demand place like CafePress. For the same t-shirt, they would charge a base of $13.00 and my mark-up would obviously be only $2.00 if I kept the price at $15.00. What does that mean?

To make a $100.00 on t-shirts in one day in one business model, I need to sell 10 shirts, in the other I need to sell 50.

That’s a big difference.

#19 r stevens
October/2/2008
@ 1:54 pm

“The webcomics business model is like Amwayâ??the only people who make money are those who sell the business model.”

OK, now that’s offensive.

#20 Chris Crosby
October/2/2008
@ 2:35 pm

Though I would love to see a “Webcartooning To Instant $$$$!” infomercial.

#21 Ryan Sohmer
October/2/2008
@ 2:35 pm

“At this point, and for the foreseeable future, the Web offers exposure and beer money. ”

You make a good point there. I’ll be sure to ask my 15 full time and 8 part time employees how they’ve been paying their mortgages, rent and car payments.

#22 Wiley Miller
October/2/2008
@ 2:38 pm

The point is, shrinking as it is, there actually IS a market for cartooning in print. There is no comparable market on the web, at least that I know of.

Selling swag may be a business model, but it’s not a market.

#23 Corey Pandolph
October/2/2008
@ 3:09 pm

“You make a good point there. Iâ??ll be sure to ask my 15 full time and 8 part time employees how theyâ??ve been paying their mortgages, rent and car payments.”

Ah, where would we be without snark? I’d rather draw comics for next to nothing and make my real change with a 9-5, than hock merch with a bunch of self-righteous brats who seem Hell-bent on proving to the world that they matter.

I love what I do, but I’m really down on the industry as a whole.

Cheers!

#24 Ted Rall
October/2/2008
@ 3:10 pm

Asking webcartoonists about their income is as frustrating as interviewing Sarah Palin: never a straight answer. The journalist in me can’t help but think there’s a reason for that.

#25 anne hambrock
October/2/2008
@ 3:10 pm

From everything that I have read on these threads it sounds as though web cartoons have 2 potential revenue streams – advertising and merchandising. Print cartoonists who run a website have those same two revenue streams open to them but also have the third stream wherein they are paid for their work by each individual print client. Even though the number of print clients may be shrinking, that’s still a whole separate stream that is not coming in to the web toonist unless he/she charges for content.

I don’t think the question should be “are web toonist making any money” it should be “are web toonists making as much money as they could be if they had a third revenue stream.

#26 Bill Holbrook
October/2/2008
@ 3:51 pm

The main revenue stream for “Kevin & Kell” isn’t advertising or merchandising but the patron system that I grabbed from public broadcasting. It’s on par with what my King Features strips “On the Fastrack” and “Safe Havens” bring in through traditional syndication. The details are at http://www.kevinandkell.com/support/patron.html.

#27 Dave Kellett
October/2/2008
@ 3:52 pm

Here’s the context that we place that number in the book:

1.) You have to, have to, have to be doing a webcomic for the love, first. Because if you’re doing it for money or to make a living, you need to know there’s very little chance, statistically, that you’ll do either. (Look at the 10,000 webcomics online, and you’ll immediately know what I mean. Conversely, look at the a 5-6,000 who try for syndication every year. “Attempting” doesn’t mean “succeeding”. There’s a lot of chafe and very little wheat, no matter what cartooning medium you look at.)

2.) With your best efforts, it will still take you years — 3-10, approximating — to generate the level of fandom that it takes for people to crack their wallets about your strip.

3.) It’s not just about the quality of the strip itself. It’s the quality of the *fandom*. You have to be not only in their “top ten” strips, you usually have to be in their top three.

4.) If you put out one book, and expect your living to be made on that, you’re shooting very short of the mark. You must generate a variety of goods (books, t-shirts, maquettes, original art, buttons, stickers, etc.) in a variety of price points to make it work. Readers can be passionate about the strip, and not care for this or that item. To counter that, variety is key, just like a supermarket cereal row.

5.) Not every webcomic uses the same income-generation model. Penny Arcade, for example, probably generates a tiny fraction of their income on merch, while making tens (if not hundreds) of thousands a month on advertising. As we say in the book, there are many roads to the same mountain: Take all the elements of income-generation that we present, determine those most appropriate to your strip, run it through your own mental filter, and incorporate them as best you can to the strip you have. No two business models — better to say, no two strips — are identical in how they make money.

6.) We also have said explicitly that some types of cartooning will *never* make income. Editorial cartoons, in my opinion, are tragically left with few or no ways to make money in the new paradigm. Unless you look at “Day by Day’s” NPR-style subscription drive. But subscriptions rarely work consistently.

7.) The 5-10% in the book assumed that you took *all of the above* into your planning. For example: For the first five years, Sheldon made very little money online…20-40K per annum. I had a terrible sell-through percentage…certainly not enough for me to live on in Los Angeles. So, as we advise in the book, I kept my day job, improved my strip, cultivated the fans among my readership, and grew my income by 10-15K a year over the next 5 years. Two years ago I left my job as a senior toy designer at Mattel. This year, despite the recession, my income has continued to grow at the previous rate — largely due to an uptick in overseas sales –and I’ll exceed my former corporate pay for the first time.

Now, to the point:

I presented the 5-10% sell-through rate as “useful metric when planning your merch”. If, as it turns out, the 5-10% sell-through rate turns out to be high, that’s no one’s fault but my own. My own sell-through rate hovers around 7.5%…and past conversations and public convention panels I’ve shared with Rosenberg, Barnes and Ambaum, Kurtz, Tayler and dozens of others had reinforced the 10% as being the going ballpark.

#28 anne hambrock
October/2/2008
@ 4:02 pm

Bill,

That’s very interesting about the patron model – thanks for the info.

#29 Matt Bors
October/2/2008
@ 4:25 pm

Anne: “Print cartoonists who run a website have those same two revenue streams open to them but also have the third stream wherein they are paid for their work by each individual print client”

Bingo. This whole web v. print debate usually skirts the fact that everyone has a website where they try to make $ any way they can. Some of us also get paid by places that run our work.

When that conference call with Kurtz, R Stevens, Rall and others took place about print V. Web, I tried to bring up an important point. No matter how many people this web model may or may not sustain, it seems clear that weekly cartoonists and editorial cartoonists can’t make it work. There’s hardly any merchandising options of them. They need to be paid to put the pen to paper–for the printing of the work itself.

When I explained this, someone (Kellett?) said something like “well, those genres will simply die.” Well, sorry for not getting excited about that.

Print does pay for all genres of work so I don’t cheer on it’s collapse as some do. I wish nothing but success to any web cartoonist. Now can any of them point to an editorial cartoonist following this model?

I’m concerned about the future of the field and would like to know. Rob Tornoe is employed by a website, but he’s being paid by them–not making money from ads and t-shirts on his own site.

Can anyone say this model will work for editorial cartoons? Or is being paid for the work you do a better approach?

#30 Dave Kellett
October/2/2008
@ 4:34 pm

Matt, it’s with nothing but pain in my heart that editorial cartooning has no foreseeable income models online, aside from subscriptions.

It’s a loss to society, to a thinking, discerning democracy, to not have viable, powerful, independent editorialists working to speak truth to power. But my wishing won’t make it true: Aside from “Day by Day’s” subscription model, I have yet to see a viable income model work for editorialists online.

It’s a net loss to society.

#31 Wiley Miller
October/2/2008
@ 4:39 pm

“3.) Itâ??s not just about the quality of the strip itself. Itâ??s the quality of the *fandom*. You have to be not only in their â??top tenâ? strips, you usually have to be in their top three.”

This alone should dissuade any rational person from ever bothering to try to do a web comic or have any hope that the internet will ever develop into a viable market for cartoonists. There are many other disturbing things in that long post, but I’ll just stick with this one.

If this was the case in print media, I would have never even bothered to send my work in for syndication. Unless I could garner at that time the readership of Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side, that I wouldn’t have a prayer of making a living? What kind of incentive is that?

You’d have to be in the Harry Potter range of fandom if you want to make a living in children’s books? You have to be right there with Frank Miller if you want to make it in graphic novels?

Do see what I’m getting at here? There is no market for cartoonists on the internet… and I must stress again before all the feigned umbrage starts… I dearly want there to be a viable market for cartoonists on the web.

#32 Alan Gardner
October/2/2008
@ 4:44 pm

Aside from Day by Day, the other well known online editorial cartoonists were Cox and Forkum. When Chris called it quits, he mentioned that they were making money off of it.

All of that comes with the territory, of course, and John and I have done pretty well over the last six years. We’re fairly well known on the Internet, we have a few newspaper and magazine clients, we’ve self-published four books, and we’ve made some money, if not a living. But lately, for reasons I won’t go into here, I can no longer afford to divert so much time and attention away from my publishing business and other personal concerns, such as my family.

They appear to have followed a pretty traditional model of print collections, print clients, etc.

#33 Chris Crosby
October/2/2008
@ 4:45 pm

That’s not what Dave said at all.

#34 Chris Crosby
October/2/2008
@ 4:51 pm

(To clarify, my last post was addressed to Wiley.)

The way I understand it, you could only have 5,000 readers, but if half of them consider your strip to be their favorite, you’ve got a good shot at making a living. So the point is that you can make more money with a smaller readership on the web if what you’re doing appeals strongly to certain people.

#35 Dave Kellett
October/2/2008
@ 4:51 pm

Wiley, you’re locked in a mass-market mindset: I don’t have to have Frank Miller’s millions of readers, or even a tiny, tiny fraction of them.

From my overall audience, I just 1,000 of them who will spend $100 a year on my strip (…or some permutation of that overly-simplified ratio — but I trust you’ll see my point. It could be 2,000 spending $50, 3,000 spending $33….etc, etc).

#36 Dave Kellett
October/2/2008
@ 4:52 pm

My apolgies: my second sentence should have said “I just need 1,000 of them…”

#37 Mike Peterson
October/2/2008
@ 4:57 pm

“Tens of thousands of people want to be working as cartoonists. Print has been supplying a few hundred jobs for the last several decades.”

I interviewed an actress several years ago, and we talked about the very selective MFA program she was in. I asked if they ever got together and she said, no, because she was the only one still in theater. When they graduated, her classmates had gone to Europe together to celebrate their achievement. She went to NYC and began handing out her photos and begging for work. By the time they returned, she had two commercials and a role in a TV soap. “Oh, Cathy!” they said, “You’re so lucky!”

“A lot of people want it,” she told me, “but not so many people have to have it. You have to have to have it.”

I was listening to (the podcast of ) Mike Lynch’s interview on Mr. Media today as I drove around and he said something about the number of talented artists who want to be cartoonists, versus the number who are.

You have to have to have it.

And, to make it on the web at this stage in that medium’s development, you REALLY have to have to have it.

But it is there for the few who are prepared to really dig in and go after it, just as syndication is there for the few who are prepared to really dig in and go after it.

Meanwhile, talking about the number of people who only “want it” is relatively pointless. There are a lot of people who want it.

#38 Wiley Miller
October/2/2008
@ 5:08 pm

Chris and Dave, you’ve completely missed the point.

#39 Dave Kellett
October/2/2008
@ 5:09 pm

Mike, that’s an excellent summation. And as I tried to explain to the original critic in an e-mail exchange last week, the central problem is that he’s trying to figure out webcomics — heck, trying to figure out the life of an artist — like it’s an algorithm: And if he can just determine the *exact calculus and ratios* involved…then he’ll somehow suddenly have a great strip that people love and want to spend money on.

No, that’s backwards. As any successful cartoonist can tell you: The first priority has to be in creating a wonderful, engaging, engrossing body of work. Then comes the readership, then comes the cultivation of that readership over years, *then* comes the money.

It’s worth noting that he’s on month eight for his webcomic, and is wondering why he’s not matching Kurtz’s sell-through rate on PvP.

As Mike said, you have to have to have it. And I’ll add to that: You have to have to have it….for years on end.

#40 Dennis West
October/2/2008
@ 6:00 pm

Well, as someone who just recently started my own web comic, I have to say that I’m still loving it.

When I read their book and read the 5-10% statistic, I remembered them mentioning it in their podcast and I even recall Guigar’s voice saying that that was probably a generous number. I think it’s reasonable to expect less and I don’t feel like I was led down a wrong path by the Halfpixel guys.

Right now I’m just trying to be patient and get into a groove of the strip. My main concern right now is building an audience because I’d like it to be just more than me and my family reading the thing.

Patience. Patience.

#41 Ben Gordon
October/2/2008
@ 7:10 pm

I’d like to thank Dave Kellett in particular for his participation through this study and discussion.

There are many variables that affect a comic’s prospects. To have hope on the web, you must master most of them, and be outstanding on at least a few.

There are also many variables that affect a comic business on the web. The comic itself will dictate some or rules out others. To have hope, the comic must master these as well.

Then there is the web site. But by now, you get the point.

For the comics that possess a very strong drive to succeed, life is made more complicated by the unsettled and undocumented issues in the business arena.

Any steps we can take going forward to clarify and describe those issues, building on the foundation offered by the HalfPixel book, means some number of additional full or part-time jobs for cartoonists.

Take my word for it. You want me as a cartoonist. As a journalist, I ask hard questions and sometimes get a little hot under the collar. As a cartoonist, I am merry and entertaining.

Many thanks to all who commented and offered valuable insights. Thanks to Alan and the Daily Cartoonist for their involvement.

If I were going to write about the business tips discussed in the book, I would say, “Here is a menu of things.” You have to do all or most of them very well to succeed significantly. If your comic is not just as polished and distinctive, don’t bother.

The numbered list is something that all cartoonists should know, but most don’t. However, they were well enough known to factor them into what was published.

Because I offered a dynamic model, in which you can change numbers, and because comics have tremendous variability in how many success elements they possess, it is very true that we can all pick our preferred variables and find victory in the outcome.

However, while we might find personal victory, and it might be legitimate, it appears extremely difficult to find a set of numbers that support most of the claims that have been made simultaneously. This means the model is wrong or unclear, or the claims are faulty, for example if someone confused gross and net, or in a moment of weakness inflated their numbers.

I’m not particularly concerned which it is. I only want the best tools possible for our two comics. If a volume is extremely helpful but flawed to my eye, I am going to ask that it be made better or make it better myself if I can. That so much experience is privately held makes this difficult

Instead, I am interested in the challenge of clarifying what I have already described as an excellent foundation, and applying ideas and ingenuity in an attempt to maximize the number of deserving artists who can make significant full or part-time income from webcartooning.

I am somewhat pessimistic, even though the model confirms some generally known facts about some self-sufficient individuals. I am also relentless, and enjoy a challenge — the harder the better, as long as it doesn’t involve speed-swallowing frankfurters in front of a Coney Island crowd.

Though currently winded from the magnitude of this and associated efforts, I would like to come away from this and all the work so many have contributed with some gains.

In my mind, these are fragmentary at this time at best. There are people reading this who have data and experience I lack, and who can help clarify the murk by offering statistics pertinent to the undertaking. I’m too old-fashioned to ask people questions about their income, but reports of average sales, component mixes, net after gross, average mark-up on a t-shirt, sell-through rates, etc. are all needed, and can be anonymous if desired.

Comics have been a constant in my life. The web has brought our latest work more readers than ever before.

#42 Ben Gordon
October/2/2008
@ 7:13 pm

The section halfway down, after the thank yous, was cut out from an earlier draft, and is included here only for your amusement.

#43 Howard Tayler
October/2/2008
@ 11:00 pm

Regarding the number of webtoonists doing it full-time and making a living at it, I’m taking Joey Manley’s number (around 100) and cutting it in half, because I’m conservative that way.

Regarding my misapplication of the adverb “very” with regard to webtoonist income, I was surely mistaken. The upper echelons of syndicated cartoonists are making “very very” good money. The upper echelons of webtoonists are merely making “very” good money.

I’m not in the upper echelon. I’m making middle-class wages.

My point was that this business model is very new (very VERY new, even) and only five years ago less than half as many webtoonists were making enough to get by on full-time. Print, on the other hand, has had decades. Print cartoonists themselves (especially the very, very well-to-do ones) have had decades to build audience, following, and revenue — longer, in most cases, than webtooning has even been around.

It is important then to study the new business model carefully, because it’s growing quickly, and proving quite profitable to the few determined, fortunate folks at the top of the (currently small) heap. The heap is only going to get bigger.

#44 Tom Dell'Aringa
October/3/2008
@ 5:28 am

Dave said:

“the central problem is that heâ??s trying to figure out webcomics â?? heck, trying to figure out the life of an artist â?? like itâ??s an algorithm: And if he can just determine the *exact calculus and ratios* involvedâ?¦then heâ??ll somehow suddenly have a great strip that people love and want to spend money on.”

This is the point I also tried to make to Ben. I appreciate him looking into this to generate discussion, but as I said to him, it simply cannot be boiled down to some formula. Each strip is unique along with its situation. Ben insists that it can be some formula based on the book.

Dave can chime in if he wants, but I don’t recall the book *ever* presenting it that way. It seems to me that chapter is there to help you get started, then it’s up to you to take the ball from there.

As been said many times, you got to be a businessman if you want to make it, not just a cartoonist.

#45 Corey Pandolph
October/3/2008
@ 7:24 am

“As been said many times, you got to be a businessman if you want to make it, not just a cartoonist.”

And there’s the big problem for a lot of us. I draw and write jokes. That’s what I do. It’s one thing to be aware of the business involved, but it’s entire another to completely run that business.

If I wanted to work in finance and business, I would have gone to school for business. Having to run the business side of things ruins the creative process for a lot of us. It starts to come second… “should I draw strips, or ship books?”. I’m behind on strips now for that exact reason and when I sit down to draw, I rush through and I end up unhappy with my work.

This is why there are syndicates/networks/production studios. They’re there to sell the product for you.

I understand what’s happening with webcomics. I get that there’s money to be made and that the four horsemen of the self-help book came up with a model. Awesome. Good luck with that. I hope you all become CEOs of the huge Half Pixel conglomocorp and sleep on big beds of money. You certainly deserve it with what you’ve accomplished.

But that system won’t fly for me. I have absolutely no interest in selling myself to fandom, attending these comic-cons, or constantly throwing out salary quotes and self-serving announcements of accomplishments no one asked for.

Not my bag. And honestly, if this whole “run your own business” thing is the evolution of comic strips, then I’m on the hunt for a new career. I’m spent at age 38.

I’ll just draw and write for myself.

#46 Todd Dolce'
October/3/2008
@ 7:38 am

Tom said:
“As its been said many times, you’ve got to be a businessman if you want to make it; not just a cartoonist.”

I agree due to the fact that the web community looks at the actual comic as nothing more than a freebie, a calling card to a “salesman” who is poised to peddle his/her’s swag related to that art.

Yes, of course the comic has to be good enough to keep the reader’s loyalty up, and the merchandise must be equally up to the task (this is paramount) but really that’s what the “current” web comic business model is all about.

Personally, coming from a guy in his mid 40’s, the mere thought of traveling to various comic cons to peddle my wares does NOT excite me in the least. I make no apologies for being an introverted homebody, who would rather leave the business side of things to a syndicate, but the web just doesn’t work that way. I can choose to pound sand over it, or try to find another way to make it work. I opt for the latter.

The web vs. print debate is silly. Be honest, if we are being truthful here, webcomics directly (as I stated before) are mere freebies serving as an advertisement for the byproducts behind them; PRINTED merchandise.

I wish success to all the comic artists out there trying to make their own comic footprint in the world, no matter how they go about doing it. We just need to realize that everyone’s idea of success is different, therefore very difficult to capture in a formula or mathematical equation.

#47 Phil wohlrab
October/3/2008
@ 7:40 am

â??3.) Itâ??s not just about the quality of the strip itself. Itâ??s the quality of the *fandom*. You have to be not only in their â??top tenâ? strips, you usually have to be in their top three.â?

This alone should dissuade any rational person from ever bothering to try to do a web comic or have any hope that the internet will ever develop into a viable market for cartoonists.
———————-

agreed, and I’d take it a step further and say that the newspaper medium isn’t exactly friendly to newcomers either.

Forget making money off your web toon;
How many people here make their sole living off freelance illustration work? It’s a much more realistic thing for an artist to attempt and it is still a steep mountain to climb. It’s a headache. The contracts, dead lines, getting, and maintaining clients… not to mention the mess you have in front of you come tax day. I’ve gotten several thousand dollars out of it to date but the pay is sporadic, and unreliable. Nothing beats a full time art job when it comes time to pay the rent.

#48 L Taylor
October/3/2008
@ 8:16 am

The article Ben wrote really brings up some good questions. One of the major differences between web and print comics is that when you try to become successful in print (i.e. sending your comic to syndicates) you’re making a minimal investment. If you get rejected, no big deal financially. But with webcomics, you’re taking a large investment. You have to consider hosting, advertising, merchandising, and so many other things from the very beginning, not to mention the amount of time you take putting into the comic itself. So I see it as necessary for cartoonists looking at this relatively new internet form to think about the numbers and know what they’re getting into.

But as has been pointed out, “How To Make Webcomics” didn’t have the goal of giving some specific numbers. And factually (again this has been said already) it’s going to be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to get some specific numbers. There are business models out there that relate to this, but there’s so much subjectivity involved in this field, and subjectivity usually doesn’t connect all that well with math.

Overall, the issue I have with this article is that it seems to offer questions (great questions I might add) without offering much of a solution itself. If the point of the article is simply to get questions going and generate discussion, then I think it succeeds. But if the goal, as the first line seems to indicate, is to suggest that the basic model laid out in the book is flawed, then I don’t see it as successful. My reading didn’t lead me to believe that its model was intended to be taken in any Biblical sense to begin with.

Incidentally, I wonder how syndicates will get involved in this field in the future. I thought I saw an article not long ago around here with an interview of … who was it, Lee Salem? … that suggested they had plans for this in the future. And certainly recent changes around some of the syndicates’ comic websites suggest they are making efforts in this area. I really feel like the webcomic industry would do well to watch very closely how the print industry is adjusting to the drastic change of media in recent years.

#49 Rick Stromoski
October/3/2008
@ 8:43 am

A better business model would be to just start an online poker site for gambling addicts and just take the poor deluded suckers money…oh wait…comics sherpa already does that.

:)

#50 Phil wohlrab
October/3/2008
@ 8:43 am

Anyone make their living off of freelance illustration? That’s a more realistic endevor and even that is an uphill battle that very few artists can manage. Getting and maintaining work is extremely difficult. I’ve made several thousand to date, but thats over very long periods of time, and payment is sporadic and unreliable. I can only imagine that any pay gotten from “web tooning” is even moreso.

#51 Jim Thomas
October/3/2008
@ 8:58 am

To L Taylor’s point.

Yes, webcartoonists should pay attention to how the syndicates are applying their services to the web, but more importantly, syndicates should be paying attention to what works for the webcartoonists.

Personally the syndicated sites where I can go and read two weeks of a strip, get a short bio of the author and a spot to buy a book doesn’t cut it for me. The syndicates should be investing in individual sites for each strip that function as a gathering place for fans. There is no blog, there is no forum, no added bonuses. They are taking the experience of reading a comic in a newspaper and they directly supplant it on the web. This is insufficient. The only traditional cartoonist that I have seen use the web effectively, even more effectively than some webcartoonists is Scott Adams. His Dilbert site “gets it.” The web offers possibilities for growing, not just readership but, a dedicated readership.

I also have not seen or heard any numbers on what sort of income is being made by the cartoonist from the syndicate sites, do they get shares of advertising? I do not know how this works. Can cartoonists in contract with syndicates host their own sites to create an online following? If there are any cartoonists in this situation, it would be great to hear from you.

#52 Tom Dell'Aringa
October/3/2008
@ 9:10 am

re: Being a businessman/selling yourself

I can understand people not having a stomach for it. In addition to that, you also have a web site to deal with – that’s a big hurdle for some people. I make a living in that field so I’m lucky that way.

Who wouldn’t want fans to come knocking without having to sell it on their own? Of course. And sure, that’s what a syndicate can do for you.

But, I didn’t get one of the 5 openings (or whatever ridiculously small number it is) this YEAR in syndicates – now what. Oh, nor did I get it last year, or the 5 years before that. Do I quit? Or do I try something different.

Webcartooning is an opportunity for those to whom the syndication door is closed – for whatever reason (a whole other subject within itself).

The benefits of being your own salesman and businessman are many. Aside from learning new things, you’ll to reap the rewards of your own work should you succeed. And remember, as web guys we own 100% of everything, and this has advantages. And my success is 100% dependent on me – not anyone else. I control my own destiny, and I’m free to do whatever I want with my comic.

For some artists that is very appealing, and I can understand that for some, it’s not.

So here you have that “really want to have it” group pop up again. There are certain people out there who are relentless promoters of their comic, and those are the types of people who have the best chance of succeeding. Ultimately it will depend on how good their comic is, but they can put themselves in a position to succeed by doing the things on the web that you need to do, like selling yourself and being innovative.

I don’t think it can be stressed enough how new the field is. Different people are making different paths to success. With each new success story we all flock over and take a look and try to figure out what we can beg, borrow or steal that will work for our own properties.

And the great thing is the webcartoonist community is a pretty open and sharing community. There are some really great people who are really open about what they do and willing to share their victories and defeats. The HalfPixel group is a perfect example of that.

I for one welcome our new webcomic overlords… ;)

Note that there are web properties out there (Penny Arcade is one) that employ a group of people – they are a bonafide company – some of which take care of business stuff for them. They can do that because they are that successful. Some people don’t want to admit that there are success stories like that out there in the web, but facts are facts. It’s happening right now.

The amount of success stories is totally irrelevant. People have succeeded, others are going to try and follow.

#53 Tom Dell'Aringa
October/3/2008
@ 9:13 am

Jim, excellent point about how Dilbert gets it. I’m completely and utterly *amazed* that the syndicates have not picked up on this.

And if I were a print cartoonist, I would be stamping my foot for that exact thing if they were not giving it to me.

Case in point. I LOVE Jim Meddick and Monty. I have tried on a number of occasions to contact him – all without any response – none whatsoever. All I want to know is this: can I BUY some Monty stuff?

Are you getting this? I want to PURCHASE stuff from Jim Meddick, but NOBODY at his syndicate will even RESPOND to me.

Hello, my name is lost opportunity, nice to meet you.

#54 L Taylor
October/3/2008
@ 9:30 am

“There is no blog, there is no forum, no added bonuses. They are taking the experience of reading a comic in a newspaper and they directly supplant it on the web. This is insufficient.”

That’s very true, Jim. Perhaps I should have said it this way – the webcomic industry should pay close attention to how the syndicates respond, and the syndicates should pay close attention to how the web industry evolves. There’s much to be gained in a symbiotic relationship.

The web does offer such great possibilities. For example, when I was a kid, I would write Bill Watterson, but the hope of real response was low. Of course, Watterson seems to be rather reclusive anyway so perhaps it wouldn’t matter either way. But the point is, the ability to build relationships with the cartoonist and the comic itself is such a valuable asset, and syndicates really ought to take that into consideration.

As you point out, Scott Adams is a perfect example of this. Webcomics and print comics alike could learn a lot from his current model. I think his “mash ups” program is genius as far as getting fans involved goes. Perhaps the great variety of fan involvement is one of the best ways to get the purchasing percentage to increase.

I always fear though that merchandising will do harm to the purity, if you will, of the comic. But that’s another discussion altogether.

#55 Jason Nocera
October/3/2008
@ 9:44 am

YES! I totally agree with where this conversation is going. Why don’t the syndicates pay attention to the web model. Besides Dilbert, let’s take a look at a quote from another recent dailycartoonist thread:

“According to the article, the sales of Zippy memorabilia and accessories on zippythepinhead.com has grown from one third to half of his income. ”

What if Humble Stumble had a site specific for merchandise..or Silo Roberts..or any number of recent comic strips that had to fold because the number of papers just wasn’t there. Would Zippy have joined that group if it didn’t evolve??

#56 Todd Dolce'
October/3/2008
@ 9:58 am

Tom said:

“But, I didnâ??t get one of the 5 openings (or whatever ridiculously small number it is) this YEAR in syndicates – now what. Oh, nor did I get it last year, or the 5 years before that. Do I quit? Or do I try something different.

Webcartooning is an opportunity for those to whom the syndication door is closed – for whatever reason (a whole other subject within itself).”

Great Points Tom!!!! You hit the nail on the head!!!!!

#57 Howard Tayler
October/3/2008
@ 10:03 am

We have been equating the “be your own businessman” and the “let the syndicate do it” models with web- and syndicated cartooning respectively.

I posit that this is not a permanent pairing.

Webcartooning is new. Nascent, even. It is likely that within the next decade we will see web delivery of content embrace the syndication model, in which content creators are recruited by businesspeople.

Of course it’s been tried before. Keenspot and Modern Tales were both, for lack of a better term, webcartoonist syndicates. Both failed in that regard — no webtoonist I’m aware of was able to work full-time as a Keenspot-syndicated or MT-syndicated creator. Most full-timers either left these web-syndicates to run their own businesses (and keep all the profits themselves) or joined after they were already full-timing in order to boost traffic.

But those failures are not indicative of anything inherently “broken” about webcartooning. They illustrate that the market is still too small to support a corporate approach to supporting creators.

If I had to lay money on somebody with a corporate approach to webcartooning, I’d bet on Joey Manley and ComicSpace. I’m not saying he’ll save us all when print finally dies, but if you’re concerned about the health of the syndicates and their ability (or willingness ((or both!)) ) to adapt to the web, keep an eye on what Joey’s doing.

For now, though, I’m my own businessman because I have to be. I may grow the business enough to hire someone to take care of that for me, but that day is a ways out still.

#58 Todd Dolce'
October/3/2008
@ 10:15 am

LTaylor said:

“I always fear though that merchandising will do harm to the purity, if you will, of the comic. But thatâ??s another discussion altogether.”

YES,..I see it going that way and it is indeed scary. This may be a problem. BUT,….I think there can be both in harmony if done so with balance and if we CHARGE money for the comic.

I’m sorry,..I just don’t like the prospect of not charging for the strips. I just can’t get my big fat head around how to do this at this stage of the game unless syndicates get their head out of the sand and get involved here to work “WITH” the web!

I often wonder this,…I often wonder perhaps if the money for comic model for the online medium lies in WHERE it’s delivered moreso than how. What I see here is as the old bulky desktops start to die off and we migrate to razor thin “all in ones” with shiny buttons, phone capabilities and high tech screens and as we as people become even more mobile and continue on the go with our new found attention deficit disorders (based on the pre-conditioning of instant feedback) we will indeed pay for media to reach our pockets. It’s happening now a bit, but I mean in a major way,..and the syndicates can offer comics ala cart or based on packages that they offer for the comics that they represent.

It works for TV. We all scream about Cable costs and Satellite costs,..but we still pay it. I see this perhaps in the future if the syndicates wake up or maybe the syndicates miss the boat and the phone services take this over. They provide the package deals. The creators can still promote their goods on their respective sites (links will be available) and the readers can choose what they want to pay to see every day.

Maybe people will see this as different and be willing to pay. I know this model has already begun with today’s crop of cell phones and all in ones, (I have no idea how successful it is) but it would grow immensely as the hardware begins to advance as well.

#59 Jim Thomas
October/3/2008
@ 10:22 am

Print cartoonists that do not do strip work, but alt weeklys or editorials are lamenting that there is no place for them on the web because they cannot monetize their work, but what about the comics like Octopus Pie or Girls with Slingshots, or even PVP for that matter, where print offers little to no choice for them for reasons of either content or form. These are high quality comics that for one reason or another, wouldn’t work in the syndicate model. The web is not just opening up opportunities for cartoonists to get their work out, but also allows them to explore their craft and not be limited to strict rules set up by antiquated beliefs in both what is acceptable for newspapers and how things have to be presented. We lost Bill Watterson to this, how many other good cartoonists never got an opportunity in the print model? The web is vital to growing the artform because the artist has the ability to create their full visions.

It is important to keep working on a web model so that cartooning can continue to grow. What if, for instance, the halfpixel group hired a two people to run the website and shipping of their product? would it take three people? Ok. They split the ad revenue from all sites into equal shares and everyone gets a cut. My suggestion is this, if the cartoonists hire the “syndicate” as opposed to begging for their acceptance, the cartoonist could get the bigger cuts of profit, and also, and more importantly, retain the freedom to create without restraint. We should not mock the efforts of the Halfpixel guys for presenting a business model, more discussion needs to happen and that model needs to grow. But now we all at least have a point in which to begin.

#60 Tom Dell'Aringa
October/3/2008
@ 10:30 am

It’s worth noting that just about every pay-for-comic model has utterly failed. Putting up a barrier between your comic and your reader via a pay scheme – even micropayments – shuts the door.

I paid a small amount for a year to comics.com to get some comics in my e-mail, but I ended up canceling it – it just wasn’t worth it, and they didn’t offer enough comics that I liked at a low enough price.

Not sure how well Go comics does – $11.95 a year is fairly cheap but again, it’s a limited field. And how much of that trickles down to the creators after all is said and done? Can’t be but a penny or two.

It’s an interesting space to watch and see what happens. Personally I think the Patron model mentioned above is about as innovative idea as I have heard in a while.

Imagine if someone comes along and builds a model of pay comics and they want your comic in. You’ve been going along for 5 years and have an established fan base. Suddenly they want to put your comic behind a pay wall, and you have to stop posting comics to web and tell all your fans, hey you now have to go to this service and pay for it – just to get my comic – and pay for a bunch of other stuff you may not want. Heck, or even just pay a small amount for my comic.

Imagine the response… would you be willing to do that? It could effectively kill your comic. I don’t know how you get the horse back in the barn.

#61 frank white
October/3/2008
@ 10:47 am

Matt just because editorial cartoonists and strip cartoonists both call themselves cartoonists , they are clearly not the same and are totally different animals. The comic strip artist is more of an original thinker who develops his or her own characters and invests part of his or her personality in them. This is what an audience online is grabbed by and responds greatly to how it speaks to them. On the other han editorial cartoonists are really just primarially illustrators with a knack of making fun of whatever political figure happens to be newsworthy at the moment.Their characters are mostly all already defined for them , all they have to do is sit back and draw. To use a movie analogy………comic strip cartoonists are the actor and writer and director whereas the editorial cartoonists are just actors!

#62 Aaron Taylor
October/3/2008
@ 11:08 am

…and editorial columnists are just the guy who types in the opening credits of the movie?

Frank — clearly you need to broaden your repertoire on editorial cartooning and what its function is.

Keeping with the movie theme, editorial cartoonists are Siskel and Ebert — giving their opinion on the political drama that unfolds in front of them.

#63 Todd Dolce'
October/3/2008
@ 12:23 pm

I think your analogy of creator’s “begging” the syndicates to take them on needs clarification. This is/was the problem of that business model. There was and is only so much space in a newspaper that a publisher was/is going to reserve for comics. That is what caused the “begging” syndrome so to speak. You are limited if you are just talking newspapers and magazines. It would not hold water online because basically the canvas is infinite. The syndicates could still prosper and the that “begging” in a sense is reduced greatly. You will always have some competitive aspect to trying to get a contract with the syndicate, but then again,…competition is healthy.

What is happening here online as a result of this wonderful found freedom without controls (trust me I love it too!!!) for our comics to be shown; is a large influx of utter trash amongst the diamonds! At some point it will be hard to sort through the mire while we spend time looking for the new high quality strips. Trust me,..if the webcomic industry continues to grow at the speed in which everyone here is so certain of,…we will have the need for a new way of delivery. Maybe today this makes no sense, but we’ll see about this down the road.

It will have to change or just become a discombobulated mess
that nobody will enjoy sifting through and eventually move away from altogether. There is a risk here whether we like it or not.

#64 Jim Thomas
October/3/2008
@ 12:46 pm

Oh I agree about the internet breeding bad work. But for this discussion I am only addressing what is seen as quality work. I am not of the opinion that the web should be the fall back when the syndicates don’t pick you up. The web needs to be seen as an equal opportunity for quality strips to find success.

My point is just, within this new business model, the relationship between syndicate and cartoonist is not yet set in stone. It is not established yet how a contract should be, or if the established print syndicates are the best solution for handling web syndication. When trying to figure out how two business models can merge to better serve the artist, I think we all agree that the artists would like to be artists, and business people should handle the business. But, how much overhead are artists paying for within the large syndicates. Can a smaller syndicate handle quality strips online by streamlining the syndicate process. Can a shared warehouse cut down on cost for shipping and storage for 5-10 successful webcartoonist. Can one IT person keep 5-10 sites up and running smoothly. There is a benefit to having a business backing the art, but the smaller the business, the more efficient it can be, and the bigger the cuts for everyone involved. My example of Halfpixel taking on this model is, how much time do all four artists save if they have one person managing their sites, and all of their shipping coming out of one location. If they have one person managing their ad sales. There is an opportunity for quality strips to create their own business team that functions as a syndicate, but under their own terms. For print, syndication is the only good way to get into papers. for the web, the best path to success is not yet owned by anyone.

#65 Scott Kurtz
October/3/2008
@ 2:49 pm

This last weekend, the four of us at Halfpixel, as well as a couple other friends of ours in the webcomics community, attended the Baltimore Comicon.

I was an official guest of the show, as I have a foot both in webcomics and traditional print comics. Image reprints my strips traditionally in a monthly comic book format and distributes those monthlies and larger collections via Diamond Distributions.

One of the perks of being a guest of the Baltimore Comicon is a wonderful VIP room in the back of the convention center where you can take a break from the crowd and get some sodas and snacks. This year they even had a masseuse. It was pretty posh. But the real value of the VIP room is getting to rub elbows with giants in the comic book industry. Getting to talk quietly, one-on-one, with the people who wrote the funnybooks you grew up on, or who currently inspire you month to month.

This weekend, I had long and interesting conversations with: Darwyn Cooke, Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Mike Oeming, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Walter Simonson. I had some friendly handshakes and “how are you doing, Scott?” moments with DC Comic’s Dan Didio, as well as Howard Chaykin, Adam Hughes, and Brian Stelfreeze.

This, my friends, is rarefied air. This is talent beyond mine. These people have no business giving two farts about me or my stupid comic strip. But guess what? They all love PvP. They all asked about it. They all respect what I’m doing and most importantly, NONE of them questioned whether or not I had a valid reason to be there. Not one of these GIANTS asked for a tax return, or a resume. None of them demanded that I produce proof that webcomics work or that people can sustain themselves online.

I was asked to present the Harvey Award for best online and syndicated comic strips this year. Kyle Baker introduced me by saying that his kids prefer my work to his. He said it with sincerity and kindness and he meant it as a compliment. I’ve spoken to his wife and drawn pictures with his children.

My point is this: clearly there are print cartoonists that exist in this world, with not only an open mind towards webcomics, but a clear and sincere interest in what we do and how we do it. They are eager to discuss, explore, correct, help and discover with us. More importantly, they have a kind heart towards other cartoonists.

At the Harvey Awards this year, Nick Cardy got a lifetime achievement award. The guy is in his 70s. And he thanked everyone for the night of his life. Because the award was from his peers, the people he respected. And they were acknowledging his work and saying “You are one of us, and you are really talented and we respect you.”

I implore everyone here in webcomic to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. There is a small group of very bitter and hateful men here who are parading as the whole of print cartoonists. And they are trying to get us pretty down about what we do.

There are thousands of other print cartoonists out there, giants in this industry, who not only respect what we do, but are curious to learn about it and start up a dialogue with us about it. And that is just about the most encouraging thing I can imagine. Because I still have so much to learn and it’s rare you get to lock heads and look at the future of cartooning with people like Kyle Baker.

Seriously, guys. Once John Romita walks up to you and says “PvP. My grandson reads that.” You suddenly cease to give a flying f— about what Ted Rall thinks.

I’m going to chase that feeling.

Editor’s note: Scott’s F-bomb has been “—” out, other than that, it remains untouched.

#66 Alan Gardner
October/3/2008
@ 2:56 pm

I REALLY dislike posting stuff regarding webcomics because it typically ends in a thread/flame war. I’ve been genuinely pleased that despite a few tangents, this thread has been relatively on topic and informative.

But, I think I’m going to quit while we’re a head.

Scott you had the last word.

-Alan

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