Tuesday, January 29, 2008

9 Ways to Max out your EntreCard

Did you know there's a quick, cheap way to double or even triple your blog's traffic overnight? It sounds too good to be true -- and to hear it from some people, it is. But that doesn't mean it still doesn't work.

The idea of a huge traffic spike for almost no effort seems weird, but for all the complaints that "big" bloggers have about EntreCard, it actually improved my general statistics in the first week by leaps and bounds compared to some nearly ALL of my other attempts. 50% more subscribers practically overnight (even if most of them did disappear the next day), a ridiculous number of hits (which could only HELP with Project Wonderful), and a better bounce rate than what I'd been enjoying otherwise - and considering that most other bloggers find those same rates horrific, I assume one of the following:
  • Entrecard really IS that good for blogs, at least for smaller ones that could use the traffic.
  • The "Newbie Bonus" coming into the site is amazingly inflated compared to what it's worth in the long run.
  • My previous efforts promoting the blog really were that amazingly awful. (given that I consider an 80% bounce rate an improvement, this may deserve more weight than I'm giving it.)
So what is it? Entrecard involves putting a little widget (not much bigger than a 125x125 ad) on your site. Other users can click the widget and drop off their cards, generating virtual credits for you (for recieving the card) and for them (for giving you their card). You can then use these credits to advertise in other people's widgets, or receive even more credits for letting people advertise in yours. Put Simply, it's Link Karma.

So far, I've used the site for about a week, and since so much of Entrecard's success depends on the sites and people that use it... here's what you need to know to get the most out of Entrecard:
  1. Get an Image Card. A GOOD image card. Seriously, most of these bloggers don't know a raster from a Rastafarian. A good-looking card gets you more traffic, plain and simple. (and if you're clever, SELL some of these guys your image-making skills.) If that's not enough incentive, keep in mind that a lot of folks (like me) aren't going to give advertising space to a text ad so readily as they will a slick image.
  2. Effort in == Effort out. Drop Cards regularly, and it comes back to you; link karma at its purest. This is probably why people who 'naturally' get 100+ hits a day or more complain about Entrecard: it's too much work to run around dropping cards when other methods deliver better returns!
  3. If you're complaining about a high bounce rate... maybe it's not Entrecard's fault, y'know? Sturgeon's Law applies to just about everything, and in a place where you're bound to be exposed to all of it, that 90% is going to look bloody awful. If your site has ANY sense of aesthetics to it, you'll come out on top. If you honestly need to purchase a sense of aesthetics, there's plenty of people around who can help, and some of 'em will even do it for more free credits!
  4. Never use the "Slim Widget"! It's not rocket science, it's Fitts's Law. For those who don't speak programmer, here's a rough translation: The bigger the target is, the easier a time people have to hit it. In a sea of 125 x 125 ads, that means the only way I can spot someone with a slim widget is if I see the little, yellow Entrecard bar! If you want droppers, you need to make sure people can tell where your widget is.
  5. In fact, use the 200x127 "Medium Widget". It's just the right odd size that it's easily recognizable as an Entrecard widget, and not merely two 125x125 ads stuck together. And for those using Blogger, it's just the right width for your sidebars! (No, really, it's the perfect size. I'm using it now, even.)
  6. Don't put your Widget at the top, but don't bury it among six Project Wonderful ads either. Chaindroppers (people who just follow chains of widget ads to drop their cards) click in, drop, click onto the next blog, and so on. While forcing them to henpeck for the ad is bad, at least make them go below the fold so they have to at least look at the rest of your stuff. Speaking from experience, sites like SiteHoppin' make it way too easy to just click, hop, and run . . . experiment a little to find the balance between making it too easy and frustrating the end-user.
  7. Speaking of Project Wonderful . . . their square ads are the exact same size as the widgets -- 125x125 pixels. This means if an Entrecarder wants space on your page but isn't about to gain a free ad from you, they can pay for it! Just make sure you keep your square ads separated enough from the Entrecard Widget not to confuse people.
  8. Start aligning yourself with other Entrecarders. Most (but not all) of the sites using Entrecard are also using other Web 2.0 sites and tools like Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook... *cough* or writing articles designed to target other Entrecarders who happen to be rushing past your site in the hopes of attracting a quick boost.
  9. Write me a recommendation! Okay, this tip won't necessarily help YOU with Entrecard, but it does highlight that there's more to this site than clicks and card drops. Recommendations, Favorites, and other useful details of the site make you look more respectable, and since (at least from a site-side perspective) recommendations are key to building a reputation, they're worth seeking out. Recieiving them isn't easy, though, so if you're willing to help me, I'll find a way to return the favor. (Might be a few extra drops, might be a recommendation back... depends how good I find your site in return.)
There's finer points to all of this, and a few other things that can be done as well -- contests, hanging out in the forums, using the Project Wonderful ads on the Entrecard site -- but all of these fixes are simple, free, and stuff you need to be doing anyway, not just for a special segment. Catering exclusively to Entrecarders is a recipe for disaster, sure, but with a few tweaks to the formula, you'll find your rates skyrocketing (and your credit count rising!) in no time.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just a Reminder... Conbadges still available!

Hey, folks . . . For my showcasing at Furry Weekend Atlanta, I could use a few samples of my work . . . and there's still plenty of conbadge slots available for everyone!

Just a reminder, they're going for $8 each if you pre-order right now (shipping not included) as an early adopter's fee. Details are back in this post, but it's definitely something you're not going to want to miss. :)

These are custom commissions in a button-sized badge, so any character (including your own!) can be done in these. Click here for more details and an example badge.

So come on and get one; you won't see this price at the convention tables, that's for sure!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Art of Last Resort - GlitterBot Mascot

Well, this is a blog for my comic, first and foremost... talking about how to make others successful is fun, but I owe my readers a few tidbits to speculate on too. It's about time I included some pretty pictures in the blog.

Those who look close may note she looks awful similar to Siege. . . well, it IS a robot, but I've not picked out a name for her yet. The general idea of a dreadlocked robot still looks pretty good though.

(By the way, there are still plenty of badges available for purchase... go buy one. The weekend's coming up soon and it'll be the perfect time to draw them!)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WARNING: If You're Planning to Buy a Conbadge From Me, Buy Now or Pay More Later!

What do you do when you want to offer conbadge commissions at a convention (of all things), but realize that you can't actually do them AT the con because of the whole "I ink and color all my work digitally" detail?

Why, you offer preorders, of course! Showing up at conventions isn't cheap, after all, and I wouldn't be working tables if I didn't plan on selling SOMETHING...

What It Is: a way for me to cover con costs before I even get there One 2.25" (5.72 cm) button, plastic-coated and shiny, with the name and face of any character of your choice*. Unless your character is naturally teeny-tiny, there won't be room for much else.

These aren't limited to just Last Resort Characters; I'll draw your own characters as well! Each badge is drawn custom, just for you!

What It Costs: Since these are pre-orders, They'll be going for the early-adopter fee of $8 apiece. This is, of course, a limited-time offer, and it's a pretty good bet that if you wait until the convention they won't be that price.

When You Get 'Em : Since the idea is to have these to show off my commissioning skills at both Furry Weekend Atlanta and MomoCon, I would like to keep as many badges as I can until March 16, 2008 (Last Day of MomoCon). If you need it before then, see below.

Shipping & Handling Sanity:
  • If you are going to be at either convention, you may pick up your badges there and then. Shipping's Free. A simple confirmation that you're who you say you are should suffice.
  • If you need your badge shipped to you, send extra for shipping. Adding $3 is a good estimate unless you're not inside the US.
    • Make it an even Adding $5 if you expect the badge before February 15. It's kinda unfair to ask me to make a badge that I don't even get to show off at a time when I could be working on other people's orders, after all.
    • Please specify WHEN you need the badge, if it's time-sensitive at all; otherwise I'll assume you can wait until after MomoCon for me to send them. Don't worry, I'll make sure to provide some sort of visual confirmation (probably through a few pictures on the blog!) that your badge has been made and I'm just holding onto it for display purposes at that point.
  • Sanity Fee: If you're someone who's likely to ask for do-overs and be picky about your art, Add $5 More for a Sanity Fee. This entitles you to see the lineart prior to coloring, the coloring with text prior to printing/buttoning, and the ability to critique and alter whatever doesn't suit you. Note that you only get one do-over at each stage, and once it's a button, the deal is done.
    • If you don't pay the Sanity Fee and complain after the fact, you'll need to pay the $5 anyway unless it's an actual error on my part (like I leave your character's wings off, and I just overlooked it on the sheet) or the error in question can be fixed easily enough.
Preorder Bonus: Since all of these preorders will be taken online, that means everyone involved probably has use for an avatar or two. Ergo, everyone who preorders also receives, in addition to the discount, a 100x100 icon of your character, sans the nice text.

What I Need From You (Besides Money): I need at least one reference picture in color (or a REALLY good description) of your character, along with a name and a rudimentary idea of their personality so I can pick a nice font to match. If I can't make heads or tails of it, I'll ask for clairification and/or send your money back.

How Many Are Available: They're quick, but they still take time. This first batch will be a set of 5, and if demand is high enough (and I finish them fast enough!) I'll make more.

How to Buy: Send Money through PayPal (link available through the Last Resort website -- click the little Jigsaw with the Battery image) along with an email to me detailing what you want and any/all reference links for your character. If you have any concerns about my willingness to draw a certain character or any other special issues, email first, THEN send money. I won't start drawing without payment, though.

Interested? Order today!

*At Artist's Discretion, which mostly means if it fails the "Will Dad freak out if he sees this?" test I won't draw it. Come on, these are BADGES. You wear them on your person in a relatively public space. Common Sense Plz.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Four New Cast Pages for Last Resort!

I told you all I wanted to do cast pages, and look, we have a few already.

Those of you who've been reading along will notice only four of the characters involved have pages so far. Well, we have a lot more than four characters, so more and more pages should be getting released as time goes on. Fortunately, mugshots of our various criminals go much faster than comic pages, not the least of which is that "hands cuffed behind the back" thing.

This update's featured victims:
  • Daisy Archanis
  • Arikos of Nile
  • Slick Giovanni
  • Kurt 'Geisha' Striaeta
Warning: We're talking about Criminal Dossiers here, with mugshots of the characters as they are at time of arrest. Not all of the pictures (or text, for that matter) are the easiest to stomach. If you've kept up with me this long, you know the drill. Otherwise, some of these are going to be very interesting shocks for you.

Questions? Complaints? Reimbursement for eyebrows lodged in the ceiling? Feel free to say something on the forums.

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One Simple Way to Generate More Money out of Project Wonderful (AKA "Why My Ads Started Getting Better")

Freshman Quad, January 19, 2008. Doesn't really have a whole lot of appeal, does it?

Sure, we kinda know what it is — probably a school space (or near a school space) of some kind, and a date. A fairly recent date. Interesting if we already had a bit of a clue, perhaps... but to the average person, it's still pretty mundane.

Freshman Quad, January 19, 2008 - Rare Snowfall at the Atlanta campus. Now this . . . we're getting somewhere. We know there's snow, in a place that doesn't normally get it. Hell, maybe people in the general area will be interested enough to see, now that they have information they didn't before.

Seem simple? Because it is.

I mention this in regards to Project Wonderful (as opposed to say, search engines like Google) because unlike most search engines / directories, most advertisers on Project Wonderful only see a few stats about your available advertising — what your stats are, what your space usually goes for, and the title of your site. Mebbe also a quick usericon that has a sample of your art, if it's worthwhile. Sure, maybe some advertisers (especially if they plan on dumping potentially hundreds of dollars into your site!) will look more closely, but not all. That makes your title one of the few things you can control regarding how advertisers view your site, and also one of the most important to get right.

The more information you have in there that seems worth having, the more it matters. In my own case, merely changing the visible title for those ad blocks from "Last Resort" to "Last Resort - Science Fiction Furry Comic" made a huge difference; by the very next day, I was seeing bids jump from 1 or 2 cents a day to THIRTY cents. Granted, I had also reduced the number of ads available on the site from two to one, so at least part of that could be due to
tightening up the purse strings, but they've been doing exceptionally well since. Also, on the blog page (which had a similar renaming on PW), prices did a similar jump there as well.

Granted, it assumes you know what you need to say to get people interested, but if you already have the site, why not give it a title that makes sure people know what you're about?

Have a better idea? Think I could possibly add something more appealing to my suggestions? Let me know!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

10 Things Every Webcomic Creator Should Know (About Getting Rich)

  1. The odds of making money off Webcomic X are against you. Do the math: there's approximately 11,000 webcomics out there, according to thewebcomiclist. Maybe 100 of those are making a decent amount of cash. That's less than 1% of all the comics out there.
  2. The good news is, the same odds apply to almost any business field out there, Restaurants, Magazines, Bakeries... almost 90% of businesses fail in the first year, PERIOD. Consider yourself lucky that you're trying in a field that doesn't require significant financial outlays.
  3. Making a webcomic doesn't have to be expensive, but it's not free either. If nothing else, your time and the money you could be making for that amount of time is the cost involved.
  4. Don't think you can get away with doing less for your comic and still doing well. Yes, webcomics are a great place for artistic shortcuts, but people STILL give Tim Buckley about how much copypaste he does in Ctrl+Alt+Del.
  5. The less work you do, the more you should have to show for it. People are far more forgiving if a beautifully done piece of work only shows up once a week. Likewise, if it's stick figures, you ought to have plenty of new material up often (unless you're Xkcd, in which case your writing better be what holds you up)
  6. Some people will always be attracted to your work. Others won't. Not everyone likes manga, or furry, or superheroes, or hell, naturists. Deal with it and run from there.
  7. As soon as you find the ones willing to help you out, keep them nearby as long as you can. Everyone needs a couple die-hards, groupies, whatever you want to call 'em, and if they're friends in high places, so much the better.
  8. Nothing you do will result in a get-rich-quick scheme. This is the internet, after all. If we knew of one, everybody would be doing it.
  9. A lot of things you do, on the other hand, will each net a little money. THIS is how you support yourself; a little here, a little there, and so on. In my case, we're talking a donations button, some Project Wonderful ads, and (coming soon) a little supplementary income from conventions. It's not even enough to cover tuition at this point, but for what's effectively eight month's worth of work, it ain't bad either.
  10. The minute you stop looking for new ideas is the minute you start losing money. We're not saying you have to try a new hairbrained scheme each day, but paying attention to what you're doing and tweaking it to get rid of what doesn't work while capitalizing on what DOES work, will net you more in the long run.
So . . . if you're reading this, you probably haven't been paying attention to at least one of these details before now. Mind posting a comment to tell me which one? Curious minds want to know!

Like this Post? Lots of other people do, too! You should subscribe to my RSS Feed to make sure you can get more like it, along with all the other great posts on this blog!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

To those reading the blog on Feedburner:

So, those of you using the handy RSS feed we have for the blog? All two of you?

Yeah, apparently it hadn't been updating since November. I seemed to have forgotten to switch the URL for the feed over when the blog moved to blogspot.

My bad. It works now. Enjoy. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take too long to catch up.)

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Friday, January 11, 2008

See How Easily You Can Get a Response out of People: Skribit Shows you How!

Wouldn't you just love it if people TOLD you what they wanted?

Okay, we get it. Forums require registration. Emails require firing up whatever program or website you use for emailing. Telling someone in person requires . . . well, being in person. Even commenting on a blog requires providing some personal information, going past a captcha, and who knows what else. When you don't feel like doing all of that, these are nothing more than communication hurdles.

Skribit takes a Howitzer to those hurdles.

Skribit is the little-known brainchild of Startup Weekend Atlanta (with people like Paul Stamatiou behind the wheel), and is a blog widget that sits in your sidebar. You can see mine if you look down and to the right a bit — assuming you're actually on the blog's page, of course.

What is it: It's a pain-free way for readers (like you) to suggest new topics for this blog. It supports anonymous posting, so no account is necessary, and once a topic is in there, other people can vote to support it. The more support something has, the more I know people want to see that topic. We're not talking excessively detailed suggestions though - a quick phrase or two is enough.

Why you need it: If people don't see a topic they like on your blog (or have a slightly different one in mind), they can suggest it for future discussion later. It's a great way to "read the reader's minds" and get a pulse for what people are really coming to hear. From a webcomic perspective, you can use it to suggest new gag-a-day's or get a feel for what readers want to see next!

How to use it:
  • Click on "Click here to suggest a topic" to give a brief idea of what you want, and a 140-characters-or-less description of what it is.
  • Click on an already-suggested topic to see more information about that topic.
    (it takes you away from the current page though...)
  • Click on "Vote" if you like what you see.
You don't need to be registered with Skribit (though we dare say it helps).

How to get it: Go register over on Skribit, give them a little info about your blog, and plug the widget in, then wait to see what others suggest.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

8 Things I want to do with Last Resort in 2008

So I'm a few days late with the resolutions. All the better to put some thought into it and have half a chance of keeping them by doing so, right?

In no particular order:
  1. Conventions. In a roundabout way, THIS is what I started working on a webcomic for. Of course, this costs money (especially for bigger ones), not to mention travel, potential lodging issues, and everything else...
  2. Commissions. It's an easy one-shot piece of artwork, and taking a few gives me a chance to gauge how well I'm doing overall.
  3. Personalized Stuff. Well, "Personal Commissions", at any rate. Don't worry, y'all still get a chance to see 'em, but it seems silly to call myself an artist but not have any of my art on display around me the way I do my crochet'd stuff.
  4. Merchandise. Commissions are nice, but given the choice between a piece of art I can only sell one time and a piece I can sell multiple times, I'll go for the merchandise. Of course, this involves being able to figure out what people want.
  5. Donations. This is still my biggest source of revenue, and it's one that I intend on keeping around.
  6. (Better) Ads. Project Wonderful has its moments, but there's got to be a better way to make a few cents a day. It doesn't require much effort on my part, sure, but it still feels good to see those ads paying more than a nickel or so into my account.
  7. Cast Pages. I started promising this towards the end of last year, and I want to get back to drawing them before my art style changes much more.
  8. Encyclopedia Galactica. Name pending to change, of course, but having a 'cast page' for some bits and pieces of the galaxy would be good too. At least for the parts we're willing to cover.
As always, a comment or email to help steer myself in the right direction is a good thing to have, so let me know if you have any ideas (or want to help me with a few of these things... especially if you're offering for me to do a commission, heh)

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Monday, January 7, 2008

The ONE Resolution Every Webcomic Creator Needs to Keep in 2008

Resolutions are tough. We know it. We all swear we're gonna lose the weight or clean up the workspace or tell that pesky guy off, but there is ONE resolution that anyone who makes webcomics needs to go ahead and keep.
  1. Get Involved in the Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards! Nominations are open now, Voting is open just a few weeks later. The only way to participate is to make a comic, so even if you're doing jack squat in terms of publicity, you can still make an impact.
That's it. Seriously. It couldn't be much simpler:
  1. Register. Tell them enough about your webcomic so they know you qualify. Just a URL and something to prove that you're active is enough.
  2. Nominate. Nominations are open now (as of January 4) and close January 23. Nominate as few or as many (up to 3 per category) comics as you like.
  3. Vote. Once nominations close and the top nominees are announced, start voting from February 8 to February 22. Winners will be announced March 8.
If you're looking for exposure and don't mind doing a little more drawing than normal, consider drawing a category for the online ceremony. There's plenty to go around, and a well-placed category presentation or win could do wonders for your comic.

And for those wondering: Yes, Last Resort qualifies for the "Outstanding Newcomer" category. If you know what I mean.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Last Resort is coming to Furry Weekend Atlanta!

The current bet's on being able to get an Artist's Alley table. On the off chance it doesn't work, please let me know if you'll be in the area and/or willing to lend a hand!

I plan on offering some commissions along with Last Resort buttons and this season's new pamphlet, along with sketchbook work. If you want something more or just have a really good idea for something else I can do, feel free to send an email with suggestions, and by "feel free" I mean "send it NOW so if I have to ask for help in making them I have half a chance"!

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