Thursday, February 28, 2008

One Contest Commission Done!

That's one commission down, and one to go! This one's Ben's request. Click it to go see the full image over at DeviantArt.

... See, I can draw other people's characters. :-p

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Congratulations, Contest is Over!

I ended up being a little more generous than I had in mind. Mischa and Ben, you both win! I've already sent out emails to both of you; please try to respond quickly, so I can show people what you won.

(The answer, by the way, was "Silk of the Solar Winds", which everyone pretty much got right.)

Thanks go out to everyone who sent in emails, and if you didn't win, don't worry; there'll probably be another contest soon enough.

Don't expect it to be so simple next time though...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Free Commission Available - Seriously!

Guess who's feeling generous today? Me, that's who!

I feel like giving out some art to some lucky Last Resort reader. In fact, the first person to email me with White Noise's full name wins a full-body commission, absolutely FREE.

It's already in the archives, so it's not a huge secret. Just a simple way to make sure people are paying attention. Two minutes work could net you an awesome piece of art.

So what're you waiting for? Go get it!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Week In Recap

The donation image should be changing soon to remind people of MomoCon coming up next (March 15-16 in Atlanta, once again... oh, and did I mention it's a free convention?), but I'm still sorta feeling it from Furry Weekend Atlanta last week, especially as it congealed together in my brain along with the last two weeks of school as "Lots of Running Around". The fact I had fun does not change the fact I still feel worn out.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up to try and get another fistful of cast pics and pages done. Feel free to speculate on the story behind this picture when you get a chance. Past that, I assume I have some work to do for MomoCon based on what I learned from this previous convention.

... and one of the lessons is to put out a tip jar. (I'll probably post the rest later, but that's one that's worth remembering either way.)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

The Secret to Making People Actually READ your Webcomic.

You asked for it -- or at least searched for it! Since so many folk are (at least according to Google) searching for how to get people to read webcomics, who am I to argue? (Especially since writing articles based around webcomics is far more enjoyable than just writing about bloggers, no matter how similar they seem.)

There's a lot of different things people like in webcomics, if only because there are so many different types of webcomics. Make sure you at least have the basics down, though:
  • Consistent Updates.
    New readers may be hooked, but if your comic's not updated regularly (or worse, defunct), they won't know when to return to get more. Quantity is one thing, but a properly addicted reader will want their regular fix.
  • Some way to explain 'gaps' and inconsistencies.
    Confused readers don't read further. This can be countered with an especially large archive, as people start to see that the quality of the story and the art improves, but when you're starting out, the best way to counter this is with Archive Enhancements like cast pages, artist's commentary (especially on early pages), and even frequently asked questions.
  • Enough archive to get them hooked.
    The minimum archive you need depends on the story you're trying to tell -- and admittedly in my case, is something that needs to be worked on pronto. 20-30 pages is sort of a bare minimum, and it's only when you start getting into the hundreds of pages that you have enough pages to be immersible. (and yes, I know Last Resort isn't there yet. It should be pretty close by the end of the year though.)
  • Forums (or at least some clue they're not shouting into the void)
    Again, don't do this until you have something resembling a following already, but even a pair of die-hard fans can be enough to start a following. People attract more people, simply put.
  • A halfway decent comic to begin with.
    Don't think good writing makes up for bad art, or vice versa. If you're not putting whatever effort you've got into this, it's not going to make up for itself, no matter how many strips, cast pages, or whatever else you've got. Yes, good writing can counter minimalist art. Not bad, minimalist. If you don't know the difference, your writing's not going to be good enough to make a difference.
And most importantly: Your webcomic (and its website!) is its own best advertisement. Take a good hard look at what your comic says about itself and about what you're willing to do for it. Get a friend to help redesign it if you need to. Switch hosting, lose the crappy ads, get better ads, do what you need to, but make it look like you actually take pride in what you do. You need to make sure you have the foundations laid down before you can expect a fandom to build off of it, after all.

Of course, these are only the basics... you'll want to subscribe to the rss feed to make sure you don't miss all the good tips that have to follow after this. Or maybe you want to go ahead and tell me if I missed one I need to include for later?

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why I use Twitter

Well, if I expect you guys to use Skribit every now and then to ask questions, I ought to answer them. One of the more recent ones (since I totally have no clue about affilate urls) is asking a simple question: Why do I use Twitter?

On the surface, Twitter makes up a lot of things that don't make sense, and yet Twitter is probably the one application I'd use even if I wasn't blogging, webcomicing, or trying to have some other sort of Get-Rich-Scheme going on. Hopefully I'll hit most of the good points as to why.
  • On an ideal internet, there would be no wasted / duplicated efforts.
    I have the forum accounts, the blog, the webcomic, Project Wonderful, Entrecard,, Bloglines, etc. etc. etc... on my ideal internet, all of these various accounts would work together where even if I was only able to keep up with a few, I could still provide everyone else who sees those other alternate accounts a way to tell that I was still putting out fresh content, everything interlinked with everything else (at least to the point that I'd be willing to let it link up), and in doing so I hopefully would be able to lead people towards the parts of my internet experience I take the most pride in (i.e. the stuff I actually put effort into). Twitter is compatible with many different accounts I already use (and with things like TwitterSig, can even be brought into the forums as well), so I can use Twitter for sweet, fresh content across many accounts.
  • Twitter lets me keep up with everyone else.
    Dad keeps threatening (jokingly) to get a twitter account of his own just so he can respond, and strangely the idea doesn't spook me like it should. Part of it is 'probably' because I wouldn't mind convincing a few meatspace folks to start using twitter anyway, but also because it allows me to link together more systems. By having only one system that needs updating (Twitter) I can still have new content on the blog, or on facebook, or whatever other systems will let me integrate Twitter in with their stuff, so they know I've not completely abandoned X account.
  • I don't need to be online to Twitter.
    One of the real things that made twitter take off for me was being able to post from my cell phone. In fact, it was designed with this in mind, so it's no surprise that it's one of Twitter's strengths. I can go to events, parties, and conventions and be able to post about events almost as they happen. This is pretty much what I did with Furry Weekend Atlanta this past week, and as I said before, the further my twitter posts go, the more useful they are.
  • Twittering is Trivial.
    Writing blog posts is hard. Drawing Comics is hard. Coming up with utterances of 140 characters or less is easy. Hence why it makes an ideal candidate for being the most updated of the available systems; since it takes almost no time at all, posting lots of stuff in a very small time frame is easy, and likewise, posting only a little bit over lots of time is also pretty simple. Also, nobody really cares if you're being off-topic on Twitter or not, because it's a fleeting medium; anything you say will be overwritten later (even if it IS archived, people have to want to dig back to see it)! Hence...
  • Twitter has a very loose structure.
    Post whatever sounds good. Post an interesting link, or a witty thought, or a funny thing you overheard. Chances are good people will like it given that they like you enough to follow you, so why not? You don't have to worry about theming, and because there's only 140 characters worth of stuff to say at any given time, you can't hold long dissertations.
Now, some things make this easier than others. Mostly this means one of two methods besides posting from the twitter page:
  1. SMS messaging (because it means I don't HAVE to be at my computer to post).
    Note: You want to make sure you have a generous texting plan if you're this serious about this route. It's way too easy to twitter too much when you're on the road with little else to do.
  2. Twitterbar (A Firefox extenstion that allows me to post from my address bar, so I don't have to go to the webpage to post). This is more "So I don't have to interrupt my train of thought" type twittering.
There are lots of extensions/applications/mashups designed for Twitter, so you can pick and choose which one is most useful for your internet experience.

Hopefully this explains what possesses a girl like me to use a system that somehow encourages her to post about strange smells of old ravioli and floating cigarette butts. Even if it doesn't, consider this: Twitter lets me keep up with everyone else's stuff, including things like reminding people to sign up for BarCamp Atlanta. A perfectly good geek gathering would have happened right under my nose if not for someone posting about it on Twitter just in time for me to sign up.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bloglines - RSS that's Actually Useful

On any given day I can be jumping between one of four different computers, and when you're doing that, RSS feed systems tied to any one computer's browser can seem downright antiquated. And yet I still wanted to use RSS - something which so many freaking articles have been written about how useful it is that I sort of felt stupid (and a little hypocritical) for not hopping onto a few feeds myself.

Since I seemed to do just about everything else online, it made sense to try and find an online RSS reader. Nothing complex, just a way to follow what I want to follow without having to have a special Firefox extension or something equally inconvenient.

Enter Bloglines. The simplest way to put it is that it just works; input the account info, find the feeds you want, and add them. It keeps up with which posts you've already read, so you always come back to new data (if there's any to begin with). The more sites you follow, the easier it is, and the faster you can just go and get what you're after. Less time spent hunting for blogs means more time to get back to work.

And hey, it makes following my blog (and everyone else's) that much easier, right?

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Friday, February 15, 2008

And I'm gone to FWA!

In an attempt to save space in my bag and not bring the laptop, I'm updating the site early. Enjoy, folks!

Those curious can follow Twitter. :)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Convention Checklist - Artists

Running tables at a convention may very well be an artist's dream, but it's not easy! There's a lt of merchandise to deal with, convention stress, the whole "You're sitting out here to make a spectacle of yourself" kind of problem... To say the least, artists (and wannabe-artists) have a special checklist the average congoer doesn't!

Only yesterday I managed to get my ducks in a row enough to feel like I can take on FWA, so in an attempt to assure myself I'm doing it right, Here's a good rudimentary checklist for anyone planning to work conventions who wants to know how to run an artist's table:
  • Do you have multiple works to display?
    Not only does having more than one piece of work available make sense (in case any one work sells out), but multiple works allows people to develop a better sense of your style so in the case of commissions, they can go ahead and try to imagine what a piece done by you will turn out like!
    • Know what your table allows! If all your work is on the internet, you're going to be high and dry if the artist's alley doesn't allow for continuous power consumption, let alone an internet connection! Likewise, there may be restrictions on the rating of works visbile, so if you're drawing adult work, you better censor it before someone else censors it for you!
    • Is there a theme in your work? Theming helps create a cohesive identity to your work, which may be important if you're attempting to appeal to a particular segment (comic readers, anime fans, etc.). More importantly, it helps hook passersby into viewing more and more of your work. If you're doing a webcomic, you've already got this in spades - just print out a short storyline (or an excerpt of a longer one, as long as it's all contained) and you're good to go!
  • Are you going to be able to create any art at the convention itself?
    This is a BIG thing to remember. Customers like Instant Gratification. You'll like not having to ship shit after the fact.
    • If you're going to make art on-site... have all your tools available for working. Your convention art shouldn't be lower quality just because you left your nice drawing paper at home.
    • If you plan on shipping commissions out later... have a form available before you even leave home for customers to fill out later so they can receive your work! Ideally you should have forms available for ALL your different commission types just to make sure you produce the right work, but make sure you have them especially for those that require shipping.
  • Do you have a CONCRETE price list for your works?
    Even if you're willing to create a variety of work, people appreciate having a pricing list to look at so they can figure out which actions are worth what. Also, if you have a special commission type (such as conbadges or comic pages), specifying that you can do those things in addition to ordinary commissions may attract more business!
    • Are you making sure to specify what each commission type involves? Saying "Color Commissions $30" is fine, but you need to have the reader assume a certain level of complexity so you don't end up getting only $30 for drawing some 50-character 30-inch poster.
    • Do you have general 'add-ons' for the different commission types, so customers can mix and match for their specific orders?
  • Do you have a contract / terms-of-service available for customers?
    Absolutely Important! You need this so when customers complain (and they will!) you have a concrete position you can negotiate / argue from. The more detailed and professional you are with this, the less likely protracted arguments will occur (not to mention if your unhappy customer decides to try and "summon the internet" against you, you can make your case all the more convincingly).
    • It doesn't have to be complicated. Obviously the more ironclad ones protect you better, but if you're afraid of scaring off potential customers, even a few disclaimers such as "I won't draw pornographic materials" can go a long way to dealing with pesky customers.
    • Make sure you have a general refund system available; if all else fails, you don't want to be accused of keeping people's money for nothing!
Now, even with all of this done (or at least in mind), you'd think we'd be done and dusted. But we're not, because we haven't even started talking about running the actual table yet!

Unfortunately, that one I can't talk so much about yet, because it's still before the convention. But if you're willing to find out how that turns out (and the advice therein), go ahead and subscribe to the feed to keep up a little better.

Have I forgotten anything that I need to know before I go to this convention? Comment, quick, before I take off for the weekend and make an ass of myself!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Positioning Statements - Target or Die!

Comics need readers. Readers are brought in by, among other things, good advertising. This tends to require that the makers of those comics make their own advertising, and just like there are bad webcomics, there can be worse advertising for these comics. Fortunately, good advertising doesn't require big focus groups and research (at least not all the time) -- sometimes you can get away with using a tiny guideline called a positioning statement.

Positioning Statements are little blurbs of text that sound fairly useless at first -- perhaps even amazingly obvious -- but they allow you to understand who your audience is, what makes your stuff stand out, and if you're really struggling to come up with a good ad to use, this can help give you a bellwether to gauge its effectiveness by. (At this point it should go without saying that if you're paying for space on Project Wonderful without having something like this, you're probably wasting money on an ineffective ad!) For something that your average reader will probably never see, it's still incredibly important to have.

It may take a little bit of time to write the statement itself, but they all tend to follow the same sort of structure. This site has a straightforward plug-and-play version that you can go and tweak for your own purposes:
For [whoever's cash/attention we're after] that wants [some quality people demand], [Our Product/Service/Brand] is a [product category] that has [a benefit tied to the quality people demand].

Unlike [whoever we're trying to grind underfoot], [Our Product/Service/Brand] has [this trait that makes us better than them].
Now, you can rewrite that statement to sound a little less aggressive, but the idea is there. What you fill in the blanks with says a LOT about what you need to do. Heck, just to show that I have half a clue what writing such a statement will do, let's try it out with our favorite guinea pig, Last Resort:
For science fantasy enthusiasts who love engrossing stories of crime and redemption, Last Resort is a webcomic that has a rich galaxy of characters, excellent writing, and action-packed excitement. Unlike most other webcomics, Last Resort makes sure to update on time every week, so you never show up to find disappointing 'filler'.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well guess what we just did:
  • We now know who to aim our sights on: Sci-fi/Fantasy folk (i.e. Dragon*Con Fodder)
  • We also know what to hype in the comic:
    • High-Quality Writing / Storytelling
    • Reliability in Updates
  • We can put those two together to make better targeted ads!
See? Mad Libs can be educational after all! The other things we mentioned (like our competition) are useful to know, but really, that's just so we know who to compare our egos against. Simply naming competition isn't good enough unless you know what makes you different from them; and if you can't come up with a good reason why what you're doing is different from everyone else's, there's no reason for anyone else to stop using their product to invest time, energy, and money into yours.

And yes, even when that product is a 'free' webcomic, people's attention spans are still valuable enough to them that if they're already reading 20+ webcomics a day, there's a good chance they might not have time for yours. If it has a 100+ strip archive that people need to read before they can understand what's going on, they might be even more hesitant because reading that archive is an investment of time.

Targeting solves a lot of problems; most people (artists, especially) get caught up in the product, wondering why nobody's noticing them on a giant website like DeviantArt or DrunkDuck, when in fact that's exactly why they're not getting noticed; the potential number of people to reach is just too big to be effective. With targeting, however, you can take a website like Project Wonderful and start running campaigns on very specific websites that have certain keywords, so you waste less money on ineffective advertising.

Still curious about how to make better advertising? Subscribing to the RSS feed will make sure you don't miss the next useful article. If you're having trouble coming up with a good statement, how about leaving a comment with your own ideas and attempts?

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Checkpoint! [Countdown To FWA]

For those heading down to Furry Weekend Atlanta, it's coming up fast next week... or maybe it just feels fast to me because it's just now occurring to me how much this whole "get out and try to be an artist" stuff scares the heck out of me.

I'm doing the best I can to project a "calm, collected, experienced" artist-type persona, but for all of my general bravado, I'm scared to bits. It may just be that it's the first convention I'm actually trying to work at, but it hit me last night just how unprepared I feel about all this.

And it's not for lack of preparations; I mean, I've been going down the general checklist and making sure I have my ducks in a row, although I've not done convention-exclusive work like I have in the past, mostly because:
  • I'm not certain that new pamphlets would be worth the efforts.
  • I have enough comic pages 'published' now that I can print them out for a portfolio as opposed to needing to fabricate a sample, which was basically what the old pamphlets were for.
  • I've been a lazy artist and actually doing my schoolwork rather than drawing.
Of course, this could all change pretty easily if I decided to do a few extra things in time for MomoCon, but for now, I've got lots to prepare for.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Art of Last Resort - Adharia Kuvoe

Yay, more pretty sketches! or at least ones that clean up well after the fact, at any rate -- whatever poor sack stumbles upon my sketchbook in the future will see a bunch of doodles all overlapping each other. It's enough to make a girl invest in a reporter-style notebook, if only so I'm forced to give each picture some breathing room.

This one is an attempt at Adharia -- Those who keep up with me know I'm still several months ahead of myself, so art evolution is rampant. Add on the new art / anatomy books I picked up for my birthday and we're talking legendary levels of artistic dissonance. Heck, it might even get to the point where I'm driven to redo the banner image for the blog.

But for now, you get another product of what happens when teachers don't let me take a laptop to class.

... Don't worry, I'm still paying attention. I swear.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

5 Stupid Blogging Mistakes That Even The "Experts" Do

This probably belongs under the auspices of my earlier article about Entrecard, but let's face it, there's only so freaking much you can say about widgets before you just have to come out and say it:

Some people just have bad blogs.

If you're reading this, don't think you're immune to it either. Not everyone's a interface genius, and there's a lot you could be doing to make things easier on your reader's eyes that you don't do already because you insist on having ads in this spot and columns wherever they can stick them. Because so many people insist on having the "Above the Fold" space as valuable as possible, they overlook the fact that people's eyes can't POSSIBLY process all that information at once! So even if your content is top-notch, your website's design could be scaring away timid readers.

Stupid Blog Mistakes could be the subject of its own blog in and of itself, but let's just stick to the first five major mistakes that I noticed before they make me want to crawl into bed from the headache they give me:
  • Subverting Standardized Icons, Especially for RSS. Come on, people, it's a standardized icon for a reason. When I see that RSS Feed Icon, I know EXACTLY what is behind it and what I expect to find. If you change the icon, I have to think more than I should be.
  • Having Giant Fonts! Your eyes can only parse a certain amount of 'focused space' at a time; ergo, if you want people to read at a certain distance, you adjust the size, otherwise you force reader's eyes to have to adjust their focus before they can continue reading, especially if you change sizes a lot. Simply put... hm, how should I put this...
  • Cluttering your pages! We get it, ads make money online. You also make more money for having fewer larger ads (ala project wonderful) versus having lots of little ones. That means you should consolidate what you've got so it takes up as little space as possible.
  • Monetizing too much. You know what "Your Ad Here" REALLY says? "I want money and nobody's willing to pay me what I think I'm worth, so you get to look at this ugly thing instead!" It makes you look desperate, in other words.
  • Monetizing too little. Money left on the table doesn't really help you... Okay, so it may cause people to demand what they can't have and so eventually when you cave in you make more, but in the meantime you're selling yourself short.
If you don't spot what you're (probably) doing wrong yet, don't worry... it probably just belongs in the next article. In the meantime, how about leaving a comment and confessing to a few mistakes for me to include in the next article? I'd love to be able to point to some examples...

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me . . .

And it's another trip around the sun.

Birthdays online were always sort of weird for me to handle; I could never really grasp onto the concept of making a big list and suddenly expect some sort of online Santa Claus to come through with it. Heck, I have a hard enough time making a list for the REAL Santa* as is without expecting myself to come up with another one so soon after the holidays.

But hey . . . it's still worth telling you guys, and I'm sure I'll find a way to celebrate later today. Enjoy the new page, folks. :)

*You know what I mean.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Buffer Building - it's not just for Webcomics Anymore

Buffers are important for comics -- they keep the artist (i.e. me) from going insane with work, while making sure readers get their fix exactly when they want it. It takes a lot of effort sometimes to make sure I have a big enough buffer, though; I worked overtime during the winter to make sure that I had enough comics available for the next semester of college so I could focus on college without stressing out over the comics.

While I've not written an article about just building buffers (I'll probably get to it soon, I'm sure) they're just as important for blogs as well. Why?
  • Sometimes you'll have an incomplete post -- something that isn't fully fleshed out yet, but is too good to put down.
  • Your muse just went into overdrive and you're just bursting with ideas, but you know you can't just post them all at once or else you'll pass up on the benefits of posting all those things, because posting too often in a single day just makes you look desperate.
  • It's the wrong time of the week to trot out a gigantic post about effectively monetizing your audience... when you're about to post the next page of the comic and thus expose your OTHER audience to something they may not want to read.
Whatever the reason, there's one thing they have in common: you've got a post (or seven) that needs to be kept in mothballs for the next available time, maybe because it needs a good title or it just doesn't feel complete yet. And that's where having a buffer comes in! Suddenly you have a lot of great ideas in storage, just waiting for the right moment to come out and knock your audience for a loop!

As great as it all sounds, though, before you can enjoy the benefits of a buffer, you need to have a buffer, first. Here's some quick tips for how to build a Blog Buffer:
  1. Abuse your Drafts. Having a few random articles or two sitting around in various stages from development is always good. These ought to be heavy-hitting articles, so having a few of these around allows you to save some for rainy days of the blog.
  2. Write what comes to your mind first. Yes, you're supposed to write the headline first. Brainstorms don't work like that. You don't sit down and think "Wow, I should come up with 21 great tips for X, because 21 is a sweet number!", you think "I want to write about some tips for X, because X is AWESOME!" So write some tips for X.
  3. Plant Some Headline Seeds! First, you need some great headline templates. And some more. Maybe a few more than that. Don't worry, you're not doing anything illegal -- it's just Mad Libs for your Blog. Take a text file, and start filling in the blanks with stuff that sounds relevant to your own work. Giving you ideas? It ought to! Now that you've made great headlines which sound awesome to read, you'll be more motivated to write good material!
  4. Find some Padding if you can't post daily. For those of you who keep up with the RSS feed (which you should really subscribe to if you don't, by the way) you'll notice that even when the blog doesn't update, the feed does; that's because I got crafty and decided to let the feed update with my bookmarks. Admit it, some of you find those links useful, and it takes the pressure off me to come up with great content daily. (okay, so I need to find links more often to compensate, but since I seem to do that anyway...)
  5. If all else fails, find a new way to say what you said before! Not everyone reads your entire backlog, so why assume people will always be able to find what they're looking for? If you're like me, there may be topics you THINK you talk about all the time but have never written about, like buffers...
Almost without fail, the best articles I write and get feedback on are my buffer articles. It may just be because I force myself to write lots about them, but they still work. And even if you're not ready to give it a try, there's always a way to get more great articles... like leaving a comment below, for instance, or suggesting a new topic on the Skribit widget in the sidebar.

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