Saturday, May 31, 2008

Page #82, then Bad News, then Good News...

[Insert Shiny Preview Graphic to Comic Here]

Bad News:
Apparently my work on the comic is going to involve character design and scripting for a while, because as of writing this, my laptop refuses to boot. Fortunately, I live among one of the highest concentrations of geekery in a 700-mile radius, so hopefully this will not take long to fix. (No, I don't need donations for a new computer or anything. . . at least not until I attempt to fix this! I believe it's "just" a driver issue, but it's still going to take a little time.)

Fortunately this is the exact sort of situation keeping a buffer is for (for those who like to keep track, it'll be about eight weeks of buffer as of this update... however only about five of those weeks are not in danger of getting completely devoured by the laptop, so I'm still not a happy camper), and so it should not affect my ability to post the comic, at least until it's time to start posting bits of the convention pamphlet, which I just remembered is about a week away.

Good News: Speaking of conventions, the stars have decided to align: I should be showing up at Anthrocon June 26-29! This is an announcement I know several folk on the forums have been waiting on for the past few weeks, mostly because I wanted to finalize and secure my arrangements before I announced anything officially (Christmas teasers notwithstanding)!

Since this is the only big convention I'll be at for the next few months (Atlanta's fall conventions are freaking insane to secure a booth at -- not to mention expensive!), I'm gearing up for this one. I've already started replenishing my usual stocks for buttons and business cards (seeing how MomoCon cleaned me out of BOTH!) , along with coming up for new, interesting, and hopefully easy-to-pack merchandise to sell at Artist's Alley. I already have a few ideas for things, including dead tree versions of the convention pamphlet, but what I really want to hear about are ideas from you (especially if you'll be AT the convention!). The general criteria?
  • Something flat (or can at least be stored flat!) as I can only count on taking so much with me since the Artist's Alley is once again first come first served.
  • Something that can be made with a printer, laminator, and/or Shrinky Dinks (I've just gotten my hands on some printable materials I can use for this, which opens the door wide for jewelry and other charm-type developments!)
  • Ideally something that isn't a commission, unless I find it real easy to make. (The rationale for this is obvious -- until my laptop returns to working order, all I'm good for are sketches or drawings I've already made! I'm optimistic about my PC, but 'optimistic' does not mean 'certain'. )
Remember, don't suggest things you just think are "Good Ideas". . . suggest stuff you actually WANT! I don't make merchandise unless I can see myself using it, because quite frankly there's enough comic strips selling umpteen dozen types of t-shirts and mousepads though CafePress and you folks deserve something different!

(Also, in the unlikely but still entirely plausible event I can't sell everything I make, it's far easier to console myself with items I at least enjoy vs. sitting on a box of tent-sized t-shirts.)

Don't be shy if you can't come up with a new item. Suggest merchandise featuring your favorite characters, great panels, your favorite lines from the series . . . I still have an entire month to work on things and try to make cool stuff, so if you think you've got an awesome idea, comment and say so!

Until then, expect another book review this next week, and here's to hoping I'm not left without my drawing computer for much longer . . . I've been going crazy enough without being able to draw yesterday as is!

(EDIT: Well, I told y'all I thought it was going to be a quick enough fix... thankfully, it was! . . . One downloaded build of Knoppix and 90 minutes of futzing later. Time to get some sleep!)

(MORE EDIT: Bleh, so much for AC either. Looks like business as usual, folks.)

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Your Comic's Survival Depends on This Book!

You may be a damn good artist, but in the end if you expect to keep a webcomic going for a certain number of years you have to find some way to make money off it -- if not to support yourself, then at least to support your habit. This is where The Economics of Web Comics (2007) comes in, because while it may not look like much, it's one of the few books that actually helps you figure out how you're going to see a profit from your work along with avoiding the common business pitfalls of other comics.

Production Values: This book is a self-published job and makes no attempt to hide it. The cover is luridly red, there's pixelation on the back cover, and I played "Name that Font" with this piece. There's no pictures in the book - tables of facts, yes, but not pictures. For a webcomics book, this is unheard of. The best guess I can give is that the author did a research paper for a college course, slapped a cover on it, and called it a book without any further thought.

. . . Which, given that we're talking about largely self-published works to begin with, is ironically appropriate. Still, the book has "great personality".

You won't find a thinner volume on actually turning webcomics into a business, which is just as well because it means he gets to the point within only a few pages of introducing a topic. What IS said is stated quite clearly, has plenty of numbers to back it up and satisfy the skeptic in you, and demonstrates effectively:
  • Why micropayments failed.
  • Why the print comics industry isn't offering its works online (or at least, in Marvel's current case, isn't offering current comics online).
  • How webcomics demonstrate a lasting demand for older titles in a series compared to the "Month-by-Month" cycle of most print comics.
  • How advertising, merchandising, and other common revenue streams for webcomics work.
Breeze-ability: You can't just pick up this book and digest it piecemeal; you can look at specific chapters, you can read the bold "Business Takeaways" and get the drift, but ultimately, this book is meant to be read through. The good news is that it doesn't matter because you can read this book pretty quickly anyway -- just keep in mind that it reads like a college paper.

Resourcefulness: As stated before, this book backs up its statements. It'll make you smarter, and it might even give you a clue what to do for your own comic, but you're not going to be consulting this book on a regular basis unless you're pretty much flailing your arms about how to justify spending as long as you do on your comic for so little money. The book doesn't tell you how to make your comic successful or even how to market it, just how to make your money once you've got the market.

The Controversial Factor:
The book more or less blames Diamond for building itself into a monopoly in Comic Distribution, to the point that it choked off the entire print comics industry into what it is today. While most other webcomics folk will agree with you on this point (Ask Jeannie Breeden sometime about how much she had to shill her book online just to meet their initial preorder threshold!) just because of how hard Diamond makes it for independent publishers now, you'll earn yourself an earful if you try to tell that to the 'old school' folk.

The Verdict:
If you think you're savvy enough to already know the general pitfalls and how-to of making money off webcomics, the book won't tell you much you don't already know. (Then again, if you were that smart you'd be telling the rest of us how to run OUR comics, wise guy.) It's a short read, though a little dry, and it gives you an idea of the state of the comic industry circa 2003 (though the book was written more recently, the available sources for research are a good bit older), which is to say it's close enough that it's still a perfectly valid outlook on the state of comics, online or otherwise. So yes, it's useful. Ugly, but Useful.

The book will warn you itself that the internet changes business quite drastically (and still does!) and so some of its notions might seem outdated (like the whole segue about micropayments), but the research and common sense are solid enough advice for any webcomic artist.

It may not be a book you'll always want on your shelf, but it's definitely a book to pass around.

Like this Review? There'll be more to come in the following weeks, so you'll want to subscribe to this blog to make sure you read the rest!

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

#81! WHOOO!

Finally, we get to see the last team's shiny, shiny suits :)

The buffer's starting to rise back up, steadily... finding the time to appreciate that fact is another story, though. See y'all later this week with a book review!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

I'd like to talk about some Damn Useful Books!

I like big books and I cannot lie, you other artists can't deny...

Cheesy misappropriation of Sir Mix-a-Lot aside, if there's is one thing I do huge amounts of, (besides having random spurts of art evolution you folks may have noticed if you try to take the archives in all at once), I read lots of art books.

No. Really.

(And this isn't even all of them -- some of the less useful ones are still packed up with the other college things.)

The point of all this?
  1. I read way more books on webcomics, art, character design/development, and other core details than I have any business reading at this stage. Most of these are useful and typically meet some level of minimum competency, though obviously some are better than others.
  2. Books are not cheap.
  3. Selling books, however, is good business, and if I can make a little back showing you which books are useful enough to be worth your dollar, then by all means!
So guess who just decided to become Amazon's puppet in the name of sharing all this lovingly extracted wisdom with you!

Now, no promises on this one -- The comic is already guaranteed to be weekly, but eventually I'll run out of books to talk about, not to mention that not all books are created equal -- The Art of Animal Drawing, for example, is almost all pictures, which almost guarantees that its review will be shorter than anything I could say about Scott McCloud's books.

Disclaimer: A lot of these books have my genre slant in them -- the animal books (for the furry stuff, natch) and the manga books because, well, that's part of my general style. More realistic / "American" style artists might not be interested in some of these. If they don't suit you, they don't suit you, but this is why I may cover certain types of books more than others. I never said I was going to be a one-stop source for these things; these just happen to be the books I think are most useful to me, and hence should at least be of interest to you. Heck, we might even have some MARKETING BOOKS tossed in (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) just because -- guess what? -- they're useful too.

Don't be fooled; just because it doesn't have "Webcomics" on the cover doesn't mean it still can't be a damn useful book. If you aren't already subscribed to the blog, you'll want to be, just to make sure you don't miss these.

If you have a book in the stack shown above you'd like me to get to before the others, be sure to say so in the comments! (oh, and there are a few books not pictured here, so you may as well ask...)

List of Books Reviewed So Far:

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

#80 up, baby! (And more Pamphlet News!)

And here we go with #80! What, you didn't think Jigsaw was going to let Daisy run things that easily, did you?

The pamphlet is done, so if you've not submitted questions... well, it's a bit late. Printed editions (which will most likely end up being black-and-white after all) won't appear available on the site until the actual strips themselves get posted, just in case.

In the meantime, I've got to take all the time I spent drawing those and get back to work on the weekly color pages -- yikes! I just hope y'all appreciate these...

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

#79, and a Convention Pamphlet Contest!

[insert obligatory link to the comic here]

Who wants to have a hand in crafting this year's convention pamphlet?
Hang on, what convention pamphlet? In previous years I've done several leaflets, which then get passed around at some of the various conventions I go to. Prior to now they've just been an easy way to show off my artistic skills, but since it's still a little early to start making huge books...

For quick examples, check out the bonus section. The one you'll be helping me with looks most like the four-by-four special!
Since we're nearing the end of the current storyline and I'm sure an awful lot of you have been itching to get some answers, I'm going to do the simplest thing I can think of and give you some. Specifically, for the week between the end of this storyline and the start of the new one, there's going to be daily updates of the bonus comic variety, where you can write to the contestants (and perhaps certain other characters) on the comic and hopefully get some useful responses back.

Yes, that's six special updates to help pad things out. I'm expecting at least 4-6 of those will consist of our contestants answering your questions . . .

. . . but of course, they can only answer them if you provide them.

Ways to Enter Your Questions:
  1. On the Forums! If there's not a Contest Thread already started by the time you get there, go ahead and make one.
  2. Email Me! No, seriously, this works. Just don't ask me anything regarding \/1@GR@ and you should escape the spam filters.
  3. Blog Comments! Well, this IS a contest post, so it'll hold onto them just fine. If you choose this route though, please provide a way for me to contact you later in case I need your mailing address (see below)
  4. Twitter! If you're going to go this route, PLEASE reply (so it starts with '@lastres0rt') or Direct Message so it doesn't get lost in the feed.
Winners not only get their questions answered, but they'll also receive a free copy of the otherwise print-exclusive pamphlet once they've been printed up as a token of my appreciation.

Non-winners can still get the pamphlet mailed to them as well, but they'll just have to pay a little cash for their copies in a quaint ritual known as "retail". :-p

Not all questions will be answered, obviously; some might take too long for a simple strip, others might spoil the plot, and a few might even just not be good questions . . . so the more entries I receive, the better the bonuses (both in terms of the strips themselves AND the final pamphlets) will be. Heck, the print version might even be in color if enough people enter -- let's say 50 entries total to guarantee print color.

Fame, fortune, and fandom-snark awaits! Enter today!

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

#78 up, and just in time too!

Well, that's it for the bonus updates... as always, please direct rampant speculation and "OMG!"-type comments to the forums.

In the meantime, I'm still scrambling to recover my buffer, so... g'night, folks!

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

#77, And Summer Plans

Thanks to a few generous folks, we've had a bonus update this past week -- here it is again, just in case you missed it -- and after this current one, we'll be having another bonus update coming up Wednesday as well.

(Oh, and there's another $20 sitting around on top of that to count towards bonuses... Just, please, wait at least a week to give the buffer a chance to recharge.)

Thanks go out to those who've already offered suggestions on what else I should be working on this summer besides my buffer. If you're a little slow to reply, don't worry, I've not made any hard decisions yet.

The REAL hard one's already been made, anyway.

I've joked about it before in private conversations and otherwise, but summer's not vacation time for me so much as it is time for me to recharge the buffer. Quite literally, running this comic is a year-round job, and as such, I've found the best way to deal with it is to treat the summertime as my internship for the comic. And considering what this entails -- strip development, merchandising, advertising, and conventioneering -- it's no mystery why this stuff needs the extra attention. (Webcomics as a serious venture? Who'd have thought?)

For the long-term health of the comic (not to mention a real face-first lesson in running my own business, which let's face it, this is), it's something that I want to do. And if nothing else, it'll make my own plans for the future go a whole lot smoother.

Wish me luck.

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