The webcomics blog about webcomics

Resolutions Are So Much Easier On New Year’s Day

Much bigger response to yesterday’s call to arms that I anticipated; lots of good input from all who have commented. I particularly wanted to highlight something Bill Barnes wrote a little bit ago:

Honestly the $10 number seems completely arbitrary. Yes, it’s $100,000 divided by 10,000. But those are both also arbitrary numbers too.

Absolutely true; I was thinking in terms of numbers because I was mulling over Jon Rosenberg‘s Law of Webcomics Merch (first stated during one of the fights over micropayments): any reader that’s going to buy something will spend up to $20, so you’re better off trying to sell them a $20 item than a $2 item, because they feel equally satisfied either way.

Honestly, what I considered the most important part of the post wasn’t the number, wasn’t the suggestions of specific merchandise, it was this:

… if you’re thinking about doing this for a living, you have to be willing to work it at least as much a regular job.

And that was just kind of easy to wrap up in the quick thought of “Go get your tenner”. If it’s an overly ambitious goal, well that’s better than one that’s too easily achieved.

I am privileged to know a lot of webcomickers, a significant number of whom are making their livings at it. I also see a vast wave of newcomers to the game, a larger number every year, for whom there has never been a world where there weren’t people making their living from webcomics. They are not, I fear, aware of the incredible range of talents it takes to succeed in this fashion — basically, everything that isn’t writing and drawing.

Five hundred years ago, being an artist meant finding a patron and tying your fortunes to his; it also meant that your job was to rehabilitate or glorify your patron’s image rather than expressing your vision. Today, being a profesional webcomicker means you can follow your muse as you wish, but it also means you have to run a small business with varying degrees of daring and skill depending on how many readers you can develop in your niche.

I have a feeling that Webcomics = Business is going to be a recurring theme for me in 2008, but it’s because I want you to succeed as a professional creator. It won’t be easy, but hopefully (for both of us), it’ll be a lot of fun. So let’s restate yesterday’s conclusion this way —

2008 is the year you decide to go pro; how are you going convince the rest of us to help you stay there? You don’t have to tell the world, but you do have to set the goals and make the plans and be ready to change along the way.

But will 2008 be the year that you become a professional webcomic hack journalist (secretly living off of the royalties from the Sybase books)?

[…] [Analysis] Gary Tyrrell discusses the economics of webcomics merchandising: part one, part two. […]

I was thinking about precisely how arbitrary a number $10/reader really is, and started to wonder if I could come up with a slightly less arbitrary one.

The answer, strangely enough, presented itself immediately, and it turns out, ironically, to be about $10. A little over $9, specifically.

Let’s say that a person buys a newspaper solely for the comics. Given a bulk rate discount, the person can get a newspaper for about fifty cents a day, on average, or about $182 a year. In that newspaper, he or she gets about 20-30 comics. We’ll say he or she reads 20 of them. $182/20 = $9.1, which is the price that a person buying a newspaper just for the comics is paying per year, per comic.

So, it may have been an arbitrarily chosen number, but as it works out, $10/year/reader is… not that arbitrary.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Of course… that price also presumes a daily comic. For a lot of webcomics, artists only produce a comic three times a week, or once a week, or only on weekdays, and as such, the $10 mark becomes less appropriate. One could consider a baseline price of 2 1/2 cents per strip, compounded by the number of strips the artist produces. For weekly strips, $1.30/year. For 3/week, $3.90 – and so on.

It’s something to think on, anyway.

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