The webcomics blog about webcomics

On Burnout And Financial Realities

The following was part of the newsbox at Scary Go Round yesterday, and later copied to John Allison’s blog (where it’s linkable):

First the bad news: from next week there only be four comics a week (M-T-Th-F). I need a bit of breathing space to avoid burn-out. I’m sorry if anybody is disappointed.

I consider myself very lucky that tens of thousand of people read my comic every day. But it is a sad fact of long-form, story-based comics like mine that it is hard, after a certain point, to add new readers.

In the last year or so I have tried to make the stories as stand-alone as I can, but the fact is that you lose readers over time and if you don’t get new ones to replace them, slowly but surely you will go the way of all flesh! There are already a few webcomic ghost ships out there, long sunk by the weight of history. I am not keen to join them!

After 7 years it is probably time to replace Scary Go Round with something new. I have a pretty good idea about what to do next. But I still have a lot of SGR stories to tell and I don’t really know what to do.

The reaction to Allison’s comment was about what you’d expect: panic at the idea of no more SGR, mixed with unalloyed support for Allison’s creative energies. He has clarified that SGR is not going anywhere in the immediate future (except to a slightly reduced schedule), and that any future projects would be recognizable spinoffs (much as SGR followed Bobbins).

For me, the far more interesting part of the discussion comes up several times as Allison converses with his readers (and gets brought out more thoroughly in the follow-on post), and is most clearly explicated in his newsbox (which, alas, does not support linking):

Several people have written to enquire about Scary Go Round book 7. It has been finished for months, but the tumble in the pound’s value meant that suddenly I did not have enough money to print it.

I could take pre-orders but with a lead time of months while it is on a boat from China I am not comfortable doing so — particularly since initial orders in the past only tended to just cover what it costs to print the collections. I love making Scary Go Round but sometimes doing everything yourself is exhausting and this is one of those times.

The thought that something with the strong potential to be profitable can’t get started without such a huge injection of seed capital to make it impractical drives me nuts everytime I hear it. So much so that a year ago I mused that what webcomics needs is some form of angel investment or aggregated micro-lending. It seems foolish to compare John Allison to the sort of micro-entrepreneurs that the Webcomics Kiva team is helping, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that their economic paths run parallel.

Understand, I realize that it would be insanely complex to set up any kind of Kiva-like establishment for the purpose of supporting webcomics artists, but I swear that if I ever hit it big in the lottery, I’m setting up some kind of revolving trust to do just that. Not having to worry about how to finagle their latest project (and thus, pay bills for the next period of time) would maybe give creators the fiscal breathing room to ensure they have, say, some retirement savings (my great nightmare is that in 50 years, you see beloved creators without savings or insurance because they spent their decades happily creating, but never quite getting ahead of the financial curve). Anyway, any well-capitalized types out there willing to accept modest returns in support of the arts, lets you and me do some brainstorming.

Oh, and to end things on an up note, congrats to Ananth Panagariya and Mohammad Haque for 500 strips at Applegeeks. Awful purty job you guys do.

I think that’s part of what Ulises Farinas is trying to get started with “Bear Party”.

I think that’s kind of what Ulises Farinas is trying to do with the “Bear Party Collective”.

On a sidenote, never google “Bear Party”. Especially not at work.


Aw hell — it’s hard to build up a following at ANY stage. There are tons of webcomic folks (myself included) trying everything short of human sacrifice to get even a fraction of the readers SGR has.

[…] Scary-Go-Round creator John Allison claws at the digital continuity-strip glass ceiling. Gary Tyrrell offers […]

Rachel, Gary makes the point that worries me late in his article. It’s wonderful to be able to support yourself through your comic and do not underestimate how grateful I am to have an audience the size that I do – an audience that exceeds that of almost any of the mainstream US comic books.

But if you are going to have a career doing something, you have to keep progressing, and if you aren’t, you have to take a long hard look at why. I don’t want to get myself into financial trouble down the line because my head was in the sand.

It’s a fine line between clever and stupid after all.

PS Chris you are not a ghost ship, you are a sleeping giant! I make the distinction very firmly.

As far as the dead-tree version… No reason to put books on a slow boat from China. Use the digital express – and/or No, they’re not perfect, but direct-to-consumer saves a lot of trouble.

[…] for getting around the “could make money if not for the upfront costs” dilemma (c.f.: yesterday’s post). Can’t wait to see how this experiment turns […]

[…] * David Welsh has some Harvey nominating suggestions for you. * you should read Gary Tyrrell’s call for a way by which webcomics people could secure micro-loans so as to introduce new projects or make other career moves without having to interrupt what they’re […]

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