The webcomics blog about webcomics

Because We At Fleen Love Numbers

Alert readers may recall that last just ’bout ten months back, we looked at the educational comics of Julia Evans, aka the funnest way to learn programming¹. Longtime Fleen reader Mark V (who was also the one to tip us off to the programming comics in the first place) has pointed out that Evans has shared some numbers on the sales/licensing of her zines, and it’s fascinating reading.

The bottom line is one that should be familiar to webcomics folks — if you have a niche that nobody else is addressing, and you fulfill a need with a quality comic? There’s money to be made there:

This adds up to $87,858 USD for 2019 so far, which (depending on what I release in the rest of this year) is on track to be similar to revenue for 2018 ($101,558).

Until quite recently I’d been writing zines in my spare time, and now I’m taking a year to focus on it.

The most obvious thing in that monthly revenue graph above is that 2 months (September and March) have way more revenue than all the others. This is because I released new zines (Bite Size Networking and HTTP: Learn Your Browser’s Language) in those months.

Key metric? 15% of the revenue was from corporate licenses, which is something I don’t usually see creators focus on. Granted, if you’re doing a gag strip, it doesn’t really lend itself to such a use², but if you’re doing anything vaguely instructive? It’s likely that what you’re charging is a fraction of what one day-long “team-building” exercise with Myers-Briggs toting scam artists would charge.

Something Evans doesn’t say: those big jumps indicate that she’s developed an audience of people that trust her work and jump to buy the new thing because all their previous purchases lived up to (and likely exceeded) expectations. That simple act of doing quality work is the most important thing to keep in mind.

The other thing that jumped out at me was Evans’s choice to do a pay-forward BOGO of certain zines, giving away one copy for every copy sold. If you can’t afford US$12 for the HTTP zine, there’s copies up for grabs because other people bought it. If those skills helped you develop professional skills, I trust you’ll pay it forward. I’ll bet you anything that every giveaway copy more than makes up for its lost revenue in subsequent sales.

So if you want to mine some data (or some inspiration), go check out what Evans is doing³. Find something that you’re good at that a bunch of other people need to know, and maybe you can take a year off to do just that, too.

Spam of the day:

Not too long ago I have come across one post which I assume you might find helpful. Somebody may take a steaming dump all over it, however it clarified some of my questions.

This is a great example of trying to use colloquial English and not quite getting it. Keep trying, overseas scammer!

¹ Although there is a challenger in the form of Code This Game! by Meg Ray and Keith Zoo, a copy of which was sent to me by the fine folks at Macmillan and which I’ve been working my way through in odd bits of free time here and there. In addition to being highly visual (although not what you’d call comics), it offers a structured walkthrough a defined project — we’re building a game! then we’re gonna break it and make it better! — along with access to downloadable art assets.

If you want to learn Python, it’s a damn good introduction to the practical end of programming, and features a unique built-in easel back, so it stands up while you’re working at the keyboard. Odd Dot design supremo Colleen AF Venable credits the design to one of her team, and I’ve begged her to share it with the cookbook division of Macmillan because it’s a friggin’ game changer.

² Although folks like Zach Weinersmith and Jorge Cham have been known to license comics for textbooks.

³ Particularly on this page, where she tackles SQL query optimization and execution, topics near and dear to my heart.

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