Monday, April 20, 2009

Beware the Faulty Webcomic Business Model

I got a letter today from a disappointed cartoonist who followed the HalfPixel business plan, and even after tamping down their imaginary numbers ended up with many more shirts than he can quickly sell. It's not for lack of trying, either: he did lots of things right, he managed a respectable sell-through rate for a first outing and he hit on a design that people will buy. I'm impressed. It's a shame success had to be spoiled by bad advice.

It's irresponsible selling a book that sets people up for business disasters. When I wrote about "How to Make Webcomics" (Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, Brad Guigar and Dave Kellett) last September, I floated the idea that an errata insert might keep the remaining copies sellable while avoiding inflicting more disasters. Anyone who has covered these guys knows the stream of wishful thinking and crude insults that followed.

I share many readers' opinion that these guys are yesterday's news and will never grow up anyway. That's why I'm much more interested in things happening at the front lines of comics that will replace their accidental business model with more professional and customized versions.

Still, there were a lot of naive reviews of the book when it first came out, and there are a lot of used copies floating around on Amazon and other venues. It would be nice to buy them up as a good deed and save future cartoonists some troubles, but they'll have to do their homework and save themselves.

The best thing you can do is understand how business models are used to plan business, how models presented by irresponsible "authorities" as valid (but which are not) can cause people to take a bath, and how to tell a decent model from a fantasy. I have some webcomic business model commentary here, and it will be a spell before some of the newer developments hit the streets, but I'm confident you can find information on the web to fill any knowledge gaps. Just watch out for the usual garbage.

If you dig zombies, check out Everyday Decay. You saw from his letter, linked above, he's not looking for gestures, but if you like his shirts you can help him get past his surplus. He's obviously doing a professional job and it might be a good chance to make the acquaintance of a colleague worth knowing.


The other day I asked, Is Brainless Tales Zone Design, Page Design, or what? My opinion is that it's page-in-zone: the pages are tilted for a 3D effect and presented as a magazine. It's a startling and awesome design that stops first-time visitors every time. Well done.