Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Webcomic Success in Brief

 We may be able to distill the qualities of truly successful webcomics into a shorter format than I have achieved in the past.

  A sober reading of webcomic success is probably incomplete if it fails to cite these elements:
  • steadily improving execution and quality
  • business chops
  • ability to detect unsupportable claims by others: *
  The following qualities: **
  • enjoyment (example: a good laugh)
  • addictiveness (example: desire to see the fate of characters)
  • innovation (example: breaking all the rules, and having it work anyway)
  The following attributes:
  • reliability (appears on schedule)
  • dependability (maintains a high level of quality)
  • freshness (continuous self reinvention, without losing essential elements)
  • the ability to attract a large audience as if out of nowhere, relying on quality before gimmicks***
  It's time for parties offering rose-tinted glasses projections of your webcomic success to post hard data supporting their claims.
* Important because you can waste years doing the wrong things. Recall my own experience relying on faulty projections published by others, and having to discard numbers that turned out useless after months of planning. Years of experience modeling business plans for myself and others did not save me from such a basic mistake because I made the assumption that "authorities" would not print information that was false -- including the numbers they later shared with me in interviews pertaining to their own work. It's also important to recognize that sharing by market leaders and careful analysis of others strongly indicates that popular assumptions of webcomic success are greatly exaggerated. Readers often think that the most popular webcomics are doing much better than they are. By selling a myth of webcomic celebrity, failed newspaper strip creators are embellishing themselves in their fallback careers.
** The first two are from Morgan Wick's Da Blog
*** Gimmicks has a broad range, from respectable items, like ads, to less respectable, like obvious maneuverings to win meaningless awards and publicity among the gullible.
  It's also worth noting that organic appeal is likely to mean a higher quality of reader, and a greater chance of successful monetization. Less organic -- people who are attracted via persuasion -- are naturally less loyal and possibly less sophisticated.