On Business: Have a Plan

By | Monday, August 10, 2015 Leave a Comment
Comics Alternative
Derek Royal and I were discussing webcomics on the Comics Alternative webcast (which, as of today, I'm an official co-host for!) and one of the things that came up was a webcomic that did not have a print edition available. (You'll have to listen to the episode to find out which one!) What struck us as odd was that A) the comic had been going on long enough to have at least a full trade paperback edition -- lack of content was NOT an issue and B) the pages are formatted for a typical, vertical trade paperback layout. It looked like it's intended to be printed eventually, but we couldn't quite sort out why it hadn't been yet.

Now, that is admittedly a bit presumptuous on our part for assuming the author wants to make money off the comic. Maybe it's only being made as a creative outlet. But it suggest a potential issue for creators... namely, to have a plan.

There are plenty of creators out there who put together their dream comic, throw it online, and immediately have all sorts of ancillary materials available: t-shirts, stuffed toys, tote bags... Which is indeed one of the big ways creators make money online, but it doesn't do much good that early on because there's no real fan base yet. Even the readers who do find the work early on are likely going to take a while to really warm up to it and feel engaged enough to want to make a purchase.

But at the same time, just throwing the comic online and hoping that money will start presenting itself down the road isn't really a good tactic either.

What creators need to have is a plan of some sort. It doesn't necessarily have to be super-elaborate or detailed, but there should be a roadmap to help point things in the right direction. For example, a creator might know they want to do t-shirts after a while. But rather than spend a lot of time designing them up-front, let the strip run its course for a while. This will build up a fan base that might be receptive to the idea, and it can also point to characters and designs that are more likely to sell.

The same goes with advertising, another popular way to earn money online. Obviously, the initial click-through-rates (and accompanying price-per-click) will be fairly low just by virtue of few people coming to the site in the first place. But after the comic gains some traction, the creator can go to specific advertisers that might make more sense for that particular audience.

Of course, things change and a creator needs to remain flexible and open to other possibilites. Sometimes, options like Kickstarter and Patreon become available. It's possible someone with the right connections is able to hook the creator up with a great licensing deal. It'd be foolish to tune out options just because they didn't fit the plan. But not having a plan at all leaves one wandering around fairly aimlessly, and it'll be unlikely that some great deal just gets dropped into the creator's lap.
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