Monday, May 28, 2012

The Web Comics Model - Guest Post

Here is a guest post from my husband, Ralph Hanson -- author of the textbook Mass Communication: Living in a Media World, with a collection of links that look at how web comic artists promote their work, both online and in print.  This is to go with a presentation I'm giving at the West Virginia Writers Conference June 8-10, 2012.

Please note that some of the links here go to comics that are "PG-13ish" and may have offensive language.  This is not my normal milieu!   

Web comic artists sometimes work together as a "co-op" of 5-15 other artists to promote their work and merchandise.  This provides a central place to sell books, merchandise, and t-shirts.  By combining with other artists, they can help build traffic to their site and their store.

West Virginia artist Danielle Corsetto (she lives in Shepherdstown), who draws the web comic Girls With Slingshots, works with Blind Ferret Entertainment for promotion and sales.
Web comic artists often self-publish books, and they travel to conventions many weekends to sell books and merchandise.

Jeph Jacques, who draws the enormously successful comic Questionable Content, gets about 400,000 readers per day, but he's an exceptional example.  He sells his books and merchandise through the online web comics store Topatoco.  He's even had plushy versions of his robot sidekick characters made for sale. (You can read more about the origins of Topatoco here.)

Comics artists often sell an artist edition of their books that is signed with a small drawing at a 50-100 percent premium over the cost of the basic unsigned books.

Even established mainstream comic artists, such as Karl Kerschl, work at selling their web comic material on the side. His "day job" is drawing comics for major publishers, such as the Assassin's Creed books.  His side project is drawing the adorable web comic The Abominable Charles Christopher.

A few web comic artists have become bestselling authors working with conventional publishers. Canadian artist Kate Beaton is an example, with her book of Hark, A Vagrant becoming a New York Times bestseller.  

Some have made use of the crowd-sourcing Kickstarter to raise money to pay the cost of publishing paper versions of their books or to buy enough time off from a day job to get work done on a project.  One person who has been doing this successfully is Gordon McAlpin with his movie-theater themed comic Multiplex.

Keep in mind that people trying to do this need to have an established following to begin with.
Finally, some very talented web comic artists continue to work full time while producing their comics and doing a limited number of convention.  One example of this would be Angela Melick, a Canadian engineer who draws the comic Wasted Talent (often done in watercolors).

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