Monday, February 04, 2008

Fellow ups

Well, thank you for all the responses to the previous post. I hope I can address them for you.

Scary Go Round launched as a subscription-only comic in 2002! It was about as successful as asking people to pay with their own teeth. Two years after the two week long debacle of subscriptions, people were still finding the comic and saying "hey mang John Allison I thought you stopped doing comics".

All bonus efforts are currently directed into making the daily comic good, and the blog must remain free otherwise where would I wail at length before admitting "I was wroooongggg".

I now feel better about book 6 and have some hope in my heart. But I will do a pre-order to allow people to flex their patron muscles as this seems to be what is desired.

I might have a one-off NPR-style pledge drive if I stop feeling a bit weird about things like that. I think the comic is good enough now that it is okay to do something like that once a year. But I'd still want to create a kind of reward program and I know the rewards would be rotten.


Chris_Harwood said...

I am curious: why not start having the blog posts appear underneath the comic? I get that it's so common now it's cliche, but it gives you a second channel of communication with your readers (besides the comic itself). Doing an NPR-style fund drive through the comic could pretty interesting, but I get the impression people would respond to it better if they had some sense of the man behind the scenes, so to speak.

Gene Ha said...

Having lived through many US National Public Radio pledge drives, I know most of the 'premiums' are pretty lame. And think about how hard Marvel comics fans worked to get "No Prizes" (which really started off as getting no prize, except a letter column announcement you'd won it).

Here are some simple things you could do. Post names of folks who donate more than $X. Create several classes.

People who donate $XX get to show up in the comic.

Also, are you drawing on paper? I bet lots of people would give good money for their favorite strip. Heck, I would!

Gene Ha said...

Oooh, one more bit. Some rewards can be done on a lottery basis. Raffles!

John A said...

Chris: this is an interesting question to which my answer is probably less interesting. I don't like having the author's real-life personality visibly superimposed on the story - it takes me out of it. We all know Neil Gaiman wrote Sandman, or Alan Moore wrote Watchmen but they didn't write a footnote on each page saying "hey gimme more cake, how about that local sports team". It rather spoils the work of people like Jim Mahfood for me when they do that.

In non-fiction of course, quite the opposite is the point. But that's why my blog is a separate entity and I only do a "personal" post on the site at the end of the year or at a particular milestone to thank my readers.

Gene: readers showing up in the strip is a little more democracy than this particular junta could stand. PS Shhhh I don't draw on paper any more but don't tell!

mordicai said...

I have to admit, I was a stalwart Bobbins fan who dropped off when it went subscription, but have happily returned. I've bought books & t-shirts both, so I don't feel like I'm the bad guy! Anyhow, what about, if instead of "donation drive" it was a "buy my backstock!" drive?

Anik said...

Launching a comic as a subscription from the get-go is different than getting people hooked on it via extensive free samples then asking them to pony up in some manner. (One should acknowledge the incredible body of market research in this area provided by crack dealers the world over.)

Don't think of it as a donation button or a pledge drive, think of it as visual-art busking! All indie-like and subversive, without the distracting noise and smell of traffic.

Mizufae said...

I do not know what would be so "rotten" about the reward of a whole year of SGR being financed.
Also I am strange because while a subscription only webcomic leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I would be much happier paying your for SGR in micropayments than justifying the purchase of more tshirts I don't need or bags I don't have the money for and so-on. If I had the option of just giving you money straight up for being so awesome, I would, and I would prefer it to be something gradual instead of in a huge chunk. It would make me sad if one could *only* read SGR by buying books or subscribing, but if you provided everyone the option to, I would. Then, if you decided to go on hiatus to make a project with one of those aforementioned publishers, I wouldn't have wasted money because you could stop automatic micropayments.

Oh, internet economy, when will you ever work for the hard working artist man??

Gareth said...

I guess it's also harder to do things based in the UK. The US cartoonists seem to have a huge convention circuit that they can parade their wares at.

I run a "content driven" web site (non-comic related) which has to earn me my main income. I've come across the same sorts of issues that you have, John. Luckily advertising revenue is fairly good at the moment.

I've made very little money from donations buttons... it's not a huge surprise... I use loads of Internet sites myself and have never donated to any of them!

Subscriptions are definitely a no-no. I've found that people do seem to be willing to pay a small one-off amount for something extra that is delivered online, however.

You could try an electronic downloads section with small bundles of material priced at just enough to cover the transaction fees, the bandwidth and provide a small amount for you per purchase.


- bundles of desktop backgrounds... reuse some of your artwork from prints or retired T-shirts.

- downloadable PDFs of retired, out of print items.

- Maybe instant messenger sized icons or forum avatars... I have no idea what the cool kids are into these days. :) Again, just crop from existing artwork.

Obviously visitors could make all this stuff themselves from the material you already have on the site but people do pay for this sort of content.

An automated store system can make this sort of thing worthwhile.

I suppose it's a way of taking the "embarressment factor" out the whole making a donation/tipping process (on both sides).

deadzebra said...

Johnny, I will gladly donate $50 if you stop doing comics completely so that the rest of us stop looking so bad.

Jimmy said...

From my FAR outside perspective, I do think there could be some dollars in the "Signed Copy of this Strip" - I think Onstad is doing a good business on that, and each SGR truly is a work of art.

I don't think the Subscription model will play out well...

And who the hell am I to advise? I only bought one damn book. I'm off to your store to support you like a PROPER CITIZEN.

davyconnolly said...

Very far from being any of my business, but I guess the internet makes interfering busy-bodies of us all sooner or later.

Anyway, I honestly think the best thing John A could do is phone one of those publishers from the previous comments thread back and ask what sort of advance they'd be willing to pay, and then either ratchet the free dailies right back or take a sabbatical. I suggest this fundamentally because I think that John has a good graphic novel in him and that SGR in it's current format is stifling it. I hope it's not entirely ridiculous to believe I have watched SGR pushing at its (self-imposed) narrative boundaries over the last year or so, and in a way that has been ultimately unsatisfactory.

The publishing industry may be a wheezing old dinosaur, but good editorial feedback,high-grade production facilities, a marketing department and an old fashioned distribution system have their uses, both creatively and financially.

Having said that, I know shag all about the economics of graphic novels - but I bet Scott Pilgrim makes money, and I think, just maybe, John A could produce something just as good.

And yes, I'd miss the dailies of course, but it woudl be a price well worth paying for a decent book.

Marianne said...

Happy readers can, of course, donate to John through the 'send money' function in paypal.

While it hurts me to agree, I think davyconnolly is right, John, you most certainly have a graphic novel (or three) in you, and it would be a delight to see your work produced in a long format on gorgeous glossy print with all the encumbent glamour and publicity of a 'big' publication. (I'm not in any way disparaging the current collections, I have and love them all!) A Scary Go Round graphic novel would be amazing!

Robert said...

I'm another vote for YEA books and (a mild) NAY to other stuff. Not that I don't love it when I see it--I just can't justify laying out the money for it.

Count me also as a reader who, due to fluctuating income, buys online things in fits and starts. I got your first few books last year, and am looking to get all the rest probably next month.

I don't really have any good advice, except to note that your merch ad box only seems to rotate through your books. I'd be willing to bet that a significant fraction of your readership doesn't even know you've made a tote bag design.

rstevens said...

As far as subscriptions go- EXTRA GIANT ad-free archives would be a great premium. Something like double-wide comics without no American Apparel models... maybe even a LETTERCOLUMN?

Malorie said...

In response to something stated much earlier: John, I am actually very glad that you don't post your blog things on the comic. I was completely ignorant of this blog's existence until just recently and I have been reading consistently for a good long while. I like the fact that the comic is sort of separate from you even though you are creating it.

boy adventurer said...

i might be a bit late to the discussion but perhaps hugs as rewards for patrons? i look forward to john allison's hugstravaganza tour in 2008.

Daan said...

JRowland sold some of his original artwork a few times, these are awesome rewards for a fund drive.
I don't know what your markup is on the canvas prints, but having a new one each season could generate some extra revenue from your existing client base.
Depending on how easy it can be automated, how about a postcard subscription where people receive a postcard from Shelly every 2 months. A nice design combined with a funny story or dirty limerick of sorts could make a great collectible item. Think of all the forgotten holidays that deserve to be celebrated with their own postcard.

John A said...

The only pieces of original strip artwork that have left my hands in 9 years are 2 comics I loaned out to MoCCA in New York. I'm a bit funny about it.