Making Money from Webcomics by Webcomic Friends

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Making Money from Webcomics AN



by Webcomic friends

Produced with support from the Kone Foundation This booklet was funded by the Kone Foundation and created at the Saari Residence in Mynämäki. It is free to share and distribute for educational purposes. It cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes or sold. Cover art by Eelis Nilukka. Saari Residence, August 2018


Starting Out

I 1

Finding your brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Introduction


Elements of brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Consistency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Jose’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Your identity as an author


H-P’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Alex’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Basics of social media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Social media formats Getting seen

15 16

Laura’s perspective: Instagram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17


Going viral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 What to expect Personal experiences

23 23

Olivia’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Alex’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Laura’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26


II 4

Being professional . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Enzo’s perspective



Subscription models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Introduction to subscription models Benefits of subscription models Structure Subscription content Launching

32 32 33 34 37

H-P’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39


Freelancing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Sending in your first pitch Freelance work

41 42

Olivia’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42



Laura’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Sara’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45


Contracts and negotiating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 David’s Perspective




Conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Before the convention


Finding conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Booth Layout and Setup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inventory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . What to Bring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Getting There . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

53 54 55 55 57

At the Convention


Load In . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Working the Booth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Be Agile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Be Nice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Be Outgoing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Booth Barnacles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Don’t Be a Storage Locker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Take care of yourself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Track Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

59 61 61 61 61 62 62 62 63

After the Con


Closing Up Shop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . On the Last Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Booth Renewal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Have Fun! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


63 64 65 65

Merchandise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Start-up decisions Choosing your first products

66 67

Testing Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Product Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Jose’s perspective: Self-printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70

Shipping Selling

71 76

Marketing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Jose’s perspective: Pricing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

10 Kickstarter and funding

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

David’s Perspective Enzo’s perspective Project Prep . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Project Cost . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Shipping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rewards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stretch Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


78 80 80 80 81 81 82

Beyond comics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Networking


Discover where and when . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Find the right people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

6 Have something to offer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

Granting Rights to Others Giving talks

84 85

Keeping it together

IV 12 Day job

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Keeping your day job Olivia’s perspective Alex’s perspective Jose’s perspective Eelis’ perspective

13 Avoiding burnout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alex’s perspective Laura’s perspective

87 88 88 88 90 94 94 95

Dealing with negative comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 Sara’s perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

David’s perspective

14 Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Getting involved It’s worth it

99 102 102 103


Starting Out


Finding your brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Introduction Your identity as an author


Basics of social media . . . . . . . . 15 Social media formats Getting seen


Going viral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 What to expect Personal experiences

1. Finding your brand

by Enzo

Introduction The Internet doesn’t encourage long attention spans or careful reading of comics. Strong branding is critical if you want your comic to be memorable and accumulate success over time. Branding is more than the name of your comic, or a gimmick you attach to your strip. It’s built out of every choice you make when you start out. Your font, your writing voice, the margins, and the color palette you use: all of these make up your brand. This chapter will walk you through some of the key things to consider at the beginning when establishing your comic. Elements of brand Comic format

Comics most commonly come in two types of formats: long form and short form. Long form comics are typically detailed, story-driven narratives with a higher number panels that span multiple pages. Some webcomic examples of long form include Life Outside the Circle and Stand Still, Stay Silent. Print comic examples include Asterix, Tintin, and basically every Marvel or DC superhero comic.



Short form comics, on the other hand, are typically joke-driven comics with fewer panels less than a page long, with a punchline in the final panel. Webcomic examples of short form comics include Doodle for Food, Imogen Quest, and Webcomic Name. Print comic examples include Garfield, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes. Remember that these are guidelines and the definitions are not strict; long form comics can be joke-driven, and short form comics can be story-driven. You want to create a comic that’s both (or neither)? You can do it. One of the best things about creating webcomics is that you don’t have to listen to anyone. Like, why are you even reading this book? Nobody can actually tell you what to do; you are limited only by your imagination! Once you have decided on your format, it’s time to start figuring out the other primary elements that make up your comic brand. Comic Genre

Decide on a genre or a general theme for your comic, such as autobio/sliceof-life, sci-fi/fantasy, drama, etc. The theme can also be that the comic has no theme at all, which is very common for short-form comics, where the main focus is the joke. Art Style

Your style is something that is in continuous development over the course of your life. It’s a combination of what you learn from practicing, drawing from real life, and from borrowing styles that you like and find inspiring from other artists. Consistency Some artists like to switch up their format, genre, and art style every now and then. While change is absolutely necessary for your own personal & artistic growth, it’s important to keep in mind that consistency across your project is very important. Consistency in update schedule

Choose a day or days of the week that you will be updating your comic, and stick to it – you want your readers to add the act of reading your comic to their schedule for that day. However, finding an update schedule that is manageable for you may take some time. I started updating five days a week, and quickly


Chapter 1. Finding your brand

learned that I would be sacrificing quality and detail if I wanted to continue producing at that speed, as I am a slow worker. Today, I update my comic twice a week, which allows me more time to bring each comic page to a place where I am happy with its writing and illustration. Consistency in theme

Once you decide on what you want your comic to be about, you will be setting a certain expectation for your readers, and you should do your best to satisfy those expectations. If you start out doing a fun, light-hearted comedy with no story, and then suddenly you shift to a grim, dark, violent plotline, it’s going to cause confusion. Set a tone, and stick to it. If you feel like you absolutely need to make such a drastic change, you may be better of just starting a new comic! Which brings us to the next point:


Kill your darlings.

This is a quote from the American writer William Faulkner that tells authors to get rid of (“kill”) the parts of your story that do not work well but you still hold on to for reasons like personal attachment (your “darlings”). Don’t be afraid to change things and get out of your comfort zone. For me, the webcomic I work on that became my full-time job is probably my tenth attempt at making a webcomic. All my previous ideas for webcomics were concepts that I personally loved at the time, but just weren’t pulling in interest or readers.

Your identity as an author


Jose’s perspective When you’re thinking about a brand, I would suggest finding one that isn’t super specific. In the future, you might want to make other forms of art, and, if you do, the brand should still make sense. As an example, if we made our company name Cheer Up Emo Kid Comics, then started producing Dungeon Construction board games, people might be confused. Keep it simple when establishing a brand; our company is called Button Mash Productions, and, while it’s not perfect, it can be anything we want it to be. Under it we have several comics, a mobile game, and a board game in production and will be expanding to other media like podcasts and live video.

Your identity as an author Some authors incorporate a lot of themselves into their brand and a have very visible online presence in their role as creator. Other people prefer to stay out of the limelight, letting their comics stand alone. Both ways are perfectly valid. Below are two accounts of combining your personal brand with your comic’s brand, or keeping the two separate. H-P’s perspective Have you ever heard that saying that a creative artist needs 1000 true fans to survive? Here’s how it goes: You need 1000 true fans who are willing to buy your every book and back your every Kickstarter. And when you have that, you can support yourself fully. The idea was made popular by Kevin Kelly. But how to get those 1000 true fans? How to get 1000 people so engaged with your work that they will buy anything you produce? Here’s how I’ve been doing it: You need to make yourself approachable and you need to feel genuine. This can go wrong in so many levels, so be careful with it. People might feel like you owe them something, that you’re their close friend, when you have never met them. But if you do this in a smart way and make sure people know your boundaries, it can make your fans very engaged! A lot of people love to keep their art social media accounts separate from their rambling accounts, but I’ve noticed it’s not as effective as having one social media account for everything you do. This is my personal


Chapter 1. Finding your brand

experience, so this might not work for everyone, but I want to tell you how I’m doing this. (But I gotta say, I do have a locked account just for interacting with personal friends too... So it’s not ALL on one account.) Social media is supposed to be social. It’s not DeviantArt anymore. DeviantArt was an online art gallery. Social media is not that, social media is a social event where you talk to people and every now and then you show them your art. On social media, your followers aren’t waiting to see a perfectly curated art show. They expect to see social interactions. Here’s a handy guide on how I do it. I post: • 1/3 Sharing stuff from others! • 1/3 Talking about your life or things that interest you in general • 1/3 Art and Promotion I’ve chosen the path of building a personal brand, so I show people a genuine version of me. My readers feel more connected to me because apart from knowing what my art looks like, they also know how I used to be obsessed with Naruto in high school and how I’m now a proud owner of a toy tractor model similar to a tractor in my comic. I also share a lot of work from queer people. I’m a queer person, I make queer comics, it fits the taste of my readers! They have followed me for a reason, so why not give them some more people to follow. And here’s the cool part, when I talk about my own life, I sprinkle in things about my comics. It’s not art, it’s not ads for art, it’s not Patreon links... It’s all just me saying “Holy shit, the weather is so hot, I was drawing my Webtoon and my hands kept getting stuck to the paper with sweat.” Because that will keep my work in their minds. They remember I am working on comics, even if I’m not showing my comics to them at the moment. And when I do, they ask me “Is this the sweaty comic lol?” and that gives me a purpose to promote the comic even more. Alex’s perspective When you are an artist, your role as an artist is part of the art itself. Readers will always be interested in who made the comics they love, which is why autobiographical comics are so popular. However, on the instant-feedback world of the Internet, it is important to separate the character of yourself that lives in your comics from the real-world you.

Your identity as an author


The Internet is a wonderful but wild place, so make sure you don’t become entirely reliant on Internet points and comments for personal validation.

I have always been uncomfortable with representing myself in my comics. Despite being very extroverted and open as a person, I like my art to speak for itself, and I feel like I am not a particularly interesting subject people will want to read about. One of the benefits of being a comic artist, as opposed to other more direct media, is that you can be directly involved in your creation while maintaining an invisible presence. This means you can very easily separate your art from your personal life, and why not use that!

Webcomics have become an amazing space for representation. Being able to place the artist visually in the comics means that you can say something about gender, racial, sexual or cultural identity without having to state it directly. Many artists do this without thinking, but every feature you give a human character says is a statement of identity. I always


Chapter 1. Finding your brand

actively undermine preconceptions of gender, and comics are one of the few media where I found I could present gender ambiguously by becoming an anonymous artist. When making my first series Dorris McComics, I played with readers who are determined to find certainty by making my identity more and more ambiguous. You have the freedom to present yourself as any kind of artist, and that can be part of the art you are making.

2. Basics of social media

Social media formats by Alex In the current era of the Internet, people read whatever is on their social media feeds, rather than going hunting for something to read on individual websites. Websites can be useful as a portfolio and collecting together links to all your various projects and social media profiles, but at the moment the home of webcomics is social media.

With webcomics, the format of your comic is just as important as what the comic is saying. No-one will read your comic if the format does not fit nicely on people’s screens. My first webcomic Dorris McComics often used complicated and unusual formats, but over time I learned that


Chapter 2. Basics of social media

clearer, readable comics worked best. Make your writing clear so that people can read your comics effortlessly, and find a bold recognizable style that stands out on a social media feed.

All the major social media platforms have different formats for their images. You can usually find one that works well on most of them, so take this into consideration when you are planning your first comics. You might find that one social media works particularly well for the webcomics you are making, the size of your audience may vary a lot from platform to platform. A note from Jose on preparing for social media posting: We designed Dungeon Construction Co. to be modular. It’s written in two groups of 4 panels, with panel 4 and 8 always having a joke, or pay off. Specifically, we try to make panel 4 useable as a single panel comic that can be used for a teaser image. That way we have a single panel comic, a four panel comic, and a full page comic all in one which can be uploaded to any platform. We also make sure our comic is mobile ready by creating a scrolling, one panel wide strip.

Getting seen by Laura Getting a good start right away is not easy, and you’ll need to take some time to adjust your schedule, style and format in a way that’s best for you. Your style is going to develop as you keep making comics, but it’s important to remember to have a consistent and recognizable art style right away, keeping a certain color palette and elements (like a title

Getting seen


for the comic, and your artist signature somewhere in the image or a watermark). !

Each social media has its own preferred format for images to be posted, but it can - and it will - change through the years: be sure to check the social media formats for images you’re about to post on!

Remember that, if you want to share your comics on more than one social media, it’s better for you to plan it in advance. That way, when you have to prepare a comic for a given platform, you’ll already know how it should be done and what the characteristics of each image should be. For example, my comics on Instagram are uploaded as slideshow of 4-6 images max, because If I include more and I want to post them on Facebook, the later panels (panels #7-10) get cut out of the preview. Laura’s perspective: Instagram I use mainly Instagram for sharing my comics online, as I find it the easiest way to get an audience and stay in touch with my followers. I usually upload my comics as Instagram slideshows (where you can add up to 10 images), as I always put a self promoting image at the end of the comic - something with my name on other social media accounts, my email, maybe a Kickstarter campaign I’m working on or my online shop, even info on commission - anything useful that your readers needs to see. Since the images - even if they contain my social media names or links - cannot redirect my readers to the actual website, I have to use the only Instagram link in a smart way: it usually is the link to my main website, but it could also be my portfolio, my Facebook page, my Patreon page, or, if I want to share all my links, I can use a website called Linktree ( where I can link all my websites and share the Linktree link in my bio. That way, when someone visits it, they can easily find all my useful links.

Profile and posts description

In my Instagram account description I usually put all my essentials info and related hashtags too! That way, people will find my profile more easily.


Chapter 2. Basics of social media

An example of a promo image that I include at the ends of posts. The description in my bio is not the only important one, though: each post I make has to have a brief description that can add up to the comic I just posted and, of course, the correct hashtags. I created my own ones, so I don’t have to use only the general ones – that way, if someone goes through my own hashtags, they can see my work only or related fanarts without getting lost in the infinity of pictures with popular and general hashtags. Another important thing I do, even if it may seem pointless, is to put a location in my posts. That way, people that are looking at that place on Instagram have a chance to see my art and follow me! When I first started, I made sure to switch my Instagram profile into a business profile! It’s a must-do if you want to make your profile grow: with this special type of profile, you gain access to insights that won’t usually be visible with a normal profile. There are three main insights categories: Activities, Content and Audience: • In the Activity section, you’ll be able to check the interactions with your posts (which includes clicks on your profile, your main link and

Getting seen


your email), coverage (how many accounts have seen one of your posts) and impression (the total of time your posts have been seen). • In the Content section, you’ll see how well each post, story and promotion is doing. • Lastly, in the Audience section you are able to see the main stats for your followers based on location (cities or countries), age, gender, and time (what is the main time your followers are active, based either on hours for each day or on the whole week). Checking in the insights is one of the most important things to do if you want to create successful posts. Knowing where the audience is from means you’ll know in which hours and which days your posts will be seen more. For example, I mainly have readers that are Americans (29%) and Canadians (3%), and they are from the same continent, so even if there are different time zones there, I can still get all that audience covered in a certain time of the day. Others are from India (7%), and the other relevant percentages are from Italy (3%) and Germany (3%), both of which are with the same time zone. When should I post, then? After many attempts - because that’s what you’ll have to do for the first times - I realized that, from the country I live in (Italy) I should post at the end of the week on Thursdays and Fridays around 18.30 (UTC+2) in order to get the audience both 1. from Europe in a reasonable hour of the day, when people are tired of their week and just want to relax a little bit, and 2. in America (UTC-4/5/6/7/8), as those are all almost around lunch time, when people are able to look at their phones after a tiring morning at work or school. I make sure to post twice a week and, if I can’t, I post works-in-progress, previews and old drawings that are related to the comic; that way, even if I’m not able to create new content, I can still keep my audience updated and, consequently, my profile active.


Chapter 2. Basics of social media


Since I mainly use Instagram, I had to find ways to make my followers interact with my Instagram profile. But how? I found out that stories are a good way to do so. When I post something new, I make sure to make a story about it and tag my own profile, that way it is easier for people to go on my profile and read the new comic! !

Once a profile on Instagram reaches 10k followers, a new feature can be added to the stories: the swipe up. With that, a link can be added, making it easier for the audience to reach other relevant websites.

Stories only last for 24 hours, but I can still save my important ones in the stories highlights. That way, important links and content will still be accessible to the followers. Highlights are very important, and it’s better to keep them neat and organized. Since they appear on my bio with a preview image, I make sure to have a consistent preview for each type of content in the highlights. For example, my highlights include the Facebook link, commission info and examples, my Ko-fi link, a contest I had when I reached 25k followers, and a link to my other comics. If your preview images are consistent in style, your profile will look more tidy and professional. Links are not the only important thing to put into stories: locations and hashtags can also be added! If I use a popular hashtag in my stories, I’ll have the chance to be seen by users that are looking at the hashtag’s stories in the search section! Same thing goes for locations. I personally suggest to use popular or generic hashtags and locations as, for sure, more people are likely to be going through general hashtags than a specific one.

Keeping the audience happy

It’s important for me to keep my readers happy, and not only by posting stuff. I like for them to feel appreciated, so I usually share in my stories the fanarts followers make of my character. I also reply to all the appreciation DMs I receive and to positive comments under my posts. It’s not a must-do, but contests are a good way to thank my readers for supporting my work and promote my comics at the same time. For example, as I said before, I had a contest when I reached 25k followers.

Getting seen


I asked them to draw my comic character, Average Girl, in their style, upload the drawing on their profile (so the comic is able to reach follower’s followers and make the audience grow), use the hashtag #AverageGirl25k (my own hashtag, as said in a previous paragraph) and tag my profile (that way, people can end up directly on my profile without going through the search page). If a post didn’t respect these guidelines, it couldn’t enter the contest. I gave my followers two weeks of time to prepare and upload their drawing. As a reward, the winners would get a free drawing of what they liked. But - there’s a but in this story - I made a couple of mistakes here: firstly, I picked 5 winners when, looking back now, that’s too many to make free drawings for; secondly, I didn’t set the type of drawing they could receive, so I had some complicated drawings requested, and I couldn’t say no to that.


Chapter 2. Basics of social media

3. Going viral

What to expect First you get one notification, then twenty, then two thousand. The experience of suddenly having a lot more eyes on your comic can be fun and surreal. It can also be disorienting to watch as your comic pops up on new sites and new places, not always with your name attached. So far we have explored how to manage your Internet presence in a controlled and intentional way, but from time to time a comic or social media post may explode in popularity in a way that is sudden, unexpected and will be largely out of your control. This can be a huge boost, especially in the early days of your series, and it helps to know what to expect and plan ahead a little bit so you can make the most of it.

Personal experiences Olivia’s perspective I used to pay no attention to readability or image sizes for my comics. Then one day, a Tumblr that reblogged comics messaged me to say something along the lines of, “I’m going to reblog this comic of yours, but first could you make the sizing less terrible and add your name and URL to it.” I did, he reblogged it, and the response compared to my normal numbers was huge. Takeaways: 1) Small changes like sizing and readability can have big impacts on your comic’s ability to spread. 2)


Chapter 3. Going viral

Just one post by someone with a big audience can translate to a huge multiplier for audience engagement. 3) My comics career is basically one of needing people to spell obvious things out for me over and over again.

Alex’s perspective My first webcomic Dorris McComics had no recurring character and often a different feel to each comic. People are more likely to follow an account they have seen comics from before, so sometimes my inconsistency prevented this. My current series Webcomic Name took the idea of consistency to the levels of parody. The characters, format, aesthetic and even punchlines are the same for every comic. Despite the parody origins of this decision,

Personal experiences


A vague comic it has certainly helped gain a large audience very quickly, and I think a lot of this is due to the familiarity of seeing this format over and over again. When people decide to visit my profile after seeing a viral comic, I make sure there are other good comics to read so that they do not see me as a one-trick pony, so they are more likely to become a follower. When a comic goes viral, it will likely get shared on other social media pages, and maybe to websites, forums and groups. This is a good thing! The more eyes that see your comics the better: it is free publicity. However, you should always expect there to be a link, or at least your name, somewhere in the post so that people can follow you easily. This is Internet etiquette, but there will always be naughty Internet meanies out there. Don’t spend too much of your time or emotional energy dealing with small instances of freebooting, but definitely try to confront larger pages or organizations. In the cases when your work has been shared without attribution, that your work has been stolen/copied, or someone is making money from your work without giving any to you, people are generally very receptive if you reach out to them privately. You won’t be able to control what people say about your post, where it is posted, or how it is interpreted and remixed by other people. Although I like to craft my comics and feel a lot of ownership of them, I always treat the process of posting as giving it up to the Internet, so in a way they own it as well. In meme culture, any piece of Internet content is material to be remixed, rebooted and put in a new context. One of my early Webcomic Name comics, seen above, was intentionally very vague and can be read in many ways. In the end, it became particularly powerful because I posted it for the first time on the day of


Chapter 3. Going viral

the results of the 2016 US Presidential Election. It was shared furiously by Americans criticizing those who voted for Donald Trump, but was also posted by people saying that Obama was the one who wanted change and destroyed the country. Since then, this comic has been posted in hundreds of contexts. Even if I do not agree with them, I do not usually get involved because I am not really part of how someone uses my comic. However, it has been used occasionally to promote alt-right issues and hateful ideas, in which case I use that opportunity to publicly disparage these views! Laura’s perspective Followers will start to come soon, but the majority of them won’t interact with your posts! What can we do to change that? An easy way to do so is asking them directly to comment, for example asking them to tag a friend that may relate to the story or that may enjoy the content. Another one is to ask a question related to the comic, or just asking how your readers are doing. Try to reply to comments as much as you can, even if you’re only gonna use emojis, as long as you reply. Also, if you comment regularly on other artists posts, they will feel more inclined to comment on yours, and, as you remember, we want as many comments as possible! Liking other people’s stuff and following people will also raise your chance to end up in the Discovery section.

Personal experiences


I once made a comic, "Katie", about a childhood trauma when I lost my favorite doll to the sea and then in the post description I asked my readers to comment with a childhood trauma they experienced. People were really eager to share with me some funny moments of their childhood - and I was actually really happy to read their stories - but I was not prepared when a flow of really personal and really dark experiences they had started appearing in the comment section. That has been one of my most successful posts, but dealing with that type of comments wasn’t easy at all, and at one point I had to stop reading them. I can’t reproduce the comic in this book for copyright reasons, but if you’re curious and want to read the “Katie” comic that went viral, you can read it on Average Adventures of an Average Girl on LINE Webtoon: If you want to read the comments on the “Katie” comic, visit the Average Girl Instagram page:




Being professional . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Enzo’s perspective


Subscription models . . . . . . . . . 32 Introduction to subscription models Benefits of subscription models Structure Subscription content Launching


Freelancing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Sending in your first pitch Freelance work Commissions


Contracts and negotiating . . 48 David’s Perspective

4. Being professional

Enzo’s perspective Working for yourself and being your own boss can be a challenging but rewarding experience. One of the biggest hurdles I personally faced was getting myself into a professional working mindset without a supervisor in the room to keep me in check. It was extremely easy to get distracted and start playing video games, or start playing with the cat, or start playing with the toaster in the bathtub. It all comes down to your own level of personal discipline and how effective you are at sticking to a routine.

Treat it like a job.

If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you are going to have to take yourself seriously – or, at least, make people believe you


Chapter 4. Being professional

are taking yourself seriously. This process will be different for everyone, but what worked for me was simply treating my work-from-home job like any other job. I get up before seven o’clock in the morning, shower, get fully dressed, eat a reindeer omelette, and then I “go to the office”, which in reality is just me leaving my bedroom and going to sit down in my workspace in the living room. I would work a regular eight hour day with an hour lunch break for mämmi, and then I “go home” by ripping off all my clothes and eating chips off my chest while watching Netflix on the couch for eight hours. It’s all about keeping yourself on a regular schedule. A note from Jose: Motivation is a fickle creature and not something you should rely on to build your business. There will be lots of days you won’t feel motivated to do work that’s hard, boring, or to do any work at all. Whenever I feel that way my response is, “That sucks, do it anyway”. The difference between a professional and an amateur is: an amateur does the enjoyable and easy parts of a job; a professional does the job.

Make tasks manageable

When I started out drawing comics, I would regularly get exhausted creating it because I would spend the entire day working on a single page from start to finish. A method I eventually learned from other comic artists was to split up specific comic tasks for different days. On day one, you only focus on writing; day two is all sketches; day three is lineart, and so on. The first time I did this I was able to finish twelve comics within one work week, and I didn’t even have to inject energy drinks into my veins. I learned that I lose momentum when I’m working and I have to switch to a different type of work. Finishing one part of the comic each day became a very manageable goal, and you want to always have a realistic goal of what you should be finishing each day. Get comfortable spending money

Depending on your specific needs, you may have to start spending money in order to build your business past a certain point. There are the obvious things like office & art supplies, drawing tablets, and illustration software, but then there are other things you have to consider such as

Enzo’s perspective


paying for a business license, getting a domain name for your website, and paying for a new mailbox and a new phone line so you don’t have your personal address and phone number publicly accessible. Taxes and insurance are other important considerations – if and when you do decide to pursue comics full-time, you may be paying for some or all of these things out-of-pocket.

5. Subscription models

by Megan

Introduction to subscription models Subscription models are when many people fund a project or artist through small regular payments. For self-employed artists, this can be a valuable way to earn money for their work. Unlike crowdfunding projects, subscription models are meant to be an ongoing monetary support system. Many people think of the site Patreon when talking about this type of monetization, but subscription models have been around for a long time. This article will provide some general tips that will help you use subscription models, be it through a site or on your own. It’s important to note that only a small percentage of your readers will decide to support you through this method, so growing an audience beforehand is crucial. With proper promotion, good incentives, and quality content, as your readership grows, the number of subscriptions will also grow. This is a slow process and patience is needed.

Benefits of subscription models There are a number of benefits to subscription models for webcomic artists:



• You receive payments at regular intervals (usually monthly), which can help provide financial cushioning between projects or freelance gigs. • You can use them to fund projects that are otherwise hard to monetize, such as adult content • You develop a more direct relationship with your readers

Structure Now it’s time to plan and build the framework of your subscription model. Things you’ll need to decide are: • • • • •

The number of tiers you’ll offer The pricing of those tiers Whether or not you’ll set milestones for certain levels of funding The rewards you’ll offer subscribers once you reach said milestones Whether or not payments will be per month (or other amount of time) or per creation

Per time period - Subscribers pay a flat fee per month. Per creation subscription models: Subscribers pay each time a product is released. In general, the “per time period” payment model is more widely used because it’s more reliable for the artist, cheaper for the subscribers, and easier overall to run and maintain. The number of tiers you offer is ultimately up to you; however, 3-5 subscription levels is a good place to start. It’s recommended you offer as few tiers as necessary, because too many tiers can be confusing and intimidating for potential subscribers. It can also be difficult to make enough content to justify the various tiers. Most successful subscription models use the following basic guideline of tier pricing: • a low “introductory” tier: Meant for readers who only have a small amount of money they can pledge. In general they aren’t as


Chapter 5. Subscription models interested in extra content as they are in supporting you.

• a medium “value” tier: Meant for fans who want to support you but who also want a lot of value for the price they’re paying. This tier usually contains a lot of extra content that entices fans to “upgrade” from the lowest tier. Depending on the pricing and the content offered, this is usually the most popular tier subscribers choose. • a higher “deluxe” tier: Meant for fans who want to support you in exchange for rarer content. This is the tier to place personalized, exclusive or harder to produce work. Milestones are just that: markers of achievement. They’re often used in subscription models to celebrate reaching specific amounts of funding. These are not a necessary part of a subscription model, but they can help increase excitement for readers to become subscribers. The type and quantity of milestones you choose is up to you, as every artist has different goals and monetary needs. !

Remember: You can always add more tiers and milestones to your subscription model later on! Sometimes it’s a good idea to wait and see how subscribers interact with the service before building on it more.

Subscription content There are typically two approaches people take when creating a subscription model. Some artists set them up to act as a recurring tip jar, where fans pledge money without expecting anything in return. Others offer bonus or exclusive content to subscribers. Either method can work (in most countries), but adding the right kind of extra content can help incentivize your fans to pledge, thus increasing subscription income more quickly. For the Finns Keep in mind that Finnish law forbids taking donations. It’s

a cool law! Makes our country one of the least corrupted ones in the world! So just make sure that your every tier gives the backer some kind of a reward. Selling products = Legal, Getting donations = Illegal.

Subscription content


Below are some examples of content you could provide through subscription models. This is not an exhaustive list, so be sure to experiment and decide what works best for you: • Early updates: Releasing a comic to subscribers before anyone else • Exclusive content: Art or comics that are only available to subscribers • Personal blogs or behind-the-scenes updates: Writing about projects that have yet to be released or other things going on in the artist’s life • Educational material: Tutorials on how to create art or post online Hot tip Your time is valuable! Try to think of subscription perks that are

easy and fast to fulfill. Save exclusive content for higher priced tiers.

If it’s difficult thinking of what content to provide to subscribers, it helps to ask readers or see what other artists are trying. If there are constant comments from your audience asking for tutorials, or asking for content outside of what you already post, these are potentially good things to add as subscription model content. Hot tip Thinking of unique content related to your brand or project

will help your subscription model stand out from the crowd. What’s something that only you could make?


Chapter 5. Subscription models



Launching Posts on social media rarely reach the entirety of your audience, so it’s important to talk a lot about your subscription model before and after you launch. If you’re nervous about coming across as too pushy, don’t be! Think of it like this: you have fans that want to support you, but how can they if they’ve never seen a post from you about ways they can help? First and foremost, announce to your audience that you’ll be launching a subscription service ahead of the actual launch. Two weeks to a month in advance is usually a good time frame. Once you’ve made the subscription public, you should have a lot of content already published and ready for people to browse once they pledge. You should also prepare and release subscription content regularly throughout the first month so you can continue to talk about the new subscription model regularly on social media and make it exciting for readers to join and see what all the hype is about. Some ways you can passively promote your subscription model could be: • Place a small promotional image for your subscription model at the end of each comic update • Temporarily or permanently change all the links in your social media bios to point toward your subscription model link • Create pinned or highlighted posts on social media with more information about your subscription model Subscription models require a lot of planning upfront to create, however, they are a great way to monetize your comic over a long period of time. As always, never be afraid to test out what works for you. Good luck!


Chapter 5. Subscription models



H-P’s perspective Many people seem to launch their Patreons just by opening it and then linking it to their readers. That might be fine for some people, but when I launched my Patreon, I wanted a bit more. I wanted it to be an event people are expecting. So here’s what I did. I copied people on Kickstarter. I started promoting my Patreon about 3 months before I even launched it. The first promotions didn’t really look like promotions, though. They were just tweets saying something like “Today I’ve been working on my Patreon launch lol.” I intentionally made it seem like I was just tweeting about my life (which is also true) but this was meant to make the people who follow me to remember my Patreon is coming. Every now and then I’d also post some preview images of the banners and illustrations I made for my Patreon site. I also made sure to have existing posts on my Patreon for each level tier, and have free posts for every tier so that people could see what the stuff on my Patreon paid posts would look like. About a week before the launch of my Patreon I published this:


Chapter 5. Subscription models

And I kept talking about it and promoting it for the next 2 weeks. I had also previously started gathering people on a mailing list I had, and I actually opened my Patreon for those people 2 days before the general public. I did that by opening my Patreon, but only telling the people on the mailing list that it was public. When my Patreon launched, I made sure to mention it as often as possible. I gained about 50 new Patrons during my first month, which is a lot. Back then Patreon’s own website said that if you get to 100 dollars a month in your first month, you did amazingly well. I got way past that just by making sure people knew about my Patreon beforehand. One important thing I also want to mention is that I had only about 2000 followers on my biggest social media sites back then! Not 20K, just 2K. You don’t necessarily need a huge following if you do your hype right!

6. Freelancing

Sending in your first pitch by Olivia People will sometimes approach you for paid commission work, but you don’t need to wait for that to start getting paid to draw. If you have a comic you’d like to make and think it could be a good fit for a publication, you can send in a pitch – often, an email to the right person – proposing your idea. Things to keep in mind before sending in a comic pitch: • Pitch to publications that publish your kind of stuff. Do your research ahead of time to see if the comic you’re pitching is onbrand for the publisher. A long-form magical fantasy is probably not the best fit for The Nib, but might do better on a platform like Webtoons. • Be clear and concise. In an initial pitch, you don’t have to have to go into too much detail. A pitch that’s too long can be overwhelming to the reader. Write as much as it takes to be clear about your idea, and save the rest– offering to explain more if they’re interested. • Don’t hesitate to ask for tips in social media groups. Asking a Facebook group of comic makers for advice on how to pitch a certain publication is a great way idea to get an idea of what’s worked and what hasn’t for people. You might also get an idea from the group of other places you could take the idea if your first bet doesn’t pan out.


Chapter 6. Freelancing

Freelance work As your comic gains attention, people will approach you to draw for them for money. It’s flattering when this happens, and artists who are just starting out tend to charge too little for their time out of fear that they’ll lose the work. If somebody is offering to pay you for comics, one way to figure out if their offer is reasonable is to post a description of the work in an artist group online and ask for opinions. A lot of the time, you’ll realize that you could be charging more. Hot tip Use your community: Knowing what other people doing free-

lance comics and art have charged for comparable work can help you price your own. Olivia’s perspective



Commissions by Laura Commissions are a good way to make money, if you know how to manage them: • Set a maximum number of commission each month: You have to organize your life schedule, and knowing exactly how many commissions you can take will help keep you on track. • Charge the right price for everything: A full-colored image, with background and a lots of characters in it, has to be more expensive than a lineart drawing of a single character. The price should be made based on the amount of time you spend on coming up with the idea (some commissioners may be confused on what they want) + the amount of time you spend working on it + the materials you are going to use + the complexity of the drawing + how much experience you have (if you are just getting started, you won’t be able to ask as much as someone who’s been doing this for 10 years). • Fees and conversions: If commissioners are not paying you with cash, you will probably lose some of the money in the fees of the money transfer that you’re using to receive the payment. Think about that before setting the price of a drawing. Also, make sure to use the right currency for the money: $15 USD are not the same as €15. • Money before work: Make your commissioners pay before they receive the drawing and not the other way around! That way, you’re less likely to be scammed. • Setting the terms: Let your commissioners know how long you are going to take to make the drawing, so they won’t bother asking you everyday if you are done or not. Also, you should limit the amount of changes they can ask for the drawing upfront. • Permissions: Since they are buying a drawing from you, ask them if you can post it on your social media to publicize your commissions service.


Chapter 6. Freelancing

Laura’s perspective It once happened that a guy requested from me a colored commission of two characters, half bodies (himself and his fiancée). After he paid me $25 (thinking about it now, it was too little considering the money transfer website fees and money conversion from dollars to euros) via Paypal, I prepared the lineart, I asked him if everything looked fine and changed what he didn’t like. After that, I colored the corrected lineart and showed him the colored version. After he gave me his approval, I sent the .png file to him via email. Everything seemed fine, but a day later his angry fiancée DM’d me saying that she didn’t like how I drew her and asking me to change the drawing. I said no as, first of all, she wasn’t my commissioner, and, second of all, the commissioner already had his chance to change the drawing if he didn’t like it. I then told her that, if she wanted to change the drawing so badly, she had to pay for it. Of course, she said no, and I didn’t back off from my idea. Work has to be paid for!

Commissions Sara’s perspective



Chapter 6. Freelancing



7. Contracts and negotiating

David’s Perspective In the short time that I’ve been working professionally as an artist, I’ve grown more and more comfortable with pitching projects and negotiating contracts. Both require research and confidence. First, pitching can be fun! If you are pitching, then congrats! You’ve already done the hardest part, which is to attract the attention of someone who is in the position to pay for work. All you have to do now is to convince them that this person should be you. One thing that will help you do this is research. Find out what they are looking for before you talk. Look at who they employ currently, or have in the past, and contact these people. Hot tip Often, artists are willing to give other artists inside information.

We all want to see each other succeed. This is also a good way to find out what you are likely to get paid.

Aside from getting inside information prior to the pitch, my only other advice is to present your project as cleanly and clearly as possible. You want a presentation so easy to understand that someone else could pitch it on your behalf. Practice your pitch on friends. If you find yourself unable to explain part of the story, work on this part. I’ve also heard people recommend pitching to complete strangers, because if you can

David’s Perspective


hold their attention, then you’ve definitely got a winning idea. Refine your pitch after each time you tell it. When you’re finally ready, lay out the project in an attractive manner. Approach the design of the pitch as a graphic design project. Choose fonts and a palette and stick to them. Hot tip Take pride in every aspect of your work. Your professionalism

will be noticed and though your project may not get picked up, good pitches leave the door open for future pitches.


Chapter 7. Contracts and negotiating

Negotiating, Negotiating is a skill and it requires an appropriate sense of self-worth. You have to believe that you and your project are valuable, otherwise you’ll probably accept the first offer. !

The first thing that I would like newer artists to understand is that negotiation is possible.

You may worry that asking to change a contract is a deal-breaker, but I’ve never found this to be the case. In addition, if a company reacted by becoming uninterested when I asked, I would say that this was not going to be a good working relationship anyways. You’ve just saved yourself some time and pain. For this reason, you should always ask if the contract can be amended just to see the reaction and speed with which this response is given. Do you really want to be in bed with someone who is slow and selfish? Once you know that negotiating is possible, the question becomes what to negotiate about. The first variable is obviously money. Is it enough? To determine this, think about how much time you are going to spend on the project. Is it weeks? Months? If it is months of full-time work, then make sure that it covers your monthly living expenses. If it is weeks, simply divide monthly expenses into weeks. Determine what your time is worth on an hourly basis and multiply out to find monthly rates. The next thing to negotiate around usually involves time. For me, often I am asked to give the rights to my work for an amount of time. So if the contract says three years, I say “That’s pretty long. How about one year?” This is similar to limiting the extent to which the publisher holds power over your work. Let’s say they want an unlimited right to alter, edit, translate, advertise, and distribute your work both physically and digitally in all mediums currently in existence and those yet to be invented in perpetuity throughout the universe for eternity. This is pretty standard legalese, but if you aren’t paying attention, you may have just sold your soul to the devil. Therefore, the best advice I can give regarding this sort of language is: !


If you read the contract and can’t understand it, get help. Don’t ask the people who wrote the contract. Ask a third party. If you are a student,

David’s Perspective


there may be free legal consulting available through your school. If you can’t find someone to do it for free, then pay someone. One hundred bucks spent on a lawyer is much cheaper than losing the right to make your own characters. I am confident you will learn to pitch and negotiate with time. My best advice is to talk to other creators about your project, both to better refine your pitch, but also to understand what the basic deal looks like before you go into a meeting. When you get a contract, always read it. And never, NEVER, ever sign something that you don’t like or don’t understand. Best of luck!




Conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Before the convention At the Convention After the Con


Merchandise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Start-up decisions Choosing your first products Shipping Selling

10 Kickstarter and funding

. . . . . 78

David’s Perspective Enzo’s perspective


Beyond comics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Networking Granting Rights to Others Giving talks

8. Conventions

by Jose and Enzo

Once you have a webcomic, merchandise to sell, and a fanbase to sell it to, the next step you’ll likely want to take is exhibiting at a convention. Comic conventions, or cons for short, can be one of the most fun and rewarding parts of being a professional webcomic creator. You’ll get to meet fans, create new ones, and connect with other creators. Exciting, right?!

Before the convention Finding conventions The first thing you’ll have to decide is which convention to go to. You should definitely look for conventions that cater to your comic’s audience. For example, taking an anime comic to an anime convention is going to be a better fit than taking it to a video game specific event. I’d look in your local area first then expand your search. The simplest way to find out what conventions are out there is an Internet search, but I encourage you to connect with other artists who have done conventions and ask them where they have had the most success. The next consideration when choosing a con to attend is how far you can travel. Some of the larger conventions are located in other parts of Europe or in the United States and can require a lot of travel and, of course, a passport. Conventions that are further away will also cost


Chapter 8. Conventions

more in travel expenses and accommodation so you’ll want to make sure you’re able to make the trip before you commit. When you’ve decided on a convention you’ll have to register or apply depending on the specific intake method the event will have. Some conventions work on a “first come, first served” method where you just have to register before anyone else. Others will ask that you apply and then the organizers will choose from a pool of applicants. Certain conventions may also have very little space since they give priority to those who attended the last event. Either way it’s always good to send your registration or application in earlier than later. When applying to larger conventions you will be asked to pick what type of booth space you would like. Typically conventions will have what’s called an “Artist Alley” space which will be an area of tables specifically for artists and illustrators. These spaces will also be priced less than a typical booths because they are not meant for retailers or vendors. A lot of conventions will also offer a “Premium” space for an increased cost which will place you in a more advantageous position such as an “end cap”. End caps are the booth at the very end of the row that face away from the other tables and are very visible, but if you decide to upgrade to a premium space make sure you have enough merchandise to fill the space since they can be larger than a regular artist table. Make sure you check the rules for what you can and can’t display: some booth types are only allowed to display your original content and not any fan art. Booth Layout and Setup Once you know what kind of booth you will have you need to come up with a plan on how you will lay out your booth. Whether you have a small table or a large end cap, developing a plan to optimally display your art and products will both increase sales and relieve a lot of stress when you’re first setting up. If you’re displaying on a smaller table, my advice would be to build vertically with stands and small comic shelves. This will allow you to increase how much you can display with a small footprint and leave space for you to draw and do commissions too. To increase sales, I’d suggest placing the product you’re most interested in selling close to you so that you can discuss it with potential customers and pick it up easily when someone asks questions about your work. Whatever layout you decide, try building a test setup on your kitchen table just to make sure it

Before the convention


will all work in the space you will be given. Part of setting up your booth is going to be placing banners and signs. Most spaces the world over will give you a space of about 6 - 8 feet / 1.8 - 2.4 meters wide which you can place a banner stand or sign. The simplest banner is going to be a lot better than nothing so take the time to create something eye-catching and large enough to be seen from a distance. If the convention supplies you with a backdrop curtain, the cheapest way to place a banner is to simply hang it with some string or cable ties from the curtain rod behind you. However, if you don’t have a curtain you really should bring your own banner stand so you can hang both a banner and artwork. The most common way I’ve seen art and banners displayed is a simple photo backdrop. They are light, can be extended really high, and can be decently cost-effective. !

Remember: if you are planning on flying with your banner stand to get one that fits within standard luggage size dimensions so you won’t have to pay any oversized luggage fees.

Hot tip One of the most important things you want to bring to the

convention is a set of business cards. This is the easiest way you are going to promote yourself, so it should contain all the information that people need to reach you and your work: your name, your e-mail, social media links, and your website. Inventory Once you have all your merch and before you pack it all up, do an inventory! Create a simple spreadsheet and list each one of your products and how many you have. This will give you a hard number of products and comics you are bringing with you that you can compare to how many you have at the end of the convention. This can tell you which products were popular, which weren’t, and how many you gave away as promotion. This is how you’ll figure out how many you should bring next time. What to Bring The old adage, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail” definitely applies to doing cons and the best bit of preparation you can do is making a con


Chapter 8. Conventions

kit. A con kit will have all those little things you need, just in case, to set up your space and run your booth. Below is a list of everything we take to conventions in a little bag that fits in our booth bag so we will never forget it: • Art supplies for sketch commissions • USB stick with back up print files • Business cards • Comic/book stands • Premade price tags for all your products • Sharpies • Pens • Regular tape • Box tape • Binder clips • Elastic bands • Duct tape • Ruler • Box cutter knife • Cable ties/Zip ties/Zap straps • Scissors • Multitool • Table signage and price tags • Mobile battery packs • Band aids • Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or acetaminophen • Lozenges (for when your throat gets sore from talking to guests all day) • Refillable water bottle • Hand Sanitizer • Wet wipes

A few other items you shouldn’t go without: • Secure money box or money belt: Bring something to keep about $100 of customer change and your proceeds from selling your merchandise. Though a secure money box is better than nothing, a money belt or fanny pack that stays on your person is much more

Before the convention


secure. Thieves have been known to run scams where one person will distract the artist with questions or a sale and another will steal the money box. So keep a careful eye on your money and don’t ever leave it unattended in the booth. • Card reader or point of sale device: Lots of financial institutions and private companies offer creditdebit card readers that can process transactions right at your booth using your mobile device. Some can even track inventory making that process much easier. Be sure to check with the provider of the card reader can be used in other countries if you happen to be traveling out of Finland. • Plastic modular storage cubes: One of the easiest and best ways to display your merchandise is with interlocking modular shelves. They typically come in 12x12 in / 30.5x30.5 cm sizes that can be connected to create cube shelving or display walls. They also break down to a small travel size and because they are plastic, are lightweight enough not to be a huge burden. • Extra Chairs: Conventions will charge a lot of money for an extra chair, table, or table cloth so if you need them, I suggest bringing one from home. Getting There Okay, so: you’ve got merchandise, a banner, a great booth layout planned, and a rock solid con kit with everything you’ll need, but now you and all your gear have to get there. While I can’t give you specific tips for different countries, I can give you some general ideas. The one piece of advice I wish I had gotten earlier was to arrive early and leave late on your trip. Arrive in the city a day early, with an evening to get acquainted with the area and settle into your accommodations. Landing in a new city loaded with luggage trying to find a convention center before the con starts AND get everything set up is a whole bunch of unnecessary stress. Arriving the day before also means you can arrive well-rested to the convention early and have the time to setup your booth the way you like it. Most conventions will even have a time to setup, or load in, the day before the con, so arriving early will maximize your setup time. Leaving late or the day after the con also has advantages, especially if you have made a few new friends and want some time to hang out or are just tired


Chapter 8. Conventions

from days of talking to people and attending events. Transporting your booth and merchandise can be a pain. If you have books, they can be heavy and checked airline bags have weight limits and size limits that can make traveling with a booth cost a lot extra. The best suggestion I have is to ship it to a friend in the city, or directly the convention center. While it can cost a lot upfront, it will save you a lot of hassle when flying. Which brings me to one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you:


Whether you are hand-carrying or shipping whole pallets of goods and equipment across a border, USE A BROKER.

You can of course do any border-crossing paperwork on your own, but if you do it wrong you could be denied entry, overpay fees and tariffs, or– worse– have your stuff confiscated for an indeterminate amount time and be held responsible for all the storage fees. So it’s worth it to check with a broker and get their professional opinion. A broker’s job is to understand the laws in place for clearing goods through various countries customs and give the authorities the correct information when classifying your goods. They will also file the paperwork with the appropriate agencies so you can move all your goods across the border without incurring extra fees or getting denied. Though a lot of countries have similar laws, duties or tax can change from place to place, and some may have specific import rules. A broker will know best how to navigate the paperwork so you pay the right amount and can safely get your equipment and merchandise across the border. Know that crossing the border with goods is engaging in international trade, and it’s very important you follow the rules. You should understand the differences between “working” across the border and “doing business” across the border. Your broker will explain it all to you and if you don’t understand, ask for clarification. It’s their job to make sure your goods get there and you understand what paperwork, information, or regulations you need to adhere to to help make that happen. It may seem like a lot of work to get setup with a broker months in advance of a con but it will pay off in the future every time you cross the border again. Special thanks to Matt Stone from Blind Ferret - Director of Logistics.

At the Convention


At the Convention Load In Either the first day of the convention or a day before there will be a “Load in” time that you can collect your exhibitor badge and head to your booth space to set up. Pay attention to emails and communication from the exhibitor team at the convention because sometimes they can change. How you load in will vary from place to place. Some will just have you stop by a registration desk to check in and grab your badge, then you can walk in the front door to the main hall. Others will have you pick up the badges through the loading docks or at a separate exhibitor office. Again, all the information you need, such as where to pick up badges, where, and how to load in should be sent to you from the convention organizers. If not, don’t hesitate to reach out. One more note on load in: double check the actual convention start time. Many conventions have a premium or VIP badge that will get attendees in one hour early. So don’t rely on the general start times available online or listed as general admission as the actual start time. You don’t want to be still setting up your booth while guests who have paid extra to get to see you early are waiting on you. While setting up your booth take the opportunity to introduce yourself to your booth neighbors. You’ll be working in close proximity to them all weekend and not only is it polite but it’s also a great way to meet fellow artists. They may also be able to help you out with your booth when you’re setting up or need to go to the bathroom during the con. In Enzo’s case, they might take you out drinking, get really sloshed, and offer you a third ownership in a new webcomic production company called Button Mash Productions. What I’m saying is for the most part


Chapter 8. Conventions

exhibitors at comic conventions are really nice people and if you’re nice to them they will likely be nice to you. The other people you should get to know are the volunteers and event staff. Some larger conventions or specific fan events will have staff specifically for exhibitors to help them deal with the convention facility, answer any questions, and address any concerns such as security.

At the Convention


Working the Booth The convention has opened and fans are beginning to stream into the hall, this is it! All your hard work in preparation has been to make this time run smoothly and successfully. But there still are some things you should know about actually working the table. Be Agile The best-laid convention plans don’t always survive first contact with the convention attendees, and you may find within the first hour something had to change. You have to be prepared to change with situation and go with the flow. Prints not selling and taking up a lot of space on the table top? Move them to the back. Selling lots of stickers? Make them more visible from the aisle. Don’t get stuck in thinking that just because you set your booth up a certain way or the prices you are selling for are precisely calculated, you don’t have any wiggle room to make changes for better success. Be Nice Travel stress, setup, and working the booth for a couple days can be exhausting, and you might not be feeling your best. However, even though you’ve been selling comics at the table for 16 hours and talking to lots of people, it’s probably the next attendees’ first time meeting you. Give them the best first impression you can and make them feel like they’re appreciated. If you’re super tired and can’t really bring your A game, just let them know. Most fans will be fine if you just tell them, “Hey thanks for coming. I’m pretty tired from all the travel but thanks for reading. How’s your con going?”. A pleasant attitude will get you more sales and readers than a sour one. Be Outgoing I see so many wonderfully talented artist sitting with their head down doodling and not engaging with the people passing by or standing at their booth. I understand what it’s like to be introverted and not want to interact with people, but if you don’t look like you’re having a fun and interesting time at the booth, no one else will. So stand up, say hello as people pass and look to your booth, and chat with those standing at your table. If you can’t be engaging at a convention where people are specifically coming to engage with you, then find a helper to deal with that part of the business. To make interacting


Chapter 8. Conventions

and catching the attention of attendees easier, have a quick little script to describe your work. Below are the ones we use to introduce some of the comics we do. Balls 2 That: “It’s a comic about the misadventures of a guy, a girl, and the blender that loves them. It’s a little crude and a little blue but it’s crudely drawn and blue in color.” Dungeon Constructions Co.: “It s about a construction company that builds and designs dungeons to lure adventurers in and kill them, for a profit.” Cheer Up Emo Kid: “Primarily it’s about love, dating, relationships, and all the bullshit in between. Booth Barnacles Sometimes fans can get over enthusiastic or overly comfortable chatting with you and don’t move on to other parts at the convention, camping themselves at your table. When this happens, they can block the view of your booth from the aisle or monopolise your time, which can hurt other fans experience and impact how many sales you make. The best way to scrape off the booth barnacles is to be direct. Tell them what they are doing and how they are impacting you, be nice about it but clear. “It’s been lovely chatting but I’d like to talk to these others too. Thank you for stopping by.” Don’t Be a Storage Locker You may have friends or long time familiar fans who are attending the convention and will ask you to store their purchases or backpacks and bags behind your table. Believe me when I say it’s a slippery slope down to becoming a bag dump for them and their friends and their friends etc. Same goes for customers who ask you to keep things they bought from you at the booth until later. It can build up fast so even if you have the room just politely say no and that you would prefer they take it with them. Take care of yourself Conventions are going to be full of a lot of people and are a breeding ground for germs and viruses. Just look at what happened at PAX West 2009: over 100 people caught H1N1 (H1Nerd1, as I like to call it). People

After the Con


are great and fans are wonderful but can also be germ covered cesspools of grossness. So always have a bottle of hand sanitizer at your table and avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated. You’ll be talking to a lot of people and maybe feel too busy to think about it but always keep taking sips of your water bottle. It will help keep your energy up and prevent crashing at the end of the day. Also don’t forget to eat! Food at the con is expensive and usually not very healthy so have a good breakfast and pack a healthy lunch to make sure you’re not starving all day. Don’t put up with scary or dangerous people. If there is someone who is making you uncomfortable, TELL SOMEONE. Conventions have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to harassment so if someone is making unwanted remarks, sexually harassing you, threatening violence, or just making you uncomfortable, tell a convention organizer right away. They will make sure you’re safe and the problem is dealt with right away. Track Sales As you are selling merchandise, record what you’re selling and how much you’re selling it for. Make it easy to read so anyone can do it, and helpers can take over for you. Make it a habit to document each sale and promotional item you give away for free. Having an sales sheet will give you a better idea of how you’re doing as you go through the convention. It’s also imperative to have a record of sales for calculating profit and loss at the end of the day.

After the Con Closing Up Shop Once the convention is over for the day and guests are streaming out of the hall don’t forget to collect all your belongings and cash from the


Chapter 8. Conventions

day. Don’t leave anything that’s easy to pilfer off the table or is valuable. Some people like to cover the merchandise they are leaving behind for the evening with a sheet or table cloth to discourage any petty theft. On the Last Day On the very last day you’ll have a specific time frame to do “Load Out”. Again, there may be a specific exit or loading dock you’ll need to use too so check your convention info package. First thing I suggest you do when loading out is gather all your inventory and count it. This is the number you’ll need to do a full accounting of where all your merchandise went and how much you made. Simple inventory for each item should look like this: • On Hand - What you bought • Sold - How many you sold • Promo - Giveaways • Spillage - Damaged or ruined products • Current Inventory - Count at the end of the last day • Variance - What the difference is from the expected number and actual number The formula to use is:

On Hand - Sold - Promo - Spillage = Total Total - Current Inventory = Variance

If there is a lot of variance you can see if there are any problems. Variance could be a result of not tracking sales properly, theft, or misplacing products. Keep an eye on it and make sure to correct for any problems the next time.

After the Con


Art by Luke McKay After inventory is done, simply repack all your gear and leftover merchandise, then make sure to do a careful check that you didn’t leave anything behind. Then gather up all your trash or recycling and take it to the bins or garbage bins. Booth Renewal At some conventions while you’re packing up, or before the final hour, someone will drop off a booth renewal form to fill out. This lets you renew your booth spot for the next year, or at least renew a space at a discount and give you priority for acceptance next year. So if the convention was successful, it’s a good idea to get ahead for the next year. Have Fun! There’s a lot to consider when working a con and the whole experience can seem overwhelming. Don’t let that stop you! Conventions can be wild but are always fun, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

9. Merchandise

by Megan

There are several things to consider before you begin creating merchandise for your art. This section will cover some aspects of designing, selling, and marketing merchandise for online stores. For specific information regarding selling in person or at conventions, see the Conventions segment.

Start-up decisions Before selling anything, you need to make some key decisions about how you want to produce and distribute your merch. First, you have to decide if you want to create and ship orders yourself or have another site/company do it for you. These two options are called self-fulfillment and dropship. Self-fulfillment You buy and store the products and handle the shipping. All revenue from the sale comes to you. Dropship A third party produces and ships the products based on your designs, and you get part of the revenue generated. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, summarized in the table below:

Choosing your first products Self-fulfillment Pros • Complete control over product style and quality • Able to personalize orders

67 Dropship • Have many product types available • Zero startup cost

• Merch ready for conventions • No need to handle shipping or customer service • Higher profit margin Cons • Upfront costs of buying in bulk

• Can be set up quickly • Quality not always the best

• Shipping, storing, and customer service is time-consuming

• Profit margins are much smaller

• Slower to set up

• Bad for people who want to make a very specific product

Often, people opt for dropship when they have less time to devote to shipping and customer service. You might want to try a combination of the two types for different kinds of merch. Hot tip Posters and small things can make good merchandise to self-

fulfill. For bigger things, like t-shirts, use dropship services.

Choosing your first products Merchandising can be fun because there are virtually no limits to what you can or can’t do. Notepads, backpacks, shirts, jewelry, prints, and coffee mugs are just a few of the things you can create. For some, these possibilities are exciting, while for others they’re overwhelming or intimidating. The following portions of this segment will be related to self-fulfillment shops, but some of the tips can also be applied to dropship stores. The biggest mistake you can make when starting your store is buying too much product at once. It’s best to start with a small print run of items that are easy to ship and sell. This way you avoid losing money on merch you can’t sell.


Chapter 9. Merchandise

Choosing your first products


Some merch is better than others when you’re starting your online store. A few examples of good starter merchandise include: • Prints are a great beginning item because of their low production cost and high profit margin. They’re easy to store and can be printed in smaller quantities which is great when you’re testing out new designs. • Stickers have a lower profit margin than prints, however they appeal to customers because of their smaller size and retail price. • Most paper products will have the same advantages as prints, and they help diversify the products offered in your store. Think along the lines of postcards, greeting cards, zines or other items that lay mostly flat when stored. Hot tip Don’t offer the same design in different sizes of the same type

of product (e.g. A5 print vs A6 print). People will almost always choose the smaller size and you’ll be stuck with product that doesn’t sell.


Chapter 9. Merchandise

Testing Quality Everyone has a preference for what they want their merch products to look or feel like. There are varying opinions on which materials or finishes are best to use for different products, but the ultimate deciding factor is simply whether or not you’re happy with it. The best way to ensure your merchandise lives up to your standards is to order samples. This allows you to test your product firsthand. Whenever possible, always get a hard copy proof or product sample before ordering in bulk. This step could save you a lot of time, money, and frustration. Hot tip You can visit local printers to feel and test different papers and

finishes in person

Product Design So you’ve decided on the types of products you want to make and how you’ll be selling them. Now you need to decide on a design. Many artists will ask their readers what they’d like to see and pick the most popular choice. While this is a good starting point, it’s important to keep in mind that what readers say they want often differs from what they’re willing to buy. On a subconscious level, people buy things that speak to who they are. If you’d like your merch to reach and engage a wider audience than just your readers, you need to understand why the design could be interesting to people who have never seen or heard of your work before. When creating art for a product, some questions to ask yourself may be: • Would the design say anything about the person who owns it? • Can the design attract the attention of a random passerby? • Is the meaning of the design still strong when it’s completely separated from your work? Ultimately, it’s important to remember that when someone buys a piece of your merchandise it’s not about you. It’s about them and their taste. Jose’s perspective: Self-printing Printing some books or prints at home on your own equipment can be a great short term solution to having products for conventions and online sale. It lets you get up and running easily and at a fairly low cost. With a little research you can produce high quality products from your own



home without breaking the bank. It’s how we started out and in one form or another a segment of our products are printed in our own little print shop. !

Just keep in mind that while self-printing is a great way to start out, it’s not sustainable.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve lost all our profits because a printer decided to crap out, or we misaligned stacks of books in the cutter, or we chose the wrong product and had a very subpar product, or we didn’t perform the proper blood ritual and sacrifices to avoid the dreaded, uninformative, “Print Error” error. So don’t expect to become your own print/merch shop overnight, but it might be worth looking into if you don’t have any other means at the beginning to produce your products.

Shipping by Megan Shipping is perhaps one of the most intimidating parts of managing an online shop. It requires a lot of research and testing, and if you’re not careful, you could end up losing money on an order. Not only do you need to consider how much to charge for shipping, you have to figure out the best way to package products. A good rule is to imagine a bunch of different combinations of your products and how those products will need to be shipped. When you’re starting out, it’s smart to purchase packaging that fits multiple types of products. Hot tip Purchase shipping packages that will fit more than one kind of


For instance, rigid mailers work for shipping most paper-product goods, so if someone orders a sticker, zine, and print from you, they can all fit within the same shipping envelope quite easily. A tougher example would be if someone bought a mug, zine, and shirt from you. You typically want to keep items in the same package to avoid double paying for shipping. You have to package the items in a way that both protects and fits all of these items. Next you need to determine how much it costs to ship orders domestically and internationally. The quickest and most accurate way is to work


Chapter 9. Merchandise

Materials for your first shipment with your local post office to determine what these prices might be for the type of packages or items you intend to ship. Hot tip Your local post office is your the best resource for figuring out

how to ship your merchandise around the world.

Below is an illustrated guide of how you can safely package orders for your shop. Note: This method works with mostly flat merch. For products that are thicker, you’ll need to purchase specialty packing supplies. Materials needed: • A. Flat merch (prints, stickers, postcards, zines, etc) • B. Resealable cellophane bags - You should have cellophane bags that fit every sized item in your store, but when packing an order you may only need one or two depending on the size of the items. • C. Cardboard backing - This will help protect the products from being folded or damaged. It should be the same size as the biggest item in the order.



• D. Flat rigid envelope - Another layer of protection from damage during shipment. • E. Promotional material (thank you cards, discount codes, flyers, etc.) - These are optional, but can add an extra touch of personalization to your orders. Thank you cards and discount codes let people know you appreciate their business, and flyers can help promote upcoming projects or merch. • F. Gift with purchase - Another optional item. Adding a small item to a package can create a really positive experience for customers and leave a good impression of your store. When you take care to add small extra things to your order, it shows you pay attention to the small details and makes customers feel special. Step 1: Place your items in a cellophane bag that can hold the largest product in the order. The cellophane bag helps protect the order should the envelope get wet or torn. Note: If your order contains products of varying size, place the smaller items (like zines, postcards and stickers) together in a smaller cellophane bag to keep things tidy. This will be where you place your gift with purchase or promotional materials if you have any. Step 2: Place a piece of cardboard backing in the largest cellophane bag, then seal it. The cellophane bag should be large enough to fit the products and the backing, but not so large that products can shift around during transportation. Hot tip The more space you leave for items to move around during

shipment, the higher the chance of damaged products!

Step 3: Place the cellophane package into the rigid envelope and seal it. Apply postage and shipping information to the envelope along with a “Do Not Bend” sign. You should now have a secure and sturdy package to keep your products in good condition no matter where they’re headed! This process may seem excessive, but it’s better taking the effort to properly protect your products upfront than it is having to replace and resend an order due to damaged goods.


Chapter 9. Merchandise

Step 1.

Step 2.



Step 3.


Chapter 9. Merchandise

Selling Marketing Now that you’ve finished setting up the shop and have decided on the types of items and designs to offer, it’s time to spread the word about your store! Nobody likes ads. Readers are the same way, so it’s important to be creative with the posts advertising your shop. Some ideas for promotional posts could be: • Work in Progress images of the design • A custom comic talking about the shop • Artful, funny or unique pictures of the products Once you launch, you may notice a brief increase in sales that eventually taper off. This is very normal! You should keep reminding people that the store is open. Share on social media regularly– especially when working on new items (this builds hype) and when new items become available. Ways to get attention: • Limited edition items • Offering sales or free shipping • Buy two get one free 20% off • Free shipping after you spend x amount of money Jose’s perspective: Pricing Product pricing was already discussed in the Conventions segment of the book, but it should be stressed that whatever price you decide to sell an item for in person, you should probably keep the pricing consistent in your online shop as well. !

In general, you want to charge 3 times what you have spent to produce an item.

Make sure you are calculating all your operating costs and overhead costs into the base cost of an item. Your time is valuable, Internet bills have to be paid, loan sharks breathing down your neck need their cut, and



online stores or convention tables have costs too. Don’t leave anything out. Cost How much it cost to produce including all operating costs (materials, time and equipment used to make the product) and overhead costs (costs of running your business, e.g. bills, travel, software fees, etc). Revenue: How much the item is selling for. What the price tag says. Profit: How much you make after all the costs have been paid back. Profit Percentage: The ratio of profit to cost. Profit Margin: The percentage of selling price or revenue that is profit. Make sure that however you are pricing your merchandise, you aren’t losing money. Just because a book costs $5 to have a printer make it doesn’t mean it cost you just $5. The time to put the book together, travel costs to get to the convention, and any money spent on promotion all should be added to the cost. So that $5 cost could be more like $10 or $15 – and if you’re selling the book for $10 you might not be making any money or worse, losing money. After you have a solid cost base, price an item with a healthy profit margin. I like to aim for 70% - 100%, which lets me pay the people making the product (myself and artists) and have a bit leftover for growing and reinvesting in the business. Depending on your own costs and goals, this could be different for you. The one caveat to pricing something is making sure it’s competitively priced. Currently the average price of a printed webcomic book is about $20 USD. So if your book costs $10 to make and you need 70% profit margin then you would have to price it at about $34. That’s a price people aren’t expecting to pay and could negatively impact sales. If you can’t lower the profit margin on your book, then you need to look at lowering the costs. It’s a balancing act for sure and you really need to keep an eye on it but with some due diligence you can make sure all your products sell, and at a profit.

10. Kickstarter and funding

David’s Perspective Kickstarter is an amazing way to finance projects that would not come into existence otherwise. In case you did not already know, Kickstarter is a website where you propose your project and request an amount of funding from people called “backers.” Then it is your job to publicize the project as much as possible. If you can find enough people to raise the money, then the project is funded and you will be given the money. !

Kickstarter is “all-or-nothing” which means if you can’t raise the full amount, you won’t get anything. For this reason, it is very important to estimate your project accurately.

Before you start, you need to figure out how much your project is going to cost. Search Kickstarter and find the projects which are most similar to yours. Examine them and then contact their creators for help. I’ve found that other creators are generally willing to help each other out, especially when it is as simple as answering questions via email. In addition, Kickstarter has lots of good information and advice available in the FAQs. Last, estimate conservatively. Budget for accidents and mistakes. It may be worse to succeed at collecting too little money than it is to fail at collecting the correct amount. Measure twice, cut once.

David’s Perspective


Now that you know how much money you need to raise, it’s time to think about the campaign. It’s up to you to choose how much time you want, but longer is not always better. Most campaigns run for about four weeks, but you can go up to 60 days, if you want. Personally, I like to start on Mondays and end on Fridays, so my campaigns are generally 28 days long. The other thing to consider is that you don’t need to wait for the campaign to be live in order to promote it. I highly recommend starting to promote the project seven to ten days before the official launch in order to generate as much excitement prior to launch as possible. At this point, you know what you want to do, and how long your campaign is going to be. It is time to look at some specific actions you can take to help bring in the people. First, have a good video. Keep it short. Explain what you want to do and why it is important to you in under two minutes. Next, you’ll want an attractive cover image, because when people share the project, this is what they’ll be sharing. This image could make all the difference. Next, here are some specific actions you can do to try to bring in the backers. I highly recommend email. Get yourself an email signature and end every email with a link to the Kickstarter. Make lists of people who you can email. If someone has purchased some art from you in the past, write and ask them if they’d like to hear about your new project. If you have readers who comment frequently or send you private messages, write to them and ask the same. Next, make lists of creators similar to yourself. Write to them explaining what your project is and why they should want to get involved helping it succeed. Always write people individually. Nothing is tackier than a generic email. Also, take a few lines for small talk at the beginning of the email, so that it doesn’t seem like the only thing you care about it your project. Show interest in them and their art. !

Emailing might seem like a slow way to spread the word, but I think somewhere between 50 – 75% of people I wrote to backed my project.

There are other ways to get attention than emails. Learn how to write a press release and send them out to relevant media outlets in those ten days before launch. Make attractive ads and format them for each specific platform.


Chapter 10. Kickstarter and funding

Posting updates gives you an excuse to promote your project. I recommend using platforms like Imgur and Reddit to draw attention, but this can be a bit tricky. Usually, their audiences reject blatant appeals for financial support, so you’ll have to be more subtle. Make a large image dump of your content, then a simple link in the comments. The most important thing to do is to constantly think up ideas of how to promote the project. Be creative. Spend a day live-tweeting your project. Make a 24-comic about it. Stream live video. Write a jingle. Do anything and everything you can think of. Hot tip Don’t let yourself check Kickstarter too much. Some days are

slow and if you check too much, it can damage your confidence, which will then affect your ability to soldier on. Kickstarter is a marathon, not a sprint. Limit yourself to checking three times a day. Get away from the computer. Take walks. Run errands. Live life.

Enzo’s perspective Project Prep While I was researching info to run a crowdfunding campaign for my first book, I read a few horror stories – underestimated shipping costs, creators going into debt, genetically modified organisms – and they convinced me to be absolutely sure I had everything I needed before I even started writing the campaign description. I decided on a page count and size of the book and created a mockup, which I then used to get price quotes from local, national, international printers. I decided on the rewards I wanted to have, and the type of shipping materials I needed, and made sure that the shipping box I chose could easily fit any additional items in case I needed to scale up. I got price quotes from local shipping companies for the various box sizes and weights I would possibly use. I even got a quote from my local tattoo artist, because one of the rewards I was offering was a tattoo on my butt. Project Cost One of the primary goals for the campaign was to print a surplus of books that I could sell on my online store and at comic conventions. To achieve this, I calculated the minimum number of people I needed to pledge to my Kickstarter in order to fully pay for the printing cost of a thousand books.

Enzo’s perspective


This number came out to be around two hundred people, which would leave eight hundred books available to sell if the campaign got funded. With the knowledge that two hundred people can pay for one thousand books, I now had the ability to scale the estimated cost of the project up and down as needed. Shipping Figuring out how much of the budget will go towards shipping is the next most important step of the project. Shipping costs can quickly add up and get out of control if you don’t charge your backers exactly the amount that they owe. When Kickstarter collects pledges from backers, they calculate the shipping costs separately, but at the end of the campaign when you ultimately receive the funds, it all comes back to you in one big steaming pile of money, so be sure to remember to set that amount aside. It will also be very helpful to allocate a portion of your budget to account for random explosions, alien invasions, and other unforeseen circumstances.

Rewards Pledge rewards are a fun and useful thing to add if you want to increase the attractiveness of your campaign to people who have extra money to throw away. For my campaign, pledge rewards included, prints, greeting cards, author signatures, extra content, custom artwork, and butt tattoos. I made a point of making sure the majority of the extra products I offered were products I already had on hand. The idea was to make sure I gave myself as little extra work as possible during the duration of the campaign, since the campaign itself would be taking up a massive amount of my time already.


Chapter 10. Kickstarter and funding

Stretch Goals Stretch goals are another fun aspect of your campaign that are completely optional, but very useful in increasing your campaign’s attractiveness after it has met its initial funding goal. Stretch goals are goals that you pitch to your audience as extra features for your project that unlock when you reach a certain funding amount. For my campaign I tried to have a range of stretch goals, from small incremental improvements to my book – adding extra pages with higher quality paper – to funding an entirely new comic project I’d had in the works for a while. The important thing to remember is, again, offer products and features you already had or were working on already so as to not give yourself any additional work.

11. Beyond comics

Once your comic is humming along and you’re making a some money off the comic, you may want to expand to other media and products. Branching out and taking your IP (intellectual property) to other mediums is a great way to diversify your income.

Networking by Jose Networking is extremely important for finding new opportunities and making valuable connections. There isn’t one specific way to network successfully; sometimes you just meet the right person at the right time. However, there are a few things you can do to help increase your chances of success when trying to network. Discover where and when There is a time and a place for networking, it’s your job to figure out what time and which place. Conventions are always great and some will even offer “industry” meetups where creators can meet producers and vice versa. You could also join forums on publishers websites and upload comics to all the spaces you want to be a part of. Don’t forget to connect with other artists on social media in groups or individually, and stay in contact with them. Reaching out at every opportunity will surely land you some valuable connections, so always


Chapter 11. Beyond comics

keep your eyes open. Find the right people Reach out to everyone. You never know when that seemingly unconnected person might have a cousin who is the editor of a comic company, but most importantly focus on the right people. Figure out who matters in the spaces you want to reach. Talk to the community managers for community initiatives, find the content curators for pitching your comic, reach out to the transdimensional extraterrestrials for a quick ride to Xanakor-5, and connect with creators doing something similar for collaborations. Have something to offer Our publisher approached us to produce Dungeon Construction Co. and when I tell people that they say, “Oh you got so lucky!”. What they don’t realize is “luck” it just when preparedness meets opportunity. We were already ready for our publisher before we knew they would come. They didn’t approach us for DCC, they approached us (and I’m sure many others) and asked if we had any new comic ideas. We did, we had 8 episodes of DCC ready to go just in case we found the right opportunity so in one email we delivered exactly what they were looking for. Reaching out but not having anything to offer at best will give you a wallet full of business cards but few opportunities. Make sure you have a solid idea of what you can offer others before you start.

Granting Rights to Others At some point you may be presented with an opportunity to use your IP in other derivative works or media. It can be a great way to diversify your business and make some extra income. Some ways your comic can be used are: board games, video games, animations, advertisements, and merchandise. You may have a lot of involvement with the process or very little. It depends on what you are capable of doing and what you’ve negotiated in your contract. As always when dealing with contracts, find a good lawyer or consult an agent to work on your behalf. They are professionals and can navigate the seas of legalese to your benefit.

Giving talks


Giving talks by Alex

There are many many festivals and conventions of different shapes and sizes, and most of them are always looking for speakers. They’re less likely to hire you if you don’t reach out to them. Don’t assume that people won’t have you speaking at your event just because you aren’t a high-profile artist. Show them that you have something to say, and you can become a higher-profile artist by doing talks rather than the other way around. Don’t make your talk too specific to your webcomic: You can make a talk that contains your comics that is about more general themes. This can take you to events beyond comic festivals, such as arts and literary festivals, LGBT+ events or university lectures. Whatever suits you!


Keeping it together

12 Day job

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Keeping your day job Olivia’s perspective Alex’s perspective Jose’s perspective Eelis’ perspective

13 Avoiding burnout . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Alex’s perspective Laura’s perspective David’s perspective

14 Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Getting involved It’s worth it


12. Day job

Keeping your day job by Olivia For some people, “making it” in comics means quitting your day job and doing comics full time. After all, with no job to take up your time, you can spend more time and energy on making comics and growing your brand. But before you turn in your two weeks’ notice, you might want to think about the advantages to keeping a full or part time job in addition to making comics. Nobody takes away your cartooning license if you have another job, and there are a lot of benefits to having other work to do, including: • Guaranteed income (and maybe even benefits). Needing to come up with creative ideas in order to support yourself can be terrifying. Having an alternative source of income can be a big relief, especially on days when you’re feeling burnt out on comics and need to step away. • Mandatory breaks and time management. Making comics is physically and mentally exhausting, and it’s easy to get stuck trying to figure out how to structure a joke or drawing. Having a job makes stepping away a requirement. It also adds structure to your time, helping you define windows of time where you’re working and windows of time where you’re taking a break. • Peace of mind. It can be emotionally draining to try to come up with


Chapter 12. Day job ideas all day and end up with nothing, but this is bound to happen at some point in a creative career. With a job to fill part of your day, you can go to sleep thinking “well, at least I got something done today”, no matter how the comics went that day.

Olivia’s perspective Right now, I work as a scientist in addition to making comics. When I get burned out on the science front, I switch to comics, and vice-versa. I look for overlap whenever I can. If I want to learn about something related to my job– e.g. machine learning or blockchain– I pitch the idea of making a comic about it to somebody who will pay for it. If there’s a paper I want to read for work, or a video I need to watch, I’ll listen to it while I draw. Making comics has helped me a lot in my science career: I’ve made lots of comics for talks and presentations I’ve given, and it helps the audience understand much better (it also helps keep them awake). My science career has also helped me make comics: I write code all the time to speed up drawing and formatting my comic’s images. This kind of symbiotic relationship makes me better at both science and comics than I would be if I only did one.

Alex’s perspective I always wanted to be a writer of some sort and wanted to fully dedicate myself to it. Out of university I was poor and struggling, but the huge amounts of time I gave myself to make art ended up being unfocused and unproductive. I eventually got a part-time job at a children’s Science Centre out of necessity, but the limitations this brought meant that when I wasn’t working my job I had structured time when I had to make some actual comics. Once I went full-time, I kept these habits and now make sure I don’t work in the evenings or on weekends.

Jose’s perspective I found that having a day job was actually better for my overall health, creativity, and bank account. I worked as a web developer, at an Apple store, selling organs I harvested from Enzo while he slept, and most recently as a bartender. The change each day from sitting in front of a

Jose’s perspective


screen to interacting with people helped me socialize and keep perspective on the world outside. Which were great ways of finding funny story and comic ideas.


Chapter 12. Day job

Eelis’ perspective

Scheduling your tasks properly will help you achieve and maintain balance and focus. So grab your planner and schedule time for

Eelis’ perspective



Chapter 12. Day job

Currently, I’m a full-time Master’s degree student on a field that has nothing to do with visual arts. I started both my webcomic BSandL and MA studies in 2016 and so far, I’ve been able to balance studies and comic projects quite nicely. Because students don’t have the luxury of dedicating their days for webcomics, in addition to clear scheduling, I’ve found the best method of working to be "work smart, not hard": Streamline. Simplify. Plan ahead. Create habits and automatise routine tasks. Shamelessly copy-paste backgrounds from earlier panels and draw your characters with their hands in their pockets if drawing hands takes too long for you. Find fast and easy ways to work, anything to keep your workload as small as possible while producing the quality that you’re satisfied with. The same applies to your studies. To save time, you want to study as efficiently as possible so hone your study skills and find the ways to learn that work best for you. For example, reading scientific articles is a slow and painstaking job for me because it feels that what I read never sticks to my mind. So I print out the articles and use pens in different colours to underline keywords and scribble notes on the margins. I’m still slow, but that way I actually internalize what I’m reading. And for goodness’ sake, if you’re struggling in your studies, ask for help – from fellow students, teachers, study psychologist, study advisor, etc. We all have different priorities and goals. If you’re making webcomics as a hobby, then you can do whatever you want whenever you want. But if you want comics to be your job, treat it as one: be professional and reliable, keep your promises, stick to deadlines. Show respect to other artists, readers and possible clients. Produce consistent quality consistently. Announce changes to update schedules etc. beforehand. Focus on the things that matter. And know your limits. Take care of yourself. Studying alone is exhausting. Both studying and making comics are the kind of work that you’re constantly thinking about, either actively or on the backburner. All of that takes a toll on your brain. Add webcomics work with regular updates, minimal excercise, poor diet, possible health problems and world-weariness on top of that and you have a disaster brewing. You have to learn to recognize when your body and mind need a break and find hobbies that relax you. Taking care of yourself and scheduling tasks properly beforehand become extremely important when you have chronic illnesses or have to work alongside your studies, for instance. I am abled myself, have no chronic illnesses and am able to support

Eelis’ perspective


myself with the Finnish student benefits, odd jobs and Patreon so I cannot give advice on how to balance part-time jobs, self-care, etc. with your studies. However, in any case, what works for me may be completely useless for you, and only you can find the balance that best suits your lifestyle and needs.

13. Avoiding burnout

One of the keys to longevity in webcomics is knowing when to step away from your work. This section has so many contributors because so many webcomics creators have felt burned out at one point or another in their career. The goal of these personal accounts is to teach you the warning signs of burnout and offer tips to help you manage your time when you feel like you’re running out of steam.

Alex’s perspective There is a stereotype of cartoonists being introverted, but I love partying and running around outside and being chatty. I also love having time to myself to make nice art, and being a comic artist means I get to do both. Few people get everything they need from making art, so make sure that your hobbies and down time satisfy the other parts of your personality that comics can’t reach.

Laura’s perspective


Laura’s perspective

Managing your time between comics and life is really important. Not only it will help you keep making good stuff, but it will also help you to not get overstressed. Stress can be good, but burnout is not! !

Don’t be optimistic, be realistic: If you know you take two days to make a comic, and you don’t have enough time in


Chapter 13. Avoiding burnout your weekly schedule, don’t try to fit it in anyway. Know your limits! And make sure to have free time for yourself during the day.

What we want is to have balance between self care, relaxation/social life, making comics, work/study and sleep. Most of the time you won’t be able to fit everything in one day and you’ll have to take something out. I personally suggest you to not take sleep away in order to fit in something else: if you’ve rested long enough, you’ll be able to do things more quickly and with less mistakes which won’t make you waste time! What will also save you time is to keep your ideas written somewhere; having a journal or a notebook that you update daily and have always with you can be both fun and useful. At some point it will happen that you accidentally have all your deadlines and work meetings and all kind of important stuff all in the same days. You’ll get stressed, will stop caring about yourself, will sleep less and eat junk food. Talk it out! If you feel like you’re not gonna be able to make it, call someone, message someone, just don’t let yourself feel lonely! This can happen to anyone, so talking it out can help you find a way to feel better and understood, and get back on the right track. From my personal experience, when I got burned out, what helped me a lot was taking some of the morning time off, not too much, cause I still had to get done with my work, but just enough to have a nice walk, get some fresh air and maybe get something useful done, like going to the grocery store. That way, you won’t be inside the house all day long, you’ll still have to get out of your pajamas to be outside (I know it’s nice being out with you pajamas on, but you cannot do it if you are this stressed!), you’ll get your muscles working and get something useful done!

Dealing with negative comments Sometimes, even if you are following your schedule, you’ll get stressed by other factors, like negative comments and criticism. If you receive negative or insulting comments on a comic you posted, you can turn that in your favor: as we already touched on, comments are what can make

Laura’s perspective


your post more visible, and if someone has so much time on their hand to use it to spread hate, don’t take them seriously! If you don’t get offended easily, I’d suggest to play dumb and answer their comments as if they’re not offensive at all. Your readers are gonna be there to support you and will probably come to help you scare haters off. If you are sensitive or something they said made you upset, delete their comments, and if they are still commenting on other posts, block them!

As for DMs, don’t answer them! You have nothing to gain from starting a debate in a private chat with someone who’s not sensitive enough to understand that it’d be better to not send the hate message in the first place! It’s only gonna drain you from your energy and time, and the haters don’t deserve that. It may also happen that a reader that DMd you in a nice way may start to take too much confidence and make you feel uncomfortable: this is when you should actually reply, and say in a straightforward way that what they said is not acceptable and that they should stop. Usually, these ways to deal with annoying readers/haters should be enough to put them into their place, but if it doesn’t work, you should reach out to your fellow comic artists: they will for sure be able to help you out by telling their point of view and what they’d do if they were in your place.

98 Sara’s perspective

Chapter 13. Avoiding burnout

David’s perspective


David’s perspective

Dear Cartoonist, When I first started working as a cartoonist, I was more than happy to spend all my time making comics. I worked seven days a week, whether I was healthy or sick. I remember watching the seasons change outside my office window like a timelapse video. Time flew because I was having


Chapter 13. Avoiding burnout

fun. Eventually, I learned that you can’t spend all your time working. Think of yourself as an engine. If you run it for too long, it overheats and the parts can break. It’s important to switch it off and let it cool down. This will allow you to run your engine for years to come. Since you can’t work every day, you are going to have to come up with some activities to do instead. Every person is different, but I recommend the following: exercise, errands, and studying. You are not just a brain controlling a body; you are also a body! The older you get, the more important it is you learn to maintain this marvelous machine in which your brain resides. Personally, I like to run. In addition, I have found that runners are overrepresented amongst cartoonists. Maybe there is some reason for this. I don’t know. In addition to running, I like to practice yoga.


As cartoonists, we spend so much time sitting, so it’s extra important that we take care of our spines.

Another helpful thing to do is to run little errands constantly. If a lightbulb burns out, make a trip to the store. Borrow library books. Return then. Get a haircut. There is always something that needs to be done and doing them allows you to take a break from work without feeling lazy. Cleaning falls into this category. If you work from home, then you live at the office. They say a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind. I subscribe to this point of view. Last, you spend your time being creative. You make art. Therefore, it is important to engage other areas of your brain in your freetime. A great way to get away from the pressure of work is to read or study. I like to study foreign languages, but this might not be for everyone. Perhaps do something with your hands. Learn to knit or whittle. Make a birdhouse. The general idea is to engage part of your brain not used in your art. You’ll be surprised what you may unlock! Hot tip There is no wrong way to take a break. The lesson to learn here

is that you must take them. Most cultures have already discovered this, but when you are your own boss, you are also your own employee. Be nice to your employees. Make sure that they are healthy and happy. The rest will take care of itself.

David’s perspective


14. Community

Getting involved by Olivia If you’re making webcomics and not interacting with the webcomic creator community, you’re missing out on one of your career’s greatest joys. Befriending other creators gets you a special kind of support group – people you can compare notes with, ask for feedback on ideas, complain to, or just hang out with. This booklet was made by a group of webcomic creators from around the world, most of whom first became friends online. Without people taking the initiative to purposefully connect the community of webcomics creators, this book– and a lot of fun times– would never have happened.

Tips for finding your way into the webcomic creator community: • Make the webcomics you want to make. Yes, OK, we know – webcomic creators are all very beautiful and cool and everybody wants to be our friend, and it can be tempting just to beg us for friendship right off the bat until we give in. That’s not the way to do it. Make the kind of comics that you would want to read, and they’ll start to speak for themselves after a while, as a reflection of you, their creator. Other creators will notice, and your kind of people will start to find you.

It’s worth it


• Interact with other creators. If you see a comic you like by somebody online, let them know! If you see somebody else who’s at the same stage as you, shoot them a message asking to compare notes. Don’t take it personally if people are busy and can’t get back to you. Generally speaking, saying nice things to other people can at worst take up some of your time, and at best can be the start to a treasured friendship that lasts years. • Look for and engage with groups online. There are Facebook groups and Twitter chats online dedicated entirely to making webcomics. Get involved with them, and you’ll expose yourself to new people and new kinds of comics you might never have seen otherwise.

It’s worth it You’re not going to love every day of making a webcomic, but you might make friends along the way that you’ll love for a lifetime.

Hot tip Maybe the real webcomic monetization strategy was friendship

all along.

About the Authors

It’s worth it


Alex Norris isn’t the creator of Dorris McComics and Webcomic Name, and didn’t make How to Love and Hello World for Webtoon. He is good at lying.

David Daneman

makes comics and podcasts about comics. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

Eelis Nilukka is the author of BSandL and

Summertime webcomics. http://drawthen.

Enzo is the creator of Cheer Up,

Emo Kid and Dungeon Construction Co. cheerupemokid. com/

H-P Lehkonen is a queer comics artist

from Finland working on his ongoing series Life Outside the Circle on and After the Fog on He’s also the author of the PRISM Award winning Short Gay Stories book. He was the organizer of the residency.

Jose Rojas is the CEO of Button Mash Productions, head writer of Dungeon Constructions Co.


Chapter 14. Community

Laura Romagnoli is the author of Av-

erage Adventures of an Average Girl webcomic. https://lauraromagnoli.myportfolio. com/

Megan McKay is the creator of the webcomic Doodle for Food and the mini-series Dogs with Jobs. She’s a fan of dogs and other cute things.

Olivia Walch is the cartoonist of Imogen

Quest and a regular contributor to The Nib. She is also a post-doc at the University of Michigan.

Paju Ruotsalainen was the volunteer chef in the residency and singlehandedly kept us all alive. He is an active member of the Finnish zine scene.

Sara Valta makes everything from books

to illustrations and is also the author of the webcomic Alchemilla. At the moment she is the board member of the Finnish Comic Society.

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