Work: Business Archives

December 20, 2004

Promotion, part 1.

For two years, I hardly promoted my webcomics at all. I had stopped sending out press releases, gradually taken down all of the link exchanges, button things, topsite lists and all those other page-fillers that individually all seem like a good idea but collectively clutter up the websites they're on. I also didn't advertise. I adopted an attitude of "wait and see what happens if I just draw the comic, updated and let the site speak for itself."
Of course, there was still the internal promotion at Modern Tales, plus my routine activities at comics forums everywhere, but I didn't make any special effort to promote. My reason for that was simple enough: I had no faith in the effectiveness of the promotional mechanisms I abandoned.

Continue reading "Promotion, part 1." »

December 30, 2004

ROCR website update

I've made some more changes to the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website and the ROCR archives at Modern Tales:
I have un-freed "Rásdondr's testimony" and folded it back into the chapter Trial, day 2" where, artistically speaking, it belonged. I have made the current chapter, Grimborg officially free. Later today, I will delete "Rásdondr's testimony" from the archives as well.
I have updated the front page to reflect these changes, re-written the ultra-short summary and put a prominent "Latest chapter" link above the fold. Let's hope I'll be able to discipline myself into changing that one as needed.
Finally, I have updated the About page to reflect the progression of the storyline up to the latest chapter, and link to the start of that latest chapter. That's another thing I'm going to have to do regularly.
The website has been doing very well indeed these past few weeks! Even though the number of visitors to the latest updates dropped somewhat over Christmas, more people have been finding their way to the free archives, and the total number of pageviews over the month of December will get very close to the magic number, 50,000. This is good. To stay in business after 2005, I will have to do a number of things, and rapidly expanding the readership, both paying and non-paying, is one of the most important of them. Let's aim for 100,000 as the new magic number! The prominent visual links to the "latest chapter" and "featured storyline" should help with this.

January 9, 2005

Promotion, part 1a

As often, I'm a little behind on posting substantial blog items. The good news here is that I'm getting back on track with my regular comics work, which means that in a rare departure from regular procedure, I've been able to do the higher-priority stuff before the lower. Still, I owe you a follow-up to Promotion, part 1 in which I want to discuss approaches to promoting a comic (specifially, mine. I'm selfish like that) outside the regular webcomics readership. I'm also behind on typing up a long post about my plans for the new year, which I wrote in my notebooks before leaving for England in late December. I'll get to that when I am really secure about my ROCR buffer and the ongoing work on Floor. I have big aims, but before world domination, the lawn needs sweeping, and the dishes need feeding.
There's one part of my plans that I do need to start carrying out, and I'll need help from you, the readers of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan (those handful of you who read the blog but not the comic can ignore this). I need to increase the comic's reader base some ten- or twenty-fold over the year. To get started, I want to ask you to comment on the comic on the two listing services I signed up with recently, The Webcomic List and (links go to my profile pages on either site), and maybe add ROCR to your favorites. You'll need to sign up with yourselves (don't know about The Webcomic List), but if you read a lot of webcomics, both sites are well worth registering with to keep track of your favourite comics' updates and discover new ones.

Continue reading "Promotion, part 1a" »

September 7, 2005

Despammed down again

Effective immediately, my public email address is Despammed is down again, has been for days, and what with me needing to be able to take orders from people, I can no longer justify using their services. Gmail has pretty good built-in spam protection, and I should be able to prevent the address from getting too flooded.

I'll edit the message about my work for the Webcomics Hurricane Relief Telethon. Apologies if you've tried to contact me in the past few days; please resend your mail to the new address.

December 8, 2006

Project Wonderful and Making a Living.

ComicSpace is already turning out to be a neat little earner for its founder Josh Roberts. Indeed, looking at those bids, one can't escape the conclusion that, strange though it may seem, some webcartoonists have entirely too much money.
But I'm pretty sure that once the hype dies down, the ads on there will be worth pretty much what people bid on them. Project Wonderful is a nearly perfect model of capitalism*): accurate information is available to all parties, there's no friction in the form of, say, a labour force needing to be fed and kept safe, and the parties involved are self-interested (read: vain and greedy) enough not to let an undervalued ad go un-bid, while also being rational (read: cheap) enough not to pay more, in the long run, than an ad is worth.

That being said, I think my own ad spots are still being undervalued compared to those on other webcomic sites with thousands of page impressions a day. I still seem to suffer from low visibility, possibly as a result of having been around so long.

The trend is up though; yesterday, my income passed the $2/day mark for the first time, putting it close to my short-term aim of making $3/day. Peanuts compared to what Josh is earning, I know, but that site is very visible right now and serving up tens of thousands of page impressions to people who are nuts about webcomics. I'm beginning to think that my next goal, of making $ 10/day through advertising, might be reachable. That would be the point where I'd be able to free up time to work on Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. I do that anyway, but whenever I work on the comic, these days, I feel a twinge of guilt for not working on something that pays the bills. $10/day would put the webcomic on the same footing as my single biggest client, so that guilt, that feeling I'm slacking off from something more urgent, would, I think, go away.

$30/day would allow me to work on ROCR as my main project, reducing the others to sidelines. No, really. I could do it. I'm very, er, rational. All right, cheap. So bid on those ads if you want to support me and have a website that needs some more people looking at it.

*) But not quite: apart from the hype factor, participants in the market also come to it from vastly different pre-existing initial situations: some have hightly popular websites, including some where the popularity reflects past merit rather than present and can be said, for the purposes of the model, to be inherited. There is a real risk that PW ends up causing money to flow overwhelmingly from small webcomics sites to large ones, on the basis of these pre-existing conditions. Arguably, ComicSpace is one of them, because it had a huge advantage in the form of the user base of its predecessor,

December 12, 2006

Using Project Wonderful effectively and ethically.

It's perhaps a bit early for this, but here's what I think I have learned in the past few weeks of advertising through Project Wonderful:

  1. Advertise outside your immediate niche: The most effective ads I've taken out were ads on popular webcomics such as Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal or Questionable Content. These popular general-interest comics probably have more fantasy fans among their reader base than most individual genre fantasy comics have fans.
  2. Go for the pageviews. When you bid on an ad, pay close attention to how many pageviews it has. Pageviews are a pretty good indicator of how many clicks you will get.
  3. Notwithstanding the above, ads on ComicSpace are hugely overpriced (average bid value $7.2 at the time of writing). Don't bid on them until their price drops to, say, a tenth of what it is now. Hype and fads can add value to an ad; in ComicSpace's case, one could argue that the ads are seen by rabid comic fans who are not yet webcomics fans. In practice, though, I've got fewer clicks out of these than other popular webcomics sites or even genre niche sites.
  4. Do bid on ads within your niche if they are cheap.
  5. Skyscraper ads are worth it.
  6. Novelty ads may or may not be worth it (ask Jeff Rowland) but they're going to cost you.
  7. Generally, if you want an ad to stay up, overbid.You may end up having to pay prices similar to those of a traditional ad slot on a similar site.
  8. If you bid on multiple ads within the same block, and only one bid is accepted, cancel the ads that didn't make it after a day or so. Otherwise, they might become the highest bidder after a while, costing you unnecessary money. Double ads add no value. Also, from an ethical point of view, leaving the losing bids up amounts to giving the ad's host a free gift of someone else's money. By the way, if you want to give an ad host a free gift of someone else's money, it's usually possible to guess how high you can bid on a button ad within a block and still lose. This could turn out to be a weakness in the PW system. Don't abuse it.
  9. This may be a browser-specific thing (I tried in Opera and Safari) but it looks like the "edit this bid" feature doesn't do anything useful except cancel a bid. You can't alter the value of a bid, so if you must have an ad on a certain spot, you must bid again. If you bid repeatedly on the same ad, make sure to cancel the losing bids. Otherwise, when the bidder or bidders who caused you to lose the bids cancel theirs (or their bids expire), you may end up bidding against yourself and throwing money away. This has happened to me.

That's it for now. I may add a few more items if I think of any. Or I may not. All of the above is based only on my own experiences, is completely unscientific and may be wrong. Seems to be working for me though.

March 10, 2007

Advertise on!

I've got some ad spots up on my websites that have been going cheap. They're served by Project Wonderful, so they go to the highest bidder, and recently, the price on them has gone down to a few pennies.

Small ad buttons, about 10,000 pageviews a day, going for $ 0.05.
Square ad on the front page only, about 900 pageviews a day, going for $ 0.08.
Archive-only leaderboard ad, currently going for $1.10 but likely to drop deeply as the second-highest bid is expiring in a few days. About 10,000 pageviews a day, give or take the odd dip.
Square ad on this very blog! A couple of hundred pageviews a day, which surprised me when I saw it. Currently going at a whopping $ 0.30 a day.
Skyscraper ad on Chronicles of the Witch Queen. Currently going for free! Not exactly a pageview magnet, but as you can see from the graph, it goes up and down, so if you're the gambling kind, you might want to consider it.

Other sites with the same reach, such as Websnark, have much higher bids on them. One difference is that Websnark does have more unique visitors; another is that the Project Wonderful ads on Websnark are brand spanking new. Somehow, Project Wonderful ads perform best in their first few weeks and then begin to sag. Jin Wicked of Crap I Drew On My Lunch Break, a site whose reach is much greater than mine, noticed the same thing. Project Wonderful encourages novelty-chasing. There's an automated notifier that you can set up to send you email when there are new ads meeting your criteria, but I don't think there's one that tells you when an ad that's been around for a few months has become a bargain. And because many of Project Wonderful's ad publishers are, like myself, penniless web comic artists and enthusiasts who are thrilled at the opportunity to make some money from what are, on the whole, tasteful, discrete, even hip ads that can actually make a webcomics site somewhat more appealing, they tend to make a big noise about having shiny new Project Wonderful ads on their sites. Very few people make a big noise about the ads they've had on there for three months.

There is, then, a strong argument for occasionally replacing ones ad blocks with new ones. Unfortunately, the system works best if bidders lock in bids for months or even years, so while replacing ad blocks might deliver some short-term benefits for the individual doing it, it degrades the system as a whole in the long term if everyone does it. Especially with the vast majority of bids everywhere being very low; canceling ads doesn't save anyone any real money, but does waste the work people have done in setting them up.

But when I see start seeing "Your ad here" on any of my ad blocks, it goes down. If no one's bidding anyway, there's no harm done.

May 8, 2007

Reconceptualising micropayments.

Micropayments are a perfectly valid and succesful business tool - as long as the end user stays out of the picture

In the wake of the failure of Bitpass and Scott McCloud's decision to stop charging a micropayment for The Right Number, discussion of micropayments as an option for making money with web content, specifically, webcomics, has flared up again. Note, for example, Clay Shirky declaring victory for his side of an argument that took place several years ago. Joey Manley thought the tone of the article was a bit vindictive, but like several commenters to Joey's post, I think it was necessary for Shirky to make the post so that debate had some closure.

Of course, these things never truly end. On Comixpedia, Joel Fagin has another go at it, making some good points about the difference between a service and a project and arguing that that distinction, not micropayments themselves, are what caused micropayment-supported webcomics to fail. As long as webcomics are sold as a service (you pay to login and see the comics on the server), rather than a product (you pay for comics to download and keep), they won't be worth charging for. As an example of a micropayment-enabled product, Fagin cites iTunes (and comment hijinx ensue).

I have trouble with the idea of iTunes as a micropayments business, though a quick look at the Wikipedia article on micropayments suggests that it qualifies, because the payments involved are too small to process economically through the credit card system, and aggregated inside iTunes' billing system on a weekly basis. But I don't think the 1-dollar per song price tag was what micropayments' original boosters had in mind. The Case For Micropayments by Jakob Nielsen, from 1998 (that's how long we've had this conversation, folks), talks in terms of cents rather than dollars. That's a big difference.

By the definition that allows iTunes to be a micropayments-based business, Modern Tales is one - though no longer primarily so. In its original business model, prices for monthly subscriptions were in the too-small-for-credit-cards category, but annual subscriptions were not. Today, of course, most of the content is free, supported by ads from Google and Project Wonderful.

What happens internally at Modern Tales is a lot closer to the original idea of micropayments than what happens at the customer level at Modern Tales, or at iTunes. When a subscriber clicks on a link to an archived Modern Tales comic, that creator gets points equivalent to the number of comics pages served as a result of that link. These points get aggregated and divided by the total number of points in a given period to give a percentage of the earnings that the cartoonist should get. I'll spare you the details, but "points" act as stand-ins for really small sums of money - i.e. micropayments.
Likewise, Project Wonderful's cost-per-day, measured in tiny sums of money that are aggregated in advance by the advertiser, is a micropayment-based system. Come to think of it, for most smaller hosts, Google Ads' internal accounting and aggregation would count as well.

In the backends of web-based businesses, micropayments are used all the time. Maybe that distinction, between charging micropayments to end users and charging them to advertisers or publishers/portals, is more meaningful than the distinction between products and services.

It's probably ironic that the biggest boosters of micropayments wanted them to kill ads, when what micropayments actually do is enable them on more sites that wouldn't otherwise have had them.

July 5, 2007

Headsmen art for sale

It's time for me to start worrying about next month's rent again, so I'm offering some more new originals for sale through the webcomicsnation swapmeet. But you can buy them from this page as well. These are some of my favourite pages from the Headsmen storyline:

Headsmen1a - click to view
Page for January 9, 2006. $ 80 including shipping and handling. Description

Headsmen1b - Click to view
Page for January 10, 2006.. $80 including shipping and handling. Description

Headsmen 5a -Click to view
Page for January 19, 2006. $80 inc. shipping and handling. Description

Page for January 20, 2006. $80 including shipping and handling. Description

All payments are handled by Paypal. You don't need a Paypal account to buy; a valid Visa or Mastercard will do the trick quite nicely.

The listing system at Webcomicsnation, as observed before, is clunky and doesn't allow me to show the products properly. Entering this listing in the blog was sheer torture, with the first Paypal button appearing broken in the preview (I will have to publish this entry to see if the problem shows up in publication as well). I will investigate some way of making the process of listing, selling and buying original art more straightforward. If any of my readers have any experience with e-commerce systems such as OScommerce, please let me know.

July 8, 2007

Possibly the most effective fundraiser in webcomics

I did some advertising on the fantasy webcomic Exiern a while ago. The comic is not my favorite thing in the world (see Robert A. Howard's capsule review. While his comparison between writer Drowemos' early art and that of Jamie Robertson is absurd, the rest of his description is good enough), but advertising on it has been worth my while.

What I do find fascinating about it is the money it attracts. According to its Project Wonderful stats, it has an audience of about 10,000 visitors a day, which is quite impressive for an obscure webcomic. But from that audience, it has managed to raise $1800 in a month to pay its artist with and the writer is about to start up new web projects with the money. While there have been other webcomics that have raised as much in a similar period, they tend to be better-known ones that generate more buzz and inspire visible fanaticism from their audiences.

Drowemos should rent himself out as business manager to struggling webcartoonists. He seems to be doing the obvious thing: create donation-only wallpapers, offer subscriptions to uncensored versions of Exiern, that sort of thing. Yes, we know that tittilation works, especially in combination with good art. Drowemos and Studio Boom have made it work much better than I've learned to expect. And it's bringing in respectable Project Wonderful money.

Anyway. I just wanted to offer this up as a data point. There are comics out there that raise funds effectively and make themselves self-financing, while still staying under the radar of the big webcomics blogs.

October 27, 2007

Selling art to raise money for print editions

All original art from the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stories Headsmen and Devil is now for sale through my Comicspace galleries. Moneys raised will go towards financing new print editions of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, which I should finally be able to get together in 2008.

When I was in my financial crisis earlier this year, sales of original art made a big difference. Now that that's over and I'm no longer living hand to mouth, it's time to get proactive. I want ROCR back in print and I want it to be done well, i.e. colour while available and decent print quality as well as good design, promotion and a good print run. To make this possible, I'm selling off as many originals as I can. This batch of 26 original pages and one drawing is just the start. Pages from Feral will soon follow, as well as more pages from Invasion. Some pages from the latter story are still available through the Webcomicsnation Swapmeet where you can see how they look in black and white. Also, more pages - everything I've ever published online, in fact - are available for sale on request. If there's a page or single drawing in the archives you want, just ask me about it and we'll make a deal!

For this new batch, I've switched from the Webcomicsnation Swapmeet to Comicspace because the latter site allows for much faster data entry and Paypal button generation, especially with already-existing galleries. Downsides include a lack of space to put detailed sales information in, so I can't offer alternate views of the black and white product, or mention that all pages shipped to buyers will include an A4 (297 x 210 mm) print of the finished page, so you also get it in colour.

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