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This post was contributed by Scott Kurtz. It originally ran on Webcomics.com in 2010.
I was talking to Kris Straub about this and expressing frustration in the response we often get during the Q&A portions of our frequent comicon panels. No matter how long we discuss the importance of putting the work first during the panel, one of the first questions asked is always about some specific form of monetization. “How many T-shirts do I make?”
Kris asked me if I ever heard about cargo cults. And I hadn’t so I looked it up.
Cargo cults sprang up after World War II along islands in the South Pacific. Japanese and American soldiers invaded these islands, set up bases and soon after, all these amazing material goods and technology started falling out of the sky on a regular basis. Goods that the indigenous tribes shared in from time to time. After the war, the soldiers packed up and left and the air drops stopped. So the tribesmen started emulating the soldiers, assuming that if they acted the way they did, the goods would start falling from the sky again.
So you have these military bases made out of straw and wood popping up on these islands, with natives making uniforms and wooden guns and marching in formation looking up and waiting for more stuff to fall out of the sky.
And that’s what’s happening to a group of people in webcomics. There are a lot of people emulating all the wrong things in the hopes that in doing so, they’ll bring themselves success. And to make matters worse, discouraging these people only seems to make their resolve stronger.
I see aspiring cartoonists with barely 100 regular readers looking to print books, make plushes, spend hundreds of dollars traveling to conventions. Why? Because they’re observing successful webcomickers doing the same and thing and falsely believe that by emulating these practices, success will follow. I promise you it won’t. Emulating those practices before your work can property support it won’t bring success, just unsold inventory an unrecoverable investments. And ultimately it’ll bring discouragement, resentment and ultimately it might lead to giving up completely.
Strong content will provide a creator with ample opportunities to monetize it. And when the time comes for your work to start supporting that monetization, the tips and tricks you learn here can hopefully be put to good use. But emulating these practices before the time is right, is counter to your goals.