Clip Studio Paint tutorial: Highlights for black hair
Drawing a person with black hair can be tricky. If you’re not careful, you can end up with someone who looks as if a stack of vinyl records melted on their head! This three-minute Clip Studio Paint tutorial shows my […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
Selling original art is an important part of the business model of an independent cartoonist who works with traditional media (pencils, inks, etc.). But if you use digital lettering, that final art might not feel so final to a prospective […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
ComicLab Ep 146: Nobody wants to hear “Support Me on PatreonR...
If your outreach is “Support me on Patreon,” you’re delivering a tone-deaf message. We’re going to talk about getting more backers by adjusting your pitch. Plus, we have our first ComicLab nuptials! Questions asked and topics covered… Wedding bells! Don’t […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
Longtime readers of Webcomics.com may remember a certain fiasco called VAT-MOSS. In 2014, the European Union (EU) changed the way Value-Added Tax (VAT) is applied to digital goods. And its rules affected not only member countries, but countries outside of […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
This week, Dave and Brad talk about the hurdles they’ve experienced as artists. And then, when a prominent arts educator advocates for the use of “Poor Man’s Copyright,” Brad’s head nearly explodes. Questions asked and topics covered… Artisting hurdles Poor […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
This week, our friend Erika Moen joins us to talk about one of the most important topics we’ve ever covered on ComicLab — Mental health. Coming soon from Erika Moen… Drawn to Sex Vol. 2: Our Bodies and Health. Have you ever wanted […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
In the early days of webcomics, a preferred method of promotion was the ol’ link exchange. “I’ll link to your comic if you link to mine.” Today’s crowdfunded business model requires a little twist on that old axiom. The content trade […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...
Set down the sunblock, and step away from the pool. It’s time to start planning for December and January.
I know it’s hard to get into the spirit, but this is the time to start working on merchandise for the holiday shopping season. In recent years, webcartoonists have offered an increasing compliment of holiday goodies that have ranged from specialty T-shirts and mugs to holiday-themed greeting cards. And let’s not forget to add calendars to that list. Those will start appearing in stores by November — at the latest!
So, let’s take a closer look at some of those specialty products, and how we can start working now to be ready to compete when the snow falls.
I’ve been pretty dour on calendars as merchandise in the past, and, truth be told, I’m still not a huge proponent of the practice. As I’ve stated before, calendars have a very limited shelf life. Few people buy them after January. That means you either have to have a very strong, dedicated readership to pitch to or you have to go Print-on-Demand (POD) which brings the unit profit way down.
I am a fan of the calendar-creation tool at Lulu.com. (Redbubble.com did awesome calendars. but the demand dropped so low, they discontinued them.) So, as long as I don’t invest too much time on it, I can usually justify putting out a POD calendar.
Lulu gives you a choice between two sizes: a large-format calendar that measures 13.5 x 19 inches and a standard-sized one at 11 x 17 inches.
The large-format calendar (like the sample on the right) has a spiral-bound spine at the top, holding sheets of 13.5 x 19 -inch stock.
Add some extras!
Dates: Add some significant dates to the calendar
The anniversary of your comic
Any comic-related milestones (500th update, etc.)
Pricing: Lulu allows you to set your own royalty, but try to keep the final price as close to $20 as possible (for the standard size). $30-range for the larger version.
Buying in bulk
Of course, you could buy a larger number of calendars for yourself, driving the unit cost down, and then try to sell them for a larger profit on your own site. You can do this through your POD vendor or you could invest in an offset print run. However, you risk buying too many and then being stuck with them in January when sales dwindle.
Of course, you can always use them as a loss leader to drive sales to your store later in the month.
When I released my 2010 calendar, it was November. And, truthfully, I figured this was plenty of time. One of my readers was very upset with me for releasing it so late.
I was perplexed. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to purchase a calendar before November, and yet, there was clearly a segment of my readership who had already completed their calendar-shopping for the year — and given the choice, they would have chosen my offering if it had been available.
So, the following year, I offered my calendar in early-October. And my sales were brisk.
But my new recommendation is to release your calendars at the beginning of September! I’ll get into why in a moment.
About midway through the convention in New York, one guy who was buying a calendar asked for a sketch inside it — the way I do with books.
How did I overlook that?!?
Thinking on my feet, I asked him what month his birthday fell in. He said “April,” and I flipped the calendar open to that month and did a special sketch, with one of my characters delivering birthday wishes.
Every calendar after that had a special sketch on purchaser’s requested month.
Even though most conventions are canceled due to the Covid crisis, you should still plan to have your calendars prepped and available by September because if you do, you can order yourself a small stack and offer them on your Web site as Artist Editions.
Most storefront solutions include a way for the purchaser to communicate with the merchant. In PayPal, it’s “NOTE TO MERCHANT.” Advise your readers to indicate the month they want the illustration drawn in — and any birthday messages (if this is a gift for someone else, for instance) — and you’ve got a rock-solid early-Fall merchandise offering.
And your sketches could be simply your characters, or they could deliver birthday wishes, or they could contain references to the person’s astrological sign… the possibilities are endless.
Heck, you could do a very limited number of calendars with sketches on each day and sell it for a premium price.
A few years back, I launched a couple of Christmas cards and the response was so overwhelming, I vowed to start earlier the following year so I could take advantage of this opportunity better.
Designing Christmas cards — and let’s note here that the term “Christmas card” is being used as a catch-all phrase for all of the holiday cards that get purchased during the winter holidays — is a lot like designing T-shirts.
No one is going to buy one with your character(s) on them. No one is going to buy them with your strip re-printed on them (unless maybe it’s a single-panel comic).
What they are going to buy are cards that express your unique sense of humor or your identifiable illustration style. It’s perfectly fair game to swipe a punchline from a strip. And it’s perfectly OK if the card has little-or-nothing to do with your comic.
Take the this good advice about designing great T-shirts and apply it to your Christmas card concept.
Like I said, I produced two that year. Both are posted a little further down. The first one is related directly to the theme of my comic, but had content that had not appeared in the strip (yet). The second one was completely unrelated to the comic. Both sold well, although the one that matched more closely the “Evil Inc” theme sold a little bit better.
When you think about it, designing a greeting card is very similar to creating a two-panel comic. The cover is the first panel and the inside can be the second panel.
In fact, it’s an incredibly effective two-panel comic because it’s impossible to look ahead to the punchline and ruin the build-up. You can build a nice amount of suspense that will charge the pay-off nicely. For example…
Of course, you can also approach it as a single-panel comic — with a nice, themed message on the inside.
The usual online printers are already offering specials for people printing greeting cards for the holidays. PSPrint has offered as much as 60%-off. Overnight Prints has offered 50%-off on holiday-related printing.
Make sure appropriately-sized envelopes come with the order. If not, buy some, and factor that expense in to your final price.
Remember, you’re shipping off someone’s greeting cards. They need to arrive in good shape. I bought these cardboard boxes from Uline last year, and they performed beautifully.
Brad and Dave talk about their experience running their first virtual comic convention! PLUS — Dave talks about his third Eisner Award nomination and his second self-administered haircut… both of which ended up in disappointment.
Questions asked and topics covered…
Dave’s third Eisner Award nomination
Studio Con recap — how did the virtual convention go?
Ellipses — what’s the right way to use those three little dots?
Earlier this summer, I wrote that we may have to prepare for a future in which Media Mail is no longer offered by the United States Postal Service. When that happened, I actually got pushback from folks who insisted that the USPS had always made rate-hike requests in October for the following year — and that there was no reason to expect that things would be different now. My response was that I hoped I was wrong.
I did not get my wish.
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Wanna do better at social media? It can be boiled down to two sentences.
Like less. Share more.
Share and share a like lot
It’s very simple. You Like when you should Share, and you Favorite when you should Retweet.
First of all, get into the proper headspace. As a webcartoonist, you’re on social media for one reason — and one reason alone. You’re there to promote.
Your Aunt Mildred is on social media to post pictures of her nieces and to take quizzes that tell her which Deep Space Nine character she is.
You can do all of that (if you choose), but the primary reason you’re there is to promote.
And branding is a huge part of promotion.
Branding tells the world who you are. A good brand should have a headline and several sub-heads. In other words, there should be one theme that develops around the things that you post about yourself (and your comic). And, secondary to that, there should be several other themes.
What’s my brand?
Webcomics pioneer — I’ve been doing this thing successfully since the very start of webcomics
NSFW comics creator
And so on…
All of the above combines to create my personal brand. Is it accurate? Yes and no. All of the above are truthful, but my presentation of them is decidedly one-sided.
For example, if you follow me on social media, you’re going to hear a lot about my successes. I’m going to post positive stuff all day long. You’re going to hear much less about my failures and shortcomings. Is that because I don’t experience them? Hell, no.
It’s because I know why I’m on social media.
And it ain’t to tell you about my failures.*
*Unless it’s in direct aid of sub-head #2 above.
So this: Liking and Favoriting are nearly invisible acts.
Sharing and Retweeting are highly visible acts.
If you want to reinforce your brand, you need to do so visibly.
Beyond simple branding, this boils down to one core concept: The Three Cs of Social Media. Social media is about Content, Commercial and Curation.
Sharing and retweeting? That’s straight-up Curation.
Along with reinforcing my brand, Curation enables me to slide in more Commercials.
AND, since my Curation is MUCH more likely to generate engagement, when I DO post Commercials, they are FAR more likely to be seen by a larger number of people — because social-media favors people who make engaging posts. Go back and look a the number of Likes and Share those branding posts earn.
And that’s important to me because I know why I’m on social media.
Writing a good joke is a balancing act. There are so many ways to upset the delicate harmonies that work together to make something funny. Luckily, there are a few missteps that have recognizable patterns. One of them is telegraphing the joke.
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