Creative Futures 2012: Day 1 Part 2: John Allison

John Allison is nice man who makes the webcomics Bad Machinery and Scary Go Round, he was also kind enough to let me interview him via e-mail for my dissertation back in November.

I however was rude enough to be about 6 and a half minuets late, the point at which I jumped into the talk was here (this is the massively more concise version of my original notes; it was so interesting!):

Pay walls, changing artwork and lost audience

  • Relationship with audience is based on trust
  • An audience may feel betrayed if that trust is compromised by introducing a charge for something that was previously free
  • Only a very small proportion of readers continued to read after the introduction of a charge
  • Changing art lost some readers, but that didn’t mean that that art was worse, Best work = Not always for your current audience
  • Manga and superhero audiences tend to have more conservative tastes
  • Readers will tell you what they don’t like! The internet is a forum for honesty
  • You can gain a much bigger audience though the Internet than through zines and conventions (although these things are good and you should that too)
  • Bad Machinery is about children, not for children; this also lost audience

Technical Tips and Format

  • Manga studio, wacom tablet
  • Wider format for computers
  • Buy a font; weird experience, painful but good
  • Don’t draw big baby heads
  • Working for a personal interest vs. an audience
  • Never write something that you hate
  • Ending experiment becomes refining

Building an audience

  • Don’t be shy and here is why
  • Case study: MrX sells all of them!!! It’s all confidence.
  • The level of talent is not so high in the UK that you can’t start out!

Making contacts

  • Find people doing comics like you
  • Conventions
  • Sell your comics!
  • There’s room for everybody
  • Be realistic!

Webcomics that work and why

  • Hark! A Vargrant: Combination of heavy and light; heavy intelligence, light laughs
  • Nedroid: Easy to share, very simple, funny and appealing
  • Achewood: Highbrow audience, built around the words
  • “Unshelved” Niche market, find an under-served audience

DIY and Why do people make so many tshirts on the internet?

  • Produce at small numbers with big mark-up
  • Selling your art
  • Making books
  • Always try to make ⅓+ on each book
  • Advertising, it is free money
  • Avoid too many early, you won’t make much money and you will make your site ugly

Pinch pennies like there was a war on

  • Learn to save and stay in the black
  • Selling book format to existing readers
  • Kickstarter, Indie Gogo
  • Study Successful people

Things I wish I had been taught

  • “Exposure” is meaningless
  • Your work is valuable!
  • The difference between success an failure is usually lack of intellectual curiosity
  • The lower the price of a job, the more difficult the client will be.
  • Learn how to be a pain about money
  • Fake mistakes (small easy to change mistakes that give the client the feeling that they were involved in the process)
  • Business cards get thrown away
  • The best thing you can take to a publisher is a ready made audience!
  • Shorter stories working up to longer graphic novels

Here’s a link to a post about Allison’s Indie Comics Manifesto, I don’t personally think I can add anything to the discussion that hasn’t already been said about it. It was a little bit conversational at the time “mostly because I used the word ‘manifesto'” according to Allison.

Seeing as this was now a week ago, I’m fully able to say that this was one of the most interesting and informative talks of the week. I learnt a lot about gaining a following online by being consistent and about approaching and communicating  with people at conventions.

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This entry was published on March 11, 2012 at 11:46 am. It’s filed under Comics, Creative Futures, University and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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