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!
- Find people doing comics like you
- 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.