Mike: You’re going to open a “can of worms” on this one Dave, because it kicks my conspiracy theory brain into full gear. I absolutely think this internet is the world’s biggest scam in the same way that I think fractional-reserve banking is a scam and bloated socialist governments are a scam. I think the reason we’ve had so much freedom on the internet for so long is because the “powers that be” are trying to get everyone hooked on the system before they clamp down on it for total control, much like they did with the radio waves many years ago. Now that everyone (almost everyone) is plugged into the matrix, equipped with their iPhones and other Star Trek devices that can be GPS tracked and traced and now that banking is going electronic and now that all of your actions can be recorded on giant echelon computers and your habits can be predicted (go look at amazon.com as an example) and I see pretty much the whole of humanity being suckered into loving Big Brother.
Conspiracy brain aside; I think maintaining an on-line presence is about as beneficial as keeping an in-print presence for whatever that’s worth. I mean, both of those I’m not making any money with, so I’m probably the wrong guy to ask. But I can easily point to people (in both on-line and in-print camps) who are making it work. I have discovered artists and their work on-line, I’ve bought stuff on-line and sold stuff on-line and connected with people on-line, so there is something to it. No question there. My big question is HOW to make it work so that the energy out is greater than the energy in (which is my same question for in-print). The answer seems to be the same: Do it well, do it frequently, do it habitually, offer something that people want that serves them. One of those easier-said-than-done answers… unless you do it.
Measured against going to conventions and small press shows and getting the local store to carry the books on spec? To me it’s apples and oranges. Using military analogies that I like to use, I see the on-line aspects as media and propaganda campaigns. It’s putting up billboards and dropping leaflets and broadcasting commercials and giving up to the minute news bulletins and branding yourself into the mass consciousness “Keep Calm and Carry On” “Uncle Sam Wants You!” types of things. The conventions and small press shows and local stores are like ground assaults. You’re going in on a special-ops mission and occupying territory (be it shelf space or table space) planting your flag and fighting to not get cut down by enemy fire. The internet thing is certainly cheaper than paying for gas and airfare and table space and accommodations. The data can be duplicated infinitely so it theoretically has infinite reach, which is great for spreading idea-viruses. But it sure ain’t as real as holding a book in your hands. I don’t care if you can read a comic on your iPad, you still can’t sign a limited edition first print issue number one on the internet.
I see both aspects being very useful but for very different reasons.
But like I said; I’m not making any money on either of them.
So what do I know…
Now I’ll ask you one… You’ve mentioned glamourpuss numbers a few times during these conversations. My question is this: What can us readers do to help YOU with glamourpuss? I mean, we can buy the comic – ✔ check. We can talk about it for the word-of-mouth viral effect – ✔ check. But if there was another way for readers to help a self-publishing author make sure the numbers grow and the work continues, what would it be?
PS. We got the missing page from Oliver so Blair should be good to go. They can’t keep THIS frequency jammed! I haven’t heard from Blair this evening, and I’m not sure if he also has a question ready for you or not. Regardless, I figured I’d send this to you now so I can log off this computer.
Blair: I have to agree with Mike’s conspiracy theory brain on this one, although I haven’t put much thought into it that way, but I’m sure the powers that be are up to something. For the most part, I lump the internet in with TV and video games as far as time wasting goes and I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I purposely cancelled my cable for my TV and we have one video game in our house from about 14 years ago, but I find I still end up wasting time only it’s on line rather than in front of the TV. If I wasn’t trying to make a comic and promote it I probably would have no use for an online presence. Pre-Possum, I didn’t own a computer (2004 I think it was when I bought my first one to colour pages) and I may have checked my email once a week at work, although in those days I was animating on paper and the only time I was around a computer was when I was pencil testing a scene. I checked the hockey scores in the morning and didn’t think about it again all day. Work was steady and if someone wanted to reach me they’d call me on the phone. Things are different now though. I’m no longer content working for a studio so I’m trying to start a business and I think the internet is an invaluable asset if it’s used properly, but like most things it has a down side that might outweigh the good side. I mean at the moment, there would be no way that I could carry on this conversation we’re having right now without the internet and all the people reading our conversation wouldn’t have access to it without the internet. One thing is for sure, there’s a lot more competition out there because of the internet, because everyone now has a voice and anyone can put their stuff online for everyone to see which is a good thing, but at the same time it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
The conventions, small press shows and selling books in stores on spec is a tough way to make a living as well. I find there’s only so much you can accomplish with those options and selling $3 comic books by hand is almost like trying to swim upstream. I once spent $5 on TTC tickets to get me to the Beguiling and back in the winter to pick up $6 worth of commissions. Most stores will take between 3 and 5 comics to sell on consignment and it really doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money it takes going store to store to pick up any cash I may have coming to me. The exception to this has been the Silver Snail in Toronto where they’ve been good in keeping my books in stock and have consistently been selling out of them for years now. (I’m not talking hundreds of books or anything, but enough to make it worthwhile making a detour to the Snail every other time I’m in Toronto to see if they need more comics and to pick up a small cheque, and by small I mean enough to buy a few comics for myself with). Unless you want to go the hardcore webcomics route, then distribution is really the key to the whole thing, and Diamond is king right now. Without distribution, I find I’m just spinning my wheels at comic conventions and the same can be said about my online presence. Sure I make a few web sales and sure I sell comics at each convention but the web sales are sure not going to pay my mortgage and I find with $350+ tables at conventions selling $3 comic books the goal is usually to just not lose money. Both Mike and I have a small following now though and my hope is through all of this work online and at conventions we can get a bit of a head start, so that when distribution becomes a reality the ground work can already be laid to start seriously advertising, using the internet as an invaluable tool.
Cartoonists are making a living through the internet, ignoring the traditional distribution channels and I must say that right now my backup plan if I’m not able to get into those traditional distribution channels would be to focus on creating my own distribution through the web and see where it takes me. I like paper though, and there’s something legit about having a printed book selling in stores, so that’s my primary goal.
So, is the internet a scam? I don’t know. Unlike TV or videogames, it can be a tool, and like all tools, it’s entirely up to the person using the tool to make something great with it. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but at the moment the American dream that everyone has a chance to make it big has never been more real…… for now. Tomorrow, the internet may be nothing more than glorified cable TV.
OK, I know Mike has already asked you a question, but I’ll ask you one too, trying to keep in line with what’s already been asked.
I’m wondering what your idea of success for Glamourpuss is after all you’ve accomplished and been through already?