Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less began as a successful Kickstarter effort back in late 2009. It is now a real live book about to drop in on the world this May 20, 2012. Written by C. Spike Trotman and drawn by Diana Nock — Poorcraft makes excellent use of the comics medium to deliver some very practical advice on how to make the most of your resources. A book that will be pretty handy not only for many starving comic artists but anyone trying to stretch their means, especially when just starting out on adult life.
Spike who is perhaps best known for her Twin Peakseque webcomic Templar, AZ, has done an impressive job here — the book is well organized and shows a tremendous amount of research and thought. The book opens with a general chapter on the philosophy of "poorcraft" and then moves to chapters organized around practical issues like: housing, food, clothing and health. Spike also covers transportation, education, emergencies and entertainment in other chapters. There is also a huge chapter with additional links and resources at the end of the book. The idea of "poorcraft" is a collection of tips to do more with less, be financially savvy, and take more advantage of free and low-cost opportunities where they exist.
All of which might make this sound like a dry, dull resource book. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's a very fun read with all of the information presented as a dialogue between the poorcraft-savvy Penny and her neighbor Mil, who like a lot of us has fallen into a lot of financial and lifestyle habits that most of us don't even stop to question why. Spike makes the comic as much a story as a how-to book, following Penny's efforts to help Mil learn poorcraft and get out of the many financial problems she has wandered into. Between Spike's snappy dialogue for both characters and Diana Nock's fun, loopy, entertaining artwork, the book is a good, fast read. One that you will want to go back to individual chapters to review when you're interested in the particular advice on that subject.
Definitely worth checking out. If I was organizing a "gift guide" from comics — this would be a great gift for someone leaving the "nest" for the first time. Unlike countless other books on the subject this one is almost certainly going to be the most fun one to read.
Kelleigh's Kickstarter goal is to raise money to cover his living expenses for an entire year to complete Eye of the Vortex. He will continue posting the newly completed pages on the website for free (in both English and French), and will also release the ebook issues when they're completed.
Robot6 profiles Matt Petz who was one of the last Zuda contest winners with War of the Woods. Apparently Petz has been able to reclaim ownership rights in the comic and is now distributing it through Comixology.
Rigby, by Lee Leslie, may have already ventured into the world of high fantasy, but now the heroine and her eponymous webcomic are venturing into the world of print comics. Pre-orders are currently openand will run until February 11. This is RiGBY’s first official print appearance, and the 20 page, full color comic will only be available at conventions and signings after the pre-sale. Those fans pre-ordering the comic will also be treated to a high resolution digital version.
IN MAPS & LEGENDS, illustrated by Niki Smith and written by Michael Jasper, continues with its fourth issue on February 2, 2011. With Bartamus' world falling apart around them, LaVonne, Jeremy, and Antawn venture deeper into unknown territory, while Kait travels into the darkness between worlds — and she's no longer alone. Smith and Jasper were named "Digital Creators of the Year" (along with Alex de Campi) for their work on IN MAPS & LEGENDS in 2010. Artist Niki Smith is an artist and writer who is currently working on a handful of creator-owned comic projects such Some Did Rest. Her work has also appeared in several English language and German comic anthologies. Writer Michael Jasper has published three novels, a story collection, and over four dozen short stories in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Polyphony, Writers of the Future, and the Raleigh News & Observer, and other fine venues. His most recent novel is A Gathering of Doorways (Wildside Press, 2009).
There are basically two kinds of support webcomics creators need: moral/emotional and financial. Making webcomics can be a tough slog. It can seem, especially in the early years of a comic, that we're working in a vacuum and that maybe no one's reading. But, when you do get that occasional email from a fan – whoa, what a feeling! But when traffic stats are low or merchandise isn't selling or we get a terrible review, we need support and encouragement that keep us going.
It's a tough time to be in the entertainment industry. Our Internet-enabled, digital environment has led to more things than ever competing for our attention. And a lot of those things are entertainment, be they movies, TV, video games, websites, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else.
In many ways, webcomics are primarily online (I mean, hey, it's right there in the name). The comic's there, interactions between creators and fans are there (though offline, too), revenue is generated by ads, even the physical products are sold online. As a consequence, a lot of webcomics tend not to have a physical presence beyond merchandise and con appearances.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else that is popular this second are pretty awesome. However, the very thing that makes it awesome can also cause some issues for the modern day webcomic professional. There is now a higher amount of information available to us than before. This means that there are more avenues for us to get our brand recognized. YAY!
Unfortunately, the thing that makes social media such a great tool is also burying many new creators. The noise on the internet is so high that I believe it is harder for a new creator to be heard today than it was 10 years ago. Back when there were only a handful of creators online, it was a no brainer to run into everyone at least once. Now, it is not the case. I have met rabid webcomics fans who have never heard of Penny Arcade.
Today, readers like for information to come to them, rather than checking physical sites every day. We have reached information overload. A high number of people I speak with have told me that they and most of their friends now use RSS aggregators or get their information from Facebook and Twitter. I have fans who read my site every single day that missed the GIANT banner on the top of the page and frequent blog posts about the fact that their favorite creator is running AN ENTIRE WEBCOMICS CONVENTION.
Following this relevation, I conducted an informal experiment where I would post happenings on my Facebook and Twitter. Later that month I would strike up conversation with specific people who were very big fans of my work to see how much they had engaged with the information. I had found that most people would ignore the passive postings and almost all of them would engage, support, and spread the word about things that I spoke to them directly about.
The catch, is, you can't be fake about it. You have to love what you do and care about who you are speaking to. I always ignore automatic and sterile messages. I will always reply to people who are genuinely saying "hello".
The best way is to really believe in what you are doing and to treat everyone like you would want to be treated. This in itself stands out in stark contrast to the firehose of information that is today's internet. As corny as it sounds, it seems that today's best weapon is to love the journey, make some new friends, network with your peers, and never give up. I wish I could give an easier recipe for success. The unfortunate truth is that it is not easy, but it will happen if you don't give up! 😀
For a webcomic to be successful, it has to connect to a core audience. The core audience is the comic's natural readership, a defined group, the people who buy merchandise and recommend the comic to their friends. Core audiences are broad descriptions, of course (any single person in the group won't exactly fit the description), but they're useful in understanding a comic and its readers. For instance, Penny Arcade appeals to folks who enjoy video games (among other things). Hark! A Vagrant readers are educated, and have an interest in history and irreverent sense of humor. Understanding this helps determine what kind of content and merchandise may be well received by those comics' audiences.
In the first of his writing advice posts, Alexander Danner quoted a piece of advice aspiring writers often get. I paraphrase instead of looking it up because I've heard it often enough:
"Write every day! Treat it like a job! A job wouldn't allow for exceptions, would it?"
Part of that is useful advice. But it's kind of difficult to separate the crop from the crap. Alexander already said everything you need to hear about the "write every day" part, so I'll concentrate on the job thing.
What makes work a job? As opposed to a hobby? (Apart from pay? 'Cause that would be too easy.) I've been through lots of discussions about what a job is since I finished my studies and didn't seek a paying job right away. What I didn't get from those, I got from magazines targeting frustrated office workers. I think I've heard enough to distill some kind of definition out of what people with a job have to say about jobbing:
It's for the money, and for the money only.
You work for a boss who doesn't understand you.
Customers are idiots.
It's eight hours a day. At least.
It's repetitive rather than creative.
Work time is the opposite of spare time.
I could go on, but the canon is clear: A job, to a lot of people, is doing something for money that you despise or at least wouldn't do otherwise, usually in an environment that drains you of your creativity. Of course I'm totally exaggerating and ignoring all the great creative freelance jobs. I'm really after a meme here, rather than a sociological panorama. And the belief is really out there: People have actually told me that labor isn't labor unless it stinks. As opposed to the cool, creative stuff I do, which therefore must be a hobby, and could I please go cut my hair now and get a real job?
So, that's how I should treat my comics work? With despise? I don't think so.
Of course, there's a lot to be said in favor of treating it like a job. Even if you don't actually want to make money with it. If you put in your labor and develop a work ethic, you'll get better at it. And it'll help you evolve from the mind set that claims you're just a hobbyist who won't ever get anywhere with it. Which is the first step in actually becoming a professional. If that's your aim, it's all the more important to treat your comics work like it's a job.