Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Becoming a 21st Century Creator!

All right -
Those of your who know me well (hello fellow students and faculty) with my current rants and all are aware that I am skeptical and scared of the digital revolution going on. I refuse to even consider giving any of my writing and art away for free.

So far.

I'm so aware of the results of digital piracy. I'm guilty (in the past - not currently) of it.

All of my students have a very cavalier attitude about it.

Why shouldn't I be scared and skeptical? How do you make money when:
a) it's priced cheap as crap (like giving it away anyway, and b) 5,000 people could own it when only one bought it?

What's new technology-wise that should convince me to change my mind? Why should I (with bills and a mortgage to pay) give ANY of my work away when I'm a known commodity, not a start-up business like my students would be?

So, talk to me.

Convince me to change my attitude. Agree with me. Talk to me. I want to know.

The publishing world is going to change more and I don't want to be left in the dust.

Help make me a 21st Century Creator!!


Josh Dunbar said...

The internet has trained everyone that if you need an image, type it in a search and take what you want. The idea of paying for, or paying a reasonable wage for an image is totally lost on nearly every client I encounter. I'm guilty of underpricing myself but what's the alternative? More retail or waiting tables? I worry that comics and illustration will become entirely disposable, not even worthy of printing. All work done digitally then beamed right onto an iPad-never to exist in real space. Blech-that's not what I signed up for. I've amassed enough traditional painting skills but no one wants them-nearly everything I do is in Photoshop. Do I sound old? I think I do...

This blog contains an interesting aside near the end about art in the digital era:

Tom Lyle said...

Sorry I deleted your reply, but it was on the other version of this post and I didn't want to leave two postings up. I have no idea how that happened.

Phillip Sevy said...

I think it's a mindset change. It's not "giving your art away" it's digital self-promotion. The majority (at this point) of digital creators who either price their content really cheap or give it away do it as a means of promotion. A lot of them then use that as leverage to bigger platforms, be it publishing, merchandising, TV/movies/etc,

I think we're on the verge of finding a viable platform for digital publishing (I don't know what it is, however). I think people pushing the boundaries of that frontier will profit the most. Everyone's trying something (me too) to see what sticks.

Digital piracy is just as big a problem with print comics - probably moreso than digital work. If you price your item at the right point, people won't pirate it. Look at iTunes. Napster killed the brick and mortar music places until iTunes stepped in. They found that for a .99 price point, it was just as easy to click "buy" as it was to find a file-sharing site and download it. Once they did that, illegal music downloading has been reduced to the point where it's not a big enough problem to sue everyone in the world (like with Napster).

If you can price a comic correctly for a digital platform, it won't be pirated nearly as much as if you priced it at 2.99.

And, at a cheap price, it brings in outside people who wouldn't even think about it at a higher price. My wife has a friend from high school that developed a back pain app that helped you address the source of your pain (his dad's a chiropractor). He priced the app at 4.99 and became a multi-millionaire over night. Won't ever have to work again.

It's just finding the need and pricing the item.

Being afraid of the delivery will just limit the exposure you can bring yourself.

You have a built in base, yes, but your new goal should be what you can do to bring in new fans.

Okay, there are a few thoughts. You know me, I can talk forever - ha!

Tom Lyle said...

I just wrote a huge response that didn't post.

This is part of why I hate the digital world. Lost work ... and lost time.

I a MUCH shorter form than I just wrote: I've heard all of these before, but I don't have the time to self-promote or the desire to take the chances on something like this yet.
You've only reiterated the points I've heard already.
It's the same discussion/war that is going on with authors in the print world.
The established people don't want to take the chance.
Why should they?
Consider me and "established person" in the print world, but I'm Linda Barnes, not Robert B. Parker. (Look them up - and no, I'm not a girl.)
Could I make more money? Possibly. But WHY should I take the risk when I'm used to producing work, getting paid for it and having a guaranteed income for producing it?
I'm still listening, but I'm not convinced.

Tom Lyle said...

Btw, I've always thought that I'd need to post a "teaser" of my work to get people to buy it. It's like giving them an opportunity to open the book and look at it. BUT ... why should I have to give it all away before I can have a chance to get a return on it?
I'm not sure.
I'm not convinced

Tom Lyle said...

And, btw, iTunes did not solve the problem for the music industry. Artists are still not making as much as they used to because of piracy.

Not just a little less.


I still say ... I have bills to pay.

Roca said...

That's ok! Hopefully you read the long version. For everyone else, my suggestion was to use a hybrid of the two- Not give everything away but give some away to build interest. The first chapter, a complete B/W version, or add premium content to the print version. That's my 2 cents.

Tom Lyle said...

Josh -
Good to hear from you. Thanks for your input

I thought that you'd need to put a "teaser" up no matter what. It's just that the delay involved with giving it all away (and producing the work) and then "selling" any product is pretty long.

I like immediate gratification.

Tom Lyle said...



draigstudio said...

Suck it up and do it! There's my debate! XD~

Seriously though. The only way you are going to find out if you like it is to do it and see or have a test group of artists do it and then see how it works out for them.

Unknown said...

Hey this is Rachel Harrison. I know I don't help the music industry much but I am hopeful that it is true they make money from concerts. They stick with what is solid and on the side sell singles. Perhaps you should just sell digital prints on a very well encripted and watermarked site or two. See if it adds any income. I don't agree with giving it away since you are established I still here people say never ever do that. If you anything away just do a devient art page of things you would not sell and try to get fans. Link to sell prints? I have no idea but those are my thoughts. Yes sadly Im a pretty big pirate but not for art. I tend to make sure I use anything like morguefile before I even mess with a project. Now programs are a diff. Story. I need a job and should just buy the real deal but they make so easy to get a bold of some things if you have the no how. Whatever you do just don't make it easy for someone to get.

Hope you feel better about it.

Juliana Xavier said...

I actually think that you of all people shouldn't be scared of it mostly because you're already a established artist. Also as much as deep down everything is sort of the same, they're only "sort of" the same and not "completely" the same.

I think the music industry and the comics industry has quite a different following and that things are treated a tad bit different between the two. While music has to deal with something like Hipsters, comics don't really, meaning that being main stream doesn't hurt you. And since you are main stream, you're already one step ahead of all of us.

We're all guilty of "stealing" things online, and even though not everyone has the right reasons for it, I know that I for one started downloading music illegally for two reasons: 1) I was too young to be able to afford CD's and my parents wouldn't always buy me the stuff I wanted. 2) Most CD's had 'A' song I wanted. So getting a full album to get just one song out of it was pretty BS (which doesn't happen with comics at all). I kept on doing that for a long time when I was back in brazil and my reason there was that if a CD costs 15 bucks here in the US, for us it costs almost 70 bucks, so it wasn't worth it. I stopped doing it when I got to college. I see absolutely no harm in paying 99 cents for a good quality version of the song I want. Not only that but it’s so much better to pay and see that you're getting what you want and not a virus. And yes I know that's just me… but I'm sure many others have that mindset too.

Stepping away from music now… Here are some of the reasons why I believe you would make a killing going digital:

First of all… think of all your international students, yes even me. The reason I say that is because to tell you the truth I had no idea who you were before I got into SCAD and I'm sure most of us didn't either. So before knowing Tom Lyle successful artist who drew Comics that I knew and followed such as Spiderman and Robin, I knew someone like Tracy Jay Butler who draws a webcomic called Lackadaisy. Even though I'm from Brazil and she's from the US I knew her. And sure, I have English so it's easy for me. But a lot of my fellow Brazilians whose English were (probably still is) crap still knew who she was. Her art and style was accessible and in the end people who loved her comic started to translate it for free so that other countries could start reading it too. On top of that she got picked up by a (if I am not mistaken) French comic publisher and got published there (without her even knowing the language) and now here in the US. Her comic is now a hit and she's getting money from two different countries (probably more merchandise wise).

She also got nominated for an Eisner this year. All of this without a care in the world that she started out with the comic being completely free, as it still is.

Some might call it luck but in reality what separates her from others is that her stuff is actually good. Most of the people losing money in this are the people who aren't good. So even though crappy webcomics are being read and do have followers, the good ones are usually the ones to REALLY make it big.

Juliana Xavier said...

Another reason I think you would be awesome at this is because there's a lot of other main stream professionals already doing this. The webcomics Abominable Charles Christopher and Sin Titulo (there's a few others too) are done by marvel and DC guys on the side of their normal Marvel and DC work. So they bring over the followers they have from their mainstream comics into their webcomics and vise versa. I'm sure most of them have the same worries as you do but I see them doing fine. They end up with more diverse followers both online and at conventions and make a killing selling stuff. Abominable got its first volume printed as a hard back book and people ate it up even though it was WAY more expensive than any of the other printed webcomics most of those people follow. Not only that but there were two versions you could get. The normal version being about 20 something dollars, and the Signed with a Sketch version being 40 something (that I remember). While most webcomics people can't pull that off, these guys can because they have a following… so do you.

A lot of people agree that no matter how much you like something for free, that if you really like it you want it in your hands. Lackadaisy and many many other webcomics are completely free in more than one website (usually their DeviantArt and then their own site) and they still make sales on their trade backs because most people want to hold it in their hands. Other artists also make it back using different tactics, some which I'm sure you do yourself. Selling the originals, selling the printed versions of the comic for one price and then upping the price just by adding a sketch and signature. There's also donations and some artists manage to get enough donations for them to quit their jobs. It's insane. All these things usually help out

What many webcomics people do is that they put their comics up for free but once it’s printed, it has a bunch of new things inside of it. All new content that you can't get on the online site. When I bought my Lackasdaisy copy I got limited time only pin that came with it, and yes most people are suckers (like me) to want to buy it just because of the damn pin (even though I love the comic and just really wanted the comic itself and the pin was a plus).

If you're not thinking in terms of webcomics than there are many ways of keeping your stuff relatively safe. Watermarks being the main one but you can also get a flash website that makes it almost impossible to bypass things. There are ways to do it and if people REALLY want it they will get to it, but it's not the same.

Also this and the comment above are from me (Juliana Xavier)... for some reason it says House I don 't know why. But yeah... sorry for the long comment but I really love this helps.. I had more to say but I wasn't sure if I was talking about the right stuff or not (since I mostly commented on Webcomics).

Sarah Herrin said...

the biggest thing about web comics is that they're generally free and i don't believe we should ever give our work for free. we work too hard for that. but digital versions of existing comics are a different story. some art sites let viewers subscribe for a small fee, like a netflix account, so that may be something for us to consider. personally, i have never been interested in reading comics on a computer, but there is definitely a market especially with platforms such as ipad and galaxy and it would be smart for us to take advantage of that.

Roca said...

House, I think you should be aware that there is pretty much no one "making a killing" off of either comics or digital content. You're not alone though, it's a common misconception.

Tom, Colleen Doran is a creator who's very open with her finances and frequently discusses this topic. She's been publishing her printed comic free online, and recently I asked her what effect she believes it has had on her business model. See the comments section:


Juliana Xavier said...

Meredith D, "Making a killing" was mostly an expression but I stand by my statement. Mostly because even though a lot of people are lying (and yes I read the page of the artist you linked Lyle to) there are a few webcomics people that I follow that have quit their jobs and are doing good. No they're not rich but at the same time for an artist to be able to support themselves with something like a webcomic, that's pretty awesome right there.

There were some SCAD students I used to know who used to pay their rent with their webcomics. It's not paying all the bills but it's a solid start.

Also, Penny Arcade, PVP and other webcomics are nothing but free comics online that manage to become a hit and now not only support themselves but Penny Arcade now has two conventions called PAX. Sure they aren't the norm at all, but at the same time it is possible.

The thing with Subscriptions for something online is that no one subscribes to anything unless it's porn. So I don't think the subscription thing would work at all.

(this is Juliana or "house" like it said before for some odd reason).

Unknown said...

This makes me think of Doctor Horrible's Sing-a-long blog. If you're not familiar it was a movie released on the internet during the writer's strike a few years ago. It was made by professional writer/director Joss Whedon.
It was totally free content and no one was paid to do it.
It wasn't til a year after that DVDs and digital copies on Itunes started being sold and they made such a huge profit they were able to pay all the people involved and all their bills from it as well as still have a profit.

I think that just goes to show that even people who are already in the industry can put their things online and still make a profit from it if the content is good enough. Many people are still willing to purchase physical copies of things they love on the internet despite that there is a free one on their computer screen. Having the free one just means that there is a larger audience to appreciate it and possibly make purchases in the future.

Roca said...

I'm aware that there are a very small number of people making good money on the internet. I also believe it to be a very, very small percentage. Maybe less than one tenth of one percent.

It also depends on what you want to make money doing. Many folks are making more money through blogging (advertising), creating merchandise, writing books about making webcomics, and other things than actually selling their drawing skills. So the reality is lots of people are spending more than half their time on these other activities to finance their art. It's a balancing act.

I believe you can build an audience through giving away SOME free content. But I also think it's a bad trend for people to expect to get everything for free.

Tom Lyle said...

This still doesn't address the delay (HUGE DELAY) between producing the content and seeing a profit --- if at all.

Why would I take that risk if I can find a publisher who will pay me?


Unknown said...

Well if you already have a publisher and aren't interested in offering free content for self promotion there really isn't a reason for an already established artist to just put up free art.

That's really just for beginners and people who haven't got another market to put their work on. It's the best option for people like that, but it's certainly not the best option.

Tom Lyle said...


That's not my point. My point is: delivery of the material seems to be converting to half digital and sometimes all digital. I'm trying to figure out why I should participate in the digital world when I'm used to getting paid in advance or upon completion instead of waiting up to a year to see real money.

I wanna know why I should jump in.

Or how -- and protect my material and see money faster.


Tom Lyle said...

The Doctor Horrible example makes my point for me, btw.

Unknown said...

The digital world that is growing is a scary place for artists, I agree with you Tom. But it's growing, and people are reading actual books less and less (depressing as that is, Kindle and Nook are growing commodities) Going digital is pretty much inevitable, unless you can create a revolution to where people turn off their Ipads, Ipods, TV's and devices - which is unfortunately unlikely. But I don't think you have to worry, Tom. Like many have commented, good artists find a way to keep a following. If you have a digital "teaser" for your book, I think it will help sales. And even if you wanted to digitize the book entirely (which it sounds like you are mostly against) if people like it, they will buy it in print. I think artists are at a really strange time in comics. It feels like we are trying to feel out the market, trying to figure out which way to jump to really hit the "social need" aspect.
I say give a webcomic a shot. A lot of people are experiencing success with their webcomics, and if you don't make a killing at first, it's still self promotion, and that of course never hurts. I completely understand the hesitation to give work away for free - there's nothing about that that doesn't suck. But if it is good (and it will be, of course) then people will buy copies and whatever else you'd like to sell (prints, tshirts, mugs, sketches, etc.)
No worries, Tom. You'll rock it out no matter what you choose.

Tom Lyle said...

I'm not worried about being a hit. I'm pretty sure I'd succeed ... but HOW LONG WILL THAT TAKE? I don't want to put up art and wait a year to get money back on it?

And ... have 5,000 people steal it.
I'm mostly concerned with how fast the pay comes, how much marketing you have to do (time spent marketing and distributing is time not creating ... and that' a drag) -- and that would be a lot of time -- and I'm concerned with theft.

My biggest concern, however, is still the time lapse between the creation of the art and getting paid for the art.

Ultimately, the only good part about the digital world is that you retain all of the rights ... but you'd better file them and make sure you're covered. Copyrights, trademarks, etc. You'd better be good and take care of those things.