Friday, July 31, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 31

I'm back from visiting family. While in SoCal and after going on a tour of USC with my son who wants to major in Film we took a quick trip to the nearby Skirball Cultural Center to see "ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938–1950." It's a very attractive little exhibit worth the visit to see some neat old comics, comic book related stuff and old, old original art (or pretty good copies of same). Hurry, the show ends August 9, 2009. More details here.

On this last day of my first month of the Web Comic Project I sent in a submission to the upcoming "Monsters of Web Comics" exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum as mentioned previously. If accepted that will be great (free) promotion and a nice honor.

In the main, I'm happy with the first month. With almost no publicity the numbers on the blog are heading in the right direction. Hits for the Java Town comic are lagging behind but I'm not worried at this point. The flash interface has been unpopular and the irregular schedule hasn't helped (it will also continue to be a problem however) but getting the comic out more often will be my primary Web Project job this next month. Of course, I will need to put a bit of time to promotion and general house-keeping (I want to streamline and consolidate the Web Project pages) too.

In other news: Comicraft Fonts is having a half-off sale that ends August 3rd. They make good letters at a fair price so this is a fine, fine deal.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 23

In the last 12 days Java Town received 136 Unique First Time Visitors according to StatCounter. Of those visitors, 12 (almost 10%) voted in my poll that asked the simple question: "Do you like the way Java Town is presented?" 100% of that nearly 10% said "No." The lone "Yes" vote was, alas, mine. Now it could be that 90% of the visitors liked the way Java Town uses a flash interface and, exhausted from their enjoyment of my work, simply lacked the energy to take a poll but I can't say for sure. And while I really liked the flash presentation for its ease of use (time is precious) I'm also not looking to actively antagonize potential readers. To help me find something that folks like better I've set up a kind of test kitchen to try to find a presentation that suits the work, me and the readers. I'm not very fond of the way most web comics are presented but I'm not looking to completely reinvent the wheel either. With that in mind here's the Web Comic Project Test Kitchen featuring Java Town. As always, comments are encouraged.

Programming Note: I will be out of town for a few days so activity around these parts will be very minimal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 22

The subject of regular updates comes up a lot when discussing web comics. For comics that emulate the perpetually ongoing format of conventional daily strips it makes sense to create a reader habit. My goals are a bit different. I'm striving to tell a variety of stories. I hope to do some experimenting. My Other Work obligations require that I be flexible and there will be weeks when I can't work on web comics at all. A regular locked-in schedule doesn't really seem the best fit for me right now. Since it appears that reliable schedules are highly desired I'm looking for examples of successful or popular web comics that have significantly irregular schedules to see what clever-er folks than I are doing (and hopefully learn a thing or three). Anybody have any suggestions?

Promotional Example of the Day: Give the star of your web comic a Twitter feed: Chippy from Chippy and Loopus.

Good News: ComicPress 2.8 will have a theme usable with Blogger (via Frumph).

And Finally: ComicDish (appears to be a webcomic community) has the best quote so far about the current financial status of my Web Comic Project: "As of this writing, he's up to negative $20."

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 20

I'm having to focus on Other Work right now but I wanted to mention that ComixTalk appears to be the first comic media site to mention the WCP. Many thanks for that (Twitter still wins for being the first source of a hit surge). And speaking of Twitter: I've already built up a list of folks I'm following. Some of these people are actually living quite interesting lives (I'm looking at you, Neil Gaiman). As for myself, I just got back from some grocery shopping and will soon be making shortribs with my Famous Mashed Potatoes. I will be dining with my wife, kids, mother-in-law and fending off a couple of kittens. Then I will wash the dishes and eventually get back to work. Ah, the glamor.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 18

"nateomedia @scottsaavedra is running an experiment to see if he can support his family making web comics. Follow his progress here: http://bit.ly/Lyd7l" - Recent Twitter post

"What's the difference between a comic book writer and a pizza?" "A pizza feeds a family of four." - Bah-boom!
I apologize if I'm misquoting this joke by Mark Evanier but I think I've got it mainly right.

I believe that people who create -- who make things (comics, music, whatever) -- have value and should be valued but I have no illusions that life is always fair. I'm very skeptical about the likelihood of my being able to make a significant living from web cartooning so, no, I don't expect to entirely support my family on web cartooning. I am simply curious -- and very motivated -- to see what is possible and to try to find a way to make web cartooning as viable as possible for me. And I'm willing to share my mistakes and stumbles and general discoveries along the way because I think it's interesting and I think that others might find it interesting too. As always conversation on this topic (or any topic related to web comics) is welcome.

Related link (from earlier this year): Phil Foglio shares some web comic numbers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 17

Today has seen some nice improvements in page loads both here at "Now, What?" and at Java Town. Once again, I placed some Project Wonderful ads without much of a plan (a bad thing) but it seemed to work out in the end. I was running two different ads. One, seen on Day 16's post, that asks, "Can you make money making web comics?" and the other, very similar ad, that asks, "Will I make money making web comics?" Old school ad response thinking suggests that the word "you" is effective because it pulls the viewer in (self-interest trumps everything else I guess) and the numbers so far bare this out. The "Will I" ad running at Goats didn't do as well as the "Can You" ad over at the Belfry WebComics Index. The "Can You" ad running at Wapsi Square hasn't been active for long yet but is on a busy page and maybe getting lost in the clutter (I count 14 ads on one page). Here are the numbers as of about 5 p.m. PST:



I also ran this at Drawn! for several hours:


It was a dud (and a relatively expensive one at that). It's an attractive ad, it just has all the wrong components and doesn't prompt a response. A side note: when I asked my son, who was sitting at his laptop, to bring up the Drawn! page so he could see my ad on a mutually enjoyed blog I discovered the kid runs AdBlocker (et tu, boy?).

The upshot of all the ad activity is that someone, seeing one of the ads or otherwise stumbling onto this blog, twittered his find and my page views and unique visitor hits really spiked (the numbers weren't spectacular but the increase was very dramatic). I'll have the hard numbers up on the data page as soon as I can.

News for Web Cartoonists: I got this info today (from Mr. Dan V.) and I'm passing it on:

Here’s a special announcement from the Cartoon Art Museum for those of
you who write or draw webcomics:

Thanks for your interest in the Cartoon Art Museum’s upcoming Monsters
of Webcomics exhibition. As you may have heard, the exhibition
features the artwork of ten notable webcartoonists, and their art will
be displayed in our traditional “frames-on-walls” format.

In addition to the framed artwork, I’m including a “Virtual Gallery,”
which is a fancy way of saying that we’ll have a computer monitor in
the gallery for showcasing webcomics in their native on-screen
environment.

For your work to be considered for this gallery (and also for possible
inclusion in future webcomics exhibitions at the Cartoon Art Museum),
here’s what I’ll need from you:

1. Please send me three (3) samples/pages/strips of your comic in jpg
format at 72-300dpi. The comic should be viewable on a standard
computer monitor without any scrolling, since we’ll be displaying the
comics in a “slideshow” format. If you work in full, comic-sized
pages, you may need to reduce the size of your comic slightly or
divide your page into two or three sections.

2. Please include your name, the name of your comic, and your website
(URL) with your comic. We will need this information when we format
your art for our slideshow.

3. Content of the comics that you submit should be “PG-13” or tamer.
The more graphic the content, the less likely we’ll be able to include
it in the exhibition.

4. Send your submissions to andrewfarago@gmail.com by July 31. Feel
free to pass this information along to any friends who might be
interested.

5. “Monsters of Webcomics” is in need of a logo. If you’re
interested in submitting a design, you can send those to me at
gallery@cartoonart.org I was thinking of something in the “Monsters
of Rock”/heavy metal vein, but I’m open to other ideas.

6. If everything goes according to schedule, I’ll be able to notify
all of the artists chosen for the Virtual Gallery around August 2. At
that point, we’ll start our pre-opening media blitz, and ask the
participating artists to tell all of their friends, fans, family and
anyone who will listen to visit the Cartoon Art Museum in San
Francisco to see the exhibition in person. We’ll also make
banners/buttons available so that you can link directly to the Cartoon
Art Museum’s website from your own.

Thanks again! Again, please send your comic art to
andrewfarago@gmail.com; logo submissions and questions about the
exhibition can be directed to me at gallery@cartoonart.org

Best,

Andrew Farago
--
Curator/Gallery Manager
Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105




Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 16

It's not a recent post but it seems a pretty good one: a nice "how-to" for making web comics written by Unityflow at ComixTalk. Solid advice, nicely organized.

Spent Project time today and yesterday drawing and thinking a lot about flash versus non-flash presentation. I'm leaning toward completely retooling how I present Java Town. As much as I really like the flash-based method it finally occurred to me that going against the flow right now is probably a waste of time and energy. It's only a matter of time before e-readers of some type will be ready to present comics and I think preparing for that future instead of working against current web-based standards (such as they are) is probably not a bad thing to do.



Update: What a bunch of weasels. (via TPM)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 14

I've been busy with Other Work the last couple of days but I haven't been completely idle on the WCP. Though the first phase of my promotional efforts involve trying to spread the word via press releases I jumped the gun a bit the other day and ran an ad for Java Town through Project Wonderful. It was a spontaneous thing. Down the line I want to take a more thoughtful approach to advertising but here's what my mini-test revealed:

This ad, not so effective. I'll show the hard numbers in a moment but first, a little background. I ran this ad at www.belfrycomics.net, a web comic list that caters to Furries (I know -- hang on and I'll explain). Here's the thing, the site appears to have a very comprehensive list of web comics of all types, not just fuzzy-centric ones. Back when I first was doing Java Town last year I got belfrycomics.net to add it to its New Web Comics list. That listing stayed up for a month and generated hits every day. So remembering that relative success I knew it would be one of the first places I wanted to place an ad. I could tell pretty quickly that this first ad wasn't really doing its job so I came up with a new one (and, really, I should have gone with this to begin with):


Unfortunately, it was out-bid after only a few hours but as you can see from the following, this ad turned out to be more effective than the first ad (click to embiggen):



No real hard conclusions just yet but I'm more likely to do further WCP ads than Java Town ones in the future.

I wanted to call attention to the back-and-forth between me and Nathan Olsen (of Haiku Comics) in the comments of the day 10 diary. I come off kind of crabby but I actually enjoyed the conversation (and I highly recommend his -- and his brother's -- comic).

"If we stop valuing -- and buying -- craftsmanship, the very idea of making something with care and expertise is destined to die, and something of us as human beings will die along with it." - Not about web comics as such, but a good point by Stephanie Zacharek in a review of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture in Salon.com.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 11

I'm not really a fan of the way most web comics are presented. This isn't a question of a strip's quality, it's purely about the reading interface. I think part of that is due to my fondness for print. I enjoy holding a book or comic. It's comfortable. It's cozy. But the day when most of what we read for entertainment and information being printed on paper is rapidly passing and the future just has to be confronted. Currently, I'm using Slideflickr, a freely available Flickr-based flash interface, to present Java Town over at the SLG web site. I like the look of it and I appreciate how easy it is to update the pages (much easier than previously when I was doing the first version of the strip). This is especially useful because I'm making multiple, minute changes to pages already up (as I am prone to do -- it is a work-in-progress after all). But reader satisfaction is important as well so I'm running a poll to try and get a sense of the public mood. You can take the poll here or at the Java Town comic. Your participation is appreciated.

Do you like the way Java Town is presented?
Yes
No
promise rings

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 10

The rescheduled interview with The Pulse didn't happen (don't know why yet -- hopefully just a communication problem). So at this point I'd have to deliver my first POC (Painfully Obvious Conclusion): the first batch of press releases appear to be a dud. I'm actually surprised since this group seemed like a fairly likely "get" for me but my timing may have been at fault as much as anything (for example, one of the recipients, Dirk Deppey at ¡Journalista! went on hiatus for 10 days). Self-promotion is, given my line of work, a really unfortunate weakness of mine and clearly an area I need to improve upon if I ever expect to have this project succeed. I did manage to upload two new Java Town pages the other day so I've already drawn twice as much as I did the previous week (a tiny victory but I'll take it).

The jury is still out on whether Twitter will be useful to me or not (it is a bit early yet). I'm mostly getting (and getting rid of) spam followers (spwitterers?) right now. SLG (home of the Java Town web comic) did anounce Java Town's return on its Twitter feed but the 1,200+ followers were largely un-moved to check out the free comic so I'm not sure what to make of that. I think I'm anoyed. It could just be I'm really out of sync with SLG's hard-core fans or that the news was just lost in the noise of billions of tweets. I have no idea.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 7

The final hours of the first week of my Web Comic Project are almost up. I only managed to get one page of Java Town drawn this week so I will need to focus on doing better in that department in the future. Also on the agenda is finding relevant blogs to send press releases to as well as looking into some limited advertising. It's better to let word of mouth do the PR heavy lifting but this project won't really thrive unless it gains some kind of critical mass and other voices come into the mix.

Earlier today I was talking to my kidney specialist about, of all things, POD, ebook readers and the future of newspapers specifically and printing in general. It's my favorite topic these days. I was completely surprised that my doctor not only was interested in the subject but was knowledgeable about it as well. And just a week or so earlier, the father of one of my son's friends wanted to talk about digital interfaces for reading comics on devices like the iPhone. Something is in the air. I have a few predictions about where we're headed but my brother-in-law has just arrived for an extended stay and I should go be sociable.

To those reading this on a feed: I've got charts and data that are not included in these diary entries so if you're interested in getting the Full Monty (so to speak) then you need to see "Now What?" in its native form.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 6

It's getting to the end of the first week and, after some 18 hours devoted to this project in that time, I haven't managed to draw any new pages. Things done in support of Java Town have eaten up all of my available time. On the plus side, all the blogs and spreadsheets are up and running. The free blogger templates like the one used on this page, Magazine R.1.3., are incredibly helpful but, having set everything up, I realize all the pieces are not as well integrated as I'd like. I suspect that I will be fine-tuning things quite a bit in the near term and will likely do a complete overhaul before too long. Having enough time is the main hurdle as there is still a lot of promotional work that needs to be done (not to mention my other, non-web comic work).

On the promotion front: had to reschedule the interview with The Pulse for the end of the week. My fault.

Mostly because it seemed like The Thing to Do I signed up for both Twitter and Facebook (as you may have noticed). I'm not naturally drawn to either but I can see the use for Twitter. Facebook not so much. Asking people to be my friend seems too uncomfortably grade school to me. I've taken some photos of my office since I like it when artists share that sort of thing and will post them on Facebook soon. Other than that I have no idea what to do with it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 3

I sent out my first batch of press releases early in the a.m. on Day 1. My timing may have been a bit bad with the distraction of the 4th of July holiday weekend looming and all but I was determined to begin this thing at the beginning of a month (to help keep things tidy and orderly). So far no mentions out in the Internets but Jennifer Contino over at The Pulse will be doing an interview with me on Monday (July 6). That's a win. In the meantime, feeling a bit like a host staring at ready-but-untouched bowls of chips and punch, I'm anxious to have guests show up and join the party. To that end, I'm in the process of looking for web comic-friendly web pages and blogs for more press release canidates.

Resources: The text of my first press release can be found here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 2

I sent out a press release yesterday early in the a.m. (more on that in a later post). While I'm waiting for my Big News to make its way out into the airwaves I've continued to keep busy. I just put up a fresh, new face on my personal website. The new design ties in better with the design of this blog (and its supporting blogs) but it's still a bit of a Frankenstein concoction (and neither, I have to admit, are completely of my doing as I'm relying on free templates for the blogs and web site). I'm a designer. I'm just not really a web designer. My skills are intermediate at best but I'm slowly coming to grips with CSS and javascript and all of this will evolve as my abilities evolve. My primary concern has been to get the Java Town web comic out and document the process in the clearest way I can. The free tools and templates I've used have been invaluable and not having them would have meant taking on way more than I can chew right now. And that too will be the subject of a later post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Web Comic Project: Day 1

Can a web cartoonist make a real living? That's what I want to know. And I'm not just being nosy. We are in the midst of a transition period between the Old World of Print and the New Frontier of Pixels. And that's fine. I love Print but Digital is great too. I just want to find a way to make the kinds of comics I like in this new realm and make a living at the same time. The Web Comic Project is my year-long attempt, starting today, to share publicly my successes (and failures) as I attempt to find my way to a profitable path.

First off, a web cartoonist needs a web comic and I have one -- Java Town -- which you can find here. You can find out more about Java Town in this post.

And here's our first bit of data:

Number of hours spent drawing Java Town web comic and preparing this blog and other supporting blogs since June 18, 2009 right up to the moment of this post: 57 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds.