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Economic Models for Webcomics
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TessandraFae



Joined: 20 Oct 2008
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:41 pm    Post subject: Economic Models for Webcomics Reply with quote

Hi Lady Yates,
I'm sorry Wowio and Buzz hasn't worked for you. As a fellow artist, I can understand your frustration at trying to find a way to make what you love to do profitable. So, I'm starting a chain for the members to try to brainstorm ways to help you make money.

So, I've heard a hot trend is virtual trophies and gifts. Basically, you can set up a shopping site, where people can buy virtual trophies or gifts to give to other members. Then members can have their own page, like a myspace page, showcasing the trophies or gifts they have received or sent, making it competitive. You can tier the price of the trophy/gift, so that the more expensive the trophy/gift given or received, then the more esteem that member holds or gives to another member.

You can also choose to use the forum as a way to spread exposure of the comic, and reward members with trophies for number of referrals, quality posts to the forum, number of votes, etc.

What else can we do to help Lady Yates?
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Tinalles
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Joined: 22 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm. Virtual trophies strike me as extremely easy to copy. There are, of course, technological measures that one could take to make copying harder (digital rights management). However, DRM is technically complex, and usually self-defeating. It doesn't stop determined bad guys, and it tends to get in the way of honest people trying to do permissible things, which annoys them, and makes them less likely to buy future things.

Basically, any revenue stream which depends entirely on people NOT copying digital objects is doomed in the long run.

As I see it, there are only a few basic ways of making money from a web comic:

1) Advertising.
2) Merchandising.
3) Subscriptions.
4) Donations via paypal or similar.

There may be other ways, but those are the most tried-and-true at this point.

In terms of merchandising, both Scott Sava (of The Dreamland Chronicles) and Sarah Ellerton (of Phoenix Requiem) have been experimenting with selling resin figurines of the characters from their comics. Scott's got Nastajia and Kiwi available, and Sarah's in the early stages of producing a Jonas figure. I would be interested to hear whether that proves profitable.

The only other thing I can think of is the highly unusual approach that Thunt took with Goblins, which involved setting donation goals in exchange for influencing the outcome of the comic. Basically, he set up scenarios in which a character was faced with various forms of danger, and added donation goals to the mix. If the fans ponied up the specified amount of money by a particular date, then the character survives and moves on to the next challenge. If they don't, well ... so much for that character, eh?

The approach is extremely interesting, because it offers the fans a way to participate directly in the unfolding of the story, and it works well with the Internet environment, which excels at letting many many people make small donations, which add up. As long as you set reasonable donation goals and don't exhaust your audience too much, you could do that for a long time. The same technique could be expanded to include non-life-or-death choices. Maybe you have a love triangle going and after playing it up for a while, you offer your audience the option to decide how it comes out. Whom does our heroine choose? The dashing hero, the humble friend? Then you put up two separate donation buttons, and at the end of the week the story proceeds with the heroine choosing whomever has the higher total. Kind of like rolling dice in an RPG, only with money.

Of course, Thunt's comic lends itself to that kind of thing since it is in fact designed to function like an RPG. Also, note that he created a whole new character with a completely separate existence from the main comic to do it (see the Tempts Fate archive). It would be really hard to do something like that with a main comic, and in fact might blow up in your face if you're not careful.

I don't think Lady Yates is very likely to take anything like the Tempts Fate approach, though. It requires giving up a good deal of artistic control, and she prefers not to do that.
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Violabelle



Joined: 23 Mar 2008
Posts: 183
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What about the CafePress store? My understanding is that larger comics like Megatokyo and Penny Arcade make a lot of their money from products. I would be interested in the store coming back, with new prints/posters/shirts added monthly or so. I think that would help keep it fresh.
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TheBritishInvasion



Joined: 23 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It wouldn't help with attracting new readers but some webcomickers, like Brion Foulke for example, update an extra page with every 100 dollars donated. I don't know if Lady Yates would have the free time for this but it'd be good encouragment for donations, especially because it's something continuous. The donation wallpaper is a good idea but most people will only donate once until the wallpaper is changed.

/Edit: And as for merchandise, if it is possible, then I'd love to see some Earthsong figures, but I don't generally buy anything from CafePress, their products are usually low quality and not particularly interesting.
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Last edited by TheBritishInvasion on Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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thespaceinvader



Joined: 23 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thunt's apprach is a good one, although not without its problems (chief among them, perhaps, simple time concerns). He made a reasonable amount selling t-shirts, too (which, essentially, was what one of the TF adventures was a tester for) and could have made a lot more if he'd farme dout the packing and mailing work instead of doing it all himself.

Merch is a good way to make money in general.
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Tinalles
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lady experimented with Cafe Press a while back, but if I recall correctly it never really generated any appreciable income for her.
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Tenshi



Joined: 18 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder, how much would people here pay for figurines of ES characters? I have no real idea what the breakeven cost would be for figurines, but I know I adore them. Esp. if they all formed together, like the Haven's Guard figurine bases were shaped in such a way to form a horizontal line showcasing all the figures?

Man, I'd totally blow a paycheck or two on that... O_o (Not that my paychecks are significant anymore, mind you. That's like $300-$400)
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TheBritishInvasion



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@ Tenshi:

The ones at the Dreamland Chronicles are $24.95 each,

Looking For Group sells them for $29.95

and Sarah Ellerton's poll is still going but most people seem willing to pay between 20-30 dollars.

So I guess the general price is between 25 and 30 dollars, I know I'd be willing to pay about $30.
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Tenshi



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Britland: I agree. I would definitely pay $30 per miniature. Man, that would be soooooo awesome!
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YatesOfYore
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Joined: 27 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always thought it would be great to have the figurines, but I don't think I quite have the fanbase to support it (ie sell enough so that I could charge a resonable price for them). I'll keep in touch with Sarah and see how it goes for her, but she DOES have about double my readership, so I'll have to keep that in mind as well.

Cafepress? Meh, I was going to bring it back this Christmas, but it is a TON of work for little to no pay off. I'm still undecided.

I've actually considered mimicking Thunt's approach to fundraising. I thought about doing mini-adventures with Felucca, or even creating another character from one of the other Guard branches. The problem is time though. I'd rather be working on the comic itself if I get a little time away from my wee man. I'm still thinking about it though... it works VERY well for Thunt.

I think I'm going to pass on the trophy thing though - I'm not sure I understand why anyone would want to participate in that kind of venture. But thank you for the suggestion! And for starting this thread Tess, it was very sweet of you Very Happy
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thespaceinvader



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd go for creating another character if I were you. And you may wish to run the idea of doing a TF-style running fundraiser by him first - it's certainly not a requirement, but it might be polite, since I've not seen anyone else run one in a similar way.

What about t-shirts? I'm not a massive merch purchaser (wouldn't get a figurine due to lack of space, for instance) but i do like my tees.
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sunshine



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Drowtales has an entire "members only" section where you pay a monthly fee for the right to view and vote on a handful of offshoot stories. Granted though, they've got something like six artists to do all that work, and an enormous fanbase to support it.

A large number of other comics I read do the extra page incentive, where they will draw a certain number of pages for a given period of time based on how much people donate. It seems to work fairly well in each case.

And I know that I for one would buy a figurine of Earthsong herself in a heartbeat, as well as any suitably cute swag you might come up with Razz
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thespaceinvader



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ugh. Members only sections bother me.
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theBSDude



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah... I've seen a couple comics with members-only sections go to subscription only.
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sunshine



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the Drowtales one because it's actual comics that you're paying to view, rather than some I've seen where it's just wallpapers and other promotional-type goodies. I also like that theirs has a couple levels of involvement, where you can pay just the minimum to view the comics only, or a little more for the ability to make suggestions for where the plot goes, and vote on which suggestions actually happen.

I understand a lot of people dislike the members only stuff, but it seems to be working for the comics whose artists can put in the time to make it worthwhile
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