Money!?! From Webcomix!?! (No Sunday in Comix: Part 3)

mulligan_stony_vigThere are quite a few people doing this for a living of course, and even more finding a way to make enough money to think of it as “supported hobby.” The secret is in realizing that while what you’re putting out there is free content the ownership and control of it as an intellectual property is entirely your own.


The guys at have put together what is currently the best working text on HOW TO MAKE WEBCOMICS and it covers, in quite a bit of useful detail, the ways in which each of them have been able to build their own sites into a business. Quite a few of the chapters deal with understanding how to think about the business end of things and turning some profit from your site. I suggest this book highly as a primer for anyone even thinking about webcomix. It’s an important set of lessons in how to think about online publishing that fits the existing comix market. My only criticism isn’t in the book itself, but in the tendency for most readers to see it as a genuine business plan rather than a set of advice. The success of these four guys is based on the market of the time and things are obviously changing pretty fast. Every smart web-based business re-invents the methods that were used by earlier models. It’s a model, after all, not a plan.


One of the good things about this book is it’s emphasis on making creators think about what they’ve got, what their product and assets are when the content is free;

1) your intellectual property in terms of the story, environment, situations, characters and design. You may be letting people read it for free, but it’s still entirely your own.

2) control of all the likeness and potential merchandising of that intellectual property.

3) your original artwork.

4) your advertising space.

5) yourself as an artist and your connection to your fans.

All of these are, by varying degrees, assets of your business and, depending upon what you want from the business, you’ll be inclined to push the success of one or two of them over some of the others. That’s a natural inclination for anyone to make, but it’s a failing in building a truly successful and independent business. In this post I’m going to deal with the thing most people are concerned with…


Michael talked in his post before about the merits of “going it alone” webcomix and building your own site that specifically fits your product. You don’t have to do it this way. If all you want to do is get your comic out there in front eyeballs there are numerous ways to do it, but very few of them offer any income or even much control of the other assets I mentioned above. Here’s some examples and


Ulysses_DDDrunkDuck– the obvious thing here is eyeballs. Lots of eyeballs in a big comix community. An easy method of posting, but no real financial return on the work. The site gets money from any ads and your content is used to drive community to these ads. You can run a separate sales site for merchandise and artwork, but then you’re managing another site of your own. There’s a store that’ll carry your merchandise here as well, but I’m not sure how that works for people. certainly all the fulfillment of orders is the artists responsibility? In that case you’re running a mail order business to make money off of your comix and the host is getting a chunk of that money.

Ulysses_ActivateACT-I-VATE – probably my own favorite of numerous “webcomix collectives” out there. The works here are top-quality, creator-owned projects done for the sheer love of comix and the hope that they’ll find an eventual financial reward in the book market. And it does seem to work. I think this site is the best example of the fact that giving something to your audience for free online doesn’t preclude the chance of selling it to them in print later. There’s no store on the site and, as far as I know, no immediate plans for one. but it’s a great place for artists to premier work that might eventually go to a print publisher. ACT-I-VATE, like many other collectives, is a juried site so, unlike DrunkDuck, you’re work must be chosen to get in. This forms a good community and helps boost an artists reputation, but doesn’t necessarily imply a paycheck.– as most of you know, I’ve been very pro-Zuda since their inception. This one gets you a paycheck for usage of your IP and a potential for a contract to allow Zuda/DC Comics to partner with you management of the property. It’s a “readers’ choice” format for exhibiting and selecting new work produced in comix from outside the regular print market and it’s funded and hosted by one the largest publishers of print comicbooks. With it’s connections to Warner Bros, one would expect that material here would have a high likelihood of cross-over marketing. But it has it’s drawbacks. Artists get a paycheck for their work, which is a very good thing, but lose some control they’d have by going it alone. While I’m happy to see the success of some of these comix in print collections, I’m still waiting to see the t-shirts that might otherwise enliven the fanbase.

ts20_002TopShelf2.0 – As I’ve mentioned in other parts of this blog, I’m pretty excited by TopShelf2.0 these days. Another very respected print publisher using the web to connect to their customers and present new work. I think the kind of diversity this site allows is somehow closer to the kind of thing we see in collectives like ACT-I-VATE, though it doesn’t provide a paycheck as Zuda does. And it allows a lot of potential to drive traffic back to the artists’ own site where they might sell original art, merchandise or even put up a tip jar. It seems to me there’s a stronger connection here to how comix might keep the energetic approach of small, self publishing sites in line with the needs of larger hubsites and print publishers.

But those are some ways of getting the work out there and getting it seen and the pitfalls they may cause in other methods of monetizing. It helps you find eyes, but what about dollars?

Some possible solutions next.


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