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Category Archives: blog
However! I am no longer updating this site regularly! I’m devoting most of my time to my cocktail comics and bar reviews, which you can read at: www.BarScrawl.net!
This Wednesday, April 10, from 7-9pm! All of my D&D-inspired comics and art will be on display at the Twenty-Sided Store in Williamsburg! (362 Grand St., between Havemeyer and Marcy. Take the G or L train to Metropolitan/Lorimer)
See the original art from my books “A to Z in the Monstrous Manual” and “Web of the Spider Queen,” along with some never-before-seen fantasy illustrations.
There’s also going to be a live crowd-sourced comic drawing, and I’ll be signing my new book “Hot Men of the Monster Manual,” a collection of manly minotaurs and sexy satyrs.
The night is also the Zero Session for the new season of D&D Encounters “Storm over Neverwinter.” So if you want to play in the new season, people will around to help you design a character.
(No booze at the store, but the after-party will be just down the street at the Full Circle Bar. Ask me for the secret to getting $4 draft beers!)
It’s the holidays! You need gifts, and I need cash!
So I’m selling original art from my comics! So if you’ve ever looked at one of my comics and thought “Man, I’d love to hang that on my wall” – it can be yours! Send me an email or post a comment describing it (with a link, ideally), and I’ll locate the art in my files and mail it to you before the holidays.
Prices: $20 for a comic with a single row of panels, $40 for a strip with two rows, and $60 for a full page. Bar Scrawl pages are $200, because they take a lot of work.
A high-quality print of any page: $20.
You can pay via PayPal, or just hand it to me if you live in New York.
Disclaimers: Some of the comics have been digitally altered, so the original art does not look like the final strip. If this is the case, I’ll send you a photo of the original art, and you can decide whether you’d still like it or not. Anything drawn before 2008 will be missing word balloons, and probably panel borders, too. They’re a mess.
Also, I’m not selling the cover of “A to Z in the Monstrous Manual,” or page 3 of “Brood,” because they’re my favorites.
Questions? Leave a comment.
Or: “Why 20 minutes worth of drawing takes me 3 hours”
Me: Okay, time to finish the strip! First I’ll finish lettering this caption. Crap, where’s my #1 Micron pen?
*searches for 5 minutes, finds micron under desk*
Me: Okay, lettering! B-A-R-T-E-N-D-E-R H-E-
Brain: WAIT! Are you SURE his name is Henry?
Me: Yeah. I mean, pretty sure.
Brain: So you don’t know.
Me: Fine, I’ll check my notes. Yep, bartender Henry.
Brain: Is it spelled with a “Y”? Maybe it’s “Henri.”
Me: What? No, that’s crazy.
Brain: Maybe he’s French.
Me: He’s not French.
Brain: Are you sure? Are you 100% positive that it’s “Henry-with-a-y”? Because if you’re wrong, he’ll get upset and call the editor, and you’ll have to issue a retraction, and then you can NEVER GO TO THAT BAR AGAIN.
Me: Fine, I’ll Google him.
*gets computer, visits bar’s website. Bartender’s name is not on it. Google several reviews of the bar, find enough that mention “Henry” the bartender/owner.*
Me: Okay, now back to – Fingers, what are you doing?
*Fingers automatically type web address of prolific Tumblr artist*
Me: No, we’re not looking at-
Brain: Oooooh, pretty!
*10 minutes of scrolling*
Me: Okay, that’s enough! Time to get back to work.
Brain: Nooooo! It’s 11:58! You have to wait until exactly 12:00 to start working again!
Brain: You just do! Wait two more minutes! Here, just click one more page.
*Seven pages later*
Me: Okay, time to work!
Brain: Noooo! Now it’s 12:06! Now you have to wait until 12:15!
Me: No! I’m going to work now!
*Returns to drafting table, finishes caption*
Stomach: Feed me!
Me: No, later.
Stomach: FEED ME! Or I will DIE!
Me: Okay, we’ll work for another 10 minutes, then I’ll get some food.
Stomach: FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME! FEED ME!
*Gets up, eats chips & salsa. Returns to drafting table*
Brain: Oh God, food coma! I cannot concentrate.
Brain: You should make some coffee!
Me: Oh, goddammit.
…and repeat for every caption or image in the strip.
(Inspired by John Scalzi.)
I was at the Small Press Expo this weekend!
Many people are calling it the best SPX ever, and I’m not going to disagree. And I can prove it with graphs!
And, for those concerned with filthy lucre:
A lot of this change is because I’m drawing better books, but the larger crowd this year was a pretty big help, too.
SPX has never been a “selling” show for me, though. I go because it’s a great social experience – everyone stays in the same hotel, and hangs out at the same parties.
I got to spend time with many of my favorite cartoonists, who I’m not going to list because it would take too long, and I know I’d accidentally leave someone out. But many of them are New Yorkers who I only get to see at conventions, and some I’ve been bumping into at cons since 2003.
At the post-Ignatz party, it took me almost an hour to move across the room, but I couldn’t go more than 20 feet without running into someone I wanted to talk to! And while I was on the show floor, I had the same experience, but with books I wanted to read!
I’m still working my way through the pile of mini-comics I picked up, but some of the standouts so far include:
Rutabaga, by Eric Feurstein. Here is our conversation:
Me: This is really cute! What’s it about?
Eric: It’s about a chef, in a Dungeons & Dragons world -
Me: Okay, stop.
Eric: – who kills exotic monsters so he cook them into -
Me: Stop talking! You have already made the sale!
I also picked up Shotgun Funeral from Laura Terry, who makes art that is crazy-gorgeous, and I’m deeply jealous of her coloring ability.
One cute comic: Roquefort, about a ballroom-dancing fox. The characters have a really good sense of motion, and it includes a musical montage, which is always nice.
Okay, I’m going to post this now and run out the door, and I’ll probably edit it with updates later.
Sorry, I’m not going to draw a five-part extravaganza like I did last year.
Instead, here’s a basic rundown on the MoCCA Art Festival, 2011 edition:
I had a great show.
My sales were great, I saw a ton of people I like, I met some new people, and I bought some great books.
The crowds never reached the ridiculous crush of last year, but it seemed plenty busy. I certainly had a steady stream of browsers all weekend.
Most years, I’ve shared a block of tables with a group of other gay cartoonists, but they all skipped MoCCA this year for various reasons, so I was by myself. I missed hanging out with my friends behind the table, but that was the only down note.
What I was selling
Here’s my table on Day 1:
I had three new books for sale – a new journal comic collection:
A collection of the first 15 Bar Scrawl strips:
And A to Z in the Monster Manual (which debuted at SPX in 2010, but was new to MoCCA):
I also had a painting for sale, which I’ve never done before. Behold, The Manatee with the Golden Gun:
Books that I bought:
I’m moving to a new apartment in a few days, so I restrained myself mightily in my purchases this year:
just a handful of mini-comics and Liz Baillie’s new Freewheel collection (it’s about runaway kids and magic hoboes – how can I resist?
I haven’t read all my minis yet, but so far the standouts are:
Smbitten: A Lady-Romance with Teeth, by Melanie Gillman
(that is one handsome mini-comic! Check out those pearls threaded in the binding! And the full-color art is super-pretty).
Chickenbot’s Odd Jobs #1, by Eric H., which is really charming and funny, and if I had read it before the end of the convention I would have come back to buy numbers 2, 3, 4.
Also, I scored an Advance Reader’s Copy of Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy, which rocks so hard I can hardly believe it.
I’ve been reading mini-comics about these space-kid adventures for a couple of years now, but this volume is gorgeous and jammed with almost 200+ pages of awesome.
You can buy it starting in June, and you should do so.
That’s nice. But how were your sales?
I spent some time last year breaking down my convention sales, and a couple of people have asked me to update those numbers. So:
In terms of sales, MoCCA 2011 was my best show ever. Here’s a photo of my sales tracker:
I sold 102 mini-comics in two days ($3 each, or 2 for $5), plus two t-shirts ($15 each) and one painting ($40).
Total cash at the end of the weekend: $385.
(Note: those numbers don’t add up, so I think I forgot to record some sales.)
I didn’t sell any copies of my giant $25 book, or any copies of the ‘Zinesters Travel Guide to NYC (a $10 book I did some illustrations for)
My half-table cost $200 (I’m a member of MoCCA, so I get a discounted rate), and I spent about $70 at the print shop, so I still came out ahead for the weekend.
I’m splitting a table with a friend next year, so my share will be just $177.50. All three of my new books sold well, but “Bar Scrawl” was the clear winner, with a whopping 28 copies sold (the only comic that’s ever sold better for me was “Brood” at last year’s MoCCA, with 29 copies). And I definitely want to create and sell more original art.
That painting of the sinister manatee drew a lot of attention to my table, some of which I converted into sales of “A to Z in the Monster Manual”, which has a similarly cute style. And the guy who bought it….
…was so happy that it was totally adorable.
Him: Forty dollars? Man, I want it so much … it’s such a gorgeous print…
Me: Actually, it’s not a print. That’s the original artwork.”
Several of my friends told me that I under-priced that painting. I have no idea how to determine that sort of thing.
Maybe I’ll raise prices until nothing sells, then bring them back down again?
I know that I’ve bought better artwork for less money, but what do I know?
And here’s the current chart on comic sales:
And the income chart:
Yeah, I’m pretty happy with how things are going.
What did you think?
What sells and what doesn’t
Thanks for your comments on Part 1, folks!
This portion is more difficult than just quantifying the raw numbers of books I’ve sold, because of the sheer number of books that I’ve produced over the last six years. I’ve sold 25 different comic books at conventions over the years, plus t-shirts, prints, and original art.
Here’s a photo of my table at MoCCA 2010:
That’s a lot of books to keep track of – and this is after I consolidated the first 10 issues of my journal comic into one big collection. Tracking sales is further complicated by the fact that I don’t let items fall out of print. Before each convention, I look at previous sales for each book, then print as many as I think I can sell. This means that I don’t carry around a lot of overstock, and my print costs stay reasonable. On the other hand, it means that I spend about 8 hours at the copy shop before every convention, which is really annoying. Also, it means that my older work (with crappier artwork) is still in view.
Anyway – how are the book selling? To the chart!
(I’ve cleaned it up by removing all the “Amazing Adventures of Bill” comics)
Uh, okay. That’s pretty confusing.
But I notice three things:
First, I’ve never sold more than 29 copies of any comic at a single convention (Brood, at MoCCA 2010). In fact, very few comics ever sell more than 15 or 20 copies at a con. Does that mean I have a niche audience? Is that normal? I have no idea.
Second, notice the general downward trend for each comic! This means that comics sell best on their first appearance, then fewer at each following convention. And this trend exists, even though my overall sales have generally been trending up (as shown in Part 1 of this essay).
I’ve pulled out a few comics to demonstrate the trend more clearly:
I stopped selling Amazing Adventures #2 in 2009, when the big collection came out, but sales were nil even before that.
The declining sales could be due to a couple of factors.
- People have a limited amount of cash. Therefore, I often get people looking at my massive wall of comics and asking, “Okay, if I were only going to buy one, which would you recommend?” And of course I recommend my latest book, because the art is better.
- Fans. People who really like my work – and there’s a small but real number of them – have already bought all my old books. “What’ve you got that’s new?” they’ll ask, and they’ll snap it up.
Fortunately, I’ve always had at least one new book at each show, and usually two: one brand new mini-comic, and a collection of my journal comic.
But in general, sales start strong, then quickly fade into single single digits.
The general downward trend holds true, but “Pirates Take Manhattan” has a bunch of spikes. Pirates might be a perennial decent seller. It’s a six-year-old book that still sells about five copies at every convention – that seems pretty unusual.
So why does it sell so well? It certainly isn’t due to any special virtues in the artwork or story – it was a 24-hour comic, so the whole thing was really rushed, but it has a fun energy. The subject matter helps a lot too – for a while, teenage boys would buy this book without even looking inside, because PIRATES!
Also, it has a totally sweet cover:
I’m actually out of print on this comic at the moment – the two issues I sold at SPX 2010 were the only copies I had with me. I should probably print some more before KingCon next weekend.
So which books have sold?
In raw numbers, this is how many copies each comic has sold, over the last six years:
Wow – Pirates Take Manhattan is the clear winner here, with 107 copies. Of course, I’ve been selling it for six years, so it has an unfair advantage over newer books. Still, it reinforces that I should print a bunch of copies so it’s available next weekend.
The top five:
- Pirates Take Manhattan
- Yes, Master
- X and the City
- Man Enough
Do these books have anything in common? Not really. They are, respectively: a gonzo pirate story; a gay romantic comedy/horror about a love triangle between Igor, Dr. Frankenstein, and the Monster; an X-Men parody about Northstar’s one-night stand; a romantic comedy about the first date between a gay man and an FTM transsexual; and a gay romantic comedy/horror about a vampire.
Okay, I take it back. They’re almost all gay romance stories. Which makes sense – that’s basically what I do. Still, I’d sort of suspected that homophobia in comics might be pushing sales of my comics down. It’s kind of nice to see that isn’t the case. (it still might, actually – the presence of gay comics on my table driving away people who might buy “Pirates Take Manhattan” – but I’m totally okay with foregoing those sales .
(Sidenote: I’m genuinely surprised at how well “Man Enough” has sold overall. I’ve been planning to retire that book, since in recent years it’s barely sold any copies at all.)
These books have one other thing in common: None of them are autobiographical.
Seriously, look at the pathetic numbers for The Amazing Adventures of Bill, my journal comic, which I’ve been running on this site since 2003. Only one has sold more than 40 copies?
Also, scroll back up and take a look at that chart. Notice how sales of Amazing Adventures go steadily down until you reach #10, but sales spring back up again with #11? I think that people were overwhelmed by the giant wall o’ books I had, and decided not to buy anything. Check out this picture from a 2008 convention:
In 2009, I collected the first 10 issues into a giant 300-page collection, and sales of #11 popped up again.
But how do sales of the journal comic compare to sales of all my other mini-comics?
Okay, here’s a conclusion: No one cares about my journal comic.
Well, that’s not entirely true. But post-2006 (the debut of “Yes, Master”), my journal comics have sold less than everything else.
Let’s break it down further. In the “everything else” category are a bunch of gay romance comics. Let’s break those out from my non-gay, non-auto-bio comics (Pirates Take Manhattan, Monster Manual, Superpower of Attorney):
Comparing this chart to the raw numbers, I don’t think it means very much. It looks like content (gay vs. non-gay) counts for less than novelty – at shows where I debuted a gay romance comic, it sold well. And at my latest show (SPX 2010) I debuted “A to Z in the Monstrous Manual” – and it sold better than my gay vampire story.
What’s selling right now?
As I noted above, the overall sales charts are distorted by comics that I’ve been selling for years. So what’s selling right now? Here are the best sellers of 2010, so far:
Brood, not surprisingly, is doing well. After all, it’s a comic about pretty vampire boys, and I printed it on awesome sparkly paper. If that’s not going to sell in the current cultural climate, then I don’t know what will. The latest collection of “Amazing Adventures” is doing pretty well, too, which I didn’t really expect, given the overall numbers above.
So what does it all mean? What lessons can I draw from the sales patterns here? I’m going to list a couple of things that leap out to me, and I hope readers (if any of you have actually gotten this far) will pipe up with observations in the comments.
1. Have a new book at every show. New books sell really well. Older books, not so much.
2. Go to the MoCCA Art Festival. This might not apply to everyone, but it’s the show I sell the most at, so I’d better find wherever I put that application.
3. Offer some high-price items. Most of my mini-comics sell for $3, or 2 for $5. That’s how I’ve built the (tiny) audience I have. But once I started selling a 300-page collection for $25, I started making serious bank. Perhaps I should look into collecting all my gay romance comics into a trade paperback.
4. Journal comics? Meh. I know, based on several conversation, that some people really, really like my journal comic. But it doesn’t have really broad appeal, and sales are just okay. I enjoy drawing the strip, but I’ve been getting further and further behind with updates, and I’ve occasionally considered stopping the strip – especially now that I have a strip in the Brooklyn Paper. If I keep it up the Amazing Adventures of Bill, it’s going to be for personal reasons, not economic ones.
5. I should reprint “Pirates Take Manhattan.” It seems to sell steadily, so I should always keep 5 to 10 copies on hand until that’s not true anymore.
Other that that… I don’t really know. Is there anything I missed? Anything you want to know more about? Creators, does this line up with your observations?
Let me know what you think! Comments are below.
(Er, they were right here on the old blogging software I used. I’m keeping the drawing ’cause I like it)
Take the comics and run
(because I don’t have any money)
After this year’s Small Press Expo, there was a lot of discussion about sales, and the money cartoonists have to spend on the show, etc. etc. And the one factor that came up is that nobody knows anything.
When creators greet each other at a comics convention, they ask “How’s the show?” But what they mean is “How are sales?” And the fact is that sales are the only concrete metric that cartoonists have. You can’t quantify how much your art has improved, or how much you enjoyed the after-party. Those are qualitative measures, and they’re important, but they’re also totally subjective.
And when someone says that sales are “Good” – what does that mean? You know what your own sales are, but there’s no way to know how that number translates to anyone else – everyone starts from scratch, with only their own numbers as a guide.
Short story: After my first convention (APE in San Francisco) I was feeling a little down. I was having dinner with a group of other gay cartoonists, and Tim Fish asked me how my day was. “Eh, it was okay,” I shrugged. “I only sold about 14 books.”
His response: “You sold 14 books!? On your first day? At your first convention? That’s fantastic!” “Really?” I had no idea.
I still don’t know if that’s good or not, but hearing that from a more seasoned cartoonist made me feel a lot better at the time.
So I want to try to de-mystify the sales process for anyone who’s thinking about selling their own mini-comics at a convention. I honestly have no idea if my results can be extrapolated to anyone else – you might be a better artist, or just be a better salesman, or you might have a terrible body odor that keeps people from buying your books. I don’t know.
But I’ve kept records of my comic sales from every convention I’ve been to since 2004.
And here they are:
Maybe that would look better as a graph:
Huh. That’s kind of an odd line, isn’t it? How about the cash?
Generally upwards. That’s good, right?
I mostly sell mini-comics, for $3 apiece, or 2 for $5. I also have a collection of the first 10 issues of my journal comic, The Amazing Adventures of Bill, which I sell for $25 (that explains the giant spike in the middle – that was the debut of the collection). I’ve also experimented with prints, t-shirts, and selling original artwork, which is why the first chart is labeled “items sold” and not “comics sold.”
Based on these numbers, I consider selling 45 items to be average, since I sold exactly that number at SPX and APE from 2004-2007.
I sold 54 items at the Small Press Expo this year, and I made $213. My half-table cost me $150, and I shared a hotel room for one night ($60). Woo, I made $3! Of course, I also spent $50 on travel, some amount I didn’t keep track of on food, and then I spent about $60 buying other peoples’ comics (seriously, there were SO MANY great mini-comics at SPX this year!).
So I didn’t make any money, but I came close to breaking even. And compared to previous Expos, I sold more books and made more money than any previous show! Actually, let’s bust out the SPX numbers and compare year-to-year:
(The 2004 item sales are an outlier, because I was selling a 50-cent comic drawn by Tim Fish, titled “My Life in Gay Porn.” That’s not something I can replicate.)
But my sales aren’t really much higher – 10 items more this year than my average in all previous years. Cash, on the other hand, is way up, which suggests that my audience is roughly the same or growing slightly, but that I’m selling more expensive items. And, in fact, I started selling original art this year (4 pieces at $10/each), plus the $25 book collection that I started selling in 2008.
The social aspect of SPX is the biggest draw for me – it’s a big comics party, and I get to see tons of people that I don’t normally see. Plus I get to the play “How many free drink tickets can I score?” which is always a fun game (my record is seven). And this year I ran into Carla Speed McNeil at the afterparty, and she invited to submit a comic for the “Smut Peddler” anthology, so I’m collaborating with a friend on a smutty comic for that now! Yeah, making contacts!
Definitely worth it to go back.
MoCCA Art Festival
This is always a great show for me. A lot of people gripe about it, but I always have a good time, and my sales are fantastic. Look at this chart:
This year I sold 93 items, and made $381. That’s twice as much as SPX. My half-table cost $200 at MoCCA ($210 next year), but I don’t have to pay for travel or a hotel, so it’s actual profit.
Since I live in New York, that means that my friends come out to show, which probably accounts for some of the extra sales. I’m also a former volunteer at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, so I’ve got a built-in audience of fans & friends among the convention staff. But I don’t think that accounts for all of it – maybe MoCCA just has the right audience for my work.
Anyway, definitely attending again. My application form is around here somewhere…
I don’t think I need charts for the rest of these:
The Philadelphia Alternative Comic-Con is fun little show. It’s only one day, so my sales are about half what they are at most two-day conventions. But tables are only $30, and I can hop on a bus that morning and return the same night for $20, so if I make $72 (like I did this year), I can buy pizza and beer!
I’ll be going to this for the second time on November 6-7 this year. This is a show that I can literally walk to, so anything above table costs is profit. I made table costs plus $50 last year, so it’s worth going back this year.
The Alternative Press Expo: I love the show, but it’s way too expensive to fly across the country. Maybe I’ll do it next year and count it as a vacation.
Okay, that’s enough for now. In Part 2, I’m going to break down exactly which comics have sold, and which ones haven’t. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find some patterns – or that you’ll be able to spot something that I’ve overlooked. And that might help me prioritize my next comics project – alongside Bar Scrawl, of course.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Put ‘em in the comments!