May Progress Report!
 
Anyone who's tried will tell you that becoming a professional artist is super-challenging. Maybe it's even harder for comic artists, I don't know... I know that the internet is overflowing with people who started a comic and soon abandoned it. Part of the reason I know this is because I spent a couple hours yesterday pruning my Twitter account, going back through a long list of people I'd followed or followed-back, who were making a comic, a podcast, a blog, reviewing comics, etc. and then stopped and haven't been on Twitter in over six months. Many of them haven't been on social media in two to three years.

To be fair, it's only necessary for me to prune my Twitter because I still manage my social media accounts by hand (Twitter, Facebook and DeviantArt). I've tried improving my exposure through StumbleUpon but couldn't figure out how to make any progress there. Nor have I taken the time to examine Google+, Tumblr, Pintrest or Instagram, because just these three sites already take a huge amount of my time to manage. And except for the recent Star Wars joke, I haven't been posting to Reddit for a few months since the comics subredits prefer single gags over a story like I've been making. I also posted the Star Wars joke to 9Gag, which did relatively well, earning 52 votes, which is about half what you need for any kind of viral response (to date, the highest I've gotten there is about 87).

I've looked into several "social media dashboards" to reduce the time spent managing my presence... The dashboard is one of the things described as a must-have in the Social Media Marketing for Dummies All-In-One I've been reading. I haven't found one that does all the things I want (including HootSuite)... one doesn't allow you to attach an image in an update to Facebook, the other doesn't let you do that on Twitter, etc. (Twitter says updates with images get more likes and retweets.) And that means I spend a lot more time managing my social media, and so far with very little apparent return on investment.

Obviously the goal is that growing my social media would also mean growing my readership. (And longer-term hopefully more pledges on the Patreon.) The first half of that equation seems to be working. In May my twitter grew steadily by about 200 followers to 4,396 and likes on the Woohooligan facebook page increased by about 20 to 451 (I've always found Facebook far more challenging to understand and manage). So in both cases, the audience increased by roughly 4.6%, so that's good. The real challenge seems to be in engagement though. Twitter says two of my posts got engagement rates as high as 2.7%, which might not sound great, but I've read that even 1.5% engagement is considered good. I guess that means my audience on Twitter needs to be a LOT bigger before I can expect to see many retweets? And that's probably also true for Facebook where I'm way behind. So if you use either Facebook or Twitter, sharing a couple of my comics or pages there would really help me out. :)

As it is right now when I post updates about my comics to Facebook, even with the teaser images that I use now to improve engagement, Facebook tells me that several people have come and liked the image and then done NOTHING, despite the fact that there's a link to read the page right there, with big gaudy arrows pointing at it and a sign that says "read more!" That's like going to an author's book signing, saying "nice cover, dude!" and walking out without having baught any of his books! So I totally understand why people give up on making a living doing this.

And yet, after ten years working on Woohooligan, I'm still here. It reminds me of Calvin Coolidge, who we mostly don't remember... it's like talking about president Polk, we know the name, we just don't remember anything he did. He's one of the very few Vice Presidents who went on to become President and he's the origin of one of my favorite quotes: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." And again, "The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." This was a man who became President of the United States via the Vice Presidency. I tend to think that gives him a little authority when he talks about persistence. ;)

I just started reading a new book titled Grit by Angela Duckworth, a Harvard/Oxford/Penn State cognitive science researcher. She agrees with Coolidge. She also says that Woody Allen fairly accurately paraphrased Coolidge when he said, "80% of success is showing up." :P And then I saw the Eisner winning Faith Erin Hicks posted this to Twitter, "Sometimes the first comic you make doesn't matter, except as experience. Sometimes it's the same for the 2nd or 3rd. You just keep building." and a reply from Gene Luen Yang, "I talked to a kid about getting into comics. Told him it took me 10 years to stop losing money at comics. His jaw dropped."

Well I've been at it for ten years already, I started in '06... and I'm still losing money, although that's slowly changing. Things were moving along pretty well the first couple months into the new goal. January and February pledges to the Patreon were up to $49.90/mo. It was behind schedule for the goal for the year, but it was progress! And then I heard that my mom had been mugged and a neighbor's son had been shot and killed in her apartment complex in Dallas... and Tiff and I basically stopped everything (notably cancelling almost all of my paid advertising for Woohooligan, which had been working quite well up to that point), to help my mom move cross-country at the end of February... which was then postponed to March and recovering from which ruined my ability to get much work done in April. Ultimately, I was still struggling to overcome the setbacks from that this month in May.

There is a bright spot in that I got another $10 patron in May! Thanks to "Tired Old Dog" for your support! :D

edit: I forgot to mention also, thanks to Jeremy Laabs for increasing his pledge from $1 to $3!

Several months ago I had hired Brad Guigar of Evil Inc and Webcomics.com fame to give me a consultation on Woohooligan. Not inexpensive, but I'm still glad I did it. One of the things he mentioned that I didn't necessarily agree with (there were lots that I did agree with), was that I shouldn't pursue reviews because he's had a bunch of them and he's never noticed an increase in traffic from them... He also however said that I should never spend a dime on advertising, because my comics should basically just advertise themselves via word of mouth. That much I know I don't agree with, because I know from experience that I've managed to increase my return traffic significantly with advertising (especially since I created some new banners with punchlines in them, and despite the fact that advertising is more expensive now with all the ad-blockers people are using).

Thinking about the Twitter "engagement rate" (good at 1.5%) reminded me of Brad's comments. If you apparently need tens to hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers before you see any noticeable amount of retweeting, I wonder wonder if that also impacts webcomic reviews? So I posted this highly unscientific poll on Twitter, to ask people if they read reviews of webcomics and it's gotten a good number of responses (compared to other Tweets or polls), and so far a little over half the respondents say they never read webcomic reviews AT ALL... and only 10% say they read them at least weekly... so that leaves me with the question: is it more valuable for me to seek reviews or for me to focus purely on growing my social media audience?

In other news, I had a follow-up with my oncologist at 1pm today, and while the appointment went well (no signs of the cancer returning, no other symptoms), the return trip was pretty frustrating. The engine in our Dodge Caravan started whining a bit... and then it started lurching unexpectedly while accellerating, revving high while producing no power to move forward. What was supposed to be a routine thirty-minute drive home turned into a desperate sprint to get the car to the mechanic in time to drop it off and leave it there overnight. The mechanic called back and said either it needs the computer reprogrammed, or it needs a whole new transmission for $4,600. That's the same amount we spent on the air-conditioner for our house, which took us three months to pay off. I'll have to take it to a Dodge dealer tomorrow to have them update the computer before knowing if we need a new Transmission. We don't have anywhere near enough money to replace the transmission (or the car) if that's what we need... I did some software engineering work this month, but only $720, and one way or another, it's yet another unexpected expense that's getting in the way of me advertising Woohooligan and growing my audience so that I can ensure that I have an income after January when there's a good chance the Social Security office will kick me off my disability.

So having said that, as readers, I need your help now more than ever! And the really cool thing is, it doesn't have to cost you a dime! :D All you have to do is share the comic with your friends and make sure they know where to read it and that we have a Patreon.

Thankfully our neighbors, Quentin and Stephanie, have been helping us out with groceries lately. It wasn't something we asked for. A few months ago when I went down to Dallas to move my mom up here, I asked them for a ride to the bus station (it's about a mile from the house). Since then they just said "we always have a lot of extra food" and started bringing it over, which is certainly helpful!

So what have I accomplished with my 40 hours/week in May, despite the setbacks?


Comic Pages: 3

Still ahead of schedule. What I've promised in my goals on the Patreon is to publish at least two per month when I get to $157/mo, at which point working 40 hours/week like I've promised will be earning me about $1/hr and was my target for the first of May, which we're now a month past.


Bonus Content: 2

I managed to publish an alternate ending for the Star Wars joke and also my first forray into NSFW adult-art bonus content, which I managed to get in just under the wire on the last day of May. The NSFW content makes me a little uneasy, but so far the response has been positive, so that's good.


Commissions: 0

Despite switching to sending direct emails to raffle winners, I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of the people who won the raffle for previous months. I did however get descriptions from Brian McCann and Amanda Nebel, so I'll be working on their commissions real soon.


Research:

I'm still reading the IDW Social Media Marketing for Dummies All-In-One and have started reading Grit which I mentioned earlier.


Ad Campaigns: 1-ish

I didn't run any of my usual M/W/F ad sprints in May, but there was a brief period toward the beginning of the month when my usual set of ads were winning more often and spending a bit more than usual and I did put a little more cash into my Project Wonderful account to keep those running. I can see from Google Analytics that it did bring in more people and more returning readers. :D


Promotion: 0

This entails non-paid contacting of bloggers and podcasters about reviews and/or interviews. I haven't been contacting anyone this month because of how busy I've been helping mom and related errands since she moved in. Tiffany has agreed to start helping me contact people about reviews and may start helping me manage social media as well.

On the positive side, so far people seem to be enjoying the Trayvon story arc and I haven't heard any complaints like I was worried might happen. :D There are still a couple more pages in this subplot before we move on to the next thing.

Stay tuned, and stay awesome, Hooligans!