How does the relationship with your readers change when you make your webcomic an explicitly part-time job?
Over the last decade there has been an implicit contract made between a webcomics author and their intended audience. “I update regularly, and in exchange you support me through encouragement, word-of-mouth advertising, and purchasing merchandise.” Because this contract is implicit, however, the commitment between author and audience is a bit fuzzy. If the cartoonist feels that the project has run its course or that it’s not reaching the intended goals, they can retire the project without much fuss. After all, everyone was getting it for free.
As more cartoonists use Patreon or Tapastic’s Support Program to subsidize their webcomic, the contract becomes a lot more explicit. Introducing support tiers and rewards creates an even more clear commitment to an audience. You’re saying “This webcomic is now my part-time job, and (maybe) I hope to make it a full-time job.”
But a traditional part-time job, even one you take on just to make some extra income, usually promises a well-defined amount of payment. With services like Patreon and Tapastic you’re making the commitment to show up for the job, but there is no promise of any specific amount of pay.
So to whom are you committing? Are you committed to reaching a certain monetary goal first and foremost? Or are you committing to servicing an audience with the hope of reaching a goal? And if you fail to reach that goal, how do you navigate the friction of quitting when you’ve already made an explicit promise to that audience?
Rob has the week off, but he’ll be back next episode!
Note about this episode - normally we have a video to share with the audio version of the podcast - I’m sorry we don’t have that this time. Technical difficulties made video recording impossible, and for that we apologize!
- LIA Cast 99, where we talked with Jon Rosenberg about Patreon - http://www.leanintoart.com/blog/2014/3/28/lia-cast-99-patreons-of-the-arts
- Planet Money podcast about determining what is a Public Good - http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/02/14/146889446/the-tuesday-podcast-lighthouses-autopsies-and-the-federal-budget
- On the Media podcast about the difficulties in monetizing content - http://www.onthemedia.org/story/292648-whos-gonna-pay-for-this-stuff/
- Kim Holm - http://cartoonarchy.com/about/
- Neil Gaiman’s keynote at the 2013 Digital Minds Conference - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6KB6-7uCrI
- Patreon’s report on how creators are making money - http://www.patreon.com/creation?hid=1001451&rf=90678&ty=5
- Buzzfeed’s article on Brandon’s Pokemon Presidents - http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/us-presidents-if-they-were-pokemon
- Green Monk on Patreon - http://patreon.com/brandondayton
- Brandon on Twitter - https://twitter.com/brandondayton
- Brandon on Instagram - http://instagram.com/mbdayton
- Boulder and Fleet: Adventurers for Hire - http://boulderandfleet.com/
- Lean Into Art Workshops Page - http://www.leanintoart.com/workshops
- Lean Into Art Books Page - http://www.leanintoart.com/books