It's been a while since I did any kind of a "here's what's going on" update... mostly because it's been a while since I did ANY kind of update beyond the weekly Conventional Wisdom comics. And that's a big part of why I needed to go ahead and write something now: to apologize and explain why things keep turning to crap around here. Because yeah, things have turned to crap. Repeatedly. I've promised to do a set number of things in return for your giving me money, and those things aren't getting done in the time I said they would. Or at all. That is not okay.
So what's been the problem? Well, I'm a lazy unprofessional bum with no sense of self-discipline or time management. That's a definite problem. But then, I've ALWAYS been a lazy unprofessional bum, even when I was getting work out on schedule anyway. So what changed? What brought that unprofessionalism up to the surface where everyone could see? Well, I really want the blame to be on something other than myself right now, so how about we say it's Artist Alley's fault? Yeah, YOU'RE the problem, Artist Alley! It's not my inability to meet deadlines or start work on things in a timely manner, it's ALL ARTIST ALLEY'S FAULT!
...but seriously, going into this summer, I started making a more serious effort to make stuff to sell at conventions. Be it actual Artist Alley tables or just selling stuff in an "unofficial" capacity, I really started sinking a lot of time and energy into having new prints and booklets to bring with me to every con. And it hasn't worked out, on any level. Not to spoil Conventional Wisdom's (VERY late) Anime USA comics, but my weekend in Artist Alley was a complete bust, and it confirmed a lot of fears I'd been having about selling at cons in general. I've already been complaining for YEARS that it's hard to do a comic like Conventional Wisdom if I'm stuck at a table for most of the con, but the problem is bigger than that. Frankly, I'm just not any good at making the kind of stuff that would sell in that context. I can't tell you how many times I've sat through a person walking past the table, stopping long enough to point at my stuff and go "HAHAHAHA that's great!" and then leave. That's not me complaining about how people who don't buy stuff LIEK TOTALLY SUCK, it's me recognizing that the stuff I make isn't going to sell that way. Turns out, what makes a good poster that people want to spend money on to hang on their wall and look at every day is NOT the same as what makes a good webcomic page. Think about it: look once, laugh, then move on? That's pretty much exactly how a webcomic is supposed to work. And it CAN work as a webcomic, because a day or two later you do it again, and again, and AGAIN. Making something that people will want to pay money for and look at over and over again involves a whole different set of standards, which I just can't meet consistently. It also doesn't help that, honestly, I HATE physically making things. Sure, it's cool when it's done and you can hold it in your hands and say "Yeah, I made this", but everything leading up to that point SUCKS. It stresses me out in ways I'm having trouble explaining here, and it always takes waaaay more money, energy, and TIME than doing stuff to post online does.
And that's the single biggest problem right there: I just don't have the time or energy to produce physical merchandise AND meet the online schedules I've set for myself. I'm not a person who multitasks very well, I have to focus entirely on finishing one thing before I can move on to anything else. And over the bulk of this year, the one thing I've focused on wasn't making new material to post online. That was a mistake. I mean, think about it: instead of producing content that could be viewed by pretty much anyone in the world, I repeatedly burned myself out working on things that only the handful of people walking by the table that weekend would ever know existed. The ONLY way that could make sense is if every single person who walked by bought something, and that SO isn't what happened. Heck, only barely broke even at Anime USA, and I have to figure things VERY generously to even claim that (again, wait for the AUSA comics for more). I'm not sure if I've really, clearly turned a profit on any con this year since Triad. And even if I did, the losses from other cons gobbled them up. And this is while I'm neglecting the one thing that actually DID turn a profit: Patreon! Long story short: it's time to wake up, selling at cons doesn't make any business sense, so I'm getting out.
Okay, so no more Artist Alley. Fine. What's the plan now? Well, first and foremost, I'm going to spend the next month or so busting out as many comics as possible to try and make this Patreon worth people's money again. The past few weeks have seen SEVERAL people cancel their bids, and I can't say I blame them. A single, solitary comic page a week? I wouldn't pay money for that. Frankly, I'm shocked that ANYBODY has stuck around this long. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly grateful for those of you who have, but you absolutely have NOT been getting your money's worth and I apologize profusely for it. But apologizing doesn't fix the problem. FIXING THE PROBLEM is what fixes the problem, and that means actually having content again. The only reason those ServantXService comics have been coming out regularly is because I got a big backlog of them done all at once, so that's what I'm going to do as soon as the AUSA comics are done. Hunker down with no distractions, get myself into the zone, and get a CRAP TON of stuff finished and ready to come out regularly again. I'm talking about new Far Out There, new blog posts, and of course that Becky & Gilb comic I promised everyone, not to mention extra backlogs of pages for both the main comics AND some extra stuff for social media (tumblr, Twitter, Facebook) to try and direct some more people towards Patreon.
"But wait!" you shout "You just got finished talking about how increasing your workload with Artist Alley was bad! Isn't this just increasing your workload a different way?" Well, yeah. In the short term, it really is. But in the long run, having a backlog of material ready to come out on a regular basis will ease things up significantly. Every day I didn't have to stay up all night trying to finish a page that was supposed to be done already is a day I can work on something NEW instead of passing out at noon and feeling terrible about it afterwards. And besides, the whole problem with Artist Alley is that it's an extra distraction on TOP of working on comic stuff. If I keep all my energy focused on finishing up stuff for you guys, and not spend a lot of it on stuff that you never actually see, you'll be socked and a little concerned at how much I can get done. And besides, I'm never more motivated and focused than when I'm trying to distract everyone from something I screwed up on. Seeing the drop in that patron count and knowing that it's all my fault? That's one HECK of a motivator.
Lastly, I should address those of you who actually WANT to have some of those physical goods I say I'm not doing any more. I know that for a lot of people, having some "real" merch is important, and the act of buying it in person at a convention is a big part of the ritual. I get it, really, and I wish it was feasible to keep doing tables for you. But if the preceding novel-length explanation should tell you anything, it's that I'm pretty dead set against doing Artist Alley in the foreseeable future. The closest I might come would be something like the Art Fair at Ichibancon, where it's only for one evening and you don't actually have to spend money on a table. I MIGHT do that as kind of a "Everything Must Go Clearance Sale!" just to burn off some of my leftover prints, presumably at a major discount. Otherwise, I'm thinking more and more about making physical merch one of the perks of being a patron. You know, "Donate X dollars for X months and you get a package containing X mailed to you." That kind of thing. Obviously, I need to experiment with a few things to work out shipping costs and such before I make any promises, but it's another possibility.
Maybe, MAYBE I'll start selling at cons again if I can build up enough exposure doing other things to make it worth the effort. If I can get enough new people excited about my stuff online, if I can work my way up the food chain as a panelist at enough cons to become a featured guest, if I can get enough people to actually WANT the stuff I have to sell, I might start looking at selling again. But none of that stuff can happen if I spent all my time being stressed out over getting a table in the first place and finishing prints I don't know if I'll ever sell. That just results in me falling off the radar for weeks at a time, until nobody even remembers I'm a thing. AT that point, it doesn't even matter if I DO have a table and stuff to sell, nobody's going to care enough to find me and buy anything. I've been trying to do this whole thing backwards, and it's time to straighten it out again.
So that's where things are at right now, how they got that way, and what I'm gonna do to change them. Thanks for your patience, and I'll try to make it worth your while. Now, if you'll excuse me, I REALLY need to finish those Anime USA comics...