Comic Non-Sans: “Cat and Girl” and Webcomic Economics

I was actually sent the webcomic Cat and Girl to look at many many moons ago, but with the start of the site and the shuffling about and the other comics I was reading, anything involving looking at fancy charts and thinking about numbers sort of went on the back burner.  (Yes, I will admit it — I’m a thinker, but I’m a lazy thinker.)  But after a great deal of talk with other webcomickers as we tried to rework our own business models, her numbers are actually a bit helpful … and a bit indicative of what we ourselves had been noticing in our own work.

There’s a problem at conventions, and that is that unless you’re going specifically to some sort of press expo where things focus on new/independent creators, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to pick up your stuff sight unseen.  It happens, certainly, but if you’re at a sci-fi or anime con, people are there to grab what they recognize.  Especially at anime cons, as a matter of fact.  If you don’t have a bit of “Hetalia” readily evident on your table, people aren’t particularly going to stop for you.  Sad, but true.

Thus I’ve talked at length with other artists, and they’ve found the same things I have: it’s a lot easier to sell things that have nothing to do with your own work. Or, at the very least, things that are not at all dependent on your own work to appreciate.  Unless you have a massive fanbase, it’s very hard to make people care about your characters in the course of two minutes.  It’s possible.  I’ve had it happen.  But it’s not common.

A look at Cat and Girl’s earnings makes this fairly evident.  It’s all labeled in handy color strips.  Notice what sells the most consistent?  Stickers, buttons, and T-shirts.  There’s a book boom during the second half of the year, but what brings it in consistently throughout the year is stuff that a total stranger could grab — stuff that has little, if anything, to do with her original work.  Other income?  Freelance work and donations.

And, well, this is pretty well in line with what my webcomicker friends and I have been saying.  It’s always a nice little ego boost when you can get people into your work out of nowhere over the course of one sale, but in the end, it’s shirts and pins where you’re trying to attract fans, and anime fans in particular.  Possibly not a recent change (as I’m a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to my own money), but one we’re seeing more and more of as the years — even months and individual cons — go on.

Now comes the trick of finding out which shirt and button companies see this as well and decide to compete to get in on it.  Hope springs eternal.

Posted on April 26, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , , , ,