Comic Non-Sans: Donations to Specifications

Once in a while our editor will toss me a specific link or idea to take a look at — about 70% of the time I actually look at them in a timely fashion, because I am easily distracted, and the rest of the time I sort of waffle because I feel like I need a bit more personal experience in the topic before I address it.

Funnily enough, this time I was handed a topic that I myself had come right out of dealing with; whether she knew this or not, I have no idea.  I talked recently about the idea of webcomic economics, specifically donations vs. book sales vs. sales of unrelated niftystuff.  What I was pointed to this time, though, was a specific donation page for the webcomic Em²a by Emma Lysyk.  For those not in the mood to click links, basically she asks for a refill to her “chai fund.”  Whether this is completely true or if it’s along the same lines as humorous requests for “beer money,” I’m not sure.  But there are other examples of asking for specifics: artists putting up their Amazon wishlists, for example.

Now, in the past, I’ve run fundraisers for book printing costs … am actually about to do that again soon, as a matter of fact.  I understand that that’s one thing — it’s something that benefits the creators, the publishers, and the fans.  By asking for stuff off Amazon, or noting where money is likely to go (if they’re actually telling the truth), that’s a flat-out personal request.  Whether it’s tacky or honest is a bit up in the air.  When I get book donations, yes, I do keep them in a separate sub-account at the bank that gets funneled directly into my publisher’s PayPal account when the time comes.

Normally I feel like I could explore the donations to specifications from a slightly more aloof, snarky angle, but as I said, I’ve just come out of something that makes this whole thing oddly timely.

Recently, one of my guinea pigs fell very ill indeed.  The vet up the road from me is a whiz with small animals, but such things come at a price.  In the end, the expenses — appointments, injections, treatments, take-home medication — came out to as near to $500 as makes no difference.  I have a good job, but not that good a job, so on a whim I tossed out a request to readers to help me foot the bill.  I ended up raising half the money, and my grandparents matched the reader donations.  Unfortunately, Kimiko didn’t make it, but she got a far more comfortable last few days than she might have otherwise.

That said, I’m not entirely sure I can offer witty commentary on specific donations.  I mean, okay, perhaps donating to a webcomicker’s ailing pet is more “noble” a cause than buying someone the sixth season of “House” on DVD.  But those are still two things you’ll never see a direct result from for yourself (worse still if the pet you donated to help doesn’t even make it).  Theoretically, I could have paid off the vet bills eventually by just cutting my personal spending for a while.  And I wasn’t particularly expecting anything to come of it — I’ve had readers write to me asking how dare I charge for my books, much less ask for donations.  But they came through and it was a help.

Specifying donations, then?  Warranted?  Silly?  Tacky?  Worth a try but generally ill-advised in the end?  Well, from a cynical angle I say people might as well know where their money is going.  From the angle of someone who’s just tried it, I say the same — but more because it gives people a better idea of what they’re “buying.”  Be it viewing material for comicking time, a source of caffeine, or a little bit of peace of mind, it might be just as well to know what it is your favorite creator feels is important at any given time.  Then readers can decide if it’s important to them, too.

And if it’s not specified, I’d say just assume it’s going to beer anyway.  I’ve been doing this ten years. I know how it is.

Posted on May 10, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics · Tagged with: , ,