TSC.NS.13 :: A dispatch from the self-publishing trenches
Persistence without insight will lead to the same outcome
Hello ThoughtScape crew,
First, in case you missed it, ThoughtScape Comics #2 is available now in digital/PDF for just $5!
Included in this issue, the second chapters of our ongoing stories ThoughtScape 2319 (with artist Dave Law) and Ex Post Facto: A Dash Varrick Misadventure (with artist Karl Slominski), and two standalone stories: The Griever (with artist Jacob Edgar and colorist Lesley Atlansky) and Drones (with artist Tyrell Cannon). The issue’s gorgeous, vibrant cover is by the incredible Grim Wilkins. The 48+ page, hi-res PDF release of this issue is just $5, and you can pay via credit card or PayPal.
Alright, on to new business!
First, the fun stuff…
I have started working on laying out TSC #3, including creating some fun new fake ads, spending lots of time staring at Valentine Barker’s gorgeous cover image and experimenting with masthead colors for said cover, etc. It always helps the old restless anxiety around the release of anything (in this case TSC #2) to actually continue to focus on some pure creation stuff.
Of course the best bit building each issue is looking at/working with the art, and this issue is off-the-hook in the art department. We have some wild, beautiful work in here already, and we’re not even done with all the stories yet.
First we’ve got a chapter of TS 2319, which Dave Law finished eons ago and which is absolutely gorgeous. Wanna see a full page? Hey, why not…
I mean, COME ON. How incredible is our space station here, the Thought and Information Services STEM precinct? Not to mention how wonderful are the Odessa and Dispatch (wearing the glasses and headset - in her first appearance here) panels at the top and bottom, respectively? Dave never fails to amaze.
Next we’ve got Corpus Delicti from Jeremy Brooks, with Marcus Cripps on colors. Peep this incredible cover, which was a blast to write because I’m a sucker for ridiculous alliteration.
Thirdly, as shared previously, lovely work from Desolina Fletcher for our story Playing Opossum. Here are some pencils…
Finally, while we JUST got underway yesterday, I am stoked to report that Karl is now at work on Ex Post Facto: A Dash Varrick Misadventure Part 3, the script for which I am quite happy with, and I cannot wait to see what Karl comes up with. Oh, wait, what just came across the wire? Karl layouts! Here are a couple peeks…
And those are just thumbnails! Can’t imagine how this stuff will look finished.
So, because at this point wrapping up work on TSC #3 is dependent on gathering the funds to pay for finishing the artwork, all of this great artwork leads us from the fun stuff into the…
…Not-so-fun harsh realities of indie comics
First, note that things get a bit inside baseball from here on out, but I’ve learned a ton over the years from other creators sharing their business experiences in this manner, so hopefully it’s informative to some folks.
Second, also please note that this is 100% meant as educational info and not as a hard sale on issue #2: this is not me saying “Hey, you! Go buy issue #2 otherwise I can’t make issue #3.” Going by the numbers, while I would, of course, love for you to go grab it and think it’s very worth it, even if everyone who reads this picked up a copy, we’d be well short of the $ we currently need to fund issue #3.
So, anyway, where are we at and how did we get here? Briefly: my outlier hope had been that I would raise a small but decent amount of cash by selling TSC #2 digitally, hopefully enough to finance at least one phase of one of issue #3’s in-progress stories (meaning inks or colors, etc.). We’re talking somewhere in the ballpark of a few hundred dollars of income, resulting from around 100 individual sales, with some sort of split: I was imagining most people buying just issue #2 and a few folks new to ThoughtScape picking up the issue #1 and #2 bundles. I know it’s a generally a challenge to sell from one’s own website, but I figured with some good publicity via a Comic Book Yeti, and the amount of views/reach I knew I could get on some social posts after running the successful KS campaign (and the unsuccessful Zoop campaign), and the ability to message both Nervous System subscribers and backers of the Kickstarter, we might have a shot at hitting this target. Or at least not falling way short.
So, how did we do?
Well, first, let’s look at the numbers related to my possible reach:
Nervous System (Substack) subscribers: 379
TSC #1 Kickstarter backers: 407 (over $9k raised)
Zoop backers: 200ish (over $2k raised)
Twitter followers: 1919
Instagram followers: 1240
So, nothing amazing, and most definitely some double-counting of folks in there, but surely enough to generate at least 50-75 digital transactions, at least, right? I mean, the reviews for issue #1 were great, the art and design for the promotions for #2 feel real compelling to me, and so on. Maybe I’d even get lucky and trend toward 100 transactions…
The results (after three weeks):
$120 of income before credit card processing fees and discount code deductions
- 2 TSC #1 + #2 digital bundles sold
- 20 TSC #2 digital sold
So, yeah… way short.
What does this mean?
After giving all this a lot of thought (meaning too much), looking at what has worked and what hasn’t so far in the TSC journey, it’s clear that with the current size of the my audience and under current market conditions or whatever, ThoughtScape is not going to be able to sustain itself and also grow in any significant way (meaning audience and/or ability to partially fund itself), outside of existing and established comics-selling ecosystems.
This is a drag to me. I really don’t love the idea of indie comics in general being so beholden to a single distribution channel or marketplace to truly thrive. It feels regressive and like exactly the sort of arrangement that has caused problems in the past. But, I also want badly to continue this project so, I guess I have a lot to think about in terms of how I proceed.
If you have any thoughts about all this, feel free to drop ‘em in the comments, etc.
In the meantime, to end on a less downer note, here’s a fantastic little shot of Dash and his robot Bellwether (who debuted in issue #2) appearing as Calvin and Hobbes in a panel of Part 3. Karl killing it again as usual.
Have a great rest of the week!