The following was written while I chewed over my options of turning the road to god knows... into a webcomic. At this point I felt that the traditional marketing effort (convention appearances and such) I had done was a complete failure and I was struggling to figure out alternatives. I've learned a number of things since this was written, but I thought it would be interesting to include here for those who are absolutely new to online comics.
This is also before GirlAMatic.com had agreed to serialize road on their site (something I will always be grateful for).
The marketing so far
It has been clear to me for quite sometime that the traditional marketing plan that was developed for my first graphic novel has failed. I’m just not getting the indicators I was hoping for that positive word of mouth was building in the right direction. Which direction? Well, the key would be that increased awareness of the book by both media, retailers and their customers would result in a higher initial retailer orders. However, despite a multi-pronged marketing approach (as detailed in both the marketing overview I wrote and my Xeric Grant application), the results have been extremely poor.
Exactly how poor? As I wrote in the marketing overview, I had put a great deal of emphasis on the galleys. Mainly because the galleys represented the last, best hope that I’d be able to get some attention. Other marketing initiatives (distribution of approximately 1200 ashcans at the four “art comic” conventions that my wife and I attended, for example) have failed to catch fire. The ashcans were quite disappointing: I received a handful of emails and one very positive review on a blog, but aside from that there has been almost total silence. Assuming roughly 10 comments about these ashcans, the response rate is approximately 0.83%.
However, I did take some solace in the fact that the ashcans were serving mainly as a teaser. Roughly 900 of them were simply excerpts from the book itself and perhaps that was not the best way to approach it. I had hoped to wet readers’ appetites by teasing the story (much like a film trailer works) but I’m positive now that it didn’t work. Realizing this, at the Alternative Press Expo 2007 I took a different approach and made the ashcan leaner and self-contained, this time featuring a background story (“issue 0”) that told a cute story in only 7 pages. This, however, also didn’t work. The best metric is the data that came out post-APE. There were only two emails plus 1 web review (very positive) that came directly out of the convention. About a 1% response rate. In terms of traffic to the website, however, there was almost nothing at all. Only 28 unique visitors visited the vonallan.com website in the 5 days that followed APE. That is exactly equal to our regular daily traffic preceding APE and illustrates very clearly how little follow-through people showed. Please keep in mind here that this is despite giving away the ashcans, prints and some galleys for free (all clearly branded with the website’s url) and, on top of it, begging people to give me feedback in person. This was actually a large part of our marketing strategy and the “price” we charged at APE 2007. In exchange for being given a free ashcan, I asked people that they email me what they thought. Two emails were the result. Not good.
The galleys, however, would at least present my work in a finished form. I will say that, in fairness, the galleys are definitely on the rough side. None of them had the grey washes completed and the washes that were included did print on the muted side. However, that’s balanced by the fact that most galleys are often rough. When I was running Perfect Books I was given some that were, in my estimation, even rougher than what we gave out. The initial galleys were distributed at SPX in October 2006. Some were mailed out to various people (some friends, some colleagues) after this event and then more were given out at APE 2007 this past April. And then some additional ones were mailed out after that. The total amount circulated was approximately 70 copies. Despite the roughness, these were entirely readable. All story content was included and, despite the lack of the grey washes, the story was fundamentally complete.
Galleys are critically important to trying to build up awareness of a book. There needs to be a sense of enthusiasm that will hopefully be contagious in advance of a book’s release. In a perfect world, the galleys are read multiple times as they get passed around. While not everyone will fall in love with a particular story, the goal is to have enough people to embrace it that there’s a sense of buzz. People talking about it. People looking forward to it. Blog mentions. Early galley reviews. Excitement.
With my galley, I tried to get it into as many different hands as possible. Some of these were retailers, some of these were media types, some were librarians and other academics, some of these were other artists, and some of these were just attendees at conventions. By broadening the reach of the galleys as much as possible I had hoped to catch lightning in a bottle. To get some word of mouth going.
The galleys were also critical in going ahead with my publication plans. It’s pretty clear now that most Direct Market publishers have no interest in publishing the book and while there’s still some hope in the book trade, the odds are starting to look a little long. Some excitement with the galleys might change this. And, if I did have to self-publish, then I was hoping that enough word of mouth interest would be generated to build a larger initial order.
This last bit is incredibly important. Most self-published graphic novels do not get large initial orders from Diamond Distribution. It is certainly quite rare to get anything over 1000 copies ordered and the odds are more likely that the number will be much lower. Despite an estimated 2500 “full-service” comic retailers in North America, many of these stores do not order from anyone save the four brokered publishers. It has been estimated that the so-called “indy friendly” stores only number between 400-500 (my own research has only turned up approximately 300). Without advance buzz, even these stores will either order few copies or none at all. Without buzz, I’d be lucky to get initial orders of 200 copies. When one factors in Diamond’s refusal to take an inventory position on any title (due to their nature as a “freight-forwarder” rather than a true distributor), the odds of getting re-orders from Diamond become quite low. In other words, without word of mouth, I’m dead before the book even ships.
The last round of galleys were shipped out in May and June 2007. As I write this on October 2, 2007, there has been one advance review (on Sequential Tart). 1 out of 71. Or 1.43% out of all the galleys. Aside from this one (very positive) review, there has been nothing. No mentions from retailers. No mentions from librarians or media people. Nothing on blogs or media sites. And no mention from any of the con attendees we gave copies out to.
At this point, baring a miracle, the print plans for the book are finished. The galleys alone have cost between $15.00-$20.00 each (including incoming and outgoing shipping costs) and that’s a total expense of approximately $1000.00-$1400.00. When factored into the roughly $8500.00 we’ve spent on the cons and other marketing expenses, this is a huge sum of money for an operation my size. The money itself isn’t so much of the problem if there was a sense that things were happening. That anticipation and excitement was brewing. But there’s nothing like that at all. I’m at a loss to explain why; all I know is that it’s not there.
What happens next
At this point, printing an offset print run on the book is an impossibility. Even with a small run of 1000 copies, I would be sitting on at least 500 of them for a long time to come. With the marketing plan in tatters, the only choice is to either shelve the project entirely and move on to a brand new story or trying something completely different. The problem with the former option is that I’d be right back to square one, trying to market a new story and facing the same resistances that I’ve faced already. I’m not that hopefully that the results would be any different, either. And I’m terrified at even spending more money on an endeavour that would have a low success rate.
The other option is to do something I’ve resisted doing in the past, but it would appear to be the only option I have left. And that is turning the road to god knows… into a webcomic and redeveloping the marketing plan in that light. I’ve had a number of concerns with the idea of road as a webcomic but it would appear that I have no alternative. The reality is simple: we’ve spent approximately $15,000.00 on road so far and while that would appear to be an almost total write-off as it stands right now, I am not prepared to abandon it quite yet. Mainly because the story is now entirely done and there are three supporting short stories that are also completed to go along with it. That’s 167 pages of story material that I’d like to use. That have to be used. I would also like to see if there’s a way for road to generate some revenue. The story has been such an investment in time and money that, by hook or by crook, I’d like to give it the opportunity to earn something back.
My concerns with webcomics are very simple. While a few do have a high readership and gain a large number of page views, very few web cartoonists can make a living at their art. Of course, since road has been a huge loss that’s not really an issue. I do have concerns, however, that the structure of the story won’t suit a webcomic all that well. The narrative was really structured to be read in one sitting; there are a number of dialogue free pages (including some splash pages) that might not work all that well in this format. That goes a long way to explain why I initially rejected serializing the story on the web. With the marketing plan such an abysmal failure, however, I’m now far more open to the idea then I ever was.
The last concern was simply a matter of content. I didn’t want to tie myself to a firm “updating” schedule, mainly because I was deeply concerned that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it. It is very clear that website traffic is maintained by consistently providing the visitors content. Interruptions to the “content stream” can create a backlash as visitors abandon a site out of frustration. Back in 2005 I was quite worried about my ability to provide content (well-founded, I might add – completing the road to god knows… certainly took longer than I ever thought it would). Now, however, that feeling has changed. Not only do I have 167 pages of content to fall back on, my wife and I have also developed the Livejournal blog over the past two years. There is now quite a bit of archived content on the blog that can be used to create more connectivity with visitors - more content means there is more for visitors to look at. It also means there are more entry points through search engines and the like. And, on top of it, there is other art that I’ve completed that can be used to pad out the site. Plus the three radio interviews I’ve done.
The main issue with webcomics is the large amount of “noise” that exists on the web. There are a vast number of individuals creating webcomics and the quality ranges from extremely amateurish to quite accomplished. Finding one’s way to a quality site, however, can be a problem. This partially explains why a number of artists have used sites like drunkduck.com, girlamatic.com, keenspot.com, webcomicsnation.com (among many others) to host their webcomics. However, my concern with these type of affiliated sites is one of control. There are often membership charges (albeit nominal) to join and, while the artists maintain their copyright (and, more importantly, control of their copyright), I’m not that convinced the artists can control the flow of their content as they would on a personal website. I’m definitely not convinced that they can control merchandising and advertising options within this framework.
Due to this, I would like to try and get people to come to the vonallan.com site and, hopefully, become regular visitors. This would be a vastly different vonallan.com website as it is currently structured, however.
As it stands, I’m planning on serializing the road to god knows… four times a week. In addition, all three short stories will be used to create an “instant archive” to build up content. That will leave roughly 142 pages of new story material that will update 4 days a week with no updates on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. That will create approximately 16 pages of story per month or approximately 9 consecutive months of updates. Right now, I’m not positive whether I’ll use holidays as an “off day” to pad it out or just update the pages normally.
I would also like to take advantage of the steady beat of story pages to give site visitors a few more options. Creating a separate web page with that week’s updates would be handy. Ditto for a month’s worth, too. Converting these into various downloadable forms would be well worth it, too. PDFs, Mobi PocketReader files, jpeg zipped files is the direction I’d like to go on this front. I must give readers as many reading options as possible.
The main advantage in approaching it this way is to continue working on new stories while road updates on it’s own. That way, when I reach the end of the 9 month window, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start serializing a second story in a similar fashion immediately and continue to build up traffic. Part of this means that I would rather not re-launch the website until the 1st full draft of the script for a new story is complete. That would give me a number of months to get ahead with the story while road continues to be updated on it’s own.
The advertising campaign
Part of the problem with trying to attract visitors is attracting the right kind of visitors. I have no desire to waste any money attracting visitors who aren’t interested in webcomics. While that would appear to be self-evident, targeting banner ads on the right type of site is not the easiest thing to do. In addition, the total advertising dollars I have to spend is quite small. Since we have already spent $15,000.00 on the book, it is impossible to budget large amounts of money on this new endeavour. In a way, however, that should be fine. The best advertising is putting the pages up when I say I will. That will create the greatest confidence and the greatest amount of regular readers. I’m also hoping that we will get word of mouth going as a result, too.
It is very clear that the only way for banner advertising to be effective is to combine above average click-through rates with below average banner prices. The average click-through rate is 0.5% for 1000 exposure banner (5 clicks), but even this number can drop even lower depending on the site. For a personal example, I did a test run of a 460x60 banner ad on the popular webcomics humour site The Devil’s Panties. While my banner had decent placement, it certainly didn’t fit the content of the site all that well. I knew that going in, however, but I was curious to see what the results would be. As I suspected, the click-through rate was only 0.02% (not even 1 click for 1000 exposures). This is obviously a terrible click-through rate and one that I need to avoid at all costs. However, it does clearly illustrate the point that the right type of banner ad must be used on the right type of site. In the case of The Devil’s Panties, my banner ad did not fit the site’s content and most likely contributed to the low click-through rate. That said, going below 0.5% is just asking for trouble.
It is important to try and track this data as closely as possible and also avoid any banner advertising that would have no chance of producing at these levels. Unfortunately, it does mean the elimination of many of the high traffic sites. A site like Penny Arcade, for example, has a CPM rate of $5.50. While the site does garner a great deal of regular traffic, it is very clearly out of my reach at this point. Even sites with a CPM rate of half that would be financially unrealistic. Even assuming they fit the right demographic for what I’m looking for.
According to Burst Media , the average “Cost Per 1000 Impressions” (CPM) for a typical 460x60 banner is $0.85. Assuming the click-through rate is 0.5%, then the cost per click is approximately $0.17 ($0.85/5). That’s a fairly high cost, however, and one I’d like to avoid as much as possible. Half that would be a far better target.
As a point of comparison, I did an 8 month campaign at Sequential Tart in 2006 as an initial foray into web banner advertising. While I was disappointed in the results (and in hindsight I should have terminated the ad after the first month), it did provide me with a number of stats (save for unique visitors) which is interesting to examine now. The banner cost $20.00 US for 11,500 exposures per month. I did not include the first month in the following chart since it only ran for 11 days (it wasn’t set as I wanted it on their website).
While the first two months did get higher than average click-through rates, the high CPM rate made it untenable. And the poor click-through rate resulted in a very low Q-Rating as a result. As can be seen, the advantage of the Q-Rating method of evaluation, especially for an initial marketing campaign, is that it gives me a “snap shot” of how each banner ad is performing.
I had some concerns that I made the three benchmark numbers too high for the initial marketing campaign. However, there’s one advertising site that perfectly fits my needs and is also cost-effective. That site is projectwonderful.com and much of my advertising budget will be directed towards them.
Project Wonderful is an interesting development in banner advertising. Created by Ryan North, a webcomics innovator, in an effort to bring more cost effective advertising to the world of webcomics it has been a huge success so far, creating many new advertising opportunities for buyers. The drawback to it is on the part of sellers; as it currently stands, Project Wonderful does not provide a very high CPM rate for sellers (as an example, I’ve calculated the CPM rate for my ad on The Devil’s Panties to be approximately $0.03). That is an extraordinarily low rate and I’m not clear on how effective sellers find it. For buyers, however, it is vastly more cost effective out of the gate. The ads must be carefully evaluated to ensure that they are effective as a campaign.
A number of months ago I created an ad to be run on Craig Taillefer’s Wahoo Morris site, mainly to test out Project Wonderful. The 460x60 banner (the same banner that had run on the Sequential Tart site) ran for 63 days at a total cost of only $2.00 US. Now, Craig’s site only updates one page per week and does not get a large number of viewers (according to the site data, my ad only had a total 328 exposures), it had a phenomenal click-through rate (15.5%!).
While this is exceptional, it is important to note that it didn’t result in a large number of visitors (only 51 over the course of 63 days). On the budget I have, however, it is very clear that the only advertising campaign I can effectively launch is of the “slow and steady” variety. Having a low cost but low traffic ad produce in this fashion is perfectly acceptable – especially if the click-through rate is higher then normal.
The initial advertising campaign budget
Budget-wise, the initial first month campaign will have a budget of no more than $150.00 US. I’m only prepared for each ad to have, on average, a Cost Per Day of $0.25 (quite low overall). If I can maintain this, then I should be able to put together a 600 ad campaign ($150/.25) over the course of one month and averaging 20 ads per day (600/30 days). However, I would like to give Sequential Tart one last kick at the can, mainly because of the very positive advance review of the book that Leigh Dragoon wrote. With a $20.00 cost for one month, the rest of the campaign will have $130.00 dedicated to it. 520 ads ($130/.25) or 17 ads per day (520/30).
Calculating clicks and exposures for this kind of campaign is somewhat tricky. If I can maintain a CPM rate of $0.43, then the total exposures of one ad running for an entire month should be 17784 ($130/17 = $7.65. $7.65/$0.43 is 17.78. 17.78x1000 is 17784). With a click-through rate of 0.5%, I would expect to gain 89 visitors per ad to the vonallan.com site over the course of the month. With 17 ads, I would hope that I might get 1513 visitors (though this could vary quite a bit depending on what the actual click-through rates are).
The tricky bit is trying to determine what the Traffic Conversion Rate is. In other words, 1513 visitors doesn’t really matter if only 1% of them become regular readers. That would only give me 15 regular readers. If each visitor is costing me $0.09 ($130/1513), then my Reader Acquisition Cost is $8.59 ($0.09/1%). That would be horribly, horribly bad. The good news it that a 1-2% conversion rate (or “closing rate”) is reasonable for sales but I don’t believe it’s reasonable for readers. After all, I’m only trying to get a visitor who comes once to come regularly. There is no cost involved to them aside from their time. The only catch is that I haven’t been able to find any reliable data on what is a good “visitor to reader” conversion rate. 10%? 20%? 30%? I don’t know. I would hope that the website and free content is enough to get someone to come back, but it’s difficult to determine. It’s also made worse by the fact that it’s very tricky to track. Some of it could be done through such methods as tracking comments left, emails, RSS data, mailing list sign ups, purchases, downloads, and the like. But there isn’t a hard and firm way to determine what one ad’s Traffic Conversion Rate is. I think 10% is reasonable, but who really knows?
In the case of 10%, that would mean approximately 152 visitors would become regular readers (1513*10%). With that in mind, my Reader Acquisition Cost is only $0.86 per reader ($0.09/10%) which is quite acceptable.
With the Sequential Tart ad, I’ll fall back on the total monthly averages. On average, I received 56 clicks in a typical month (I would hope that would be slightly higher due to the positive review, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself). If 10% of those clicks become regular readers, then it’s an additional 6 readers. The Reader Acquisition Cost will be substantially higher, unfortunately, closer to $3.60 per reader ($0.36/10%). As you can see, I have no desire to run the ad any longer than one month if these are the results. I am willing to give it a shot, however.
The total number of expected visitors to the site would be 1569 (1513+56). I would hope that 158 (152+6) of these would become regular readers by the end of the first month. At this point, there’ll be a fair amount of material in the archives (the three short stories total 25 pages worth of material plus 16 pages of the road to god knows… totaling 41 pages for people to read). Plus the essays and whatnot. I am also dearly hoping that some word of mouth will result at this point!
I must admit that I get somewhat astounded at what the page views are for some webcomics sites and I know that the odds are fairly long that I’ll be able to achieve that. A site like Penny Arcade is averaging 29,000,000 exposures per month! A truly unbelievable number made even more stunning when one realizes they have 3,100,000 unique visitors per month. While I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to achieve a fraction of that, I do believe I can start attracting a steady stream of visitors over the course of the story. Initial readership will be low, of course, but over the course of the entire story (approximately 10 months) I believe I can build that up.
Ideally, I’m looking for no less than a 10% per month growth rate through the course of the story. Initial readership will be around 40 (a combination of friends, regular Livejournal readers, and unexpected visitors to the website). With the initial advertising campaign, I’m hoping to build that up by an additional 158 readers by the end of the first month. In addition, a number of press releases and hopefully some other media attention will result. I have to admit some hesitation over this. While I’ve had a reasonable amount of luck contacting strangers and mailing off press kits, I’m not so certain of my success rate in getting any word of mouth. However, one never knows. I do have a small mailing list that I’ve developed through the four cons we’ve attended. Plus, I have some contacts through both librarians and retailers and we may get a few more regular readers through that avenue. It is fundamentally impossible to predict, but I don’t believe that a readership base of approximately 200 readers by the end of the first month is unrealistic.
With four pages of new content every week, those four days (Monday through Thursday) should be the highest traffic days of the week, with the other three days falling off to some extent. Most likely they’ll drop quite a bit, possibly by as much as 75%. That would mean that my regular readership would be somewhere around 1000 per week (200*4 + (200*25%)*3)). If each visitor looks at 5 pages of content, then I’m looking at weekly page views of around 5000. At the end of the first month, then, 4000 unique visitors should be hitting the website and we should have roughly 20,000 page views to go along with it. The question will be how it grows from there.
The first problem I face is that the advertising budget will, by necessity, become much smaller. The second month will drop to $50.00 and will result in a much smaller campaign. Still a presence, but a smaller one at that. I’ll be relying on word of mouth to “top up” what I lose in clicks, but I’m going to have to carefully evaluate this. The problem is money. If there are little to no merchandise sales at all (see below), then it becomes extremely difficult to keep budgeting advertising dollars in this fashion. While a total advertising budget of only $200.00 for two months does seem quite small, please keep in mind I’ve already spent roughly $10,000.00 in advertising the book through convention appearances (though lodgings and travel are a part of that expense). But the advertising dollars must directly be tied with revenue or I will continue to sink deeper into a hole. As a result, beginning in the third month the advertising budget will directly correlate with revenue. Revenue from advertising on the vonallan.com website plus all merchandise sales will be used as the benchmark. And 10% of this total will be dedicated to new advertising. If there is little to no revenue generated at this point, then the advertising budget will suffer a similar drop. However, if positive revenue is being generated, then I will continue to market my work. This is a pragmatic approach, but at this point I can afford no other way of doing it.
If I can maintain a 10% growth rate each and every month, then by the final month of the story I should have built the readership up to 450 unique readers and approximately 43,300 page views (assuming around 5 page views per reader). I would love it to be higher than that, of course, but doubling my initial estimates seems about right.
This is a key but problematic area for me, mainly because the story in the road to god knows… does not readily commit itself to obvious merchandising. I can’t, for example, sell cute and cuddly stuffed animals as some other cartoonists can. In the case of a story like Jeff Smith’s Bone, these type of merchandising opportunities are there ipso facto. In my case, however, it’s not so easy.
However, I do have a few options on this front. The first and highest margin opportunity is to sell each page of the comic as a separate art print measuring 11 by 17 inches. While I’ve only given away these types of prints in the past, they have been accepted quite gratefully and are suitable for framing. Ideally, every page of the story will have a little box underneath it that would lead readers to a purchase area for a print as well as other merchandise. What’s nice about prints is that I can do them fairly creatively. It doesn’t just have to be the full grey washed art. I can supplement that with a pure black and white lineart version or even create a packaged deal at a better price. I’m not a fan of selling my originals (for a variety of reasons), so art prints would seem like a very good way to go.
In addition, the book is completely done. While I’m still trying to determine some of the vagaries of printing it properly at this writing, I can certainly offer it for sale after first month or so. That way readers who don’t want to wait the approximate 9 months to finish the story could purchase it then and there. I have some concerns that this might effect my reader base, but I don’t think the numbers would be all that high to make a difference. The drawback is the margin. At this point I most likely would have to use a Print on Demand option as an offset print run is simply too expensive. In that case, I may only be making 10-20% (if that) on every book sold. Not ideal, but I most likely have no choice. The other drawback is by using a service like Lulu.com for POD, I lose out on the ability to ship items from one single location. That, in and of itself, may require me giving a shipping credit if a single reader wishes to purchase a few different items (say a print, t-shirt, and book). This would require a great deal of communication at the very least.
If I do go the Lulu.com route, I could do POD comics, as well. The short stories would be an excellent example of this but I could also go the “Dickens” route and collect some of the chapters into periodical form. So if someone wanted to read the first 5 chapters, for example, I could assemble them in a simple POD format and release them for sale that way. I actually am lucky in the sense that the story can be assembled in this fashion. It’s just the margin hit that’s a problem.
The other major merchandising option is t-shirts. T-shirts are a relatively high margin ticket item and affordable 100 t-shirt print runs are affordable. I certainly don’t want to accrue much inventory, however, so I would most likely have to begin polling my readers to see if they were interested in something like this. And if it was something that they would purchase in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile.
The problem with merchandise, however, is the conversion percentage. It is very clear to me that I’ll get no more than a 1% conversion rate from readers to merchandise sales (perhaps even less than that). If I only have 200 readers to start off with, then I’m looking at only 2 of them purchasing any merchandise at all. Even if I double that readership number to 400, then that’s only 4 total sales. This is a significant problem but one I’m not sure how to get around. If the sales are that low, then it would appear that having the book come out earlier (even if it’s through Lulu.com) would be a better way to go. Despite the loss in margin, I’m at least having another merchandising option available.
This changes somewhat if I can get a larger readership base. That is unpredictable at the best of times, however, and as I’ve outlined already it is extremely difficult to forecast higher numbers than I already have. I do have some hopes that there’ll be an exponential growth over and above what I’ve predicted, but I have nothing that would guarantee that.
Initially, about all I can really hope for is the equivalent of banner exchanges. The chance of making any real revenue (even at a CPM rate of $0.85) is very small. I will not have the traffic that will warrant that and most likely I’ll wind up using Project Wonderful to try and get some form of revenue going. Now, if the page views do grow faster than I’ve predicted (i.e.: if Kev Needham’s quote turns out to be accurate for vonallan.com), then I might be able to get a higher CPM rate than I’m expecting. It’s pretty clear that the banner companies (like Indie Click and the like) won’t consider you if you are below 100,000 page views per month. Since I’m only forecasting half of that in the final month of the road to god knows…, I believe it’s pretty unlikely that this will change.
With Project Wonderful ads, I’m most likely going to be earning a revenue (at least initially) of somewhere around $0.04 per click. With a projected 20,000 page views in the second month, this would only amount to approximately 100 clicks (20,000*0.5%). And I’d be only earning $4.00 for a single ad. Now, I would like to have a total of four ads on a particular page, which would raise that revenue to $16.00 ($4.00*4). Still pretty terrible. If the website becomes popular enough, I might command a much higher “per click” rate. But again, this is extremely difficult to speculate on. Note that the Project Wonderful folks take 25% of all revenue, so that $16.00 would actually turn out to be $12.00 in my pocket. Yikes.
I should add here that Project Wonderful actually operates on a “per day” rate and not a “per click” rate. However, for the purposes of calculations I find it a great deal easier to use a “per click” rate. In the above example, however, I would only be earning $0.13 per day on a single ad. Or $0.51 per day for four ads.
Clearly, there’s not much revenue in a Project Wonderful ad. I may actually approach a site like Sequential Tart and see if they’d have any interest in doing ad swapping. Again, my biggest issue is getting “bums in seats” (regular readers) and all traffic I can build from that point of view is critically important. One of the sites I’ve been interested in advertising on is Girlamatic.com, mainly because much of the content should appeal to the same demographic I’m hoping to attract to vonallan.com. The people who run Girlamatic, however, do a banner exchange program rather then sell advertising. So while I wouldn’t generate any revenue, it would hopefully be an effective way to increase the awareness, traffic, and regular readers to my own site.
As the chart to the right shows, it should be clear now that expected monthly revenue with these two revenue streams will be quite low. Most likely at or under the $50.00 mark. This brings to mind the joke noted artist and web theorist Scott McCloud uses, “What's the difference between a comic book artist and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four." However, my goal is to build awareness and a readership and this is a far more effective way of doing it then what I’ve done before (well, as it turns out, I suppose). In addition, I would actually be generating some revenue. As it stands, that’s not really happened before. Not to split hairs but aside from the silent auction to help the Ottawa School of Art’s bursary program, I’ve not made a single cent from my art so far. And even the silent auction brought in about $50.00. From that point of view, $50.00, even if it just buys me a couple of pizzas, is a helluva lot better than what the alternative currently is.
The main concern is advertising. As it stands right now, the third and subsequent months will have very little in terms of advertising dollars thrown at them. I might top this up if it appears we are losing readers, but I’m really hoping that I can stick to the calculation of 10% of ad revenue plus merchandise profit. As a result, I’ll be chiefly looking at word of mouth (reviews, blog mentions, and the like). If I’m very lucky, the number of regular readers and the resulting page views will be much higher than I forecasted. Who knows, perhaps I will hit that 5000 page views per day goal! I just wouldn’t want to bet any more money than I already have on that fact.
While the above forecasts are definitely pragmatic, I do one want to explore doing a small print run on the book. While I know that it will be difficult to convert web readers to actual book buyers, it is not impossible. Especially via small print runs (most likely Print on Demand), sales through Amazon.com Amazon.ca, and website sales. On one level, this is extremely tricky. To justify a 1,000 copy print run, I’d most likely have to have a regular readership base of 100,000 (1000/1%). Since I’m forecasting only 500 readers at best, that seems incredibly unlikely. However, there are a number of factors that call that into doubt.
What I’ve done so far with traditional marketing has not worked. Period. While I don’t have a great deal of hope that turning road into a webcomic will work, even an extremely conservative forecast would give me a larger reader base than I’ve ever had. And perhaps get things moving for future releases down the road. Besides, my forecasts are extremely pragmatic. If I’m wrong and things build quicker and larger than what I’ve outlined here, I might be able to earn a few hundred dollars a month from my art. Where I sit, that’s certainly better than what the current alternative is.