Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 

Mo' Mo

Thanks, everyone, for the huge response to my last post. I’m really grateful for all your thoughtful, practical, and supportive comments. You’ve helped me to clarify my thinking about DTWOF online, and now I’m getting all excited about it. There was a gratifying consensus that PlanetOut sucks and we’re all better off without them. There were several good examples of other comics sites that I might want to model mine on. There were lots of suggestions about how to generate income from the site. And there was a lively debate on print media vs. the web. Much as I love newsprint, and much as I’m indebted to the LGBT press, the media landscape is changing. I see web delivery of the strip as supplementing print readership, not eroding it. I also think that hosting the strip myself, rather than trying to find another web publication to carry it, makes much more financial sense in the long run. I already have a strong community of readers, why not exploit them interact with them directly? I could make a really great site. I’d like to integrate this blog with the strip more, for example. And I’ll find a way to put up a neater, higher-res version of the artwork than PlanetGout did. The big challenges are time and money. I made about $350 a month from PlanetOut, which I really need to find a way to recoup. Blog ads don’t sound worth the bother. People seemed pretty positive about the idea of paying for subscriptions, but I need to think about this some more. I’m less reluctant than I used to be about paying for online content—I can’t bring myself to pay for Salon, for example, but for some reason I shell out for the NY Times. The bigger cost to me will be the time it’ll take to set up and administer the site. I’m already working constantly, and I’d rather be drawing than fiddling with a website. But I’ll figure it out. I’m definitely moving forward with this, and would love to keep getting your input.
Comments:
One thought moneywise is to encourage donations and sponsors. Kevin & Kell have a fan club, book sales, and daily sponsors to supplement the site.

Also, do you have a PayPal account?
 
Hi there,

I think taking creative control & distribution into your own hands given your existing fan base is a good idea.

You might consider a combination of revenue generating options on the site. Something like Google Adwords, affiliate programs from other like-minded LGBT businesses, etc. I also think a "Donate Here" PayPal link might generate some revenue - not requiring a paying subscription, but "donate if you can and find the strip of value to your day" thing.

If you want to brainstorm it more in a group of gay owned businesses, I belong to a referral network that meets virtually that may be able to give you some ideas...you can contact me via my website http://www.coaching4lesbians.com if so inclined.

Good luck to you - it'd be great to see my DTWOF friends on the web :-)
 
glad to hear that you're going to somehow keep the strip online!!

i live in ireland (irish-american ftm) and love dtwof!! it's one of the few--maybe the only?--fiction work that matter of factly celebrates and normalizes queer ftms! bravo to you!

funny, i pay for salon but not the nyt. can't forgive them for their warmongering leading up the the 2003 invasion of iraq.

i'd pay a subscription for dtwof. i suggest annual, with an automatic renewal unless cancelled.

again, thanks for your great work!
 
I really don't think a small annual fee would be too much, I love that it's free but would pay to keep reading :)
 
Very glad to hear that you're pursuing options to host it yourself. Besides, I really like it when creative artists can creatively keep control of their own distribution networks. Maybe the web makes that possible now.

Any chances on creating a space that not only puts DTWOF out there for all of its many fans, but also putting us in touch with other great dyke artists, writers, etc.? It would be very cool to be able to not only catch up with the latest adventures of Mo & company, but also be put in touch with, oh, say, what my favorite lesbian SF writers are writing (e.g., Kelley Eskridge, Nicola Griffith), just as an example.

I dunno, I'm just firing off ideas... a place that instead of being some big business that cares more about the bottom line than about us the fans _or_ about us the artists/writers... it would be great to have a place that was controlled by the artists & writers _for_ the artists & writers, & their fans.

Maybe I'm conflating my hopes & dreams as a writer with what you've already got going. All I know for sure is, DTWOF rocks. A big thank you to the Hothouse blog for first alerting me to your blog.

-- Mel
 
Honey, if you had a paypal link on your blog, I'd send you money towards that $350 a month right this second. Anything to keep the comics coming.
 
I wouldn't mind paying a subscription fee either--anything to end the suspense biweekly! Until you do sort out the kinks, what can we do to get comics from february that planet out missed? Thanks!
 
Although at this point in my addiction I would be willing to pay some annual fee to get my biweekly fix (and annual makes more sense than monthly i would think), I don't know if that would be best. I don't think I would have been too eager to spit out my credit card number 5 years ago when I re-discovered DTWOF. There's something to be said for recruiting new readers...
 
Hi,

I'm in agreement with beth here-- although I did actually subscribe to a hardcopy lesbian publication solely for the DTWOF for a while, I know a lot of people who love DTWOF who are students/artists/other un- or semi-waged people who might not read DTWOF if they had to pay for it.

One thought I had was, why not take a leaf out of the (awful, corporate, evil, etc.) cartoon syndicates' book and either make the cartoon available some time after it appears in print(one or two weeks, say), or make the archives free but the new cartoon subscription-only? That way people who absolutely want to read DTWOF *right now* and are willing to pay for the privilege can either subscribe to the site or to a print publication, thus ensuring revenue, but those who can't afford it will get their fix a bit later on?
 
Hey, creating a site is reasonably easy with the know how, so good luck with it.
When it's up and running mail me the link and I can advertise it on a few sites if you'd like? More hits for the site etc.
lilbabysasch@hotmail.co.uk
Sasch.x
 
I live in the very center of nowhere, and would happily pay to read the strip and anything else you write.
 
I like Nyder's comments about following the example of the syndicated folks. Sometimes even those who are evil and self serving have ideas that can be used for more altruistic ends . . .

I'm a dyke who, even in her 40's, doesn't have a lot of $$ security. much as I love the strip, the idea of paying to read DTWOF doesn't have much appeal. and it's always good to court new readers, or at least leave paths open for them to find a way to the community.

best of luck working out the kinks in your plan!
 
I would pay, happily. You are/were the ONLY reason I visited Planet Out (I'm straight, but I have to say I really don't know who their audience is... warmed-over gossip and a couple of advice columns doth not a site make.)

Having said that, PO has a tremendous ad base and there's no reason that you shouldn't be able to tap into some fraction of it. I'm the editor of Variety Weekend (lifestyle section of Daily Variety) and I'm preparing to go through a similar process as we launch a website that, hopefully, will be as strong or stronger than the hard-copy section itself. I would be delighted to share any and all information I learn in the process. (My email, should you want it: dana.harris@variety.com)

Finally - $350???? You will, I predict, do MUCH better on your own. While I don't know a lot about online advertising (yet), I do know that advertisers have renewed their crush with the online world. They like the surgical precision it gives them to reach the audience(s) they want, especially if the site gives reason for repeat visits (like gawker, defamer, et. al.)
 
You know about Joey Manley, right?
http://www.webcomicsnation.com/
 
I'd say webcomics nation is actually a pretty could deal. And if you check your site meter which I'm sure you do it's pretty clear that you'd have no trouble maintaining traffic. Also you could consider the possibility of privately selling ads. Rather than running through something like Google ads you could contract with other sites to put links to their sites or companies on your page. if they want they can use a link counter similar to site meter to keep track of whether or not it's actually working and it saves you on the charge from the middle man. Alas this would be a bit more work in the set up department though.
I also wanted to mention that while I agree that it's totally worth it to pay this system may create some stagnation in your readership. Fee's prevent newcomers from discovering the wonder. Leaving it all to word of mouth.
Tiffany, MN
 
Maybe James Kochalka could come up with some ideas. I read where he says he makes more money off the online "American Elf" than he does from the print collections of the strip. Isn't he up in your neck of the woods, Alison, somewhere in Virginia?

--MC
 
sorry to be glib MC, but as a New Englander, I have to say that Alison lives in that *other* V state...Vermont ;)
 
My hubby says there's an online tech boom that's just starting to take off (he's in the industry), so advertising might make more money now than in the past. If you don't want to do much site-maintaining, the easiest thing to do is have a paypal donation button and a few ads on the site. Then you don't have to mess with passwords, credit cards, fee renewals/subscriptions, etc.
 
About Google ads: I have a friend with a site at http://www.maritimematters.com/. He has put tasteful Google ads up, and he just watches the money roll in. Admittedly it's not a huge amount of money, but he gets a check each month and it requires no effort on his part.
 
Hi Alison,

Mikhaela here from the Boiling Point. I am also trying to find the time to do a total website redesign that better integrates my cartoons and blog and helps me get more readers, etc. There are ways to do this with various free or paid blog software (I paid $100 for Expression Engine, but am now realizing how much work I have to do learning CSS style sheets), or with something like WebComicsNation. But you should also try to put the comic in something like Girlamatic's Cafe--it's a free non-exclusive edited venue supported by ads:

http://girlamatic.com/

WordPress, which is a free, powerful blogging system has a basic comics blog feature, and I think there are others in development:
http://mindfaucet.com/comicpress/2005/11/17/publish-a-webcomic-with-wordpress/

Also, PlanetOut is a bunch of idiots. And they have never presented your strip or archives in an easy-to-read format.

Personally I am trying to redesign my site so that the front page automatically shows the latest cartoon, smaller thumbnail links to recent or popular cartoons, and my latest blog posts. And prominent links to merchandise of some kind. I also want to make my cartoons searchable by keyword for editors or readers interested in certain subjects, and have a "send this to a friend by email" link.

As for how you can make money... You already have a huge, huge loyal audience. I really think you should give blogads a shot--if you build up your traffic even more, you will be able to earn money through the site, I think.

The only potential issue I could see with site traffic is that your comic is biweekly so you would get your most hits on that biweekly basis. But if you create a forum on your own site, and maybe find a few more bloggers who write well about topics you care about to blog when you don't have the time about topics related to the strip, you can get more consistent traffic. Tom Tomorrow does that at This Modern World (http://www.thismodernworld.com/) and it works really well.

You can also make the comic an RSS feed and create an email list (sorry if you already have one, I didn't see it on the site) to notify people when the comic is online.

And I know you don't really do merchandise anymore, but I think it's really successful for many cartoonists. David Rees sells a LOT of T-shirts, he told me.

Anyway, I'm trying out a bunch of these things myself, but you've got a LOT more readers and I think you'll have much more success actually making money from such things.

I wouldn't go for the subscription thing. It turns a lot of people away, and a lot of the comics that started out as a subscription model are giving up and going to an ad model.

warm regards
Mikhaela
 
I don't think I have any original solutions to add, but I do believe in the power of numbers, so I'm adding my voice to the muttering mob who will do about anything for their Mo fix. Methinks you have enough rabid fans out there that even a token annual fee would net you way more than the $350 PlanetGrout was sending your way.

And no, I no longer have any reason to go back to that site now either.

(note: the word verification I have to enter for this comment is suspiciously close to "buttmunch.")
 
Beth: Virgina, Vermont .. (makes slightly annoyed twiddly hand waving gesture, with a rococco flourish at end -- think Oliver Hardy) --

--MC
 
I'll subscribe, wade through a bunch of ads, whatever it takes to get my DTWOF fix. Love your work and have been a rabid fan ever since stumbling across it in a long-defunct LBGT newspaper 10 years ago. Have all the books except the newest one. You rock!!!
 
I wanted to remind people there are many mailing lists and newsgroups out there. AB is a cartoonist, said she wants to draw, not fiddle too much with web sites and there are already forums out there.. surely.

Also, that so many people would be happy to e-subscribe, then that suggests it would work for a lot of people.

Finally (maybe -- LOL!) when was the last time anyone here clicked an ad on a web site, any web site? That's where most of the money comes in, people actually clicking ads. It just doesn't happen much and it cheapens the site.

(You know what kind of ad I might click on is a cartoon of one of those phony biznesses Alison B. comes up with, like U.S. Snooze and Absolut Power in the 2-8 strip. Hey, "image map" the strip to further cartoony content -- now I'm thinking she's a web programmer ;-) chuckle).

Kudos to Alison Bechdel
 
Mikhaela again, with a few more thoughts.

I still think that the entire strip should not become subscription only--that prevents you from getting new fans, and could be a barrier to low-income readers. Like I said before, the webcomics community is moving away from that. James Kolchalka might make money from the readers he already has, but he admits that he has fewer readers due to the cost.

I think the idea someone else suggested of charging to read the latest strip RIGHT when it comes out is really smart, maybe delaying it for free readers for two weeks. I'd pay to read DTWOF as soon as it came out.

I know it is more work, but you have so many fans I have a feeling that you could do really well selling T-shirts through a site like CafePress--it's really easy to make products instantly. Even though you get a much smaller cut, and they cost a bit more, it's better than the hassle of finding printers and dealing with shipping and such yourself.

Finally, I forgot to say that I just read the strip with Cynthia's vegan ladyfriend accusing her of spying--I also did a cartoon about the government spying on activist vegan lesbians, funnily enough, though it wasn't a PETA meeeting:

http://www.mikhaela.net/weblog/2005/12/thwarted-vegan-lesbian-terrorists.html

anyway, good luck again. you are my favorite cartoonist of all time, and PlanetOut is a bunch of morons.
 
Hi Alison --

With respect to time (not money) I would see if the people behind Lynda Barry's site or Piled Higher & Deeper are willing to do the site for you, since it sounds like those are the kinds of sites you like. I'd also ask the artists how much they make off those sites.

I think $350 per month is going to be hard to make, unless your site increases the number of books you sell a lot. Again, ask Lynda Barry about this. I think you need a nice free service & then maybe something extra for the subscribers (though people really do just push the "donate here" button sometimes.) Like access to archives over 2 months old or something.

I love Google, but the problem with adsense is Google is totally agnostic, & guess who pays for ads? You might wind up with people trying to save Dyke's souls...

Have you tried just advertising to oppressed minority student groups at UVM? One of my current websites was built by an undergrad for free who just thought my work was cool. Actually, I already had built one myself, but he thought mine was lame & asked to fix it! Also, just try computer science --- I found out about DTWOF from straight CS majors who just loved it (OK, one was bi...) You can pay them a little if you like, but often they are happy just to have a cool cite on their resume, esp. if you will acknowledge them & link to their personal businesses.
 
i would totally be willing to pay for dtwof..i buy (when i can afford it) two copies of your books, and always want to show my appreciation more!!!

maybe in order to both have a subscription fanbase and encourage new readers, you could have something like a site which you can subscibe to via paypal (which includes all the archives and the blog, etc.), and a page on the site which posts something like every second new comic for free, incl some ads. if people like it, they can then subscribe, and read all the back issues. i know i would have, when i first discovered dtwof i couldn't get enough of it!!!

i'm sorry this has happened alison, and wish you the best of luck finding a solution.
 
Well Alison, as you can see, you have a lot of fans that adore you and support you.

PlanetOut on many levels has been disappointing to me and you are better off.

I don't have anything else to add except I know that you will find the right balance and there will be readers there always when you do and I will be one of them.
 
Re: looking for income. I know you shut down the calendar and fridge magnet side of DTWOF years ago (i've held on to that last catalog), but how about teaming up with Cafepress.com? They take care of all the business end, and you just supply the artwork and tell them what you want it available on. Kinda corny, but the Strongbad folks use it, and I think Get Fuzzy does as well. There are set prices for different items, like $15 for a messenger bag. You set your price, say $20, and when a bag is ordered, you make $5. That's just an example.
 
Hi from New Delhi (india)! I love your strip and dropped by your blog to see why the update on sidney and mo was late. You're spot on about switching to your own website - I mean the only thing worth reading on PO is your strip and they're digging their own grave by dropping you.
I'd be happy to pay in order to go on reading DTWOF. But do keep it affordable - converting from dollars and pounds is a little tough on us third world dykes!
 
Hi Alison, love your strip, and I'm excited that you're going 'solo'. I always hated reading things on PlanetOut anyway because of their crappy resolution.

With regard to future plans, I think you might take a look at several web sites run by cartoonists who seem to make a living off of their web presence. The way they do this is mostly by selling merch, I think.

http://www.achewood.com/
http://www.homestarrunner.com/
http://www.scarygoround.com/

Of course, the comics are nothing like yours except that they are 'good', but the model is interesting. They sell t-shirts, and in the case of homestar runner, other associated merch (figurines, posters, CD, etc.), all of which have enabled the creators to do quite well. This isn't to say that the strip becomes secondary or anything; it's just the desire that we have to wear a shirt with a Homestar Runner character on it enables the site to produce work 'for free'.

Being a lit-head myself, mostly I buy collections from these artists -- Chris Onstad of Achewood self-publishes his strips.

As well, these sites were web-only content and had minimal or no print presence beforehand -- they built their business model as web-only.

But it's something to consider, I think. Maybe not DTWOF figurines, but t-shirts? Could you sell enough to sustain your site that way? Is that even something you'd want to do?

Best,

--Zvi
 
Exploit Me!! I'll pay to subscribe and still buy all the books when they come out... I'd buy t-shirts now and again, and promote your site as best I could... the world needs more DTWOF, not less.
 
How about operating like public radio--the strip is free to all comers, but if people give X amount, they get a special gift that no one else can get (e.g. mug, t-shirt, thong, page from your sketchbook, old strip with their name and/or head crudely edtited in). You could also do day/week/month sponsorships for a certain price ("this week's DTWOF is brought to you by Tiffany Scroggins in honor of her huge ego/International Women's Day/her fabulous partner Dirk McGuirk's birthday")
 
Me three, on the 'willing to pay to read' list. I have no local paper that runs DTWOF, and it seems like foreeeeever between the books...(not that that stops me from rereading Spawn, Postmodern, and the others to the point of memorization)

Keep us posted!!
 
I know, I know! You can post the strip for free with all the naughty bits blurred out, and only the subscribers get to see the real thing.

I agree with all the useful things already been written above. Really I just wanted to say hi & that I've been thinking about you.

--Tania
 
I would certainly pay a monthy or an annual sponsorship fee. $10-$50. I'd prefer to sponser, even if it costs more, so that everyone could enjoy the strip (of which I am, and have been for, gulp, decades, an addict).

I shouldn't think it would be that hard to raise $350...sites like http://thewotch.com or http://venusenvy.comicgenesis.com/ all target the $800-1000 range for donations.

(The flicker posted strip, aside from being wonderful in content, was sharp as a tact and very readable...better than any dtwof strip I've seen on line or even printed (e.g., in Off Our Backs...which made me squint) except in the books.)
 
Here's a 1999 DTWOF about the strip going digital. AB is years ahead of us, at least conceptually.
 
Fie on PlanetOut -- they've steadily dropped the only reason I go there, and now, I have no reason, like so many other people.

I still enjoy getting DTWOF in a clump of strips in Lesbian Connection every other month, but there are just days when I want an online comic fix. Good luck exploring options!
 
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