Looks something like this:

I finished this up weeks and weeks late. The rest of the creative team is saintly, because I am not dead.

I have corrections on about a dozen pages, none of them major, but should have that all loaded by tomorrow. Remember kids, check your scanner for erasure pills. My pages appear to have acne.

And since the brand new Cintiq seems to have a problem recognizing my pens after a few hours of work, I’ve had a frustrating finale on this book.

It is done but for the pockmarks and one embarrassing page where there is no finger on the trigger of a gun.

I turned in some Gone to Amerikay finished art today as well. So, all good. If I can figure out what is up with the Cintiq, anyway.

To see more work from the Mystery Graphic novel, go to Barry’s blog for a few character shots.

Also, be sure to check out Steve Bissette’s outstanding blog
currently running a 14 part series of letters between Steve and Dave Sim. Part 13: transitioning from print to digital, with comments from ADistantSoil.com

Steve has also found the digital world difficult and largely unrewarding (financially, that is,) despite his lengthy and important contributions on comic creation and self publishing.

While I sold a fair number of Vermont Monster Guide copies when it first came out (100+), those have dwindled to a trickle (one every two-three months), and Blur—all five volumes—barely sell a dozen or so copies per year. The limited availability of the Tales of the Uncanny preview booklet in the spring of 2010 was successful, but again, that meant about 100 copies. Period. Long term, for the books that are always available via mail order at Myrant, Tyrant sales are very occasional; about one set every three months. T-shirts sold not at all, so I abandoned that merchandizing. Taboo sales are, essentially, one or two copies per quarter, one full set per year (at my collectible prices, since I’m the only online source for a partial set—Taboo 6 sold out four years ago—that annual sale pays the mortgage for one month). About a third of all sales, including sketches, are to foreign readers/buyers. But only the sketch sales have proven worth continuing aggressively.

The takeaway is that free thing isn’t working out for almost everyone who tries it, no matter how much you “engage”.

I wonder how much of this is about first mover advantage? Is the blogosphere so glutted with new material that being seen is almost impossible without massive support?

I sent Steve screen shots of the traffic of webcomics and blogs that got big boosts from tech websites touting the “Everything Should be Free Caring is Sharing” model, and without exception, after an initial blip, the traffic plummets. Some drop so far traffic cannot be measured by independent sources. Now, any external traffic graph is going to be dicey, but if Alexa tells me your site ranks 1 million or lower two months after your boost from Boing Boing, you have a problem. Your readers didn’t stick around. And if you have lots more free content than I do, you really, really have a problem.

The entire series of posts between Steve and Mr. Sim should be read by everyone who pursues comics as vocation.

I have done much better with income from the website over the last six months. The site makes a profit, and it is now making more money than the book makes in royalties. The biggest earner is original art, but books move steadily. We need to go back to press with two graphic novels, but I am going to put that off until the fall. I dread the print bill.

I was saddened to see a number of webcomics artists who posted income on their sites of only $15,000-$20,000 per year, after between 5 and 10 years of work and at least 20,000-30,000 daily page views, which is more traffic than I get. Per page view, I actually make more money than they do, probably because original art is higher value than a knick knack. But with 1/2-1/3 the traffic, this site is more profitable. Not dancing in the rain profitable, but enough to finance future work profitable.

A recent discussion with another creator over whether or not most webcomics artists make a living had us trying to pin down the definition of “make a living”. A recent survey claimed a number of webcomics artists “make a living”, but never quantified that. Since we have different standards for what that means, based on what creators have freely posted on their sites, most don’t make a living: they get by.

After business expenses and taxes, what does $15,000 get you?

Here’s my social security statement from the 1980′s.

Adjusted for inflation, the webcomics artist who makes $15,000-$20,000 a year now – before deductions and taxes – makes less than I did in the latter part of the 1980′s.

What cost $9000 in 1988 would cost $16112.50 in 2009.

Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2009 and 1988,
they would cost you $9000 and $4809.84 respectively.

$15,000-$20,000 per year now, before business expenses and taxes, is poorer than I was in 1988 when I had less than $10,000 in taxable income.

Consider that with my very low income, I was still able to get a low income home loan in 1989.

Getting by is not good enough. You don’t get what you want out of life by lowering your standards. The standard should be to thrive, not to get by.

And speaking of creator financing, Tony Harris is on Kickstarter trying to raise $20,000 for his next project. Less than two days to go, and less than half raised. Check it out.

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