The internet is an essential tool for promoting my work and spending important time with my readers. I’ve had a constant web presence for about 20 years, and a website for my comic art for fifteen years.
I’ve made valuable connections with other creators. Warren Ellis and I met on message boards, and we went on to work together on several important projects. J Michael Straczynski contacted me out of the blue to support me when I was getting some crap in comics fan circles, and he’s become one of the best things ever to happen to me on a personal and professional level.
Selling my work on the web has grown from pocket money to five figures annually over the last four years, a very comfortable sum which equals 1/4 of my annual income.
On the down side, it took almost sixteen years for my web income to grow. There were months I didn’t even begin to cover my monthly web overhead. Before Paypal buttons and the like, it was expensive to take credit cards and maintain a shopping cart. I paid thousands for website building, with some designs never finished, and one client taking off with my passwords and registration, before I finally landed DC McQueen who built a site that works. (Yeah, I know, you’re thinking “Why didn’t you just build it yourself?” Well, back then not so simple, and even considering what I’ve doled out to pay for one, it would have cost a lot more to learn to do it myself. I don’t do my own car repairs, either.)
Before, I made most of my money on ebay selling stuff from my collection. Now I sell my books and art which goes for good prices. Go me!
Still…that achievement took sixteen years.
Did public perception of my work change, did I get better, or did I finally just get enough web presence to find an audience?
I’m sure the answer is All of the Above.
There is a lot of time and effort that goes into building websites and updating them (or, in my case, paying someone to do it,) and a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook to build that audience, as well as computer time and equipment to develop all of these skills. If I were twelve years old and growing up with this, it wouldn’t be something I’d think of as a learning curve. It would just be something I do every day, like playing video games.
But Facebook, Twitter, and almost everything on the internet didn’t exist when I was twelve (when I studied computer science, we used punch cards for programming,) and I had to begin to learn to do all this when I was pushing thirty-years-old and had business obligations to deal with besides.
Sending my assignments to my clients via the internet is now the norm, though my early adventures with trying to format files and use FTP sites, or to do the now-required production work for my art, made for comedy of errors material. (I know many creators who still can’t do these things, and they have trouble getting work.)
I could not do business today without the internet, and it saves me the time and energy of going to Federal Express a couple of times a week, and thousands annually in shipping costs.
But it’s also a time and brain suck, where social media goes from a great place to meet fans and talk to your fellow pros, to a place where pervy dudes send you disturbing mash letters, conspiracy theory nuts plaster your page with crap about 9-11, people do very bad things with your work and tell you to be grateful for it, and trollish weirdos dominate comment threads.
Dealing with them is an emotional drain.
When I get in a work funk, I can waste hours web surfing or blathering on social media. People who have cognitive disorder and attention or focus issues as I’ve discussed here are especially vulnerable to the fugue state brain suck of the internet. We aimlessly run around, flipping from one site to the next, one comment to the next, like that coach potato dude who sits in front of the tube and never seems to do anything but click the remote.