Troubles. And Merchandise, Possibly.

Edit: Comments closed; over the course of a week, with conversations had between here and elsewhere, I believe that I have a plan. Actually multiple plans, in a way. Now what I need is time to bring the plan(s) to fruition (or something closely approximating fruition), so bear with me if I’m quiet a bit. Many many things happening. Thanks, you guys. You’ve been really super at keeping me on the right track and sparking my inspiration.

Life has a funny way of taking sharp turns when you’re not really expecting it. Such is the situation I find myself in currently.

Without a great deal of warning, I’ve, er, found myself in a bit of trouble. I’m staring at a very real, very near future of financial dire straits. In essence, the amount my day job is looking to be very soon paying me is not matching up very well with the reality of bills and rent and groceries, and I am but a singular human with a cat for company, trying to keep myself fed, with a roof over my head, and hopefully to continue working on this story which I’m really, really fond of.

The trouble is, there are only 24 hours in a day, I have to sleep sometime, and to make ends meet I’m afraid I’m looking at two possibilities: one is cutting back on the comic in order to scrounge enough work out in the world so that I can continue to eat and be sheltered,  or to see if ProtC can pull its weight so that there’s even the slightest possibility of it at least helping me to survive. Odd as it may seem, I dislike both options. The first, obviously, because this story is important to me, and I just want to tell it and to see it enjoyed. The second because it may seem odd, but no matter how I approach it (and I have before within my own head, hence the Store button at the top), I feel very strange at the idea of taking money from my readers, even if they offer it freely and get something in return. I know. I’m a crazy person.

Still, I think about you, all of you, and I don’t want to take the story away at all if there’s even a chance of keeping things running smoothly. It becomes pretty obvious which of the two options is preferable. So I pose the question:

If I were to offer merchandise, what would interest you? What can I do? Is there anything that comes to mind? T-shirts and art prints are my favorite ideas because I know how to make those happen, somewhat. Not entirely sure, as I’m rather new to this internet entrepreneur idea and it’s hard to know which manual out in the internet is the right one to turn to, but I have a few leads and ideas. I’ve done some research.

Also since I know that a rather large amount of interest in this story revolves around the art, I’m also considering doing small original sketches and drawings and selling those. I am nervous about handling shipping, but if it helps, right?

I’m really eager to hear what any of you have to say to this. Please, feel free to leave anything that might be useful in the comments. Ideas, thoughts, possibilities or even just encouragement. Anything and everything is welcome with attempting to figure out what comes next.

6 comments

  1. Asterai says:

    Woof. That’s rough.

    As a person in iffy financial straits myself (I have money saved, but my income might be about to nose-dive) and not exactly rich to start with (I’m a student and my income from TAing is not massive) I can’t buy anything at present, and I don’t buy much in general. I go for precious full-story books over small-scale merch. I’m not necessarily typical, though.

    Some of this will depend on how large your audience is. A print run, for instance, isn’t very profitable unless you can afford to print at least a thousand; print-on-demand has a nasty price tag.

    Are you aware of Kickstarter? if not, GO CHECK IT OUT NOW. One of the other comics I read (Order of the Stick) recently raised over a million dollars on a Kickstarter project (a record breaker – not typical), which allowed them to put the entire comic to date simultaneously in print for the first time ever. And presumably to eat something besides ramen for a while.

    Other than that – I don’t know, ask around? Look at how other comics are funding themselves. Some do merch, a wide spectrum of possibilities. Some post ads. Some straight-up ask for donations, and may incentivize that with additional digital content.

    Any rate, your comic is truly fantastic. I love it to pieces. I wish you all the luck in the world.

    • Meghan says:

      Your situation actually sounds a lot like mine. I feel your pain, and it’s a nerve-wracking sort of pain. I was wise enough to build a stash of savings, too, but it won’t last forever. Hopefully the continuing process of papering my city with résumés will help with alleviating the fear. I wish you luck as well; it’s an awful place in life to find oneself.

      Kickstarter! Jeez, Kickstarter is an idea that completely slipped my mind actually, although I do know about it. Thank you! I think phase one of my plan for potentially selling things is going to be more try-it-and-see, no-risk, small-fry, first-hand-research than actual profit (I’m thinking if I do shirts, I’m starting at my do-I-have-an-audience research via RedBubble since it costs me nothing but design time and crossed fingers, plus there’s a community there to get to know), but I’m getting ideas with how Kickstarter could be handy for phase two, and definitely for the long term. I don’t doubt that at the absolute least I’m going to do fundraising through there for the book that so many people have been voicing interest in. 🙂

      Thanks ever so for the compliments and for taking the time to share your thinkings. I appreciate it. 🙂 Again, luck be with you, too.

  2. RobinofLeyLines says:

    The issue with most merchandise is that if you can’t afford the costs yourself, you don’t keep any of the profits either.

    Offering commissions & prints can hardly hurt, and require the least up-front cost. Commission costs are paper, art supplies, and time. Just make sure to value yourself accurately. A lot of people offer amazing work for tiny amounts. It’s not fair to the artist, and often negatively impacts the perceived value of the work. I’d say put some serious thought into what funds you’d need, what quantities you can produce, and figure out a pricing scheme that enables you to meet that balance. Then publicize the crap out of what you’re selling!

    Some people do good business on commission work! I think you’ve got the talent to make it work!

    • Meghan says:

      “Caution” is definitely something I’m hearing a lot and attempting to heed. You make a good point first off there. For a testing-the-waters beginning, I’ve decided that I’m picking as low-risk of options as possible. Animus got the long-winded explanation, but in essence I hear you and I agree that your points are full of wisdom. I’m glad I’m not in a worse position than I am, where I’d be trying to make a 100% living off of this webcomic. I have no illusions that that’s pretty well impossible, and I kind of hope I never have to rely on it completely. I’m not planning to. I want this to stay fun for one thing, and for another, it’s one of the hardest routes to try to take to pay one’s bills, true enough.

      That’s also a good point about properly valuing my artwork if I’m selling it and the danger of going too far one way or the other. I worry about that. I used to do commissions way back in the day, and I never had complaints about my prices being too high, but it’s so difficult to put a reasonable price tag on something as sketchy (har, I made a funny) in value as a drawing. How much do my minutes and hours really cost, and my pencil strokes? No easy answers, but that’s something I need to figure out.

      Thanks for the encouragement and the help. I’ll try to move forward carefully, but still forward. 🙂

  3. Animus says:

    Well, merchandise is hard. Considering that you’re currently in a bit of financial trouble, I would stick with things that do not require a lot of upfront capital or have guaranteed returns- probably taking pre-orders or something made to order (like the sketches). It might be a good idea to order things in batches, too- if you do prints, for instance, get a certain number of orders, then print that many out and ship, then keep taking orders until you get that quota. I just started my own business, and at the moment I am in the red. If you’re in financial trouble, you don’t want to end up there.

    • Meghan says:

      Thanks for the thoughts.

      At least the one nice thing is that I do still have income, just not much and not enough. The other nice thing is that even before things started going downhill fast, I was pretty used to only making just enough to get by. I don’t need that much of a boost, and that’s all I’m hoping for is a boost to help me sail through until I find a real solution (ie, improved employment). My fears stem from the experience that the easiest and quickest route to solving my problems is taking on multiple part-time jobs and that tends to add up to more hours and energy spent than a single full-time job does, which leaves me a lot less for the comic. If I have to take a couple small ones to live on, I will, and I still have a window of time to figure that out, but my hope is that there’s some little bit I can get from ProtC to supplement my income and, more than anything, buy me time until I can find better employment that lets me live and still have time to do the webcomic justice, like before.

      I was kind of thinking what you suggested, and I appreciate the words of caution. They’re important. So far, the worst I’m considering is testing the waters with things like print-on-demand shirts. I did some research and pegged what I think are considered to be the better quality ones; just have to test my chosen one first hand and see. The downside is that it won’t bring in much per item, but it’ll give me an idea of if I have anyone interested without hurting me for trying. If I find that I do have demand, then maybe I’d be considering having small batches printed, but I don’t expect that for a long while. Since I’m not trying to fully live off of this but instead just find out if ProtC can pull any of its weight, I’m trying to go for ideas that are as low-risk and cautious as possible, just to see if it works. Warning well heeded, thank you. This confirms that I should definitely take it slow. >>;

      Selling original sketches and making little things like bookmarks is probably the most lucrative idea on my drawing board, if only because I tend to produce small drawings and trinkets the way other people produce carbon dioxide. I don’t have to try much. They just kind of happen wherever I go, and cost me next to nothing except time thanks to the giant bin of art supplies I’ve accumulated over the years. The worst case scenario there is I offer something, and it ends up stored, which is kind of status quo anyway.

      I’ve also been chatting up the ProtC community at DeviantArt, and one of the most commonly voiced desires is for a book collection of the prologue, first chapter, and the interlude. That, of course, would take a lot of time and I need to do a lot more research to make sure I do it right. It’s an idea for someday, and hey, if people want it, I’ll do my best to puzzle out how to do it even if it takes me a while, what with reformatting everything for print and putting together some extra content to make it more interesting than just the-webcomic-on-paper. Not as helpful for the short term, but it can be a long term goal, I hope.

      So that’s kind of where I sit with ideas. It’s a start – not much, but then I don’t need much – and so far I’ve been pleased with the positive feedback I’m getting.

      Again, thanks. 🙂

Comments are closed.