Archive | Webcomics RSS feed for this section

Short Fiction – Who Tells Your Story

18 May

This isn’t Hamilton fanfic. This is what happens when there is Hamilton fanfic in a world where ghosts gain or lose power based solely on “how well and widely they are remembered”, and takes place in that oddly physical limbo between life and whatever comes next as seen in A Girl and Her Fed.

Continue reading

George Washington is the most fun, ever.

22 Jan

Haven’t written anything over here for a few days, so here. Have some thoughts on George Washington. No, not that one.

This one.

This one.

Whenever I include a historical figure in the comic, I’ve tried to read as much of their own personal writings as possible. (Amelia Earhart was fantastic, by the way. I know I’ve said this before, but if she were alive today in the era of social media, she’d be killing it. Yeah yeah, she flew a plane. Whee. But did you know she addressed women’s social roles so thoroughly that she decided to start her own clothing line focused on practicality and wearability first, and appearance second, because she knew women needed to Get Shit Done? And that’s just one example and… and… Right. This is about Washington.)

Ahem.

Writing George Washington is so much fun. In the comic, his character is completely out of fucks to give. He has seen and done everything. In life, he survived betrayal, extraordinary loss, and hardships that we in this modern era can’t even imagine. Once the war was over, all he wanted to do was go sit on his farm and grow old, but no, there was this whole new country and he felt responsible for it. So he governs until he was sure it wouldn’t fall apart without him, and then he went to sit on his farm, with brief and much-resented interludes where he had to come out and make an appearance.

Can you imagine how pissed George the Ghost must have been when he died and found that the other ghosts thought he was still responsible for the country? Not only that, but he was so romanticized and heroized within society that he finds himself a super-powered ghost… an American god?

Man, he must have been pissed.

When I was first writing the ghosts into the story, I knew he’d show up. It’s a comic with the Founding Fathers in it, after all, and you cannot exclude Washington from that lineup. I had two options, and both of them would have been perfectly in character with George Washington’s in-life actions: George the Ghost could have stayed on his otherworld farm and removed himself from politics completely; or, George the Ghost could have rolled up his sleeves and started cracking heads.

I decided to go with the second option because Lincoln was the ghost who had banished himself to the afterlife. And because it was more fun. George the Ghost is great. He only looks like George Washington when he’s drawn as half-drunk and bitterly sarcastic. He only sounds like George Washington when he’s stating facts. Yeah, they’re just his opinions, but in his mind, they’re Facts.

He doesn’t like Pat. He doesn’t have to like Pat. He’s George Washington–he doesn’t have to like anybody! But if you earn his respect, he considers you a friend.

Master Plans, and the Problems Therein

17 Nov

Spoilers ahead. Have you read the comic? It’s free!


It’s hard to be a supervillain. Clarice had this brilliant master plan to set herself up as a new god.

(yes, I know it's almost a line from HELLRAISER I swear you people don't know me at all...)

(…yes, I know it’s almost a line from HELLRAISER. I swear, you people don’t know me at all…)

But the ghosts who support her decided: Whoa, lady? Worldwide death and destruction? That’s a bit over the top!

Which is me wiggling out on the story I had planned to tell.

I wanted to follow through on Clarice’s master plan. It’d be great! It’d be entirely in keeping with her character, and within the rules of the universe. Essentially, it’s drawing on the premise that fame is a form of energy. Fame is remarkably similar to belief. It’s an investment of thought and attention, and if it is sustained over enough time, its target can draw upon this energy.

But fame is fleeting. Even U.S. presidents fall out of active memory. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington are among the most powerful ghosts in American history because everybody knows who they were, but Calvin Coolidge? The poor guy is relegated to “Worst President” lists and the occasional bad joke. If he’s lucky.

If Clarice spent the rest of her natural life setting herself up as a highly controversial figure who broke the modern world, she’d never be forgotten. (Or at least, not within the span of modern civilization, because Ozymandias, but she’ll take what she can get and then orchestrate her legacy from the grave.) This is what Clarice should have done.

But she couldn’t, because while she’s vicious and amoral and would think nothing of worldwide genocide to further her own ends, she’s also a character in a webcomic that updates twice a week. The medium through which her story is told cannot sustain that type of decades-long plot. It’d take sixty years of machinations to get Clarice to a point where she’d be poised at the brink of winning, and then-spoiler!-our heroes would finally pull their last-minute save out of their collective butts and send her to Hell.

Our very, very old heroes. As drawn by a very tired, and probably as equally old, me.

Couldn’t be done. Just in terms of audience attrition alone, I’d be ending a story followed by maybe sixteen hardcore readers (hi guys!). The characters themselves would have aged significantly, and their traits changed accordingly. It’d be sort of neat to carry a story through the length of their lives, and get into the nuts and bolts of political and religious plotting, the outcome of major plagues and nuclear fallout, the societal and cultural issues raised by coping with a reduced population…  Well.

Writers tell similar long-term story arcs all of the time, but they don’t have to draw it out on a per-update basis. I can (and often do) spend three weeks on a brief interaction between two characters. A webcomic is not the right format for this type of story. Judge Dredd might be able to pull it off, but me? Not so much.

I’ve known about this problem for ages, and wrote myself a series of outs, just in case I decided to abandon one storyline and jump to another. There’ve been some hints that the ghosts who allied with Clarice weren’t cool with the whole global chaos/genocide thing. Now, it seems they’ve asked her to tone it down a notch or they’ll pull their support.

So, Clarice isn’t getting her long-running Master Plan. She’s forced to make do with something fast and dirty. Something also in keeping with her character but better suited to a comic format.

*sigh*

I’m sad I don’t get to play with mass murder, but there’ll be other opportunities.





On race, gender, and characters, comic and otherwise.

8 Oct

Note: Someday soon I’ll put up a companion piece to this one about Rachel being blind. It’ll be very similar in content, but will cover the year after publishing Digital Divide where I went from, “Hey, I’ve got a book out” to “Hey, there’s a need for representation of persons with disabilities in science fiction and Rachel is blind so I’m doing something good!” to “Um… Rachel can still see so I’m going to put this banner down and quietly back away before I get myself into trouble.” I will definitely be exploring a comparison between Rachel and her brain implant, and deaf persons and cochlear implants, in an upcoming book.

_____________________________________________

I’ve got the plot for the comic planned out, but I do a lot of last-minute tinkering with scripts. The strip for October 2 was supposed to be quite different, with Hope offering Mike to Lincoln as a possible therapist.

Hope's body language in the first panel matches the current strip, not the original dialogue. CRAISENS! CRAISENS! CRAISENS!

Hope’s body language in the first panel matches the current strip, not this rough script. CRAISENS! CRAISENS! CRAISENS!

I backed away at the last minute. I’m glad I did: I’m trying to get through the entire story without mentioning the characters’ preferences in sex partners. (I was also trying to do this with race, but I think I blew that in one of the earliest strips.) I’ll explain why, but I’ll ask you to do a little light reading before we get to that:

“Pete and Pete was all white people”

Don’t be fooled by the first couple of questions. Once you get past the normal Ask:Response section, the interview goes batshit. You can almost pinpoint the exact second when the interviewer realizes that this was no longer a fluff piece, and the pleasant stroll down Memory Lane has careened into Racism Road.

Yes, diversity matters. Yes, representation matters. No, we don’t have to hang spotlights off of every single difference to show that these matter. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Jedi more than anything else in the entire world. I wanted the lightsaber and the mindpowers and the… the everything! But I couldn’t, because girls weren’t Jedi. They weren’t anything, really.

Probably the only time I'll ever reference "Family Guy"

Probably the only time I’ll ever reference “Family Guy”

If the Star Wars expanded universe had existed back when I was a kid-if I had seen just one female Jedi way off to the side!-the games I played with my friends would have been different. The stories I wrote in my head would have been different. When you’re a very young child, you don’t realize you’ve got options. You learn from example and context. Role models can be something as stupidly simple as a background character. The fact that they exist can open entire worlds within a kid’s head.

So I don’t talk about race or preferences in sex partners in the comic. They exist. Hell, they exist in the main characters: Mako is Black, Rachel is Chinese-American, Mike and Rachel are gay, Josh is so straight the Kinsey scale needed to be pushed into negative numbers, and Pat’s bisexual. (I’ve got a side story in the works that addresses this, where Pat wasn’t entirely comfortable with this aspect of himself until the collective kicked in, and then came the mental rush of everybody doing everything with everybody else. Sharing a hivemind shatters a lot of mental walls.) But they exist in the background, to inform the characters’ choices and actions. They don’t take the spotlight from the actual story.

That Pete and Pete article? It’s lovely. I mean that. It’s a wonderful example of why it’s critical for creators to use characters that don’t conform to a standard template of traits. And yes, there is the threat of tokenism if a single person uses a wheelchair, or if a single person is Black or female within an entire cast of White males. But I think a lot of young girls would have played different games on the playground if they had seen one female Jedi.

Now, if Yoda had been female…

vagina

Self-publishing Cover Shenanigans

27 Jul
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!

If you say “shenanigans” three times in the mirror, Brian Cox will appear and ask you why he hasn’t won an Oscar.

This is a post about self-publishing, and why Maker Space has been available since March in ebook form but took until Thursday to finally become available as an actual book.

I’m aware that some of you reading this are traditionally published authors (hi Jean!), and I am assuming that some of you are self-published (are author-published, practice artisinal publishing, engage in the craft of putting out your own writing…Ugh. Some days you just want to hit the terminology with a baseball bat and use what’s left of the pulpy mess when you’re done.). If you keep up with the publishing community in any way, you’re aware there is some controversy over which method of publishing best benefits the author. This argument can be boiled down to money and control.

Money is a big one. Royalties, obviously, but there’s also who foots the final cost of the product. Self-publishing is not cheap. Rephrase: self-publishing where the end result is a quality product is not cheap. (If you have not yet searched for “dinosaur erotica” on Amazon, please do so.*) If you pursue traditional publishing, the publisher is responsible for taking your manuscript and creating a finished product. They are also responsible for advertising, shipping, and the other elements of successful books.

At first blush, the issue of control sounds fairly simple. It asks: who maintains control over your work? If you are traditionally published, you turn over control of your work when you submit the finished manuscript. Elements of control, such as who holds the copyright and when it reverts to you, are (should be) established in your contract. The publisher is also responsible for advertising, shipping, and… Yes. That. Money and control are entwined.

I come from webcomics, and I’ve been putting out content for the better part of a decade. This has worked out pretty well for me, because I’m one of those weirdos who enjoys the process of taking my product from raw, unfinished ideas and shepherding them through the final stages. If you just did that thing where you said, “control freak” and pretended to hide it behind a cough? Thank you! When you’re responsible for putting out your own content, you are your own quality control expert, and nobody’s going to buy your shit if it looks like shit.

There are so many challenges/problems with this I can’t even, by the way. The learning curve is steep and expensive and frustrating… There are products you’re so excited to make that you forget to assess costs (case in point: the saga of the Speedy plush). There are designs you send to press and then, years later, your husband takes That One Shirt out of the closet and now you’re embarrassed that he’d still consider wearing it. To do yardwork! So, yeah, it can be horrible, and if you’re not careful, you stand a very good chance of losing a lot of money on products that won’t sell.

MAKER SPACE was the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson was a maker, so this seemed appropriate.

MAKER SPACE was the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson was a maker, so this seemed appropriate.

But it also can be wonderful, as you get more flexibility to work within the scope of your own ideas. The Rachel Peng novels were intended as a series. Seven books, with one overarching plot driving events. With that in mind, I wanted a single thematic cover design to carry over from book to book, so they’d look like a set when sitting on a shelf. Rose Loughran, who does the webcomic Red Moon Rising, is the cover artist: each book features a different landmark from Washington, D.C. The jacket design reflects the colors in Rose’s landscape painting. DIGITAL DIVIDE was all reds and golds, with MAKER SPACE in blues, purples, and grays.

Rose does the painting for the cover art, but I do content, text layout, and everything else. The cover layout for DIGITAL DIVIDE was delicious cake, and I had no serious problems getting this first book through printing. Since MAKER SPACE was the same size and on the same thematic template, I didn’t think it would be different.

/casts summon problems

I use CreateSpace as my printer. It’s owned and operated by Amazon, so do with that what you will: hopefully, all self-publishers–heck, let’s go with absolutely everybody–is aware that using Amazon and its affiliates comes with baggage. Most of this baggage is tiny and maneuverable and needs very little management within the day-to-day of your busy schedule… but then there’s that steamer trunk that’s about to crush your grandma and her local bookstore. I’ve got my reasons for using it, and one of those is that CreateSpace generates high-quality books at a reasonable price. Copies fresh off of the CreateSpace press are as sturdy as anything you’d receive from a traditional printing press, and the cover resolution is high. My husband has a loupe left over from when he used to work in printing which we use to check for DPI resolution on my products, and CreateSpace does right by Rose’s paintings.

So, right before MAKER SPACE was supposed to hit, I submit the cover to CreateSpace and order a proof copy. Cue shenanigans.

AAAAAAAAAW!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!

I think I ordered eight proofs in total over four months. Each time I got the copy back, there was something wrong with the cover. The color printed dark: the first two versions were purple-blue blobs. After tinkering to lighten it up, some of the colors didn’t match each other. And when I finally got the colors right, the whole cover had somehow jumped a quarter-inch to the left and the spine was misaligned.

These proofs weren’t free, by the way. CreateSpace charges me per item, same as you. I get a discount because it’s my content, but the endless proof-chain did set me back close to $70**. Now, if I were published by a traditional printer, I would have had a nice box of ARCs shipped to me prior to publication, free of charge and to distribute as I want. But I wouldn’t have had any say whatsoever in choosing the cover art, or its design, or the text on the back, or the pull quotes for the cover… Easier, less expensive (for me)? Definitely!

And I would have felt as though I had been excluded from part of the process.

Such exclusion is arguably a good thing. I might enjoy controlling the development of a product, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got specialized skills in cover design, font selection, or so on. I think the final layout of the book cover is solid; it could probably be better. In ten years, I might look back on the Rachel Peng covers like those ratty old embarrassing tee shirts in the back of the closet.

Today? I enjoy what I do and how I do it, and I’m better at it than when I started. Life’s a process, too.

 

*I am not suggesting that all dinosaur erotica is of terrible quality. I am merely saying that I have judged these books by their hastily Photoshopped covers, and by titles such as Turned Gay by Dinosaurs.

**Always figure in shipping and handling. Always.

Patreon bonuses?

2 Jul

It looks as though I’ll be starting a Patreon campaign soon, which I said I wouldn’t do until everyone and their sister had one, and since everyone and their sister now has one, I should really get my butt in gear. This means planning bonuses to entice readers to donate. Here are a few ideas I’ve been playing around with…

The Return of the Joshsmut

Josh has been married eight times (Mare was both Wife Three and Wife Eight… Look, they’re complicated), so there are seven novellas left in the series. I’d love to do these as some sort of serialized incentive program for Patreon donors, then turn these serials into a finished product for everybody.

The Disasterhouse Blog

This house, man. Today–this very afternoon!!!–a structural engineer will conduct an assessment of what must be done to keep the southern side of the house from collapsing. Guys, this house is literally falling down and the problems keep getting worse. We’re also trapped in it due to financial reasons: what was supposed to be an investment in cute structurally-sound fixer-upper has become a freakin’ nightmare. And we’re forced to live in it!So you can forgive me if I load up the home blog, look at all of the topics that would make a great (for you) update, and think, “NOPE.”

In addition to updating that blog at least once a week, Brown and I have been kicking around the idea of doing a podcast. Or, as he says, “I will happily argue with you in public if it means I get to review new tools.” Patreon donors would have access to this podcast before it goes live.

Speedy’s Kids

Speedy has over fifty kids throughout the United States, and will soon have a couple hundred more in Australia. None of his offspring can talk, and they aren’t quite as bright as he is, but they still have human-level intelligence. I’ve wanted to do a simple one-panel inkwash comic featuring four of these young koalas on Tumblr for ages… Think Chopping Block, only cuter and much, much darker. Patreon donors would have access to each comic before it goes live.

Other Stuff?

I dunno. What do you want from me?

Caveat:

None of this will happen immediately. Kickstarter fulfillment takes priority, and I need to also finish the thank-you gift for people who bought the serialized version of Digital Divide before it went live. Which was over a year ago and… ugh. Anyhow. In my opinion, it’s dickish to ask for more money before fulfilling prior obligations, so I’m at least going to get the bonus gift, the Digital Divide audiobook, and League Night (the .pdf of the Kickstarter bonus story) sent out before putting up a Patreon campaign.

Thank you for reading. Please enjoy these owls.

owlconvention

 

Schedule Update for 2014

12 May

As I sit here, watching the pool we uncovered this weekend slowly turn through multiple shades of green, it occurs to me that the year is already slipping away and I should post a project update.

Kickstarter

Big success. Huge. On many different levels. Most of the rewards have been ordered, or are being processed in some way. The release of the bonus story, League Night, has been held up, but for a very good reason that I can’t talk about until it’s confirmed. However, once all this is over, I will be writing up a post about how difficult it’s been to interact with many organizations which work with seeing-impaired persons. Not all organizations, mind! Just almost all.

JoshSmut

The JoshSmut series has been indefinitely postponed. Sales of The Russians Came Knocking weren’t nearly as strong as I needed them to be, and it hasn’t earned out its costs, This is sniffles-sad for me, as sex comedies are too much fun to write. I’ll see if it’s feasible to return to the other seven wives of Josh Glassman at a later time.

The Rachel Peng Series

The third book is taking shape. I’m much more hopeful about this one than Maker Space; by this third book, the world’s nicely established and now there’s some adventures to be had. As for when this is supposed to come out? Well. Last night, I realized there was potential for a spinoff novel from this book, but told from Hope Blackwell’s perspective because it involved the ghosts. Since there won’t be any ghosts in the Rachel books (or talking koalas. sorry), this spinoff novel would get shifted back to Hope. So what is essentially a series of books spun off from the comic is now spinning back to the comic’s characters… and now I’m so dizzy I’m going to throw up. The question is, do I write two books and publish them simultaneously? I would love to do this to make sure consistency between events carries over between them. Downside? These novels are now my primary source of income and I will be hella broke by then. Mull, mull, mull…

Intelligence

As of this weekend, Intelligence has been cancelled. We behaved like sensible adults and let the show do what it was going to do, and now we can move on with our lives. I’d love to see OACET on the small screen one day, Scandal-style. Maybe we should see their version of the straight-up cyborg procedural as testing the television waters for what would need to happen with full-on OACET conspiracy theory sexytime weirdness.

Now, have a baby possum.

Possums are the working definition of "conditionally cute".

Possums are the working definition of “conditionally cute”.

 

More Heads-inna-Jar!

11 Nov

Back in August (Wait, that can’t be right… Holy crap, yeah, August) I made a Futurama Head In A Jar template.  And then I started working on heads-inna-jar. I finished and posted two of them, and then worked on a bunch of others. Two of these I sent to author Seanan McGuire when I sent her a copy of DIGITAL DIVIDE.

Portrait of the Author as a Severed Head

Portrait of the Author as a Severed Head

And her alter ego, Mira Grant.

I love (seriously love) how the nose-fin turns into her hair. BRUSH AND SNEEZE AT OWN RISK.

I love (seriously love) how the nose-fin turns into her hair. BRUSH AND SNEEZE AT OWN RISK.

Seanan has been amazing. We’ve been chatting back and forth since I featured her book cover in a comic strip. At the time, I hadn’t read any of her works and picked the cover of a popular zombie novel off of Amazon at random (because what the hell else would undead pixy Ben Franklin read?). Man, I am glad for that chance landing on Feed.  Seanan has been nothing but awesome. She’s funny, helpful, and willing to say “Yes, that thing you are doing? Do not do that,” or “That other thing? Do that more.”  And today she wrote up a hell of a fantastic review for DIGITAL DIVIDE.

I’m unbelievably appreciative both to Seanan and to her (insanely prolific) writing abilities, because I’ve been devouring her October Daye series like the scrumptious treats they are. BUY HER BOOKS!

 

Heads-in-Jars!

29 Aug

I had a jar template lying around after last night’s comic, and the Futurama heads-in-jars are too much fun to draw. So, naturally, I’ve been adding to the Head Museum.

The first was Frederick Douglass, who should be in the Head Museum already.

frederickjarThen I decided to do people who are notable in the SFF community (it’s a short list, but only to save my sanity because otherwise I’d draw heads-in-jars forever, and I’ve put women at the top because change). Thus far, I’ve finished the head (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) editors at io9.com.

Annalee Newitz of io9.com

Annalee Newitz of io9.com

Charlie Jane Andrews of io9.com

Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com

This could eat my day and I’ve got work to do, so I’m tabling this for now.  Two more heads tomorrow.

Nobody’s Job but Yours

16 Apr

I’ve got a running joke with a friend who’s a traditionally-published author. Whenever we talk about indie authors, each sentence ends with BUY MY BOOK.

Barnes and Noble’s new strategy of dumping all reviews when a minor revision is uploaded is messed up and wrong! BUY MY BOOK.

Traditional authors don’t understand they are being exploited by The Man. BUY MY BOOK.

And everybody’s favorite: Once you make it as an indie author, you’re obligated to help other indie authors succeed, too. BUY MY…

No. No. I am not doing this again. I have already done this dance with webcomics.

I’m spending a lot of time lurking in indie book communities to learn the tricks of the trade, and there are plenty of parallels between indie publishing and webcomics. Except indie publishing has only hit its stride in the past five years, while webcomics has a full fifteen-year head start. Let me go ahead and clarify this point: Yes, self-publishing (books and comics) has been around for a long, long time. Yes, writers and artists were both early adopters of the Internet as a place to post their work and distribute it to a wider readership. The introduction of the Kindle, the Nook, and other e-book readers, however, is a more recent phenomenon and has transformed the indie writer community from dedicated authors who just happen publish online to one in which anybody with a trunk novel can throw it up on Apple or Amazon. These e-book platforms, as well as the popularity of major e-book retailers, changed the nature of online publishing, both by increasing the number of potential readers and by dropping the barriers to putting a finished book in digital print.

You with me? Good. Back to webcomics.

Early webcomics faced many of the same stigma which characterize today’s indie publishing ventures. There was the general opinion that a webcomic was online only because Marvel or Image or a major newspaper didn’t think the product was good enough to publish, and the creator was forced to go online because Waaah! I’ll show them! Fast-forward fifteen years and now webcomics are just… comics. That’s all they are. My decision to refer to them as “webcomics” in this article is a designation of culture rather than of medium.

I came in after the “there are comics on the Internet?” argument had been settled (but right at the cusp of the “there are girls making comics on the Internet?” one, which was just as distasteful and depersonalizing but in a completely different way).  A Girl and Her Fed launched in April of 2006, and it was a rich learning experience because damn! Some of the people in your own community can be vicious.

I’m one of the successful ones.  I’ve got a dedicated readership, I enjoy a wonderful community of readers and fellow creators, and I have a diverse product line.  My recent novel, Digital Divide (BUY MY BOOK), is part of this product line. I have not yet had a full fiscal year to evaluate book sales, so I don’t know how that will affect my net take, but I typically make between $5,000-$10,000 USD from my webcomic.  The high end was a blip; it’s usually closer to $7,500 per year.

And I’m one of the successful ones!

I am too old to live on ramen, and I need health insurance and money to pay my mortgage, so I have a very horrible day job in which I edit dissertations, grant and business proposals, and peer-reviewed journal articles before these go to press.  I hate it.  I would much rather work on my comic and my novels and dig in my garden all day long, but that is not how the real world works.

I don’t think that many new indie authors realize this.

Newcomers to webcomics used to point to the rock stars, those big-name comics that are wildly popular and have a huge product line.  Everyone used to see themselves as the next Penny Arcade, living off of their enthusiastic fanbase and nine measly panels per week. That attitude has changed over the last five years. Most of the serious newcomers to webcomics approach putting their product online as part of multi-phase marketing strategy, and they still have low expectations for financial success. For example, Axe Cop was picked up by Fox for a TV show, has a line of toys coming out, and creator Ethan Nicolle recently remarked that he made “a similar income as a shift manager at Starbucks.”

(If you ever want to get seriously, rabidly depressed about how little a gifted webcomic creator makes, go browse some of Skullkickers creator Jim Zub’s blog posts.)

I no longer see the forum posts where a webcomics newbie put up fifty strips and then quit in a red rage because the work got to be too much, with no reward. The expectation of success has cratered.  Ten years ago, the rule of thumb was that a webcomic could provide a decent living for its creator if it had 10,000 daily readers. Today, I have roughly twice that number. Please refer to the prior mention of my gross proceeds, where I can count on a minimum of $5,000 per year. That’s gross, mind you. Not net.

Webcomic creators have become thoroughly and rightfully disillusioned, but the expectation for success is still dangerously high in the indie author community. They have their rock stars, too, and the same names get trotted out in every article.  E.L. James, Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, Beth Reekles… I’ll shut up now.

I’m not linking to any specifics here (it’d be a dick move if I did, considering), but many members of the indie community are clinging to the idea that these rock stars need to help the little guys succeed.  This infuriates me. This has always infuriated me. There was a dude in the webcomics community (and yes, I will link to him) some years back who decided the easiest way to get traffic was via trolling, and he lunged straight at the rock stars’ throats. He demanded they were obligated to publicly recognize other, smaller webcomics, as it was their job to help them succeed.

I am so glad that dude has vanished off of the face of the Internet.

Listen. Success is your job. No one else’s. You should never feel that anyone is obligated to promote your work, or act as your mouthpiece. If you’ve decided to go the indie route, promotion is now part of your job. Now, how you decide to do your job is your business. One of the most depressing things I’ve read recently was from an indie author who complained that he was decently popular but sales weren’t enough, so he was thinking of licensing out his properties to other indie writers à la James Patterson. By doing so, he could realize a steady stream of books for his community, increasing his usual production line from six books per year to two or three times that. Now, to me, that is not writing. That’s mass-production. If I were to churn out a half-dozen books a year, it would strip the joy right out of the process. But if that’s how he wants to define success, more power to him, and let’s all send a little prayer to the carpal tunnel gods on his behalf.

Other indie authors attain success by promoting and supporting other indie authors. Good for them! This is a great, positive attitude, and I am all for community-building. But they have decided to do this as part of their business model, and you can guarantee that there is a ton of self-promotion in these positive messages (BUY MY BOOK!).

It is not the rock stars’ job to shill for you. They got to where they are by design or by accident, but they are not there to help you succeed.

In indie publishing, as with webcomics, there are no gatekeepers. There are no editors. There are no penalties for walking away from a project, other than those you put on yourself. There is you, your product, and your audience. Good products resonate with an audience and can help you become more successful, but these do not guarantee it: quality has never been a guarantee of popularity or of financial reward.  And there is a very good chance that even if you are widely successful, you will still need to keep your day job (guys, don’t rush into the boss’s office and scream “I quit, suckers!” without waiting to see if your success is financially sustainable). But all of this is your responsibility.  Define success to yourself and do what you need to do to reach it, but don’t hold grudges when a more popular colleague’s priorities differ from yours.

tl:dr version? There is nothing wrong with the phrase: BUY MY BOOK.  Just decide when and how you want to say it.

EDITS: Done, I think?  I removed a link and the reference to The Oatmeal, as that’s a relative newcomer to webcomics.

EDIT 2: Nope, one last edit. More of a comment, really. It is a huge pet peeve of mine how people will go to hear a published author speak and then ask that author how they can break into publishing, or try to shove a copy of their own book into that author’s hands.  The fact that they share a profession (or hobby) seems to convey the right to receive help in it. I’m sure this happens in other professions, but it’s exactly the same as bringing cupcakes to a restaurant opening and demanding the chef help you promote your tasty wares.  The author and the supplicant share trade skills and interests, but the published author does not have an obligation or an entitlement relationship with the supplicant because of this.  If they should choose to give advice or help you in some way, that is their prerogative; be respectful and appreciative when it happens.  If they do not, that does not mean they are evil incarnate.  It just means their priorities are different from yours.