Subcompact Publishing: A Road for Digital Comics And Films?

Craig Mod:

I propose Subcompact Publishing tools and editorial ethos begin (but not end) with the following qualities:

- Small issue sizes (3-7 articles / issue)
- Small file sizes
- Digital-aware subscription prices
- Fluid publishing schedule
- Scroll (don’t paginate)
- Clear navigation
- HTML(ish) based
- Touching the open web

While Craig is talking about magazine publishing, I think this is something that comic artists, animators and filmmakers should think about too.

Digital distribution is here and it's here to stay. But how do we make a living if we have to give our stuff away for nothing?

I know a lot of artists that are having a hard time making ends meet, thinking they have to give away their comics for free or they won't be read. Why do we undervalue ourselves so? If we do, then how do we expect our audiences not to?

A great deal of time goes into our passions. And while it may seem noble to give ourselves away like that, artists, in the whole of history were never really the 'mythical' starving artists. They had patrons, fame, and revenue generated from that fame in commissions and talks, etc. The whole myth of a starving artist is a construct of the modern age*. 

If you have something worth while to say, then you will find an audience. Cripes, even if you don't have anything to say, you can find an audience.

I guess it just burns me to see so many artists working for nothing while a mate or spouse is the bread winner. I think we just have to be smarter about our business models. The way to generate revenue is the last thing you want to think about as an artist. "Yuck! That's too close to math for my liking!!" But it should be the first thing you think about.

How will you make money doing what you love? That's step one. While you're drawing your opus in your spare time between shifts at the coffee shop or cool second hand clothing store, scribble out a business plan. The crazier the better. Think big. Read a blog (or a book if you're so inclined) about how to make money on the web or through a digital outlet like the iTunes store or Amazon's Kindle store. Imagine publishing your comic through the iBooks store?? iBooks will handle a well crafted pdf. Plus Apple takes care of the subscriptions! (So does Paypal, btw).

As visual artists, we need to rethink the context in which our work is received. And not to undervalue our own work. Be clever in how you might extract some payment for your work if you choose to distribute it on the web for free. Perhaps a subscriber exclusive RSS feed so they can get it in their Reader of choice, whether that's a feed reader or in their email. The key, I think is to make it even easier for a paying subscriber to see your work. Sure it's easy to go to your website and see it for free, but if they are willing to support you through a $3 monthly subscription, they should be deluged with options to receive your latest work. There are a lot of ways to automate this, too. 

But be prepared to spend money to make money. Free services are fine when you're an amateur, or just getting started. But when you're ready to pull the trigger and launch your comic or films, setup your site so it won't crash if your work goes viral and is slammed with traffic.

Stick with it. Keep in mind your business plan. Be professional in your dealings and your work. If you act professional you'll be treated as such. As the man says, "Fake it till you make it".

*I admit that there's a crumb of truth to it. In the last hundred years art (in any form) has been devalued as an occupation in the industrial age, thus making it harder to hold a profession as anything other than a commercial artist. But we've moved beyond that into the digital age and it's a whole new ball game.