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 Post subject: The Easy-To-Find Quick Breakdown of the Comic's Financial Needs
PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:51 am 
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I am re-posting this here so that it'll be easier to link directly to it from the donations page. I feel that transparency is important.

Imp-Chan wrote:
In my perfect world, we'd sell advertising in sufficient quantity that we would be able to pay our personal bills and a lot of the business expenses from just that, and the store and donations would be a wonderful bonus that could be used to add new products and update the websites, or even *gasp* take a day or two of vacation, such as going on the honeymoon we just sortof deferred due to lack of funds. Since, despite our continued best efforts, people aren't buying much in the way of ads, though...

In the real world, our ideal minimum income situation barring ads or royalties should look something like this if we want to keep doing this full-time:

$1000+ per month in donations
$100 per day in store sales, not counting shipping or tax (our average order is for two books, so this means five to ten orders a day)
$300 per month in extra auctions (such as original lineart from the donation wallpaper/prints, or even one-shot pieces made for auction)
$500 profit per non-guest convention weekend, at one or two conventions per quarter.

That comes out to around $4000 a month income, all of which would need to be used to cover living and business costs and those ever-so-pesky income taxes, with an additional $500 income every few months which could be used to add new products or cover one-time expenses. No matter how much money that looks like on paper, that still wouldn't exactly be a profit-filled life, but it'd at least be sufficient, progressing, and current on the debts we have, without any major risk of incurring much more debt.


Right now, you'll notice that the monthly donation goal is $2000. This is because we expect the majority of our online sales over the next few months to be pre-orders, which finance new products, but don't otherwise make us any money at all. To cover the gap, we've had to temporarily up our donations goal, since we can't afford to pay our bills unless we make that.

Hope that's as much information as you needed!

^-^'

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:12 pm 
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I've been following the financial ups and downs of Errant Story for some time (in addition to the comic, of course). I'm curious about something: Do you know approximately how many people visit errant story on a daily and/or weekly basis? I can't help but think that you could attract more advertisers simply by telling the right people. I'm not saying I know who the right people are, but as webcomics go, you are hugely successful and it doesn't make sense to me that you have trouble finding advertisers. This might seem gross, but have you considered "rated-R" advertisers?


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 1:00 am 
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Brendan wrote:
I've been following the financial ups and downs of Errant Story for some time (in addition to the comic, of course). I'm curious about something: Do you know approximately how many people visit errant story on a daily and/or weekly basis? I can't help but think that you could attract more advertisers simply by telling the right people. I'm not saying I know who the right people are, but as webcomics go, you are hugely successful and it doesn't make sense to me that you have trouble finding advertisers. This might seem gross, but have you considered "rated-R" advertisers?


I've been watching the advertising on 4chan, and they have a lot of dating advertising. That might work.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 9:19 am 
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Our current average is around 1.5 million page views a month, from about 100,000 unique visitors. This is not huge, as comics like S*P or LICD get many times that, but it's still a fair bit, and FAR more than 98% of webcomics or blogs ever see in their lifetime.

When we first got into running our own advertising, I carefully created a snazzy packet telling people how awesome and versatile our advertising is. I even invested money in nice printing. Then I sent it to about 100 different game companies, comic companies, geek collectibles companies, etc. that I had seen advertising elsewhere... and I got not so much as a nibble. This is not surprising, as I suspect they appreciate direct marketing about as much as I do... which is to say, not at all, no matter how useful the item being marketed is.

Then, I tried joining Speechbubble... I even had a conversation with one of their people (long distance overseas!) about what their advertisers were looking for and what Errant Story's demographic was. They never sent us code for ads, and in about a year they haven't sold so much as ONE ad on our site for us. Apparently, their advertisers are mostly buying according to the subject matter of the comics offered... Japanese import companies buy on very manga-influenced sites, game companies buy on video-game sites, etc. Despite my conversation with Speechbubble to the effect that since I once was a fan I happen to have a fair idea of what our fans are interested in and they should maybe try expanding advertiser's options to at least include us, apparently they don't believe that our audience is eagerly interested in all those kinds of things, and they don't care that our audience is a fair size even if it isn't that narrowly targeted.

I've tried slashing our rates, too. I offered one advertiser something like $.20 cpm for a bulk ad purchase, which considering the size and interests of our audience is a ridiculous level of discount... they never so much as e-mailed me back. The going rate with webcomic collectives is about five times that, for reference.

I've tried printing custom media guides and letters, and distributing them at conventions to every last vendor in the dealer's hall. I did that for about a year, but when I got no response, I stopped putting money into it. We made more money with me in the booth selling than with me running around handing out advertising information.

I've said yes to a couple "mature" advertisers... in fact, Slipshine ran ads for a good two weeks (thanks Lesnick!). Another "mature" advertiser backed out when we couldn't run flash ads (which most of our users probably block anyways).

Put simply, I've tried a heck of a lot more than I wrote out here. People just aren't biting. My hope is that if we run GoogleAds, we can do well on the cost-per-click method, but to do that the comic has to fit their terms of service, and right now it doesn't (thus the relettering). Maybe if we stay on the Google network long enough, more independent advertisers will seek us out later on.

-_-'

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 12:10 am 
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ri[[3r wrote:
I've been watching the advertising on 4chan, and they have a lot of dating advertising. That might work.

Hmm. I'm wondering how many views we would get if we just set of a decent sized, ES-based memestorm on the chan circuit. If it was self propagating, thats free advertising.

Obscenely hard to do though.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 4:05 am 
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Labrat wrote:
ri[[3r wrote:
I've been watching the advertising on 4chan, and they have a lot of dating advertising. That might work.

Hmm. I'm wondering how many views we would get if we just set of a decent sized, ES-based memestorm on the chan circuit. If it was self propagating, thats free advertising.

Obscenely hard to do though.


and if you do it wrong, a pile of shit might land on our collective heads. Still, all publicity is good publicity.


4chan /co/ has a major downer on webcomics in general. Next time it comes up, if I remember, I'll put in a good word for ES.

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Last edited by ri[[3r on Fri Aug 03, 2007 6:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 4:47 am 
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Labrat wrote:
Obscenely foolhardy to do, though.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 6:34 am 
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I have ErrantStory on Blogshares and am about to release it for open trading.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 10:58 am 
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I can, if needed, post a list of what we actually spend all this money on, in addition to what we think we need to bring in... though I feel that suggestions on how to reduce the amounts, though helpful in the short term, ignore the spirit of wanting to turn the comic into a successful business... not just in the sense usually applied to art as a business (see: starving artist and breaking even), but in the sense of any business... one where it supports a lifestyle of relative comfort for the business owners, where they can actually have things like health insurance and savings for retirement, and allows the business to grow and expand as needed. Are people interested in that list of how we spend what, or is that overkill on the whole "sharing" thing?

I am also more than willing to accept help or input on anything to do with the comic... I won't guarantee to follow all advice, but I do research every suggestion. And, volunteers are ALWAYS welcome. Starting next year, we're going to have volunteer sign-ups for convention booth staff, too.

^-^'

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 2:01 pm 
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apologies if the following has come up before but I have several suggestions:

1. From what you say, advertisers won't back you mostly because you don't fit their particular marking demographic slice-up? I suggest you produce a (vaguely) assoiciated product which may tip you into a particular marketing segment. Produce a card game or a doujin based on ES. Each one could be a marketing thingy in it's own right, but it might tell advertisers that you are best assoiciated with <insert segment here>. A decent doujin might gain penetration into the *chan market, particularly if someone like ghastly did it, then "disowned", or say that he lost it. Anything, just to build some buzz around it. That snare some time on /b/ if some punter pushes it. Translate it to Japanese. Stuff like card-games I have no idea about, you could, I suppose, strike a deal with a games house. I'm no expert, but it seems ES would lend itself to a game. This is a little risky but, hey, worth considering.

2. Do some market research, get some "facts and figures", rather than rely on personal anecdotes. They'll be partially fictional, but who gives a toss.It sounds like you need to market yourself to the marketers. Ambush some unsuspecting person at a con and make them your ideal buyer. That sort of thing.

3. Talk to a real marketing person, and ask them what's wrong with your approach. They may want money, get them drunk, offer them sex ... I jest, but only partially.

4. Introduce a marketable figure to ES, one with big tits, likes boys and has smaller issues in comparison with the rest of the cast. Model the marketing around them.

5. Get rid of the banner that says "whore yourself" etc. Cute, but it's old, and advertising, the whores that they are, won't like that thrust in their faces, or in their customers faces.

6. Reach as many customers through as many (free) channels as possible. Facebook? Bebo? Myspace? RSS? I know Michael has reasons for not liking RSS. You need to make money, unfortunately making money means making compromises.

7. Get the flash working. Yes, most people turn it off, but your advertisers want flash, and you're desperate.

8. Insert adverts in the forums - on the route after you go to submit a message.

9. Try the dating advertisers.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 5:40 pm 
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Actually, I talked to marketing people before making my advertising packet the first time. Not just one, but several. I think they had something like twenty to thirty years of experience in marketing apiece, and they'd all worked for major U.S. companies. I did a lot of other research, too. We also included in those packets the results of surveys that we ran with our audience at the time, so not only did we have facts and figures about our audience and their interests, they were real facts and figures. I'm certainly open to revisiting our approach, though, once the new ad functionality is in place. There's not much point before that.

In terms of adding any more marketable characters... sorry, but we are not going to introduce new major characters to Errant Story. Period, full stop. The story is written, the characters are what they are. More marketable characters would be something to consider for a different comic, but this one is just not flexible like that. I am somewhat concerned that this wasn't obvious to begin with.

I find the suggestion of a card game amusing in the extreme, as I first got involved in these forums trying to get Poe to contribute to Project C.A.R.D. We're actually looking into producing an Errant Story deck soon, but it's a ways off because card decks are expensive to produce in comparison to how much they can be sold for. Additionally, the main problem according to the person I talked to at Speechbubble is the actual content of the comic, not the products associated with it. This is a very, very narrowly defined box which we are sitting outside of, apparently.

Once the new site design is completed, flash ads will be possible, along with many other kinds. However, the current site doesn't actually allow us to make changes of that sort (the autoupdate habitually deletes changes to the main page), so we can't put in that functionality UNTIL we switch to the new design.

The dating advertisers would be great... do you have actual contact information for someone in their marketing department? Without it, I can't exactly solicit them for ad sales.

^-^'

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 1:50 am 
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Imp-Chan wrote:
Actually, I talked to marketing people before making my advertising packet the first time. Not just one, but several. I think they had something like twenty to thirty years of experience in marketing apiece, and they'd all worked for major U.S. companies. I did a lot of other research, too. We also included in those packets the results of surveys that we ran with our audience at the time, so not only did we have facts and figures about our audience and their interests, they were real facts and figures. I'm certainly open to revisiting our approach, though, once the new ad functionality is in place. There's not much point before that.


My only thought is that you bend the figures along with the doujin/card game to try and get near some existing market segment.

Imp-Chan wrote:
In terms of adding any more marketable characters... sorry, but we are not going to introduce new major characters to Errant Story. Period, full stop. The story is written, the characters are what they are. More marketable characters would be something to consider for a different comic, but this one is just not flexible like that. I am somewhat concerned that this wasn't obvious to begin with.


I kinda knew that in the back of my head but I'm suffering from flu. sorry about that.

Imp-Chan wrote:
I find the suggestion of a card game amusing in the extreme, as I first got involved in these forums trying to get Poe to contribute to Project C.A.R.D. We're actually looking into producing an Errant Story deck soon, but it's a ways off because card decks are expensive to produce in comparison to how much they can be sold for. Additionally, the main problem according to the person I talked to at Speechbubble is the actual content of the comic, not the products associated with it. This is a very, very narrowly defined box which we are sitting outside of, apparently.


Glad I amused you.

Imp-Chan wrote:
Once the new site design is completed, flash ads will be possible, along with many other kinds. However, the current site doesn't actually allow us to make changes of that sort (the autoupdate habitually deletes changes to the main page), so we can't put in that functionality UNTIL we switch to the new design.


Flexibility is always useful.

Imp-Chan wrote:
The dating advertisers would be great... do you have actual contact information for someone in their marketing department? Without it, I can't exactly solicit them for ad sales.

^-^'


It was only a thought.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:48 pm 
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I work in online advertising/marketing in a way.

The problem as I see it is that ES is too small, adult-themed (but not porn) and actually cares about getting ad money (ie: it's not a hobby blog or some such). You pretty much get adsense as an option, or at least its the best option, but of course the TOS don't allow ES. I think there are adult themed copy-cats but I can only cringe at the quality of the ads they have.

Larger websites can negotiate individual contracts with say yahoo which don't prohibit adult content (although the ads probably still aren't great if you get adult ones).


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 11:25 pm 
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Rakishi wrote:
The problem as I see it is that ES is too small, adult-themed (but not porn) and actually cares about getting ad money (ie: it's not a hobby blog or some such).


Exactly.

That's a large part of why we're working on relettering the comic, and in a few cases switching out the pages with censored versions... it's not that we want to compromise the story, it's just that we really need to be eligible for adsense for now. With the right ads system underneath, we can continue to run daily ads or cost per impression ads as we can sell them, but in the meantime we'll have a backup system there to be sure there's no such thing as real downtime.

^-^'

P.S. The card game thing is amusing to me no matter which webcomic artist does it. I giggled with glee like a madwoman when I looked through the deck for The Devil's Panties, and cackled even harder when I saw that Randy of S*P was considering doing a deck, too. Both of them were involved in Project C.A.R.D. way back when, and even if collaborative decks didn't work, I'm glad to see my webcomic deck idea was a good one all along.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 10:31 pm 
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Imp-Chan wrote:
Exactly.

That's a large part of why we're working on relettering the comic, and in a few cases switching out the pages with censored versions... it's not that we want to compromise the story, it's just that we really need to be eligible for adsense for now. With the right ads system underneath, we can continue to run daily ads or cost per impression ads as we can sell them, but in the meantime we'll have a backup system there to be sure there's no such thing as real downtime.


I think that's the best way and from what I gather adsense is the best of the lot for such things. Well at least for now as there seems to be decent amount of interest in medium sized websites so new things will probably be out at some point. Still I doubt the “stigma” associated with adult things will ever go away for legal reasons if nothing else.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 10:45 pm 
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Rakishi wrote:
Imp-Chan wrote:
Exactly.

That's a large part of why we're working on relettering the comic, and in a few cases switching out the pages with censored versions... it's not that we want to compromise the story, it's just that we really need to be eligible for adsense for now. With the right ads system underneath, we can continue to run daily ads or cost per impression ads as we can sell them, but in the meantime we'll have a backup system there to be sure there's no such thing as real downtime.


I think that's the best way and from what I gather adsense is the best of the lot for such things. Well at least for now as there seems to be decent amount of interest in medium sized websites so new things will probably be out at some point. Still I doubt the “stigma” associated with adult things will ever go away for legal reasons if nothing else.


Yes, everything has to be dumbed-down for some stupid mothers and religious whackos, these days. I have a similar problem with content that is adult but not porn. Between advertisers like Google and Publishers that are scared of religious content/themes, the print industry is getting pretty well filterd. Note that Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Devils and Angels were published by a Brit outfit, as were Salman's Satanic Verses.

Regarding the legal reasons, those shouldn't exist in the first place. America is NOT a free country.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:52 pm 
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Slamlander wrote:
Yes, everything has to be dumbed-down for some stupid mothers and religious whackos, these days.


Seems to me that its always been that way and that it's actually better now (*cough* comic code *cough*) than before. Change is slow and I can only hope it is for the better in this case.

Slamlander wrote:
I have a similar problem with content that is adult but not porn. Between advertisers like Google and Publishers that are scared of religious content/themes, the print industry is getting pretty well filterd. Note that Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Devils and Angels were published by a Brit outfit, as were Salman's Satanic Verses.


I agree as do probably a number of people who work on such things, many probably don't even realize just how restrictive the TOS are on the systems. Sadly while business people and lawyers are an overly paranoid bunch at times in this case they are somewhat justified. American society really needs to be whacked upside the head for its continual prudishness.

Slamlander wrote:
Regarding the legal reasons, those shouldn't exist in the first place. America is NOT a free country.


Probably not but they do exist, and to be honest every country lacks freedom in one way or another,


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:15 am 
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Slamlander wrote:
Yes, everything has to be dumbed-down for some stupid mothers and religious whackos, these days. I have a similar problem with content that is adult but not porn.


That's why I've been pushing Impy and Poe to explore the SciFi/Fantasy side of things more than the Anime/Manga side. There's "mature" anime and manga, and there's a lot of kids stuff that adults like too, but there isn't much adult-oriented. Fantasy and SciFi carry a lot more truck with the older crowds, and hopefully DragonCon will provide the Impster some leads to new ad revenue that she hasn't been finding at the anime venues.

Plus, the Build Team from Mythbusters is going to be there. I want Grant to sign my graphing calculator.

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