Reader surveys are an excellent way to get a better feel for your audience. Does your comic skew towards female reader? Do they tend to be younger or older? What are their other interests? would they support a Kickstarter for a new book? What rewards would make them Patreon backers?The content you are trying to access is only available to members.
Subless: Predicting a fail
Subless is a new crowdfunding service based on an old idea. Users put money into a Subless account, and every time they visit a creator who also uses Subless, the service enacts a micropayment from the user’s account to the […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
ComicLab Ep 242 — San Diego Comic Con review
Cartoonist Dave Kellett has returned from Comic-Con International in San Diego, and talks about his first convention since the pandemic began. ON THIS WEEK’S SHOW… Dave Kellett reviews Comic-Con International in San Diego Live show at the Schulz Museum Nov. […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
Start planning holiday merchandise — NOW
Merry Christmas — and Happy New Year! Set down the sunblock, and step away from the pool. It’s time to start planning for December and January. I know it’s hard to get into the spirit, but this is the time […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
How many panels per page?
A fellow creator once shared that they were told that a comics page should have between 4 and 7 panels per page. Not only is this bad advice, but it removes the focus from where it ought to be.Read more
Telegraphing a joke
Writing a good joke is a balancing act. There are so many ways to upset the delicate harmonies that work together to make something funny. Luckily, there are a few missteps that have recognizable patterns. One of them is telegraphing […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
Manga-inspired word balloons — and why you might want to rethink them...
It’s pretty easy to see the influence of manga on comics being produced today. Scrolling through Webtoons, it’s obvious that an entire generation of young comics creators cut their teeth on comics originally made in Japan. In general, that’s tremendous! […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
ComicLab Ep 241 — “My friends won’t buy my comics!”...
Cartoonists Dave Kellett and Brad Guigar give some advice to a cartoonist whose friends want his comics for free. Is this an entitlement issue? It is… but not in the way he thinks. ON THIS WEEK’S SHOW… My friends won’t […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
Q: I have merchandise I need to mail. I’ve never had this much stuff to mail out at one time before, but my local post office reeeeeeally sucks. So, it would be better for my sanity to do as much at home as possible (weighing/postage/labels).
A.: Congratulations on having great problems to solve! Here’s a quick primer on getting your shipping in ship shape…
Features of Endicia that I appreciate include…
- Reduced prices on postage
- Scheduling package pick-up at my front door
- Automatic address verification
- Package tracking
- Customs forms for international shipping
- Automatic synchronization of new postage rates
- Flexibility in shipping dates
Looking at their site, it looks as if these features are also available with Stamps.com.
Unfortunately, neither Endicia nor Stamps.com seem to be offering any specials that include the hardware you’ll need to set up your shipping station. You will need to buy a scale and a label printer. I recommend Dymo for both — especially if you choose Endicia. Dymo and Endicia are both owned by Newell, so their products work together nicely.
Go with the slightly larger Dymo M25 digital postage scale.* You can get a cheaper version, but it tops out at five pounds. You’ll need more than that for orders of multiple books. Rest assured, if you, like me, like to ship boxes of books to comic conventions, you can always use a bathroom scale for packages greater than 25 pounds. Just remember to round up to the next pound!
You can’t go wrong with the Dymo 4XL. It prints an all-purpose shipping label — and it works nicely with other back-end crowdfunding solutions like Backerkit.
ULine sells shipping supplies. I prefer East Coast Packaging. There’s also Agrov, PackingSupplies.com and several others. You can find the right-sized boxes for the things you ship most. Do a search for the term “bookfold.” These are special boxes designed to ship different quantities of books. Here are a couple good starts.
- 12⅛” x 9⅛” x 2” — Great all-purpose bookfolds for 8½ x 11 books.
- 8¾″ x 2¾″— These are incredibly cheap, but sturdy, corrugated boxes at around $0.37 each, no matter how many you buy. They come in bundles of 25 as well, so there’s not a huge investment up front. Why I choose this size is, not only can I fit multiple products, but if I go down to a more form-fitting box, I have no room for “crush” and the cost actually goes up.
- 12″ x 8″ x 6″ — I order much fewer of these boxes, but at only $0.43 each, they provide me a cheap alternative for shipping things that are too big to fit in my standard size box.
Protect Your Contents
Boxes serve as the first line of defense for protecting your contents. So having quality corrugated boxes certainly serves that purpose, however as your boxes travel, one of the biggest sources of damage will actually be the book banging against the inside of the box. The extra space in a package is important, because if/when the box gets damaged; you want that cushion in between the outside world and your cargo.
Before boxing-up your goods, seal them in an air-tight plastic bag. This does two things:
- It offers a “mint condition” impression to the recipient.
- It protects the contents from the dirt and water it may be exposed to along the delivery route.
Water is a particularly important concern. There are several way s your package can be exposed to water damage in transit, and even a little moisture can ruin paper-based merchandise like books and prints.
Filling the extra space is important as well. I investigated numerous filling options, such as bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and even the type of inflatable cushioning systems like you get when you order from Amazon.
While the air cushions are cool, they’re also expensive. The inflator will run you about $129, and the air cushions are $73 for 250 5″ x 8″ bags. If you use 2 bags per shipment, that’s nearly $0.60 per box. That’s too expensive for my tastes.
Bubble wrap also becomes too expensive for me, when you measure out how much you’d need to adequately fill and wrap your books.
So in this case, simpler proves to be better. U-Line offers a 20 cubic foot bag of packing peanuts for around $25-$26. I’ve filled hundreds of orders and only used a quarter of the bag so far. That puts my cost per package at roughly $0.03 each.
And pick up a good tape dispenser. You’ll need it — as well as a few rolls of tape.
You mentioned having a lot of items to ship. In the past, I’ve used Backerkit to fulfill Kickstarter orders. It has its own postage system, and one if its core strengths is the ability to assemble orders into batches. Endicia does have instructions on batch-printing labels, and so does Stamps.com.
- If you have 4-6 weeks for delivery, use “Media Mail” when shipping books (and books only) — but only when you have about 4-6 weeks for delivery. (This is also useful for shipping a large number of books to a distributor or comic-convention.) Delivery Confirmation is available for Media Mail.
- You can schedule a home pick-up. Go to USPS.com and click on Schedule a Pick-up. (It’s in the red bar across the top.) Choose Carrier Pick-up, and follow the directions. You can leave your packages at a predetermined place (and even leave a note for the postal employee to guide him or her to where you put them). As long as you notify them before 2 a.m. CST the day of your scheduled pick-up, you’re in the clear. Just make sure your packages are sealed and ready for shipping (including postage).
- Free supplies! Yup, the United States Postal Service will send you Priority Mail Flat Rate envelopes and boxes and even Priority Mail tape at no charge. Fair warning: If you use the Priority Mail tape on a package, they’re going to insist that you ship that package Priority Mail. It’s kind of a thing with them.
- Don’t wait in line. You can handle a lot of your postage online. You can print and pay postage at USPS.com and at Paypal.com. (Through Paypal, you can ship using either the post office or UPS.) And, of course, there are systems such as those sold by Endicia (Webcomics.com members are eligible for a special price) that enable you to print postage in your studio.
Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes
As one Webcomics.com member points out, you might benefit from Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes:
- They’re free from the Post Office
- They’re sturdy and offer good protection
- If your item fits inside the box, it ships at one, flat rate.
*Disclosure — These are associate links. I will receive a stipend if you purchase using these links.
Cartoonists Dave Kellett and Brad Guigar discuss word balloons! How do you find the look that suits your comic best?
ON THIS WEEK‘S SHOW...
- Word balloon aesthetics
- Kickstarter stretch goals
- UPDATE: Free ComicLab pins at SDCC
- UPDATE: Gannett slashes op-ed pages
- Do Patreon milestone rewards still work?
- Is Ziggy the best comic of all time?
Today is a great time to bump up your ComicLab membership to the $10 tier! Patreon backers at that level will get exclusive access to livestream recording sessions — as well as an archive of previous livestreams!
You get great rewards when you join the ComicLab Community on Patreon
- $2 — Early access to episodes
- $5 — Submit a question for possible use on the show AND get the exclusive ProTips podcast. Plus $2-tier rewards.
- $10 — Gain access to the ComicLab livestreamed recording sessions (including an archive of past livestreams), plus $5-tier rewards
Listen to ComicLab on…
This is one of the biggest misconceptions among creators who use Patreon. Patreon is not designed to enable you to grow your audience. Patreon has one job that it accomplishes it remarkably well: To help you monetize the audience you have already built. If you’re expecting to use Patreon to build your readership, you’re using a screwdriver to try to hammer a nail.The content you are trying to access is only available to members.
As independent comics creators, we tend to get to know many of our readers very well. We see their names on every Kickstarter campaign. They were the first to sign up for our Patreon. We see their names on the merchandise we mail out. It’s easy to assume that out audience is comprised of the same people, year after year. We may add a few — and we may lose a few — but the makeup of the group is consistent. But we’d be wrong.The content you are trying to access is only available to members.
Rodney Dangerfield was one of the greatest “second acts” in entertainment history. His first attempt at comedy was so bad that he later quipped, “at the time I quit, I was the only one who knew I quit.” But what happened next holds an important lesson for the rest of us who are struggling to build a career in the creative arts.
After leaving stand-up comedy in the fifties, Dangerfield became an aluminum-siding salesperson to help support his family. Over the next several years, he sold aluminum siding from door to door. He doubtlessly felt like a failure. He battled clinical depression at this time and his first marriage fell apart.
Ten years later, he took another shot at comedy. And this time, he launched a career that would make him one of the top names in stand-up comedy. It turns out, selling aluminum siding is great practice for a comedian. After all, to succeed as a door-to-door salesperson you have to connect with your audience — and fast. And it helps to throw in a few jokes. Otherwise, the homeowner is going to slam the door in your face. All of that experience Rodney was building in sales was also honing his skills as a comedian.
So what about you? Are you selling aluminum siding today? Maybe you, like Dangerfield, think of yourself as a failure as a result. But consider this — maybe what you’re doing today is preparing you for the next phase of your life. And knowing that, what are you going to do today to make it count?
Don’t quit your day job
So let’s talk about day jobs. There are two types of day job — and the both have pros and cons for a person who wants to someday becomes a full-time cartoonist.
- Punch-in / Punch-out: This is a job that you take to simply pay the bills. Menial and uninspiring, it’s the perfect way to earn money and benefits without feeling as if you’re wasting your creative energy. Best of all, when it’s time to punch out, you leave all of your responsibilities behind to focus on comics.
- Creative outlet: This is a job that enables you to put your creativity to good use on the job. You can use your skills as an artist to climb the ladder — and you’ll probably earn a much better wage. But be careful — this can be draining. Furthermore, it’s very easy to become sidetracked and lose sight of your goals as a cartoonist completely.
Making the transition to full-time
Every cartoonist dreams of quitting her day job and posting the announcement for her readers to celebrate: “Today, I am a full-time webcartoonist!” But when is it the right time to make that transition?
The answer is going to depend on the webcartoonist in question. (Is she supporting a family or is she young and single?) It also depends on the amount of money that the day job brings in — and the benefits associated with the job. The bigger the family and the better the day job, the harder it is to leave.
It comes down to a life choice — with no right answer. Some cartoonists will choose the option that makes them a full-time cartoonist, and others will decide it’s more prudent to split their time between the two (and reap the benefits from both).
One person who had made the transition to full-time freelance (which is very similar to full-time webcartoonist) described it to me as “hitting the wall.” At a certain point he knew that he couldn’t make his own business take off without spending more time on it — time that he had previously been spending on his day job.
Only by quitting that day job was he able to push his career to the point at which his own business was making money similar to what he had been making while working two jobs. And, I would imagine, there was an interim period during which he was making much, much less. Dave Kellett (sheldoncomics.com) has said on the Webcomics Weekly podcast (ww.libsyn.com) that before he took the leap to full-time cartooning, he and his wife had saved up enough money to cover living expenses for two years. This money was leap-of-faith insurance.
Once Dave was ready to leave his day job, this money was his safety net to allow his family to weather any unforeseen bumps in the road.
So, it’s not a question with a definitive answer. Each of us, if we’re good enough and work hard, will find ourselves staring at our own wall. And each of us will have to decide to either punch through or assimilate the wall into our lifes.
But understand this: Making the leap to full time isn’t the Finish Line. It’s the Starting Line. You’ll work harder than you ever worked holding down your day job and your comics job. On the bright side, you’ll probably enjoy it twice as much.
Cartoonists Dave Kellett and Brad Guigar discuss the importance of mindset in building a career. If you search for excuses, you’ll find excuses. If you search for solutions, you’ll find solutions.
ON THIS WEEK’S SHOW…
- Choosing to find solutions instead of wallowing on failure
- Great How-to books for comics
- Releasing a longform comic one panel a day??
- Participating in a critique as a novice
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“I’d buy that on a T-shirt” is the oldest lie in webcomics. As soon as you release the shirt, the reader who suggested it disappears faster than a Dracula in front of a crucifix. And yet, many of us allow ourselves to be misguided by readers every day. How can we do better?The content you are trying to access is only available to members.
I created a worksheet / study guide for my Arts Entrepreneurship class, and I thought it might be helpful to post it here, as well. It talks about the simple math behind correctly determining the best price for your merchandise.The content you are trying to access is only available to members.