New Years resolutions and the business side of depcom

This year I decided to make a New Years resolution for myself: This will be the year I will try to run comics more from a business point, and my personal goal is to make a profit of $100 every month in 2014.

In the grand scheme of things this is both a small goal and a lofty one. It’s a small goal in that $100 a month isn’t going to make me rich or make me quit my job or anything like that. But it’s also a lofty one because I’ve been doing this stuff pretty much for free since 1997, and I’ve always stumbled badly on trying to derive some kind of income from my work. To make a goal like this and try to make it work myself is something really new for me.

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to do this. It’s not easy, but because I’m focusing only on Depcom it’s much easier than it would have been for my other comics. Here’s some of the things I’ve been trying:

1) PayPal Donations: Thanks to the incredible generosity of a number of people, this has been the most successful way of generating income from the comic. There are a couple of problems with this: it’s not stable income and PayPal Japan doesn’t like to allow individuals donations so I can’t make the process any easier — people have to login to PayPal and send money the hard way. The next trip to Canada I take I will reopen my bank account there, and hopefully be able to run it from Canada where the rules aren’t so strict.

2) deviantART prints: This seemed like a good idea, offer people the ability to buy prints from deviantART and I would receive 20%. I spent hours and hours uploading all the raw images and formatting each one for the various print sizes and merchandise sizes only to have one sale. Perhaps this option is not obvious enough on the site, but it has been a waste of time.

3) Google AdSense: This was a bit of a battle to get accepted but I did in the end, and I had it all set up by the time I was linked by i09 and my traffic soared. Google AdSense is not a lot of money at all — I’ll probably average $0.20 to $0.40 a day with it — but it’s money that happens without me having to do anything. Currently I have an ad in the sidebar and one at the bottom of old posts so they aren’t particulaly distracting, and I’ll keep it there.  As a sidenote I banned the ads from Scientology — I do NOT want to send anyone there.

One of the things I would like to try this year is an eBook. Perhaps the first 100 strips of Depcom or A Heart Made of Glass or something like that. I’ve been playing with things like PressBooks (too expensive) but I really don’t know where to start with this, in terms of software, templates, etc. I am truly clueless about this but I know it’s a step I should take.

Anyways, I will write more about this, this is a learning experience for me and I&d like to communicate my experiences in this blog. More to come.

Recently…

I haven’t posted recently, but I’ve been doing a few things that I’m a little proud of. The biggest one is that I wrote my first plugin for WordPress. You can see this plugin in action on the www.depressioncomix.com site if you look at any of the individual posts. On the right hand side bar, there will be a widget with post information, including some simple navigation where you can go to the next post or previous post with a thumbnail of the corresponding comic. Nothing earth-shattering, but WordPress is not exactly suited for comics, especially a vertical comic. I plan to make more plugins to increase the functionality of the site. It’s also a good excuse to learn php and css, and eventually I would like to create my own theme for the site.

See all the love in the sky.

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Working on new depcoms. These two will be #153 and #154. It’s been a while since the last update, but I have been working. I’ve been adding depcom to Pinterest and deviantART, and doing some infrastructure stuff on the site.

The deviantART site is the most work, but I’ve already gained a number of new readers because of it. Furthermore, I’ve also made the strips available as prints, postcards, greeting cards and fridge magnets. I stayed away from the mouse pads and mugs but I actually got requests for mugs, so starting with #51, mugs too (I’ll go back and add the rest later). The merchandise can be found here: http://depressioncomix.deviantart.com/prints/  If you buy, remember that you’re supporting an artist!

Anyways, just an update because I’ve been fairly silent lately. Go back to what you were doing.

Money making ventures

Lately I’ve been concerned about how to engage in activities that provide a bit of income. To be honest, my life here in Japan is comfortable. I have a full time job that pays the bills, and on evenings and weekends I do personal English tutoring. I’m not going to be rich or anything, but I’m doing okay.

BUT.

I bet a lot of you know how it is. You do a job that you’re kind of good at, you can do well, and it’s somewhat enjoyable. But there’s that gnawing part of you. That side of you that won’t shut up, and it’s telling you, “you KNOW that’s not what you REALLY want to do.”

And it’s right. Right now my passion is in drawing depression comix. But I want to draw more. I want to draw more Suicide Girl comics. I want to develop some illustrated short stories. And then there’s the Thin H Line, which got put on the backburner because depcom got unexpectedly more popular.

Basically what I want is to justify reducing my work load a little and focus more on the art, like I did in the good old days when I was drawing like five to ten pages a week. Sadly, when I was doing all that, I didn’t give a thought to how to promote myself or try to make money because I thought one day someone would come along and give me my break. This was a stupid, stupid thought and to nobody’s surprise no one came along. It may be too late but now I understand that I have to do it all myself. I have to give myself a future because no one else will. Life never gives you what you think you deserve. And not realizing that has held me back many wasted years and contributed heavily to my depression.

So now I gotta find some way to make this work. I WILL become professional. Somehow.

I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.

— Lester Burnham, American Beauty.

One thing I’ve been working on is the depression comix account at Deviantart ( http://depressioncomix.deviantart.com ). Right now comix 1 to 15 are posted… a small beginning, I guess… but anyone can buy printed art there from high quality scans I made. Art prints, canvas, greeting cards, postcards and magnets. My cut is like between 15 and 20%, but it’s a start to make the work available for purchase. I am also highly considering putting scans of the comic up for sale for home printing, and the cost would be whatever one wanted to pay for it, a kind of gift-donation system. Then it’s on to other comics, perhaps pdf book versions of depcom and Sexy Losers under the same “pay what you want” system. I have other stuff I’m working on too, like t-shirts.

Of course I’m always listening to ideas. Being in Japan doesn’t help admittedly. I can’t attend cons or print stuff locally without asking for mammoth sums for shipping. But I will find a way to become professional. My dream is back, and this time I’m not going to let depression stop me.

Various updates

I started some things that I talked about in the last update. One, I’ve begun to add gallery and slideshows to the site. I’ve created four so far of groups of twenty strips, however, the advanced settings were incompatible with the theme I was using, so I had to change themes. It’s not as atmospheric as the last one, which is kinda too bad. But this one does have a cool carousel thingie and allows me to have widgets on the main page.

Another thing I’ve done is imported the depcom primer from the WordPress site. It’s quite old and rusty but it I think it will do for the time being. I hope to refine it and add some pretty pictures to make it more visually appealing.

And finally, the rescans and search functions for all depcoms are nearly completed, and will probably be polished off on the weekend.

I know none of this matters to anyone, but I do want to improve the site in a big way. All suggestions welcome. Thank you.

Letters to depcom

Doing depression comix has been incredibly helpful to me in many ways, and it’s wonderful when people tell me that it may have had some positive effect on them. The other day I received this message on Tumblr:

i’d appreciate if you didn’t publish this. i just wanted to say i am extremely thankful for your comic because it is what motivated me to finally see a psychologist. it made me realize and take seriously that what i had been going through might be mental illness, and not just me malingering or “being lazy” or “weak” and whatnot. thank you so much.

(afterwards permission was granted to post this but only under “anonymous”)

This post made me think about how mental illness is perceived as some weakness of the mind, but I believe it takes true courage to go about trying to improve your situation. There are many, many people who do not have a mental illness but cannot do what they need to do to help themselves. Having a mental illness has nothing to do with a lack of courage but it certainly tests it.

I’m glad that the writer decided to get help. It’s a courageous decision and if depression comix helped make that decision in some small way it was worth doing.

Today I received another post, this time sent through the contact form on the depression comix site. This one was sent completely anonymous (you don’t need to put an e-mail address in the contact form).

Your comics helped me see what I was actually feeling and helped inspire me to get help. So thank you for helping me to see that I am not alone, and this isn’t how life really is.

I can’t send a reply to this person but I can thank them here. Thank you.

I myself am inspired by this. And I hope others can be inspired to get help. We don’t need to be alone and we don’t have to do this alone.

Workin’ on the next depcom

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I’m in a Tully’s drawing the next depcom. Got it completely inked, just have to color it. This is a very special depression comix because it contains a first: it is the first time a character in the strip uses “depressed”, “depressing”, or “depression”. I’ve been avoiding these words and it’s taken me 144 strips to get over it.

New depcom characters sketch

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One of the nice things about drawing a comic like depression comix is that I can add characters here and there and I don’t have to worry about things like names or plots. The characters are completely interchangeable.

I have a couple of comics in the works and I decided I needed some new faces. So here they are. They may change at will.

When I was in the deepest pit of depression, drawing was so painful. Recently it’s become fun again, something I like doing rather than force myself to. You can enjoy things again. It’s possible. I hope none of you have to draw 143 pages of comics to do it.