Demon Patreon Campaign Reaches $1000/monthon October 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm
At 9:59pm last night, some reader named Rika Takahashi bought a complete subscription to Demon via patreon, tipping my campaign over the $1000/month mark. Upon hearing the news, I pulled a chord releasing 1000 balloons from the ceiling as a brass band played “Do doo do do doo do do dooooo”. Not really, but I’ll tell you, it was a pretty big deal.
For those who don’t know how Patreon works, it’s basically like Kickstarter. One important difference is that the people who give money are rebranded as “patrons” rather than investors. For those who have ever thrown up a Paypal donate button on your website, I’m sure you’ve been touched by the heartwarming generosity of the donations you received. But the month after, that button just becomes another design element like the logo of Jimmy in the upper left hand corner that everyone ignores. The evil genius of Patreon is that they figured out a way to harness people’s generosity but then like some crazy jiujitsu master, redirect their inherent laziness against them. When you sign up to give someone $1/month on patreon, you’re basically letting them surreptitiously take that amount of money from your account every month until the day you take 30 seconds to cancel it. This sounds straightforward to the point of being tautological. But this banking practice is so powerful, it’s actually illegal is most other countries. Thankfully for me, the banking lobby here in the States is pretty powerful.
I realize describing patreon in this way may cause me to drop below $1000 again, which would break my heart. I know it’s an arbitrary number, but the $1000 mark is significant for a couple reasons. First, it amounts to the opportunity cost of not going with a larger publisher for this project. Second, someone could theoretically live on $1000. They’d have to be childless, live in a hovel in Detroit with 4 other dudes eating beans and rice 3 times a day. But man, if you were to describe that life to my 20 year old self, I’d tell you that sounds pretty nice. I know a lot of my readers here are cartoonists so maybe you can relate to that feeling of knowing so clearly in your bones that you were meant to do this one thing. But then there you are screwing in widgets all day, waiting for that whistle to blow so you can bike home and draw again. When I started out making comics, I didn’t want to be rich or famous. I just wanted to make more comics. I still do.
I started posting Demon online with a basic price discrimination model: give away the comic online for free, sell booklets and PDFs subscriptions via patreon and back issues and original art via paypal. I figured teenagers will probably read Demon online for free, 27 year olds who can afford to spend $1 might prefer to read Demon as a PDF and old fogeys like me who need to read Demon off of paper will get the booklets. As I’m typing this up, I realize it’s hardly original. It’s a minor tweak on the dominant business model which is to give away the comic online for free and sell ads, merchandise and collections. No judgements, but for most people the amount of promotion and merchandising takes up so much time I got to wonder if they’re just better off screwing in widgets again.
I know I’ve had some low moments myself but I think now that I’ve reached the $1000 mark, I can officially declare the Demon webcomic a financial “success”. Of course all this begs the question of how much of this model can be replicated by other cartoonists. Having recently come off of APE and SPX, my dream would be to contribute to a model that could be turned into some sort of pill form that I could just toss at the kids like candy. There’s some things that can’t be replicated by a cartoonist just starting out of course. I have a 15 year career, a popular children’s book, something of a fanbase that would follow me from my interactive books and graphic novels to an online comic. Then again, that really didn’t amount to very much in the end.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying my 15 year career and dozen or so award winning graphic novels and interactive comics accounted for nothing. I’m just saying it accounted for exactly 8% as much as one review in io9. I guess this is good news and bad news for new cartoonists. The good news is I feel there really is no seniority in comics. It’s the work you make, not how well you can socialize or promote your name. Your name could be Jaime Hernandez, people will read or not read your comics based on its merits and whether they connect with it. The bad news is you really need an io9 review.
And I do, suckas! And with it comes $1000!!!! Thank you Rika Takahashi wherever you are. But most of all I want to thank YOOOUUUUUU, my readers who have been supporting me financially and emotionally. Signing up to be a patron, sending me the nicest emails, letting their facebook friends know about the project and leaving insightful hilarious comments. Thanks for everything!!!