Shop Talk: Understanding the Web and why post for FREE?

Why post for FREE?

I read an article by a very distinguished comic creator that ranted about all sorts of issues on basically why they make little money on the web with their comics. I also read a response to that article that basically asked some really tough questions of that creator and their accusations and their excuses on why they thought they were getting screwed.

Now that made me think a little. Ok it made me think a lot. So I’ve decided to talk about why I choose to post my tale online and put my story out there for free, in hopes others will like it and post about it.

As the times change so much the game plan change. The internet if used right can be a powerful tool for the independent comic creators. Independents and small press these days are in a jam. Diamond is not too kind towards them and there are even fewer distribution opportunities for these independents. It is not like the late 80’s and 90’s which were the heyday for independents. The cost for production is just way to high to print 4000 books and pray to be able to sell them so you can just do issue 2. (That to me is old school print mentality).

So what do we do???? What can we do. Well many of the independents have found ways to adapt and that is by providing FREE content online. Posting our stories, in hopes that our audience grows and spreads the word. We are adapting our game in an industry that focus more on mainstream titles. We give up sales to tell our stories, yet we also know that if we keep it up sales do come… It’s a interesting dance.

So how do I approach it. Well I decided to post the whole story online. My friend Jason of and I have talked in length about this philosophy. We want you to keep coming back to our worlds, we want you tell your friends about our worlds and we want you to be part of our worlds. So we as a creators need to be mindful of that and the promises we make with our viewers.

The main key is follow a schedule and don’t deviate. You say you’ll update 2 or 3 days a week, well keep that schedule. If your story is important to you will keep to your schedule. I realize that many independents hold other jobs and have huge commitments, yet you can tell who gets it and who does not.  Some of us are lucky to work for big production houses and other fields in the art world, yet as the game changes and independents and small press gets pushed further to the side, you got to keep trudging. Success happens with time, not overnight, I don’t care how big your name is, if you can’t keep your commitment to your fans the web will be very unkind to you and your rep will crash down a lot faster than in the print industry. So if you cannot commit don’t play the game.

Really, this is a poor mans game to get things started. Yet as in Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come. That truly is the key, building it. The web is a community based entity. You cannot force commerce on it, commerce comes to it. As people find your comic and your worlds they pass it on. As more and more people find you, then the sales come, yet only if you have product to sell and it’s easy to navigate to. This is were stepping up your game is important. First you got to learn how to engage your fanbase. Many love to comment and if you spend a few hours a week talking back, people enjoy that. It makes you real to them. Second, learn to use the web. Make your site easy to navigate and ecommerce compatible. Figure it out, if you can’t figure it out you will be left behind as print slowly goes away. Really it’s all up to the creator on how much they are willing to put into their world and site. If your site looks like something still from 1998 and you are unapproachable well, then maybe that’s the reason traffic is low.

I fully understand, that book sales can be slow at times, especially since the story is online, but it is always growing. I find other baskets in the art world to put my eggs in also. I realize I missed the 90’s where independents and small press where king…yet I am not missing the 2010 era where in a few soon years webcomics will be the norm. I learned to adapt. You see while making an income is important, I also love to tell me story and no matter how many times I fall down, I’m going to get back up.

Is print dead, certainly not. You just have to learn to use it with the web. I still love holding printed books and reading them at my own leisure, that is why I go and buy, when available, collections of my favorite webcomics and comics.  I have found I am not alone either as people pick up my series in print form.

The other thing is I hope people, review, blog, post and talk about my artwork. As an independent, small press creator, I’ll take all the love I can get. I also find that it’s important to give love to other great creators as well. Honestly I am not so stuck on myself that it has to be all about me. There are plenty others, far better than I that need to be promoted and are in the same boat as I. Which is proving that the web is and incredibly valuable tool in marketing, sales, and promotion.

So that is why I post for FREE, that is why I comment all the time. It’s because I enjoy telling a story and enjoying engaging with those that like what I do. I get it, the world is a changing and I am willing to change with it….. are you?



Samuel » 7 Dec 2013 » Reply

Hello new reader here very nice art and story. However based on the huge amount available online, I am surprised that there is no PDF/eBook available.
Would be glad to support the artist, but I have stopped buying dead tree for my reading for a long time know. I'll check from time to time the store since there's an eBook category and hope to find The Bean available to read off-line on my tablet 🙂

Kiarelle » 30 Apr 2011 » Reply

Others have left such great comments; but one thing that really has kept me coming back and eagerly checking in on the pages is your comments. Not even to me, just seeing how you interact with all your followers is really encouraging. I'm a illustration student myself and this is something I do want to get into; I love your comic because it is a epic fantasy story with so many details and such attention to them. Its visually appealing and different from other styles I've seen. But it really is the artist that has made this my favorite web comic.

I love that I feel comfortable posting on here, that I enjoy chatting with you and that you post such informative blogs that are so insightful. You are inspiring, in multiple ways. So thank you 🙂 And keep up the great work.

    Trav the bean » 2 May 2011 » Reply

    i enjoy the comments myself. I find them useful on gauging the story, and also some great ideas creep in every now and then. Plus I just enjoying meeting a wide variety of people.

Hoomi » 29 Nov 2010 » Reply

The point about the schedule is spot-on. As a reader, nothing tends to alienate me faster than missing updates, and – worse – no word from the artist. People tend to understand real-world issues, and will forgive the occasional missed update, if the artist is still "present" on the page and keeps the reader updated as to when we can expect the next comic.

When the artist just ends up disappearing for months or even a year or more, they shouldn't be surprised when the readers also disappear. It becomes very hard to care about an artist, when it feels the artist doesn't care about the audience. It's even harder to care about the characters, when it's obvious the artist doesn't care about them, either.

    Trav the bean » 29 Nov 2010 » Reply

    yeah that drives me nuts as well. Since there is little compensation at first they tend to see the comic as not important when reality it is just the opposite. good point there

Courtney » 26 Nov 2010 » Reply

Yet another excellent write up Travis! Bean and Jason Brubaker's, Remind, are two webcomics that I just can't get enough of. What makes these two webcomics so good for me is that they both obviously have great story, art, and regular updates. BUT…on top of all of that, they both have to most honest, insightful, and entertaining blogs to accompany the great material they already offer. Don't take this the wrong way Travis (because it's meant as a compliment), but I enjoy coming to your webcomic for your blogs, just as much as I do for the story and art itself. Keep up the awesome work!

    Trav the bean » 28 Nov 2010 » Reply

    Jason does a fantastic job. I appreciate the compliment on the blogs. I like jason, really believe that there is a lot of talent out there that needs to be supported and the more help the merrier.

    Thanks for hanging out with me.

Patrick Thunstrom » 24 Nov 2010 » Reply

This is a wonderfully observant post, Trav, and these thoughts apply to almost all analog media anymore, including table top games and fiction. Considering my indie game design, I've had to debate the merits of 'free' options and 'impulse' price points for digital versions of the game. It seems 'free' versions of media open up people's awareness, and I've now seen musicians, authors, game designers, and of course, comic creators all testing these waters.

Future is going to be interesting for us artistic types.

    Trav the bean » 25 Nov 2010 » Reply

    it is going to be an interesting future- yet a fun one

ironhenry » 24 Nov 2010 » Reply

I enjoy the shop talk Trav.

SpandexDoom » 24 Nov 2010 » Reply

Another excellent blog post, Trav.
If you'd like my reader's perspective, I posted on Trents (Twilight Monk) the other day.
(I'm actually the one who posted the link for him to find you).
I find it semi-amusing that you've dicovered that webcomics, as with the so many other walks of life,have individuals dedicated to their craft, and gratefully accept the accolades and prosperity that come with the honing and perfecting of said craft. Then on the flipside, there are indidviduals that practice their craft, for good or ill, but DEMAND the accolades and prosperity. They then wonder why the readership numbers and financial windfalls don't just drop in their laps. As with anything else in life, these positivives can only be earned through hard work, dedication, and perserverance. You yourself stated it: some get it, and some don't.
You're doing good, Kiddo. Keep up the good work 🙂

    Trav the bean » 25 Nov 2010 » Reply

    hey you called me kiddo:)

    and i agree with what you are saying- trent also gets it.

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