How to Kick Ass at Kickstarter (Video)

Last month I had the good fortune to return to The Animation Workshop in Denmark to teach a week-long course in their Graphic Storytelling department. You might remember the talk I gave two years ago, The View from Aloft, where I distilled my foundational philosophy about social media, online communities, and gratitude economies. This presentation follows up on that framework by talking specifically about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Thanks to the school’s exceptional video rental equipment there’s now a very nice recording up on YouTube:

I get a lot of questions from folks looking to learn more about this weird practice. It can be the most soul-crushing, time-consuming, heart-tormenting process, but also an incredible jolt of energy, affirmation, and community involvement. Between the generous souls who support me monthly on Patreon and the people who launch individual projects of mine via Kickstarter there’s no doubt that my career would look very different without crowdfunding.

Everything that’s made my campaigns work feels like it’s come from watching my friends get smarter and better every time they launch a project, so it’s great to have this recording to pay it forward to more people. I hope some of you find it useful if you ever launch your own projects (and I hope you do).

Good luck out there!

Something Huge (Hourly Comic Day 2018)

It’s time for another installment of my favorite comics holiday: Hourly Comic Day! Every year on February 1st, creators around the world draw a panel (or panels) for every hour they’re awake. This is my eighth year participating, and I love it more and more each time around. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on where I’m at in my career, what’s changed in the past year, and how I’m feeling about the future.

(Full disclosure: while I penciled all eight of these pages on February first, I inked and painted about five of them on February second. I always want to watercolor my hourlies and never let myself do it so this year I got indulgent. Worth it.)

These were all drawn on 6×9″ Strathmore mixed media paper with a mix of Kuretake and PITT brush pens, Daniel Smith watercolor, and a 2H pencil.

Thanks for reading! You can check out my previous entries for Hourly Comic Day at the following links: 2017201620152014201320122011.

To Feel Strong

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies and strength and power and how we look vs. how we feel and what it means to love yourself, so I distilled all that thinking into a little autobio comic. It’s been a slow, fascinating journey to where I’m at now, and I’m far from finished. It’s just good to feel a change. Enjoy!

Inner Critic Investigation Week, Day 7

This is it, everyone! It’s Day Seven of Inner Critic Investigation Week, the writing prompt series I’ve been collaborating on with writing coach Deb Norton.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Get a pen and a sheet of paper.
  2. Set a timer for six minutes.
  3. WRITE. Ask your Inner Critic the question and find out what they have to say. Keep your pen moving, even if you’re writing lies or “Blah blah blah” over and over.

Our seventh and final prompt is:

By now you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what your Inner Critic doesn’t like. What happens if you deliberately try to push their buttons? Make a list of everything you can think of that will make your Critic hoppin’ mad. Maybe it’s doing a deliberately horrible drawing. Maybe it’s singing loudly in the shower when that voice inside is screaming at you to be quiet because the neighbors will judge you. Maybe it’s eating a whole pizza in one sitting. There are no wrong answers, just list as many things as you can think of.

 

I’d love to do a round-up post next week with some anonymous entries from various people’s writing exercises. If you’d be willing to share, email me some excerpts at lucypcbellwood@gmail.com, or leave ’em in the comments below.

Thank you so much for following along with this experiment! If you’d like to learn more about Deb’s work, check out her website or buy a copy of Part Wild: a Writer’s Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance. You can also listen to the podcast we recorded about Inner Critics and the creative process. The little character you see featured in all these prompts is my Inner Critic, who I got to know over the course of drawing 100 comics in 100 days. You can read those right here.

Distro for Dummies

Hi readers! This blog has been relegated to acting as an occasional announcement board for the last few years as I’ve focused my attention on other platforms, but I have some educational tidbits I’d love to share somewhere more permanent. So let’s try something new!

I’ve assembled this not-so-brief essay introduction to a couple common methods of comics distribution AKA “Getting Your Stuff Where People Can See It in the Retail World” that I’d love to share with you. I wrote it in response to an email from a comics friend I’d mentored some months ago, which contained the following conundrum:

I tabled at DC Zinefest today (my first fest!) and a couple of people from a comic book store (Big Planet on U st) and a record store approached me about buying some copies to sell in their stores. They threw around words like “wholesale” and “consignment” and I have no idea what any of this means!  Could I ask you some questions about the business end of making/selling comics? I honestly did not expect any of this and I am a little overwhelmed by it all!

When I sat down to answer I accidentally wrote a substantial primer on the subject, so I reproduce it here in the hopes that it will prove useful to some of you down the line!

Eh-HEM.

Section 1: Wholesale vs. Consignment

So when a retailer (like a comic shop or record store) buys stuff to sell, they’re generally buying it in bulk from a distributor (someone who handles sales for a wide variety of titles) at wholesale prices. This can mean a variety of things, but as far as you (an independent creator) are concerned, it’s generally around 50% of the retail or “cover” price on anywhere from two to ten copies of your work. Often a professional distributor (the big one in our industry is called Diamond Comics) is dealing with such a wide variety of stock and such large numbers that the discount is much deeper, but for smaller folks like us 50% is a decent shorthand. A retailer asking to buy from you wholesale is a good thing, because money changes hands up front, your comics get to go somewhere you don’t personally have to sell them, and you don’t have to keep tabs on how many copies you’ve got hanging around the shop on consignment.

There’s that word! What the heck is it. 

Consignment is a slightly different process where a retailer will take some copies of your book for a set period of time (anywhere from a few weeks to six months or more) and see if they sell in the shop. At the end of that time period, they’ll cut you a check for the goods that sold (if any), generally splitting it 60/40 with the greater share going to you. Not every retailer is the same, though! Some have a 70/30 split, others 50/50. They’re basically avoiding the gamble of paying for something up front when they don’t know if it’ll sell.

Now: as you may’ve noticed, consignment leaves a far broader range of opportunities for things to go squirrelly. Retailers can lose track of how many copies you game them. They can forget to follow up with you after the set period of time. I myself recently received a check for a whopping six dollars and eighty cents four years after leaving some copies of my Baggywrinkles minicomics at a comic shop in Chicago. (Their contract technically said that if I hadn’t been in touch after eight months I forfeited ownership of my books, so I actually thought it was pretty big of them to get back in touch and pay me.)

Anyway. Point being: if a store has a wholesale option in place, go for it. It’s a huge pain to keep track of all the moving parts involved in consignment stuff, and I’ve found it way simpler to just know that my comics will be going somewhere new and I’ve got a little money up front.

Section 2: DIY Distribution

What happens if you don’t get approached by retailers at conventions? ASK THEM FIRST! You can go into any comic shop, bookstore, or other neat emporium and ask the person at the register “Hey, do you have a consignment or wholesale program for small press publications? Could I ask about the terms?” A surprising number of shops do! Some places have a specific buyer who will need to take a look at your stuff and see if it’ll be a good fit, other places will just take any old thing from folks who come in.

Full disclosure: consigning my stuff at a comic shop for the first time was easily one of the Top Ten Most Horrifying Moments of My Entire Career Thus Far. I stood in front of this very kind cashier trembling like a leaf while they looked over my itty bitty comics and eventually, after a stretch of silence in which I’d decided I really was garbage and no one in their right mind would ever want to sell my work in any professional capacity, agreed to take six copies for the store. It was purgatory. It was dreadful. It is still dreadful. I’m a published author and I was still almost too shy to offer to sign the copies of my book they had at Powell’s because I didn’t want to make a fuss. THAT IS OKAY. FEAR IS NATURAL. DO IT ANYWAY.

It never hurts to ask a retailer if they’d like to carry your work.And don’t limit yourself to comic shops! If you make work that has a particular audience (horticulturists) check out local shops that cater to that crowd (nurseries).

Section 3: Professional (Indie) Distribution

Diamond Comics aside, there are rare, excellent humans who take it upon themselves to run distro companies specifically for small press people (and take a cut, obviously). The newest is Emerald Comics Distro up in Seattle. Anne Bean, who launched the operation earlier this year, has been doing an incredible job working with a wide variety of creators to get their work into comic shops in the Pacific Northwest. She’s got plans to take her operation national down the line, but for now she’s fine-tuning it in the region and it seems to be going really well. I started selling mini comics with her a couple months ago and it’s been a total pleasure at every turn.

She works with shops that do wholesale and consignment, but here’s the great part: she keeps track of all the fiddly details. With spreadsheets. It’s a thing of goddamn beauty. This is really the only situation in which consignment makes sense for me, because I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on and it’s just nonsensical otherwise.

Section 4: Profit Margins

The downside to all of this from a pricing perspective is that making minicomics is a pretty rough sell if you’re looking to turn any kind of significant profit.

Here are some numbers to demonstrate:

The little 24-page color travelogue minis I make here in Portland cost about $3 a copy to produce. (Note: this is because I am a big ol’ stuffypants about things like paper quality and color fidelity, so I could likely get them for cheaper, but I like making things that really look and feel good.) My rule of thumb for pricing is to triple to production cost. I used to sell them for $10 each, but dropped the price to $8 after they weren’t so new and shiny anymore. If a retailer buys those for $4 (50% of the cover price), I profit $1 per issue. If I make that sale through a distributor who takes a percentage of every sale, I’m looking at more like eighty cents. Sobering, huh?

Contrast that with Baggywrinkles, which (being printed overseas on an offset press where thousands of copies can be made swiftly) cost about $1.12 PER BOOK. It’s mind-boggling. Those copies retail for $20! Of course: when the distributor and the store and everyone else have taken their cut, every copy sold through Amazon or Barnes & Noble only nets me about $5.50, so let’s not get carried away, but still. Copies I sell myself have a much better profit margin.

Basically: it’s always worth crunching the numbers to make sure you know what kind of money you stand to make.

Section 5: Conclusion

So where does that leave us? Personally, I think making and distributing minicomics is a great way to get your work out there and connect with fans, but not a massive money-maker in the long run. And that’s okay! Tabling at conventions for my first few years in comics wasn’t a consistent exercise in turning a profit either, but it demonstrated to my fellow creators (and to the fans I picked up along the way) that I was in it for the long haul, and that I’d keep making new work and sharing it with people. There is a lot to be said for showing up consistently and sharing your work.

Plus: once people are into your minicomics, you can build a fanbase that will support you making a book! And after that, a plush toy! And after that A ROCKET SHIP THAT IS ALSO AN 18TH-CENTURY NAVAL VESSEL.

…if I’m lucky.

Now go make some minis!

New Comic: Who IS Wonder Woman, Anyway?

Greetings, friends! I’ve got a new comic in the world!

There’s a lot of talk about Wonder Woman in the world right now, thanks to the new film about her opening this weekend, but who is she really? You can head over to The Nib today to read all about her history as a feminist icon, patriotic symbol, and modern warrior thanks to writer Sarah Mirk, colorist Joey Weiser, and myself! I’m really pleased with the final result of our efforts.

If you dig these comics, you can keep ’em coming by supporting my work on Patreon. (And biggest thanks to those of you who do so already!)

Use your strength for good,

Lucy

Hourly Comic Day 2017

Hey friends! I’ve got a new comic for you today:

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This is my seventh year doing Hourly Comic Day, and it’s really such a delightful thing. For those that aren’t familiar: it’s a global art project where folks draw a panel for every hour they’re awake on February 1st. It’s a wonderful way to discover new artists, take a look at what everyone’s up to, and chronicle a day out of each year. This year I just happened to be wrapping up a couple weeks in Hawai’i, so there’s a bunch of tropical escapades in here.

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You can read the whole comic over here on Medium. I love having these annual visual check-ins that remind me of where I’ve been every February since I was a junior in college—especially if this tropical trend continues. Wonder where I’ll be in 2018…

Did any of you participate? I try not to read people’s till I’ve posted my own, since it wigs me out and I get self-conscious, but now I am FREEEEEE. Link me to your entries in the comments or on Twitter.

You can also read all my previous years’ entries here: 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011!

New Comic: A Week at Sea with OHP

I’ve put a new comic up this month! To fight off the winter chill, here’s a travelogue from my week of sailing aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry back in August/September.

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This trip with OHP was a great opportunity to refine my practice of joining organizations as an embedded cartoonist, merging the duties of a deckhand (line handling, climbing aloft, maintenance, etc.), educator (teaching classes on scurvy and nautical trivia with Baggywrinkles as my de facto textbook), and artist (frantically sketching the students and their activities at every turn). Each trip I take I feel like I’m getting a better handle on this format, and how best to adapt it to different kinds of experiences.

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You can read the whole comic online right here, or purchase a copy in print via my store.

While I completed all the artwork during my time aboard, getting the scanning, cleanup, and formatting squared away in-between all my traveling from August to November proved tricky, hence the lengthy lagtime. I’m thrilled to finally have it all put together. Here’s a look at the trip in photos:

ohprecap

The Oliver Hazard Perry is America’s newest sail training vessel. You can learn more about her and her programs at OHPRI.org.

Big thanks to my supporters on Patreon for making this comic possible! If you want to join them and get a behind-the-scenes look at these pieces as they come together, head on over here.

 

 

New Comic: Sail Cargo Resurgence

Hey friends,

Fittingly, I’m writing this blog post from the deck of the Oliver Hazard Perry, a new tall ship in Rhode Island that I’m currently working aboard as a visiting artist. But that’s secondary to the following exciting news of the day: I’ve got a new comic up on The Nib!

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For the last few months I’ve been researching and illustrating this brief introduction to the modern world of sail cargo—a movement driven by environmentalism, optimism, and countless volunteer hours. There are a surprising number of operations around the world working to convert tall ships into viable cargo-carrying vessels—or build new ones from the ground up.

avontuur plan

It’s a trend I find deeply fascinating, and my only regret was not being able to fit more of my research into this introduction. The sailors working on these vessels are the embodiment of enthusiasm and dedication, and I really enjoyed talking with them during my research.

Of particular interest right now: Sailcargo Inc. are launching their Kickstarter to build a dedicated cargo vessel (Ceiba) from scratch in Costa Rica! Keep an eye on their website for details on the launch.

Fairtransport are also making great strides in building a coalition of sail cargo vessels around the world. Their website has a wealth of information, including vessel tracking and more. View all the ships in their network here.

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Brigantine Tres Hombres, Photo Credit Hajo Olij

Of course there are also efforts being made to implement modern sailing technology on existing container ships at a grander scale. To learn more about the DynaRig technology behind parts of that movement, check out this article. There’s some fascinating stuff afoot, and even though it’s moving slowly, progress is being made.

I’ll have more news after my week aboard the Perry, but until then, enjoy the comic!

Fair winds,

Lucy

The Galaxy of Super Adventure: Fears

Hey Friends,

If you like spaceships, comics, radio drama, and the practice of making things, let me recommend a really fun podcast! The Galaxy of Super Adventure is part one part galactic adventure saga, two parts creative advice round-table. It’s run by my comics pals Ben Hatke, Zack Giallongo, and Jerzy Drozd, and this week’s episode (all about FEAR) features a guest appearance by yours truly!

GosaHeader

I play Bold Space Adventurer and Sensitive Artist Lucy Bellwood, crashing in for a talk about artistic anxiety and self-doubt with the help of my sentient French mustache sidekick, Polly (pictured above).

The whole series is a hoot, and I highly recommend listening to it from the start, but if you just want to jump in for this episode, check it out here. Enjoy!