Author Topic: EUOLogy #19  (Read 2014 times)

The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

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EUOLogy #19
« on: February 04, 2005, 11:08:40 AM »
reference: http://www.timewastersguide.com/view.php?id=974

EUOL always gets me chattering, but I think this is one of the most interesting topics I've read in a long time on TWG.

I think I would be remiss if I didn't add a few ideas to the discussion. Ever since Penny Arcade razzed Scott McCloud for his ideas about micropayments (it should be noted that Scott is having some success with micropayments on his site now), I've wondered about how successful a web content provider could be by offering some content free to let people in, and then charging for other content. We've had a few goes at ideas for making TWG profitable, but I'm not sure those will go anywhere. This may always be a labor of love, but it'd be nice if some of the time we donated was rewarded. (Ok, i should note that everyone who has interviewed me for a job lately has started off by asking about my role at TWG, so I am getting SOME reward).

Back to the subject at hand. Several people are making a living at doing comics too. Tim Buckley, Piro, and even Jeph Jaques make a living entirely off their web sites. Tim and Piro have huge fanbases like PVP or PA do, but Jeph is just about as Indy as the characters in his comics.

This is something you can do if you have a head for merchandising. And, since I aspire to be a novelist, like EUOL, whether this business approach translates to other artistic mediums. ie, can I get paid for what I write without going through a publisher?

The only real attempt I've seen at this was Stephen King. He published the firest few chapters of his novel on his web site, asking for what I think was a dollar donation, voluntarily given, for everyone that enjoyed it. If he got enough money, he'd publish the rest the same way. If he didn't, well, it wouldn't be worth his time. I'm not sure how that turned out, because I don't follow King very much, but I'm sure someone out there can tell me where that went.

But even that attempt is a bit spotty as evidence, since it worked. I mean, King is HUGE. Is there anyone in the US who reads English that doesn't at least know who he is? Even those who aren't literate and see movies should know who is through the half million movies that have been made from his stuff. He's famous enough that he doesn't have to build up recognition or convince people to come to his fold. He has enough loyal fans through his conventional start. So... can you START that way?

It's theoretically possible. It would be very cool. But in practice? I don't think I have the time to try....

stacer

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2005, 11:33:52 AM »
Quote
If, during my years of trying to get published, I had been printing my daily creations on the web, would I have gained the kind of popularity of PvP or Penny Arcade? Would I be publishing novels for free, selling my own merchandise, and depending solely on the generosity of strangers for my upkeep?


I doubt it. I've seen the efforts of such novelists, and 1) no one wants to read an entire novel on screen, 2) such efforts are usually really really really bad, so perhaps that's why 1) is true.

But I think that goes back to what you acknowledge in the paragraph above that. Editors and copyeditors are necessary in the novel-publishing process. Perhaps the rest of the system might change someday, but I think most authors need another pair of eyes to help shape and correct the big picture and the little details. It's a supporting role that rarely gets recognized. (Try figuring out who someone's editor is--sometimes it's really hard unless you look in the dedications. Completely unlike the masthead in a magazine, that lays the entire support staff out in a nice little block.)

Like SE, the only attempt I've ever heard of is Stephen King, and I never went and checked it out, because I like my books in all their full paper-and-cardboard (sometimes cloth) glory. I want to go to the bookstore or library and feel it in my hand. I think this is the same reason why e-books have never really taken off. They only appeal to a very small portion of the population who don't get eye strain from staring at a computer for multiple hours.
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The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2005, 11:39:32 AM »
I was going to say, "no one" is a bit too far. I read a lot of stuff. EUOL's last two manuscripts, for example, entirely on screen. And those are quite long

I should add something more relevant. I have two more thoughts.
The first is prompted by Stacer. Editors have a huge role in the production of a book. Most writers would be much, much worse without someone reviewing their materials. Whereas cartoonists have only censors, which don't apply on the web. There's something to that. A middle man is needed, because someone has to be paid for that except with the small portion of writers that can also self-edit effectively. It puts a cramp on the tranferance of the business plan idea.

The other is this: print comics are becoming more like web comics. You see a loosening of the former restrictions on content and ideas. Today, Get Fuzzy made D&D jokes. How many times have you seen that in print? Only in Foxtrot I'd wager, and that kid's supposed to be scary nerd, whereas Rob in GF is just this guy, a grown man who talks to his cat and dog and plays video games and D&D. Ok. Maybe he's scary too.  But we're seeing much more humor that gets away from convention. Racial topics are much more open in print. Gender topics are becoming more serious. The humor is getting more off-beat.

I still think the average web comic, though bad, is better than the average print comic, but I think it's improving and even finding success with niche groups. On the Fastrack, for example, appeals heavily to computer hardware/programming familiar readers. Comics are having to change with the times. Cathy a comic about a pathetic single girl (the comic itself being pathetic too, but that's beside the point) has realized that something needs to happen to. It can't rely on single jokes forever. For decades it's been running comics about losing weight and man-hunting. The last few months have been about throwing together a wedding. And it looks like this week, she'll actually be married, which changes the dynamic entirely. She'll still be able to do fat jokes, but other concerns will come in and previous topics will have to be thrown out.

What does that have to do with publishing on the web? I think, and it's just a theory, I don't have a comprehensive set of evidence to back it up, but I do think that it's the advent of webcomics that are changing things. Non Sequitor, which was original at first but grew more and more tired as it went, getting old much faster than most comics, has had to start lampooning web comics for material. People have a different source of cheap or free comics. The newspaper has to improve it's material to meet the demand of the alternative and can't rely on it's old schlock standards like it did once. This means, at the very least, that web comics are having a major influence on the evolution of the art form. They're better at entertaining the new audience than print is (speaking in generalities only). Surely that means that money can be made there.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2005, 11:54:34 AM by SaintEhlers »

Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2005, 11:48:38 AM »
I also have spent huge amounts of time reading novel-length material onscreen. However, most of this has been written by someone I know (EUOL) or in a prefabricated universe I'm at least slightly familiar with (anime fanfiction). Would more traditional fiction work? Not sure. Don't really have time to think about it now, but I'm assuming the stories would become artificially altered due to serial concerns, like happened to Dickens. There would also probably be an unwise hesitancy to go back and revise after something is posted.
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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2005, 11:50:25 AM »
Actually, I did too. And I hated the entire process, but they were good, so I wanted to go on. My laptop gets very hot and my eyes got tired, so I made a lot of sacrifices in reading it on-screen!  :D  But if I'd just come across a stranger's manuscript online, I doubt I'd have spent that much time reading it, good or not.
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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2005, 11:53:33 AM »
I made a MAJOR edit to my post above while you two posted that. I guess I'm slow

Fellfrosch

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2005, 11:57:20 AM »
It might not be true that "no one" reads novel-length material on a computer screen, but Stacer's point is still true in that very, very few people enjoy it. You can read a webcomic in seconds, but reading an entire chapter is something else altogether. Then you also have the problem of how frequently can you post without losing reader interest (with long gaps) or overhwelming your audience (with short gaps). If you could find the ideal segment length, and post them at the ideal rate, and managed to fit your story into such a serial format without destroying it (as Ookla mentioned), then it might work. But that would be incredibly hard.
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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2005, 12:05:11 PM »
that's what strictures are for. Why do you think the haiku was so popular?

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2005, 12:25:01 PM »
Tad Williams tried this method with Shadowmarch for a while. You paid to be a member on the site, and you got to read his chapter updates. This is a major writer in the epic fantasy field, and he was good to his word and did make regular installments on the website. The material was good too.

And it didn't work. I don't have numbers or dates or anything specific. I just know that he closed down the site because it wasn't working for him. And he's taken the story of Shadowmarch and will be releasing it as an actual novel. I'm assuming so that he can earn more money off it than he was doing on his website.

I'm not saying money can't be made on the web-comic model, but I think the novel form may be a bit harder for all the reasons people have already listed. It takes time to read a story, and even now I will still rather print out a chapter and read it on paper than try and read it on a screen. And I'd like to think I'm not alone on that.

Nice article, btw, EUOL. I enjoyed the comments.

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2005, 12:32:12 PM »
I often wanted to read Shadowmarch, but his pay model was backward: he wanted you to sign up and pay before you read, like a normal novel, rather than after, like a webcomic.
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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2005, 12:47:53 PM »
Well... kind of. He had the first 5 chapters or so available for free as a preview. If you liked it and wanted to read more, then you had to pay. I guess you're right though, it's not exactly the same model, as you were required to pay and not simply asked nicely to pay after you were done reading.

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2005, 12:49:55 PM »
see, what he SHOULD do is offer all but the last chapter for free, then charge $20 for the last chapter.

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Re: EUOLogy #19
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2005, 12:52:45 PM »
I've read a fair lot on the PC. I found the e-books to be decent to read, but I took breaks fairly often, and I use PCs a lot so I guess I'm used to monitor glare, or something.

I guess I agree with books being unlikely candidates for the net, but films? Definitely possible. There is a 40k fanfilm being made on the net, and consider the tale of Red vs Blue, Broken Saints, etc. Those are films (well, webcomic/film hybrid in the case of broken saints) and both are now selling DVDs. But started as free net downloads.

The best example would be the guys who did Uplink and who are releasing Darwinia soon. Their website says, 'last of the bedroom programmers'. And then there are the people who pay $180 for the Tribes 2 engine and make games with it. Mods that get picked up by companies (Counter Strike, Day of Defeat). The internet, with its mass audience and relatively cheap way of getting attention, is allowing people to stand up and say, 'here I am, this is my little thing'. People take notice, and the good stuff gets communities, word of mouth, and so on. It's sort of (sort of) like the market place - anybody can set up a stall and hawk their wares. But the scope of the net is so much greater.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2005, 12:54:37 PM by Charlie82 »
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