Make it worthwhile

June 16, 2014

In the business of art, you have to balance the frequency with which you release new work with the perceived value of each iteration in the eyes of your customers. This is a delicate balancing act, and many get it wrong.

I learned this lesson from webcomics. Like many people, my first real webcomic was Penny Arcade, but the first one to grab me by the throat and draw me in was Megatokyo. Now I hardly read Megatokyo anymore, and the reason is instructive.

Let’s compare Megatokyo to my favorite webcomic, Order of the Stick. Both are plagued by what I’ll call “production problems”. New comics are released slowly and erratically. I don’t know what their schedules are supposed to be, but if they exist at all, neither of them have adhered to them in years. This smacks of unprofessionalism to many…and yet with Order of the Stick, I don’t mind, whereas with Megatoyko, it turned me off the story completely. Why?

Because every Order of the Stick comic is worth it. They’re meaty. Each one is a full bite, a comic that I can really sink my teeth into, with lots of panels and multiple jokes with serious plot progression most of the time. There are no bad comics, because enough happens in each one to make them all worthwhile.

Compare that to Megatokyo, where each individual comic feels like a light nibble. That’s fine if you have 20 other pages to read at the same time, like the manga it takes inspiration from, but with Megatokyo each manga page has to stand alone, and it suffers for it.

Megatoyko could make up for this by releasing pages more quickly, because then the story would move along better in aggregate. Without that though, each page doesn’t feel worth it. The value is minuscule compared to the time between each one.

The lesson here is that every time an artist delivers something, it needs to be significant. If it’s not, you either need to release more frequently or increase the value of each release, otherwise your value proposition will be shot to hell, and your hard-won readers will begin to wander away.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.

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