Since I keep seeing referenced everywhere in the blogodrome, I guess yesterday’s link to the 1000 True Fans piece was worthwhile. It’s gotten me thinking a lot about the economics of independent artistic types. See, I’ve had a particular conversation with multiple webcomickers that roughly runs, “I want to do x, but I have to raise the money for it first.”
Fill in x with whatever — merch, books, animation, print. They’ve got a fanbase, they’ve got an idea that will definitely sell, but to get to that point they need seed money to actually produce x. On the one hand, that’s the beauty of pre-orders — you can gauge demand and raise that money and have an idea of how much you might make on the back-end.
But the downside is that pre-orders take time and effort — both of which prevent the creator from making other stuff, and delay the earliest pre-orderers from getting their stuff while waiting for the Okay, fire up the presses threshold to be passed.
So I’m wondering if what The Webcomics Biz needs isn’t some sort of cross between angel financing and Grameen Bank. Somebody with some bucks to burn fronts the money, takes a cut off sales until repaid with some profit and (this is the important part), runs the proceeds back into a cash pool for the next use. Couple-few iterations of that, the original seed capital’s been repaid, and the pool could be self-sustaining. In a perfect world (Ha! I crack me up sometimes), this could allow creators to work on riskier projects, with longer times to the break-even point.
While theoretically this is the sort of thing that the members of a collective could do, most of them don’t have a formal legal structure set up, being arranged instead around circles of friends. And we all know the old cliche about loaning money to friends. Really, it needs an outside to offer the service to the community at large. Hell, I’m tempted to make a run at it myself, but whatever shaky journalistic ethics we at Fleen have would be sorely strained by having a financial stake in particular webcomics.
Still — is this a totally stupid idea? Or might there be some part of it that could actually work? Let’s get brainstorming, peoples. I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but we very possibly might be able to look in our work and say I dunno, Larry. It’s a wacky idea, but it just might work!