Last week, I started a subscription plan for my weekly comic strip, Tom the Dancing Bug, which appears here on Boing Boing. It's called the INNER HIVE, and I'm so grateful for the response it's gotten. I have high hopes that it's a step in the direction of financial viability for comics in this digital age.
I was stunned when TV Personality and Superstar John Hodgman not only publicly endorsed (and joined!) the INNER HIVE, he made an impassioned case for this model of artist sustainability. I was further stunned when Author and Superstar Neil Gaiman also publicly endorsed the INNER HIVE (and joined!). If these guys think I'm on to something, maybe I'll start to believe it myself.
Below is the original statement I made announcing the plan last week. PLEASE JOIN THE FUN AND HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Fellow Brains In Beakers:
Today, I'm starting a new phase in my little weekly comic strip, Tom the Dancing Bug. It's an experiment that I hope will both make the strip more sustainable, and make the relationship between myself and my readers more direct.
Tom the Dancing Bug was originally conceived as a newspaper comic strip, and you may have heard about the financial problems newspapers have had over the past few years. Those problems have had a devastating impact on the financial viability of the strip. With my great partner, the Universal Uclick Syndicate, it still has print clients, for which I'm very grateful, and I'm so proud to work with web clients like Boing Boing and Daily Kos, which have become absolutely vital, mostly because of the huge exposure they afford.
The comic strip is more well-read and well-known than ever, but it makes far less money than it used to. This seems to me an anomaly — as the comic is enjoyed (hopefully) by more people, it should generate more, not less, revenue.
This anomaly is one of the defining features of the digital world, and it's up to me to figure out how to make it work. That led me to this idea:
I'm selling subscriptions to the appropriately cheesily-named INNER HIVE. It's not a charitable support-me program, because I don't think that will work by itself in this context. I wanted to make it a real transaction where the buyer gets something of real, greater value than the money spent. Plus I didn't want to get involved in the logistical nightmare of distributing tote bags.
What I offer to members of the INNER HIVE is special access to Tom the Dancing Bug: a private email of the weekly comic, a day (or more) before it appears anywhere publicly, plus some contests / giveaways, as well as occasionally some other content, such as sketches and unused drafts of comics.
(For example, this week's comic was written in a totally different way until at the last moment I came upon the premise that I ended up using — I might have included that first draft in the INNER HIVE emailing of the comic.)
The cost will be $9.99 per six months. For less than the cost of a movie, members will be getting early and extra "content" (as the kids say), and the satisfaction that they're contributing to the existence of Tom the Dancing Bug.
Is it worth it? I don't know. I hope so. I guess it is, if you enjoy and are interested in Tom the Dancing Bug and its viability. And I'm about to find out how many people really do and are.
This should have no impact on my current print and web clients. Even if this program is wildly successful (doubtful), and even if members of the INNER HIVE never again look at the comic in its print and web venues (also doubtful), the numbers involved will be orders of magnitude lower than could have a meaningful effect on the strip's readership and traffic for these clients.
This is merely a supplementary way to make the strip more viable while maintaining its current distribution system.
The comic will be sent out early and without digital restrictions to INNER HIVE members, so I'm relying on subscribers to honor the spirit of this project, and not re-distribute the content. If you think friends would like this, please encourage them to join! Also, for the logistics of membership maintenance, I'm using a company called Mail Chimp and, through them, Amazon Payments, so subscribers will be making that corporate leap of faith with me.
Okay. Thank you, and God-Man bless America.
For information on signing up, please click HERE.