I was mulling over the notion of financing webcomics. Specifically, I wonder how many webcomics are actually themselves self-sustaining versus how many are essentially loss leaders for print comics? Think about it like this: if a webcomic gets money from advertising and Patreon and sources like that, people are paying for the webcomic itself, but if the primary income for a webcomic comes when the person takes it to Kickstarter to fund a print run, then the webcomic is really just acting as advertising in advance of the printed book.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, it makes a good deal of sense to operate that way. There’s obviously the notion that by putting the webcomic out for free, a creator can build an audience over time and not try to get to a printed book until they’ve developed a sufficient fan base. Plus, creatively, they can work out the story they want to tell and then, if anything doesn’t work as well as they’d like, they can go back and edit it before printing the book.
Those are two of the obvious benefits, but there are others. One concern many potential Kickstarter backers have is whether or not a creator can deliver what they promise to. But with a large chunk of webcomic completed, that shows people that A) the bulk of the creative work for the printed book is complete, and B) that the creator has a history of showing up. That is, over a period of months and years, the creator was able to consistently work on their comic. And unlike a typical day job, the reward for doing so is considerably more long term.
This can be a significant concern for potential readers. Unless the creator already has a very well-established track record that others can vouch for, a potential backer might want some greater assurances that they’ll get what they’re paying for. With a webcomic, a creator can immediately point back to it and say, “Look, I’ve been posting updates three days a week for five years. I’m clearly committed to this work, and I have proven that I can handle the sometimes-less-than-glamorous aspects of working on a comic.” Whether the reader explicitly asks for those assurances or not, and whether the creator makes a formal acknowledgement of them, that’s ultimately part of the discussion that happens. Even if the reader doesn’t actually read the full webcomic archives, they can at least get a sense that they’re looking at some with a sincere desire to make good work on an ongoing basis.
And in many cases, that goes a long way. Sometimes even longer than a professional’s testimonial or a well-known reputation. So maybe even if webcomics aren’t the creator’s preferred outlet, it might be one worth considering anyway.