Is it really just a rock, though?
And who said that, anyway?
Transparency is important to Vengeful Ghost. Comics is hard business. It gets easier if we share information and our hard-fought lessons learned. In posts like this, Parker will lay out the Ghost’s quarterly numbers and try to provide some context.
We’re at the end of Vengeful Ghost’s first calendar year, which is pretty darn exciting! Q4 brought some interesting developments, some new strategies, and a ton of new data. Let’s get to the data:
Pages published: 13 (CY16: 32)
Pageviews: 1725 [+372 over Q3] (CY16: 3768)
Average monthly visitors: 128 [+45 over Q3] (CY16: 106)
Patreon patrons (at the end of the quarter): 9 (+1 over Q3)
Revenue: $194.6 [-370 over Q3] (CY16: 764.6)
Expenses: -$1,236.23 (CY16: -$4,405.45)
% of expenses to Ghostfriends: 83.14% (CY16: 74.04%)
Net: -$1,041.63 (CY16: -$3,640.85)
Sold/gifted/traded: 7 [-28 over Q3] (CY16: 42)
Sold/gifted/traded: 9 [-18 over Q3] (CY16: 36)
Sold/gifted/trade: 5 (CY16: 5)
There were no digital sales that were not part of a bundle with a physical sale.
VG Books sold: 12
Ghostfriends books sold: 2
Revenue/table fee ratio: 2.84
Thanks for reading. Please comment with any questions. If you want to help make those numbers a little prettier, consider clicking over to our Patreon campaign, buying something from our online store, or throwing something in the tip jar.
It’s January and it’s raining in Baltimore. Isn’t the snow supposed to be coming soon? In any case, here’s what I’ve been up to over this mild week.
WORKING: All the baby doctors and nurses are on their winter break, so I am too–from the day job, at least. That has meant more time to edit Project NYC and get a solid start to the draft for Project Makalu. I’ve also been trying to figure out what the next year of Vengeful Ghost looks like. There are two Kickstarters I’d like to run in the near future and I’m a bit behind in my buffer of weekly content, so there’s a lot to do in pursuit of New Year resolutions.
PLAYING: I’ve fallen back into Skyrim, so help me. A friend published his mod lists a while back and I decided to give it a go. I am literally right now feeling a little stupid, though, because I’ve been playing the original, while the Special Edition snuck unannounced into my Steam library a while back. Oh well, I’ll get that downloading and probably start another playthrough. My new character is a hunter, and has already killed two dragons. All my other playthroughs have petered out when faced with the massive freedom of the Elder Scrolls games, a sort of paralysis by analysis, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one. You’ll probably be hearing about it for a while.
And on the roleplaying front, an acquaintance’s stray mention of Spellbound Kingdoms got me intrigued again. It’s a swashbuckling game of political and cultural revolution that makes a couple assumptions about genre conventions–things like Inspirations, the effectiveness of insults, and True Love–and bakes them into both the rules and the setting. Imagine a dystopia where love was magic. Now imagine that the kings and hierarchs of this world knew love was magic, and therefore set about a massive cultural engineering effort to ensure that only the noble and loyal were capable of love. I want to get this thing to a table, ASAP.
CONSUMING: The big news in my media consumption is that I’ve joined two groups of people dedicated to working through The Artist’s Way. If you’re not familiar with the program, I call it a 12 week process of introspection and indulgence. It gets terribly woo-woo at parts, but the lessons and exercises are incredibly useful for developing trust in one’s creative self. I’ve started it twice before (finished it once), and I’m looking forward to approaching the text with today’s eyes.
Oh! And I watched Spy! What a film! I enjoyed it terribly. Melissa McCarthy is hilarious and also empathetic as a brilliant person out of her depth (which I think I’ve mentioned is one of my favorite genres), and it is a funny spoof of super-spy movies that is, in itself, a completely respectable super-spy movie. Loads of fun.
But what about you? New plans for the new year? Let’s chat!
Today’s treat was a “penny pie”, a sort of tiny, homemade pop tart. I think this coffee shop is my new home base. Anyway, here’s how the week’s been!
WORKING: I’ve been editing up a storm on Vengeful Ghost work over the last week. Project NYC went out to editors, and I completed a pretty basic rewrite on Project Manila. I’m going to let Manila sit a few more days and then it will be ready to start going through with a finetoothed comb, tearing it apart according to Shawn Coyn’s Story Grid and making sure it does what I want it to.
I also finished my first draft of Project Shanghai, which is terribly, terribly exciting. It’s the first time I’ve tried, really tried to be funny. I’m going to need some sharp, funny editors to help me actually pull it off, but I think the core of something good is there. Speaking of editors, do any of my readers happen to know any sharp folks who are into comics and are also Sikhs?
PLAYING: Snow in Los Santos is terrible, but Grand Theft Auto is still high on my play list. I also picked up Battlefield 1. Some friends bought it for me as a Christmas gift in order to guilt me into playing it with them. It’s pretty fun! One of my friends pointed out thatthere’s no version of ranked play, no ELO, no real player skill ranking but for achievement and “levels” you can grind. That feature, combined with the fact that matches are massive 32 v. 32 bloodbaths, means that it keeps a much more casual style of play. It’s nice.
Speaking of casual, I’ve also been playing a lot of 16 Squares on my phone. As a piece of mobile software, it’s terrible. It’s life cycle management is nonexistent, there is no persistent save state, and no matter how high you score, the game always tells you you lose. As a game, though, it hits all the same dopamine switches as 2048 and Threes, this slow building of something that becomes too complex, too big to handle. Come to think of it, those games all have a bit in common with the classic Snake, now that I think about it…
CONSUMING: Social engagements have meant I haven’t consumed much of other people’s art recently. I’m working my way slowly through my comics backlog, which is good. I’m no longer three issues behind on anything.
I did watch Deadpool this week (thanks, HBO friend!), which I liked much more than I expected to. That seems to be a theme recently–maybe I should stop being such a snob.
Anyway, what have you been up to?
I’m waiting for a gig to start and overcaffeinating myself with a large cappuccino, so let’s talk about our weeks!
WORKING: Work has been a little frustrating this week. I’ve had to let go of a pitch to an anthology, which is a bit frustrating. I’ve got “submit to an anthology” on my list of goals for March, so I’ve got to get cracking! Especially since there are some other major Vengeful Ghost goals coming up by March (that may rhyme with Clickbarter). I’m also looking forward with a little bit of dread to all the year-end accounting tasks coming up. W9s and 1099s ahoy!
PLAYING: Grand Theft Auto V remains one of the best purchases I’ve made, game-wise. The continued release of new content keeps bringing me back. My wishlist of in-game purchases totals up to tens of millions of in-game currency–better get to grinding those heists! Speaking of, if you play GTA on Steam, hit me up at @parkerdhicks and let’s rob some banks together or something.
My Blades in the Dark campaign is going swimmingly. I’m finally getting the interference effect from an ongoing, open table campaign that I’ve been looking for for a long time. One table of folks took it upon themselves to recover a stolen piece of art from another thief, but only managed to set up the heist before the session ended. Next session, with entirely different players, the thief got nervous and hired the new players as bodyguards to smuggle him out of the city. There was a showdown at the train station and everything! Gaming gold.
I’ve been running RPG happy hours at a local bar since April or so, and the group is getting bigger and bigger. We had four different games running last week, and at least 20 people attending. That’s pretty darn cool, and it’s time to think about how to scale it effectively. It’s going to need some heavier structure soon.
CONSUMING: This weekend was a weekend for movies. My wife and I watched Jupiter Ascending and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., both of which I enjoyed thoroughly. There was the core of something awesome with Jupiter Acsending, and it was way better than I’d been led to believe. It suffered a little from a sort of treadmill feeling in the middle, where the protagonists confronted three similar challenges in the exact same way, but the constant betrayals and intrigue really got me invested. Unfortunately, the intrigue was only kind of teased, and was generally resolved with punching. I think there were just too many factions involved to give them meaningful interplay.
And we watched the pilot of Shut Eye, which is delightfully weird. Jeffrey Donovan is fanatastic as a stage magician, con man, and storefront psychic that is way out of his depth dealing with the LA criminal psychic underground. So much of the fiction I like involves a competent person chucked out of their comfort zone into a situation that they don’t completely understand, having to figure it out as they go along. The ritual and mystic elements of the psychic fraud and Romani underground fascinate me, too.
Enough from me–what have you been up to this week?
…and that’s important. Different folks have different approaches to conventions. We want different things, we chase them in different ways, and we make different decisions. This is how I am looking at pursuing conventions with Vengeful Ghost for the next year or so.
I’m also not an expert, and that’s also important. I’ve gotten great advice from friends and mentors, but their experiences don’t map to mine 1:1. That means I’m figuring this all out as I stumble along. If I write a followup to this post in a year, I won’t be surprised to see it is totally different.
Some people go to conventions to sell their product and make money. I don’t think that’s possible for me and Vengeful Ghost at this stage.
Here are the numbers. Conventions I’m looking to attend cost ~$300 to reserve a table. I can double up in most cases, so my cost is $150. If we assume I also split the hotel, lodging will cost about $60 a night, so between $120-240, depending on how I can schedule my setup, teardown, and travel. Let’s assume $180. Then there’s travel expenses–fuel or plane tickets, food, and booze for socializing. I don’t have a good rule of thumb for those so we’ll ignore them for now, but remember that our estimates will be low on costs because of that.
Both Vengeful Ghost books I sell right now (shameless plug to check out the store) sell for $5. Roughly $3 of that is profit–but only compared to the print costs. Neither book has recouped the cost to commission editing and art, but let’s ignore that too. I’d have to sell 110 books before I’d start earning out on a convention.
At Baltimore Comic-Con 2016, I sold a whopping 22. Hell, I haven’t even done a print run of 110 books yet. Right now, I only have 70 VG-original books in stock! My chances of earning out aren’t looking good.
So if it’s not for the money, why do I want to go to a bunch of conventions in 2017? What is it Ariel says?
I want to go for the same reason you do (for certain values of “you”)–I want to meet the pros.
I am firmly convinced that a huge discriminator in this industry is who you get to know. Lots of folks out there have good ideas. Fewer but still lots write scripts. A bunch bum around DeviantArt and R/ComicBookCollab, begging or paying artists to make their dreams come true. I’m not special. We’re all just trying to make that key connection, getting our work in front of that editor or artist or Big Name who will pluck us up like Cinderella (guess I’m in a Disney mood?) and reward us with an ongoing at Image or a Big 2 exclusive.
The more connections I make in general, the further my network reaches and the better my chances of eventually crossing that guardian angel’s path.
Conventions offer unique opportunities to make connections. That’d be true even if I were one of the hopefully-washed herd of badge-buyers shuffling past booth after booth–but being on the other side of the table gets me even more. It gets me all-day exposure to my neighbors. It gets me early and late access to the convention floor. It gives me something to chat about when I’m in the elevator with other attendees. Hell, it gives me an excuse to be in the elevator in the first place.
And to be clear, I’m not just talking about the Guests. Artist Alley attendees are my people. They’re other folks struggling to make this thing work–and they’re potential collaborators for future projects.
Making connecting with other Artist Alley attendees or pro Guests my priority has a serious effect on my convention strategy.
First, it frees me from the tyranny of profit. I’m not there to earn out. Any book I sell, now, is a bonus–it defrays some of the costs of doing business, like my table and badge, my food, my hotel room.
Second, it indicates how I should spend my time. If meeting people is my priority, then I should do things like take strolls around the Alley; spend time with people in the evenings and mornings for breakfast, dinner, and/or drinks; and, perhaps most importantly, stay in the convention hotel.
This is one of my biggest regrets about how I did Baltimore Comic-Con. It looked like a slam dunk. It’s my hometown con. My table cost me under $100; I slept in my own bed; a friend hooked me up with free parking. Awesome!
But the shortcuts and saved costs had social costs. My free parking was about a mile away from the convention, which meant I spent a lot of time walking that I could have spent talking. I had previous commitments in the mornings and evenings that pulled me home. My drive was easy, but not as easy as stumbling back to a hotel room.
The entire experience can be summed up in one moment. On Saturday night, the convention threw a cash bar mixer event with free food in the top floor lounge. It was a late-night thing, after the Harvey Awards. The schedule said it started at ten, and me and some other local buddies showed up right around then. We hung out for an hour or two, met a few folks, but at close to midnight I was dead beat. I’d had a beer or two. It’d been a long day. I had at least a twenty minute drive to get myself back home to flop into bed. I told my buddies goodnight and got ready to walk the mile back to my car.
But on the way out, I passed a steady stream of pro Guests on their way in, awards show over and ready to party. The lounge was small. It was going to fill up fast with people I wanted to meet and have conversations with and buy drinks. And if I’d just been walking back to a hotel room, I might have sucked it up and spun on my heel and followed them in–but I couldn’t, not with the walk and drive that still waited ahead of me.
Lesson learned. From now on, I’m staying at the convention hotel.
So that’s what I’m chasing going forward–maximum social exposure, with everything else an unasked for bonus. Of course, I still need to try to minimize costs, but not at the expense of doing the thing I came for.
Right now, that looks like three or four cons next year. Baltimore Comic-Con is a must, of course, just with a slightly different approach. Some friends have had excellent experiences socially at HeroesCon in North Carolina. I’ll be entering the lottery for SPX, since that’s right down the road too. And I’m thinking about one more–maybe Boston? The jury is still out.
That’s what looks good to me, anyway. You may have a different approach, or you may think I missed the mark. I’m eager to hear from you if that’s the case–let’s trade notes!