Artist Jeph Jacques has the keys to webcomic success
Merchandise, ads and micropayments, says popular artist
January 29, 2016, 1:56 pm ASTLast Updated: January 31, 2016, 11:03 pm
If you love webcomics, you can make a living at it.
That’s the message a successful webcomic artist delivered at the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday.
“If you can get those core readers to invest in your work, it can be enough to support you,” said Jeph Jacques.
Jacques has been running his webcomic series Questionable Content since 2003. Since then it has acquired a huge readership, turning his creation into become a full-time job.
Jacques says his profits are equally divided into three main sources:
- merchandise, such as physical copies of his comics, clothing, mugs and other items referencing his comics
- ad revenue on his website
- and his Patreon, a micropayment system used for the public to help fund creators
Micropayment systems like Patreon have allowed more content creators to pursue art while also having economic stability. Therefore, webcomics have become a more prevalent artform on the web, more so than when Jacques first started with Questionable Content.
Currently on his Patreon, Jacques supporters provide him with almost $8,000 USD a month. He describes the sorts of rewards he provides for his donators in his Patreon introduction video.
Ad revenue on websites can also be a major factor to help artists maintain their funds. During the first year of Questionable Content Jacques estimates he had approximately 30,000 viewers on his site every day, which was enough to support him financially during that time.
Starting Questionable Content
A year after completing a degree in music at Hampshire College, Jacques began drawing comics in his free time. He is self-taught in cartooning, having only attending art classes while still in high school.
“I was looking for a creative outlet to do on my own,” said Jacques. “It was a process of learning how to draw again.”
Jacques never expected to become a full-time webcomic artist. After being fired from his day job, he decided to try to sustain himself purely from the profits he was making from his webcomics.
“One month turned into two, which turned into six. I realized that I had been doing this comic strip the whole time and didn’t need a day job,” said Jacques.
Social media sharing
As Facebook grows in popularity, the audience for webcomics is growing, but fewer users are clicking through to the original webcomic’s websites. Creators have had to adapt to ensure they still maintain visitors on their pages. Although Jacques just maintains his website, other creators have also made Facebook pages for their work so they can profit from the attention it may also gather on social media.
Jacques has noticed a downward trend in his website traffic, but his work being shared on social media has allowed it to reach a broader audience. “Website traffic is going down, but I have more fans than anytime before,” he said.
“At the start (mid-’90s) you could count the successful comic artists on one hand,” said Jacques. “We have this diversity now and it’s making the market a more rich and exciting place to be working in.”
Some of Jacques recommended webcomics:
- Dumbing of Age
- Doodle for Food
- Dr. McNinja
- Girls with Slingshots
- Gunnerkrigg Court
- Hark! A Vagrant
- Junior Scientist Power Hour
- Dinosaur Comics
- Scenes from a Multiverse
- Something Positive
- Three Word Phrase
- Wasted Talent
A webcomic workweek
Along with Questionable Content, Jacques is also currently maintaining another webcomic project entitled Alice Grove, which he started in 2014.
He updates Questionable Content five times a week, while updating Alice Grove twice a week.
Jacques likes to layout his workload on a day-to-day basis, dedicating approximately 30-40 hours a week either writing or drawing the comics. Questionable Content takes 2-3 hours of his day, while Alice Grove takes 3-4 hours.
“I get up and I usually try and get one comic written by noon, but it varies pretty widely,” said Jacques. Some days he has a comic strip idea pop into his head while in the shower and is done by mid-day, while other days he works well into the evening.
“My goal for the next year is to build up a small buffer of comics, so I’m not just doing Questionable Content the day it get published,” said Jacques.
Moving to Halifax
Jacques moved from Easthampton, Mass. to Halifax in September 2015. His reasonings stem from the heart.
“I met a lovely young lady who happens to live up here in this area, and one of the nice things about my job is that I can do it from pretty much anywhere as long as I have an Internet connection,” said Jacques.
At the library talk, a member of the audience asked Jacques whether Halifax could become incorporated into the plot of Questionable Content, which is set in the United States.
“I don’t know if Halifax will have a direct effect on it, but you pull inspiration from everywhere,” said Jacques. “But I am a lot happier here.”