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Eric: Small Business Administration

So picture me standing in Staples. It's the usual -- fluorescent lights overhead, office supplies crowding the shelves. And weird gaps in their offerings. A lot of weird gaps. I vaguely wonder if Staples has begun losing significant ground to Office Depot or -- worse by far for them -- WalMart. Later that day I'd go price laminators at Sam Walton's store because what Staples had was just ridiculous.

But that's not what I'm looking at, right now. I'm looking at postal scales.

"You have got to be kidding me," I mumble. Eighty dollars for a digital scale. Kitchen digital scales cost maybe twenty. Even a five pound manual scale is a good thirty bucks.

I need a scale. I need it to be sitting in my office. I need to weigh packages before I configure their postage, because I'm printing the postage on my Dymo Labelwriter as part of the shipping process.

It's worth noting my kitchen scale really has to stay in my kitchen. The rational part of my brain orders me to Bed, Bath and Beyond, just down the road, but the stupid part of my brain says you better get an honest to Christ postal scale. If'n you don't, there might be trouble.

Trouble? The rational part of my brain is not amused. It's weight. Do you think mass works differently on a postal scale than it does on a digital kitchen scale? Is gravity somehow not quite the same for cardboard? Do you think tee shirts can fly if they're not put on approved weights and measures devices?

There might be trouble, the stupid part of my brain repeats.

I buy a two pound limit mechanical scale. Seventeen bucks. For ten dollars more, I could buy a vastly more accurate digital kitchen scale from Amazon.com that can weigh more than twice the weight. But I don't want there to be trouble.


Here's the thing. I never intended to go into business.

Well, that's not true. I intended to make money writing. This is what I do. I'm a writer. I write. For money. I enjoy writing for money. I enjoy the rush I feel when I get a check from a publisher. Okay, so the checks are all too few and far between. Okay, so the pay rates would have been excellent in 1948 but today they're at the "wow, we can buy wheat bread instead of white!" level. Still. I'm a writer. People pay me to write.

This is different. This is retail. I'm merchandising my writing. And that's just plain weird to me.

Not two months ago, I was interviewed on Digital Strips. Blame Scott Kurtz -- he pulled me into his interview, because he wanted to ask my opinions on some things. And one of the things I talked about on Digital Strips were the people who didn't really intend to make any money off their comic strips.

"There are people who are doing this for art's sake," I said, though not nearly so cogently. "There are people who're motivated not by quitting their day job but because they want to create something. You can't measure success purely by the financial, because they don't fit the financial model."

And I used myself as the proof. I didn't make money off of Websnark -- I paid money to do Websnark. I host through Pair.com -- originally chosen because they did Sluggy Freelance, so it seemed like a good choice for reliable service. But, I've often been tempted by cheaper bandwidth elsewhere. Oh sure, downtimes are very few and very far between, but still. Needless to say, I've paid many, many hundreds of dollars for the privilege of letting folks read my twitterings.

And I don't begrudge that. I like Websnark. And it wasn't about money. I have a good job. It drives me crazy sometimes but it has great benefits. Not the least of which is time to type said twitterings.

It's just... the month of June was rough on my finances. Had there been an extended visit with traveling and stuff by my partner in Websnarkishness or a significant trip out to California and back, spanning a week, then I'd have been fine. As it was, I was stretched thin and there were things that needed doing. And it seemed like I could make the minimum order on a tee shirt. It seemed like I could get a few extra bucks. And handle things. And it seemed simple. No up front costs -- collect the money first, then send the appropriate amount to the printers. Hold sufficient money in reserve for shipping.

Simple. And low risk -- if only two or three people bought shirts, I could afford (with the next paycheck) to buy out the remainder of the minimum order. And I had a couple of shirts of the variety they were selling -- probably my Ho3 shirt I got from the Rhymes with Witch store being my favorite. They were good quality.

Simple.

I didn't count on selling the minimum order within twelve hours.


I just sent money to the printer for the "I Aggro Drama" tee shirts. The price was good. Solid. I have no complaints at all. Brunetto seems like an excellent company to work with.

I have a certain amount of money I need to reserve for shipping. I've got it calculated. Things should be fine on that end of things. The shipping cost of the shirts to me was right what I expected it to be.

At the same time, finances are interesting as a result. Not tight, mind. I've been paid, and I have decent profit from I Aggro Drama. But here's the thing -- if this becomes a regular thing... if I start selling shirts regularly? Well, then. The question of what expenses are increases. Especially when we look at the overall business plan.

What?

Why do I have a business plan, if I didn't intend to really get into business?

Because I'm in business now. And someone who doesn't make up a business plan the microsecond it becomes clear they can do so successfully is a person who's just waiting -- just waiting -- for mountains of debt and an ass-reaming from the Internal Revenue Service.

Here's the thing. The key to actually selling tee shirts is having an audience. With luck, I can make some generally appreciated shirts, and I will indeed advertise in the appropriate venues. But one thing is clear -- the people who buy these shirts are going to be, at core, the people who read Websnark.

In other words, my writing is what makes it happen. The writing I've been doing -- building an audience -- creates the market for my shirts. All the writing I've done on this site for the past year have created the conditions that make it possible for me to start making some money at doing this.

I am, in fact, merchandised now. And the business model requires me to be both prolific and well versed. If I want to sell Snarky tee shirts, I need people who actually know of and like Snarky, and I need people coming to my website every day on the button.

I'm a writer. I write. For tee shirt sales.

It doesn't have quite the same ring to it. And yet... the margins are a Hell of a lot better than paid copy. Which explains why comic books are in the state they're in, why tie ins have been more lucrative for White Wolf than their Role Playing Games have been, why television networks can be free so long as there's advertising.

I joked, when I posted about the I Aggro Drama tee shirt, that I was selling out. But there is a question of that, too, of course. I mean, Websnark can't change because of tee shirt sales, or else I lose the audience. I lose the people coming to see me. And not only do I lose tee shirt sales as a result... I also lose what I had -- a venue people actually liked coming to, reading the stuff I write.

At the same time... even though I'm not quitting my day job, if I do this then I have to do this. That means having a core schedule of real, honest to Christ content -- not "I have nothing" posts. Not missed days. Not a seven day a week schedule -- I just don't have enough time or brain for that, even though I'll reserve the right to do things on the weekends if I want. But I need to write something worth something each and every weekday if this is going to work.

"It's your job, stupid."

So... why do it? Okay -- I got out of a tight spot. And it felt vastly better and was vastly more fun than posting a donation drive. I have no problem with donation drives, but I just didn't want to do that. Not for a tight week financially. That's too big a club to swat at small critters with. So that makes sense. But why keep doing it? Why give myself the added pressures?

(And make no mistake, this would be "myself," not "Wednesday and I." Weds is always and forever welcome to post on anything she'd like -- I love reading her stuff, and I think it adds a ton to Websnark. But I'm not about to set a schedule for her to do it so I can make money, and until I get a lot more data about the sustainability of the product lines, I can't yet think about paying her.)

For money? Is that nearly good enough a reason?

To quit my day job? I wouldn't quit my day job. This would be additional work, not replacement work.

I would have said no. Done occasional tee shirts. Made some quick cash here and there. Maybe paid for the bandwidth costs.

But... there's another factor. Something where I honestly do need to come up with cash. A lot of cash. In a relatively short amount of time.

You see, it's medical.


Interesting and neat changes in mindset! "Tax Deductible!"

You can deduct taxes -- legitimately and legally -- for business expenses. And that includes the expenses that led up to the business! Which means my hosting costs? Are now tax deductible, back to the beginning of the year!

So's my bandwidth cost at home. And my subscription fees to Modern Tales et al.

Why the latter? Because writing about webcomics -- learning about webcomics -- is part of the business plan. It has to be. Most of you guys wouldn't be here without webcomics writing. The essays I put on this site drive the content that I'm putting out, and the content I'm putting out's what pulls eyes to the "buy this shirt" link. Or to the tip jar, for that matter.

That makes those expenses legitimate.

But the game gets more fun! Sure, shipping costs, wholesale shirt costs, printing costs, and that stupid postage scale are all tax deductible. They need to be! But stop and consider -- I wrote a snark just yesterday about the Fantastic Four movie.

That movie? Tax deductible.

I flew to San Jose to a con -- not a Con I did Websnark stuff at, so that isn't deductible. But I did day trip to meet a prominent webcartoonist. I also went to the Cartoon Art Museum, which I'm a member of, and learned many good things about the field I make my living in, now.

That flight? Business. That membership? Business. The Peanuts compilation I bought there? Business. Meals and hotel type expenses I'm not going to count, because the con wasn't business, but I certainly did business there and it certainly can be deducted.

My room costs for Arisia? Business. There, I was a guest, specifically doing Websnark things. Including meet and greet. And writing about it afterward. And networking with Comixpedia and Webcomics folks. And building recognition and brand.

All legitimate. This is what I do, now. I need to start saving receipts for everything.

I also need to plan to go to the good people at H&R Block, just in case I'm wrong about some of these. Because the IRS doesn't have a sense of humor, and I'm not trying to break the law here.

And yes, I'm going to be putting money aside for sending to said IRS. Though again, there's a medical expense that might also be tax deductible, under a very different part of the tax code....


Long time readers already know I had a gastric bypass last year. It saved my life, quite literally. And it's been amazingly successful. I've lost over a hundred and seventy pounds so far. The adipose ninja's getting pretty hefty.

But... it's not magic. There are... well, side effects.

Some of them are food related. Sugar is a bad thing now. Beyond the calories, it produces reactions in me that suck hard. It's like I have induced diabetes.

A single shot of Scotch puts me into 'slightly numb face and balance loss,' now. When I went to a wake last weekend, I had a shot of scotch an hour before we left to go to dinner. I insisted someone else drive me to the meal, because I wouldn't have been good to drive for quite a while afterward. I could still feel the effects. Naturally, I skipped wine at dinner.

I can't drink anything carbonated. I have to chew my food into loose paste. I can't eat too fast. I can't drink too much with a meal. Any violation of these rules leads to pain and rather unpleasant and noisy reactions.

And... then there's my skin.

See, I've lost more weight than a five foot ten healthy adult male has on his body. In a year, I would add. And that amount of weight loss doesn't come without a price.

Picture Bouncing Boy, if you would. That's right, from the classic Legion of Super Heroes. If you can't picture him, then click here. He's the spherical one. He has the power of Super Bouncing -- he inflates up, and then bounces his way to victory!

Picture that. Now, imagine Bouncing Boy deflating, only his powers don't cause his skin to retract. Instead, he deflates like a balloon. In the end, his skin pools around his midsection and legs, looking for all the world like a sharpei who lost all his hair in an industrial accident.

Welcome to my world.

It's not terrible on me. But it's definitely there. Lots of loose skin. And it causes problems. Fungal infections (you don't want to know how much Lotrimin I go through in a month). Difficulties keeping clean. Yeast infections (stop laughing). Abscesses. Even muscle strain. I can strain an abdominal muscle by standing too fast. Want to hear something embarrassing? They actually call the abdominal area of a guy who's had surgery like mine an apron.

Left to its own devices, there can be eventual skin breakdown, back problems, posture issues and the like, and it's not something that increased exercise or diet can correct. The skin's elasticity has been largely lost.

The solution is an Abdominoplasty -- or "tummy tuck." It's recommended by doctors who aren't plastic surgeons, so it's not just a money thing for them. It was known going into the gastric bypass this would likely need to be done.

It is also 99.999% certain my health insurance won't cover it.

They didn't want to cover the gastric bypass, even though three different doctors in three different fields agreed it was that or start making funeral arrangements and make sure people knew the server passwords. We managed to force it through in the eleventh hour before taking it to the State.

This procedure? Is highly, highly recommended. For comfort, for increased health, for reduced medical troubles, and for my sense of self. But I'm not going to die without it. And the insurance company we have here has made it clear they want little part of it.

Which means I'm looking at thousands of dollars in surgical bills -- possibly (probably?) before the end of the year. Which means doing a lot of saving up.

And yeah, I'd thought about a donation drive... but medical reasons or not, I have a certain difficulty posting a snark entitled "HELP PAY FOR ERIC'S TUMMY TUCK!" I mean, it's embarrassing, at best. And the jokes -- dear Christ, the jokes. Spatchcock alone would have a field day.

Admittedly, I'm opening myself up for those now, but what the Hell. I've written this much.

So yeah... trying to do this through donations would be difficult for me....

...but selling stuff? Selling things with a value on their own?

Yeah, I can do that.

It's not money out of nowhere, of course. There's work involved. A lot of work, if one factors in all the packing and shipping and the like. And of course, I'm going to need a steady stream of designs -- which means working out compensation issues and....

But yeah. Yeah, I can do that.

Does this mean I'd sell tee shirts until the day the surgery was paid for and then quit -- go back to my artistic lifestyle, eschewing Mammon and his avarice once and for all, in the name of the Aesthetic?

What, are you nuts? Selling out is selling out. After the surgery, I can start saving up for a Plasma TV!


So, it'll be a subsite. "The Websnarkery." I'll break it into types -- general appeal shirts, Websnark specific shirts, and Gossamer Commons shirts. The latter will be a lot of fun, but of course half of the profit goes to Greg on those. Which is only fair. They'll be his designs in the first place. I'm just doing the selling, ordering, receiving, packing and shipping.

Okay, it's a fair balance.

I'm opening discussions with appropriately artistic people. Greg's one, of course. My friend Frank is another. I might find out the rates of some of the artists I most like. And of course, there needs to be advertising. I mean, take the "I Aggro Drama" tee shirt. Yeah. it did well, but if I'd put ads on IGN or UGO, I'd probably have sold a lot more.

And I'm saving receipts. And staying organized. And building up the business plan. And most of all... I'm trying to figure out how to minimize the impact the selling out has on Websnark proper. Yeah, there's going to be a permanent advertisement on the pages, once we're up and running, but the posts should just be the posts, minus the inevitable "hey, there's a new shirt for sale!" announcements.

And of course, there's other stuff in the world besides shirts. Lulu = risk free print on demand publishing. I could put up my Superguy stuff, with an editorial pass or three. Sure, only four people will buy it, but it won't cost me anything. Cafepress does really good mugs -- I should do some of those.

And then, there's the market research. Folks want a Snarky shirt, clearly. Great -- I want to do one. But four color process runs have the largest minimums. Am I sure I'll sell enough shirts to cover it? Can I afford it regardless? How many shirts can I sell at a time and actually... you know, make sales? What other shirts do people want? A "You Had Me And You Lost Me?" "Sad Snarky in Snow?" "Happy Snarky in Snow?" Would Randy let me license the rights to print an "I'm an Ovaraptor! Don't mess with me! I'll eat your babies?!" If so, would we just inspire endless debates on how to spell ovaraptor/oviraptor/whatever?

And what about the non-Websnark stuff. I have thoughts, but how do I test those?

It's a little dizzying.

But it's also exciting.


In the end, it comes down to writing. Everything in my life comes down to writing.

Does it matter if I get paid by the word or if I get paid in tee shirt sales? Don't both ultimately reflect on my writing? Don't both mean I get to call myself a professional?

I don't know. There's a lot of things I don't know yet. And a couple of things I do know.

First off, I know that I had fun doing the tee shirt this week, and that's reason enough to go ahead.

Secondly... I know that it's absolutely insane to spend seventeen dollars on a two-pound limit mechanical scale. I need to bring that thing back and get a kitchen scale that's less expensive and more accurate with a higher capacity.

I mean, screw the stupid voice. I'm a businessman now. You don't throw money out the window.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at July 15, 2005 9:52 AM

Comments

Comment from: Aerin posted at July 15, 2005 1:26 PM

This snark's a different style of writing for you. I like it. A nice little mix of narrative and essay, hugely long but broken up into manageable pieces.

I think part of Websnark is the random little posts, even if they're "I've got nothing" posts. I mean, updating was pretty spotty while you and Wednesday were running around, yet the shirt sales were far better than you expected. It'd be nice to see more snarking up here, but if it's forced, it might lose some of the fun. Besides, sometimes it's a slow day in comics, and you can't really do anything about that. Personally, I'd prefer to see "I've got nothing" posts than snarks on comics that aren't really worthy of true snarkage. Part of the appeal of the site is the quality of the comics featured here.

So relax. ;)

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at July 15, 2005 1:28 PM

Wether for good or bad, mixing business into Websnark will forever change things.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at July 15, 2005 1:34 PM

Yo-- a brief mention about the tax stuff you can claim, in this comixpedia thread-- http://comixpedia.com/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=2869&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=10&sid=114d7feae0f8a29822ad2b0c80578a87

I suggest going to an independent accountant if you can-- they know all the ins and outs.... partly because they claim all their own expenses as well--- stay away from corporate accounting places like HnR block.

Comment from: IvoryTiger posted at July 15, 2005 1:49 PM

Good on ya Eric! I'm glad to hear the surgergy went well for you, and I hope the followups go just as well. I agree with Aerin, though, relax and don't put pressure on yourself. The content will be there, there will be slow days, don't force yourself to post something for the sake of posting something.

If the muse isn't cooperating, she isn't cooperating and there's not a whole lot you can do to convince her otherwise.

BTW: I love the style of this post as well. It's a nice break between thoughts and done very well.

I bought two shirts and I know if you pull a Kurtz and make a Websnarky plushie my daughter will demand one (hint hint) to go with my Skull plushie. I defintely would be interested in the coffee mugs and the Snarky t-shirts as well.

/rant

Now if I can just get Amazon to stop suggesting books in Spanish because I bought some for PA's toy drive last year, I'll be set. /rant off

Comment from: Doug posted at July 15, 2005 2:00 PM

Budding entrepreneurialism aside, this is the sort of writing-type stuff that sold me on Websnark in the first place.

I'm still not buying a T-shirt, though. Not yet. That small amount of income might be the impetus that drives you into the Scrooge McDuck mindset. Or worse; encourage you into thinking about hawking suitably preserved small bits of the leftovers of your future abdominoplasty to Websnark's fanbase as a way of letting them have a piece of the author as their very own.

That way lies madness. And voting the straight Conservative ticket.

Comment from: One Timer posted at July 15, 2005 2:32 PM

I'd don't want this to sound like a negative post, because it isn't. I love what your doing. On the offering a product versus donation thing, I think along the same lines. It's great to offer something back to the people helping you out. My only concern would be if you're going to rely on this in the future. Advertising through Websnark is a limited market, the types that have bought t-shirts, would probably enjoy the next designs you come up with, but how many t-shirts will they buy before the reach saturation? It's a good idea, I think you should go with it, but you'll probably have to keep expanding your market if you still want to get the same number of sales back. Regardless, best of luck.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at July 15, 2005 2:32 PM

I'm not saying I didn't enjoy reading this, but a lack of cuts makes babies cry.

Anyhow, I know the pain of suddenly having to deal with business. I thought that for a review site, I'd just be in a collective with friends, writing stuff on video games and having a grand time making jokes about it. Now? We have a federal Employer Identification Number. We have shiny pieces of plastic that say "Corporate Debit Card" on them. We even have a black patent leather-bound ledger.

At what point did the merry collective of Netjak.com become Netjak, Inc.? (Well, that answer is simple: late June 2003, when the incorporation paperwork was finalized.) At what point did I become responsible for this kind of thing? Hell, narrow that down further: when did I become responsible?

As eerie as it still is to me, I've come to accept it. To really do what you love, you have to make forays into worlds you never thought you'd have to touch, and worlds that never thought they'd touch yours.

It's like a bird in its nest. Maybe it could stay there for a while, but you can't really soar unless you take a step out into the unknown.

Comment from: Remus Shepherd posted at July 15, 2005 2:37 PM

My girlfriend had gastric bypass surgery. It's made a terrific difference in her health, her energy levels, and of course her looks. The side effects do suck, though. She finds that rigorous exercise (goes to the gym 3 days a week) and vitamin B12 shots help.

Her HMO paid for the skin-reducing surgery on her abdomen and back, but not on her arms. Double check with your insurance; with luck they'll allow some of what you need.

Best of luck, Eric, and remember there are a lot of people sending you good thoughts. :)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at July 15, 2005 2:37 PM

Definitely Lulu the ALU collections, dude. I'd buy those, whereas I probably won't buy a shirt (I've gotten WAY too used to having a breast pocket for my PDA and iPod to really want to start wearing T-shirts again, sorry).

Comment from: Alexander Danner posted at July 15, 2005 2:43 PM

As was said, stay away from H&R Block. They're not really accountants, just guys with automated software--you'd do just as well buying a copy of TurboTax and doing it yourself. I tried them last year, and I know practically nothing, but I still had to correct the guy's work several times throughout the process.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at July 15, 2005 2:45 PM

On the increased heftiness of the adipose ninja:

at one point I was thinking about how a while before you hit ninja level you would have lost a me worth of weight. And then I started giggling uncontrollably, because before you lost a ninja, you lost me. You had me, and you lost me. Hee!

Also, change is scary. This change is scary too. I'm sacared for you, because I don't want you to lost the awesome thing you have going, and I'm scared for us, because this site has been a part of my life since November or December of last year and if something happened to it it'd leave a pretty big hole. That said, I can't help but think that no matter what happens with business, I am here because your writing has an inherent appeal for me, and that's not going to go away, unless you wake up tomorrow without the desire to blather on for a few thousand words about something inconsequential. And honestly, what are the chances of that?

I love that you have high standards for yourself and are going into this with an eye turned solidly toward all the potential consequences.

Comment from: lucastds posted at July 15, 2005 2:51 PM

I've been doing small (family) business all my life. It's hard.

So I really enjoyed reading this.

Comment from: eviljim posted at July 15, 2005 2:57 PM

Stay away from H&R Block! Get a real accountant -- just look a CPA up in the phone book or ask for recomendations. H&R Block will screw you over, guaranteed.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at July 15, 2005 3:05 PM

Speaking of got nothing here snarks: Yes, as a reader I find them disappointing, but they're better than nothing. Think of them as filler. Then go reread the filler snark. Then, maybe, do what I do: create a buffer of fillers held in reserve for bad days.

Speaking of advertising the t-shirts: As promised Arthur is wearing one to San Diego as can be seen today. Don't ask me how he got ahold of one before they've even been printed, and in a color you don't offer, because I don't know.

Comment from: eben posted at July 15, 2005 4:46 PM

Something about this post, and the whole "I Aggro Drama" thing in general, reminded me of something I read in an interview with Neil Gaiman ages ago. So I poked at Google until it spat up the appropriate quote. Gaiman said:

"... So the next morning the phone rings, it's the publisher, and he says, 'First, I hate fantasy. Second, I love Stardust. We're publishing it, and we're launching Spike Books with it.' And I said, 'Okay. What's Spike Books?' He says, 'Spike Books is our pop-culture line!' I said, 'Okay. Why is a fairy tale set in Victorian England pop culture?' And he says, 'Because you wrote it!' So I discovered at that point that, merely by existing, I am pop culture."

That's honestly a little bit what's going on here, in my view. Websnark's readership has reached a certain critical mass where its almost insane not to start selling something, even if its ad space. Although I am happy that its not ad space, at least not initially. Independent of Gossamer Commons, you have fans, fans of your prose here at Websnark. And within their (OK, OK, our) geeky subculture, merely by existing, you are pop culture. They -- er, we -- crave things like a limited edition "I Aggro Drama" shirt. We yearn for you to sell things so that we can go out and wear them proudly. They become badges of honor that we belong to a certain subculture; moreover they become an easy way to spot in-group members on the street, which is always a little tough with internet subcultures.

I'm not sure I have a point, other than that. Oh yes! Good luck, Eric. With everything. And, as ever... stop being so goddamn hard on yourself. There will be "I got nothin'" days, because some days everyone's got nothin'. Its OK. We're your fans, we forgive you (well, not the asshats among us, but I can't claim to speak for them. Or, really, anyone.) But in any event... good luck!

Comment from: DarkStar posted at July 15, 2005 5:04 PM

I originally came here because you snarked a webcomic I read. It was linking in the news and I read it. About the third time this happened, I seriously started reading what you haed been writing for a few months. You quickly joined my fledgling list of blogs to read. You have kept your place without fail since I began reading. I look forward to new posts and even like to hear what is happening in your life when there is no time or nothing good to snark. I look to your writing for a smile and a well thought out argument. I look to the site for interesting discussion and feedback. And I don't think that any of that will change.

I have faith in you Eric, that no matter the direction this business venture takes, you will remain true to your writing. It is so much a part of you that you could do nothing else. I admire that very much. I congratulate you on your (somewhat limited, for now) success and eagerly look forward to what you have to offer in the future.

"Come for the Snark, stay for the goods" :-P

Comment from: SeanH posted at July 15, 2005 6:02 PM

Eh, I really don't think there's any danger of Eric "selling out" in any real sense - that is, compromising his integrity as a man who writes about webcomics. I mean, he doesn't have a burning desire to go all Garfield and ignore Websnark entirely, and it's not like Marvel are going to buy him out and get Rob Liefeld to draw him (god, what would that look like?).

This is to say nothing of the fact that Eric just wrote over three thousand five hundred words of musings on the subject. Come on. I swear Eric could be bleeding to death and still manage to write a couple thousand words about it. And that's why we love Websnark, and I really doubt it'll change.

That rambled a bit. It's late. I'm sorry.

Comment from: AndrewWade posted at July 15, 2005 7:07 PM

This is to say nothing of the fact that Eric just wrote over three thousand five hundred words of musings on the subject. Come on. I swear Eric could be bleeding to death and still manage to write a couple thousand words about it.

I feel sorry for the guy who has to chisel out his epitaph.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at July 15, 2005 7:08 PM

Good on you, Eric.

Let me know what I can do to help.

Comment from: jpcardier posted at July 15, 2005 7:09 PM

Hey Eric,

More power to you. I really love reading your essays. To quote Oingo Boingo; "There's nothing wrong with a little capitalism"....

Comment from: Maritza Campos posted at July 15, 2005 9:01 PM

No no no no no. No Staples. No sir.

There must be a store around that sells stuff for bakeries. They sell things like giant batters and cookie-cutters and soda-fountain stuff. You can find good digital scales there (ask for bakery/cooking scales) 10 pounds maximum weight. Mine was 50 bucks, but it was import, so maybe you'll find it cheaper. In any case, 50 bucks is not a huge investment, especially if you plan on adding new products or need to calculate postage beforehand.

I ship (almost) everything I sell myself, and when calculating the price I charge, I need the scale to calculate shipping. So I see my 50 bucks as an investment.

Also: don't buy a scale if it's not digital. It's not worth it.

Comment from: miyaa posted at July 15, 2005 9:53 PM

If you really want my money, you should start selling a brand of "biscuits" that would rival the mafia that is known as the Girl Scouts. The Sopranos have nothing on the Girl Scouts. They probably get badges for cement shoe making and telemarketing. (I don't like mint, but yet, I find the Girl Scout mints so addictive, through? Why?)

I wouldn't mind a hoodie I aggro llama, er, Drama sweatshirt, through.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at July 15, 2005 11:31 PM

I'd just love to see Eric dressed as Snarky, going door to door with boxes of cookies. Especially as he gave me 1500 words on why I should buy his mints over those of the Girl Scouts.

And by the by, for people who want to pay less and get them year round, Keebler's Grasshoppers are exactly the same as Thin Mints.

Comment from: gwalla posted at July 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Holy balls that's a long post!

The most important part about getting an accountant is finding one you like and trust. But yes, get an accountant; once you start dealing with multiple streams of income and business expense writeoffs, there's no way you can successfully do your own taxes without suffering an aneurysm.

And don't worry too much about the occasional "I gots nuthin'". It's better than no update, and it kinda shows that the blog is still a personal project and not a fully licensed product of WebSnarCo LLC.

Comment from: Thomas Blight posted at July 16, 2005 12:14 AM

Staples owns Business Depot, doesn't it?

But I digress.

Good luck on your business ventures for Websnark.

Comment from: MasonK posted at July 16, 2005 12:44 AM

I mean, he doesn't have a burning desire to go all Garfield and ignore Websnark entirely, and it's not like Marvel are going to buy him out and get Rob Liefeld to draw him (god, what would that look like?).

The mental pictures will haunt me for weeks!

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at July 16, 2005 3:10 AM

An interesting snark. Or rather, perhaps, a rumination. That's never really been something I'd ever thought about. Suddenly going from hobbyist to businessman without considering the ramifications. I'd bet many people wouldn't even think about some of these things.

Oh, and with regard to merchandise, one word: posters. I've never really been a large t-shirt fan, mainly because I have so many from band/clubs in high school. Plus, I can't wear them often because of my job. :(

Comment from: larksilver posted at July 16, 2005 3:35 AM

whoa. Sooo much to say hehe

On selling out: you're not, IMHO. Selling out is when you change what you do to make a profit - for instance, buying cheaper cheese and other ingredients to make a bigger profit on your Pizzas. You've already said that your plan, your intent, your "job," once this goes live, is to actually create a better product than before, in the form of more reliable snarkage. This isn't selling out! This is "I love doing this. If you want to help me benefit financially from doing this and get neat stuff too, here's a link." Selling out is something most of us feel a bit guilty about.

On Writing for Shirts: you're not writing for shirts, any more than Queen of Wands, or Digger, or Narbonic, or 100 other comics were written and drawn for the marketing opportunities contained therein (maybe Chex, but then.. it's CHEX lol). You write because to you, it's like breathing. You write because without it, something inside you would suffocate. T-shirt sales from that? Just means you have a way of coining a phrase that touches people, that moves into their lexicon to the point that they say "aha! I want to make that my new catchphrase! My mantra! My Motto!".. and, well, Snarky is cute as can be. But that's beside the point.

On Staples: eeeeeeeevil. Ow! The prices gouged out my eyes!

On Health: It sucks that you've gone through so much, and triumphed so with your surgery and your life-changing weight loss, only to have something like your own skin keeping you from enjoying it as much as you deserve to. So.. er.. good luck with it, and I hope it frees you to just enjoy the new shape you're in.

On "filler" and "I've got nothing" days: When you're on, you're so totally ON. If you write 500 words today and 12 tomorrow.. the average is still pretty damn high, and well worth the trip. Even your "nada!" days tend to be entertaining. We come to the site for the snarks, aye. But we stay, well, we stay for YOU. For the slice-of-life, for the writing, for the fact that you love italics so much (hehe). And if that part of you means you're out, y'know, having a life? I, for one, am happy for ya, and have faith that you'll be there tomorrow, probably makin' up for lost time. Double-posts make "nada" days totally worth it.

Holy cow. Do I talk this much in Real Life? And if so, help!

Comment from: Cass posted at July 16, 2005 6:04 AM

I have to agree with most of what's been said already, about the t-shirt idea, your surgeries, and websnarking (and the frequency thereof).

My personal points are this, though:

I'm sorry to read that you've had such a difficult time with your health, and I'm glad you informed your readers in such a way that doesn't smack of pity. Heck, I'm glad you informed your readers (and by that I mean me, too!) about this anyway! It really does link us closer to you on a personal level, which can be a good or bad thing. I know that getting little glimpses of humanity in between a wickedly cynical/funny comic snark is something that keeps us coming back. :) We relate to you, Eric, and frankly, we like you.

As for "selling out" ... Personally, you've got the perfect attitude towards it, heh. You're approaching it as a business, and thinking about making it a permanent thing. However, a little caveat - (and caveat emptor this time around), be careful that your readers don't come to the site for shirts, and just shirts. Businesses are tricky - you have to maintain a good product without having the audience tire of it, as well as bringing in new audiences (this leads into point #3, below). But I'm sure you know this, and everyone else has already told you in their own comments.

Alright, so here's point #3. Don't feel you have to pressure yourself in to snarking. I would hope that you continue to snark for the pleasure you currently find in writing (if I had time, I'd make a snark-clone site as well! writing is awesome). In my personal experience, if you try to force writing for the demands of someone else (other than an adoring fan, of course :p), and it involves money, the quality begins to decrease and it all sounds a little too forced. Just have fun with it, and be yourself.

Wow. I didn't think $.02 could buy much anymore. :)

Comment from: Cass posted at July 16, 2005 6:21 AM

Oh, P.S. I feel sorry for the guy who has to chisel out his epitaph.

Here Lies Eric Burns

Survivor of The Corporately Trademarked WWIV

Friend

Father

Brother

And WebSnarker

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 16, 2005 10:53 AM

Please. It's a very simple epitaph:

Eric Alfred Burns - "Dude."

Comment from: Doc posted at July 16, 2005 12:51 PM

I have to agree with above, you're not selling out. If anything you're not writing to sell shirts, you're selling shirts so you can write.

Don't worry about the I've got nothing days, even the longest running or funniest comics have days when they just can't do it because of other commitments or lack of teh mus3 (Sluggy and Something Positive both spring to mind), you work through it and so long as you keep providing what we're here for we're going to keep coming back.

As for the epitaph, my vote is just a link to websnark, or maybe a wireless enabled computer built into the tombstone with an lcd displaying websnarks latest posting. Just in case you manage to update from beyond the grave.

Oh and that idea of Doug's is great, even if he doesn't think so, hawking bits of yourself on the internet is a great way to make money.

Comment from: Doug posted at July 16, 2005 1:30 PM

"Oh and that idea of Doug's is great, even if he doesn't think so, hawking bits of yourself on the internet is a great way to make money."

No, no, no! Writers are supposed to follow tradition and sell their soul, not their leftover organs!

Comment from: Spatchcock posted at July 16, 2005 1:55 PM

Eric, my old kipper, I have nothing but sympathetic thoughts for a good man trying to get himself well.

I may seem harsh, but I'm of the old school who favour brevity and conciseness over sheer word-haemmorhage. Or to put it another way, Websnark is sometimes like a sandwich with three hundred slices of bread either side of a single piece of very good ham. Sharpen up, show us the ham, and you might reach more people than you imagined possible.

Comment from: PlaidRab posted at July 16, 2005 4:19 PM

Dude is probably better than "The non-Hitatchi Magic Boyfriend..."

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 16, 2005 4:57 PM

Surely it is preferable to combine the powers of Hitachi and Non-Hitachi.

Like Getter Robo.

Comment from: PlaidRab posted at July 16, 2005 6:59 PM

One must be certain that is unlike crossing the streams...

Which is my excuse for not picking one up for the SO.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 16, 2005 7:07 PM

Crossing the streams? I'm not sure I follow you.

Non-Hitachi fear of Hitachi is very late-eighties/early-nineties, and should be overcome forthwith. Besides, it's not like Non-Hitachi can't also himself use Hitachi if he's so inclined.

Comment from: miyaa posted at July 17, 2005 8:39 AM

Wait, Hitachi? Isn't that a television making company? They make boyfriends?

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at July 17, 2005 10:37 AM

"Crossing the streams" is an allusion to Ghostbusters.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 17, 2005 11:54 AM

Miyaa: Hitachi is a massive electronics company which makes all sorts of things. This includes wand-style, mains-operated massagers.

Paul: Okay, now I'm even more confused.

Comment from: Chris "Slarti" Pinard posted at July 17, 2005 1:06 PM

In the midst of their first bust, having already fired off their particle thrower guns a couple times but only now getting to the point of actually catching the ghost:

EGON: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.

PETER: What?

EGON: Don't cross the streams.

PETER: Why?

EGON: It would be bad.

PETER: I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. What do you mean, bad?

EGON: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

RAY: Total protonic reversal.

PETER: All right, that's bad, okay. Important safety tip, don't cross the streams. Thanks, Egon.

Thus, he is saying that to "to combine the powers of Hitachi and Non-Hitachi" could be bad.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 17, 2005 2:57 PM

Ah. (You can tell how much I enjoyed that movie, notwithstanding the family adoption of "don't hassle me, I'm a scientist.")

Well...

No.

Comment from: gwalla posted at July 17, 2005 10:16 PM

The actual quote is "Back off, man, I'm a scientist".

Comment from: xaandria posted at July 17, 2005 11:42 PM

I'm usually pretty quiet around here; I don't comment a lot.

But, for the record? I can never have enough smart-alecky babydoll shirts. Ever. And there are never enough smart-alecky babydoll shirts out there.

So as long as you keep offering them in babydoll (the bella brand is by far the best--my "Republicans for Voldemort" is outwearing my ThinkGeek shirts), if I see one I'll like...sure, I'll throw 20 bucks at you.

Comment from: vark posted at July 19, 2005 8:11 PM

Flying to a con that you -might- snark about is 100% tax deductible, until your accountant says it isn't.

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