Recently in Gossamer Commons Category

So, as promised, a snark on or about Gossamer Commons. Specifically, on the future.

Gossamer Commons has to be the my most ambitious project, in all my online endeavors. John Stark makes me happy, and Websnark is by far the most successful thing I've done. But Gossamer Commons represents a true desire to make something -- to make a story, first and foremost, with some humor and with some drama. To take what I've learned from critiquing and do something with it. And to learn what no one on the outside can know.

And I've learned so much, so far. The pacing on Chapter Two reflects that, I think. I'm very excited, and very pleased. And of course, Greg Holkan's art has made it very special indeed.

Well, Greg has to step away from it, at the end of Chapter Two. He has too many irons in the fire. And I understand and support his decision. Most of all, I wouldn't want to see Gossamer Commons continue with him at the sacrifice of [nemesis], which is his story. He's not going away, mind. He'll still contribute art and projects, and he's going to remain a sounding board for me. And of course, every episode of Gossamer Commons will show his influence from now until the end, no matter what his role is.

Hell, the name Gossamer Commons came from a collaborative decision between the two of us.

But, it means it's time to look for someone to pick the art chores up, starting with Chapter Three. And that's just a few weeks away, even at three day a week updating.

And so, here we are. Hi. My name is Eric. I write a webcomic that's got thousands of readers. I need someone to draw it. Someone who will take the designs and work and concepts that Greg Holkan built, but not be afraid to let their own style influence and build upon that foundation.

It's going to be black and white art, as it currently is. And it's three days a week. I would greatly prefer a backlog of strips be built up, so that as trouble strikes we can deal with it. Absent a backlog, there is still a solid need for deadline-meeting fu. Missing updates is death for a story webcomic, after all. The artist in question will get an opportunity to brainstorm, to discuss, to influence the story as it's written -- I might be the writer, but the story is collaborative.

There is no money, at this time. However, if we go to print -- and that's still the intent, one day -- compensation will be divided equally for all pages the artist produces. And the artist in question retains their originals to do with what they will.

I'm pretty bummed, I'll admit. Greg has been a godsend. But he's not leaving in acrimony, and like I said he's not divorcing himself from Gossamer Commons entirely. I wish him well with everything he does, and I'm still going to read [nemesis] with every new post.

If you're interested, e-mail gossamercommons [funky at symbol] gmail [period] com. Or comment here.

And if you're of a mind, let Greg know how much he'll be missed. Because if anyone deserves applause right now, it's Our Mister Holkan.

Peace.

You'll notice another sidebar tweak -- one that folks have asked for before. There's finally a link to other projects -- I've got a link to Gossamer Commons, if course. You'll also see a link to The Adventures of Brigadier General John Stark. That's right -- John Stark's voice has taken flight in my brain, and at least until I run out of ideas, he's going to appear daily at Webcomics Nation. The first strip is up -- the one you've seen before. I've queued up strips straight through to the end of the week. (I'm not sure if it's ripping off Daily Dinosaur Comics, Sinister Bedfellows or both, but I'm having fun so what the Hell?) As Weds and I develop our little online forays, we'll make sure there's appropriate linkage going on.

Severe Tire Damage

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p55.gif(From Gossamer Commons. Click on the thumbnail for full sized waiting!)

As always, this is not a snark, because I can't Snark Gossamer Commons. I wrote it.

I'm writing this link because A) it's been a while, and B) because it's been the requisite two weeks since the end of Chapter One, and so we have had guest strips. But now, Chapter Two has begun, as of today, so it's a good day to get back into it.

Not... er... that much happens today. But hey, we've all been where Malachite is, right?

And now... a brief story from my life. So that this is more than just a shameless plug.

It was Friday night, and I was driving north from Peabody, Mass. I had a stop to make there, to grab some things for Wednesday. But, it took longer than expected, and now I needed to drive fast and hard to make it to the mall in Portsmouth in time to grab other things on her care package list.

(If you're wondering just why I'd be putting together a care package to send to Wednesday... yeesh, man. You haven't been paying close attention, have you? But I digress.)

So I'm driving, listening to the iPod... and the car begins to vibrate. Rhythmically.

So, like all good drivers, I think "oh crap. Don't tell me I need to have an alignment done. God damn it." And then I sped up some more, because dude. I had to buy conditioner. Conditioner for Wednesday. And as I go faster, the vibration disappears.

(When I told Wednesday this little tale later on, she let me know in no uncertain terms my priorities were screwed up.)

I make it to the mall at 9:22. I go to two different stores and buy two different things within eight minutes, and then talk to the Select Comfort saleslady through the metal grate. (I have a sleep comfort bed, and it has a slow leak. I asked advice. She gave me an eight hundred number and told me that apparently they'll just up and send replacement parts, free. Dude!)

I head out, feeling smug, and drive North... to the grocery store. There are foods one cannot get in Britain, you see. Foods which I can provide. Foods which are dirt cheap, which means bonus points without incredible expense.

And then I drive home. And put on the iPod. Specifically, one of the episodes of The Shadow I have. It is now late, and the radio play will help keep me awake, I figure.

So... I get within ten miles of my home. And the Shadow is playing. Specifically, a commercial. For the Goodrich Safety Silvertown Tire -- a tire that literally whisks water off the road like a windshield wiper working on a windshield, with the patented golden ply for extra blowout protection! (Goodrich was the national sponsor, while Blue Coal was the regional sponsor for New England. So, about once every three episodes we get Goodrich shilling tires.) The Shadow himself was advertising this particular tire, this particular episode.

"We'd like to talk to you about your tires," the announcer said. "After all, who knows--"

"The Shadow knows!" Orson Welles hissed, in his trademark voice, interrupting the announcer.

My car began to vibrate again.

"Your tires could be a death trap!" the Shadow hissed, in his trademark way. "Slipping! Skidding! Leading to a blowout! Leading to expenses, or injuries--"

The vibrating became a violent shaking. My eyes grew wide. This -- this was trouble, and I knew it.

"--or worse!" the Shadow cried.

My front left tire -- the one nearest me -- exploded.

I pulled over to the side of the road and put my blinkers on. And let me tell you, Orson Welles screaming at me that I was in terrible danger, using the intonations of the Shadow -- which was scary as Hell, thank you -- did not work to calm my heart rate down. Especially since I can't buy stupid Safety Silvertown tires. They haven't made them since before World War II!

I got out, and looked at my tire. Smoke was pouring from it. It had overheated, and that caused the blowout. So I call AAA. (I royally suck at changing tires in the best of situations. Given that I was on the side of a major arterial highway, trying to change a tire at nearly midnight with cars doing seventy around the curve right next to where I would be crouched seemed at best suicidal to me. Besides, I have AAA Plus for a reason, and this was it.

Forty-five minutes, they said. So, I listened to more Shadow episodes.

An hour and a half later, the guy shows up and changes the tire. In his defense, I live in the middle of New Hampshire. However, even with Shadow episodes to keep me company, an hour and a half in my car waiting for AAA was plenty long enough to shift me from freaked out to bored out of my skull. I watched cars blur past me all the while (including one person in a Mercedes going at least 90 who had the audacity to honk at me. I'm on the shoulder, my hazards on, and he honks. Yeeeeeah).

I go home. I shake a bit. I take Benadryl. Eventually, over the course of the weekend, I play City of Heroes, talk to folks, and price out tires (specifically designed to not overheat on the road). I make an appointment to get them replaced on Monday. Which is tomorrow.

And then, I uploaded Gossamer Commons. Because we're back, and blowouts may happen, but darn it, I had a deadline.

vert.jpgSo. Let's talk about advertising. Yes, I'm going to snark actual webcomics today. Yes, I'm going to poke at more Shortbreads today. But for the moment, let's talk about advertising.

There's always a question, before you advertise, over whether or not it will do any good to advertise your webcomic. You know the conventional wisdom about advertising, but the conventional wisdom is often conventionally wrong. Still... I have a webcomic, alongside Soul Brother Number Nine-Fourteen Greg Holkan. You may have heard me mention it before. And while we've had a solid readership -- especially for a brand new webcomic -- obviously we want more. Lots more.

And that means advertising. Among many other things.

Now, to be fair, we had advertisements before. As part of my compensation for writing articles for Comixpedia, I get a certain number of ad banner impressions each month, and as soon as Gossamer Commons existed, I swapped over to that. (I've never felt a need to advertise Websnark. I'm not sure why. I did it -- with the worst banner ad in existence -- when that was the only website I had, but now that I have a webcomic my ad space went to that.)

But, we've had that from the very beginning. And it works. I do in fact get a number of monthly referrals from that ad. But that won't expand my readership, because we've always advertised there. If I were going to try the grand experiment, I needed to figure the best places to put ads for our strip where there were no current ads.

I was holding off on more general advertising strategy until we had a solid archive of strips for people to read through, as well. And I wanted to wait until I felt like we really had our voice. And the last couple of weeks of strips have hit on all cylinders, so this seemed like the time.

This week, we did this. We put a vertical ad banner on Something Positive, and we advertised on Blank Label Comics. For Something Positive, we took out ads on a few days on the sidebar graphic -- Greg put together a fantastic banner ad to meet the Something Positive size requirements. You see that same sidebar advertisement on this post. At Blank Label, we offered up the same horizontal ad banner we use on Comixpedia -- another excellent Greg Holkan design.

(Greg designs the ads, I pay for the advertising. This to me is way more than fair, since if we reverse the equation the ads would drive people away. You don't want to see what it looks like when I draw Sonata.)

There were two solid reasons for advertising on Something Positive. Pragmatically, Randy Milholland's strip is extremely popular -- not just with people in general, but with the sort of people I hope will actually like Gossamer Commons. The demographic seemed a good fit.

The emotional reason for advertising on Something Positive is because without Something Positive, Gossamer Commons wouldn't exist.

See, I knew I wanted to do a webcomic. Very badly. I knew I couldn't draw it, and that I'd have to find someone who could. But beyond that, I needed a solid idea and a solid premise. For a while, I thought it'd be a webcomic about Trudy Glick, kind of somewhere between Bruno and Girls with Slingshots.

The problem was... I couldn't make it work. I'm not a good enough writer, and Trudy as I envisioned her wasn't a strong enough character to support a webcomic by herself. I needed a Mary Richards, and she was one hundred percent Ted Baxter.

Now, years and years ago, when I was actually living in Ithaca, I came up with an idea for a novel. See, I knew the folklore. I didn't make up the whole "if you see a fairy you're marked for death" idea, though I think my implementation is somewhat different. I first heard about it when I was acting in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. So, I came up with an idea that a young man saved a beautiful (very much 'age of consent') fairy whose leg was caught in a trap, and so the Fae court decided they wanted to reward him instead of kill him. The joke in this story would be that they weren't very good at rewarding him. Ultimately, of course, the man married the fairy girl -- like I said, totally not Sonata, who is the fae equivalent of three years old -- and fathered children with her, and then died ironically.

As novel premises went, it was okay. The kind of novel you come up with when you're twenty-two years old and spending a lot of your time writing about crappy super heroes. But I never got around to writing it and stuck it in the back of my head. Something about the premise didn't quite work for me, you see.

So, I was casting around for an idea for a webcomic, trying to find something good. Something I could write. Something that -- while an original idea is next to impossible -- would be at least somewhat different.

And then I was rereading the Something Positive archives one day -- I don't even remember why -- and I came across this strip.

And something between the righteous "anti-cute-fairy" sentiment of the strip, plus the darkness of it, plus the phrase "winged harbinger of death" just absolutely clicked in my brain. My old story cropped back up and I was able to completely recast it in a more modern, less clich»d light. In particular, a sense of utterly dark humor that was missing from my original premise -- which was, after all, romanic comedy -- slid in, all Milholland-like. Certainly, Sonata's design was entirely designed around the kind of cute, cuddly, adorable tinkerbellesque fairy that someone like Anna would probably like to meet sitting on a toadstool, giggling and waving and marking Anna for a horrific death in the process.

So, it went without saying I'd advertise with Something Positive. I owed him, even though he didn't know it, and besides it made sound business sense.

Blank Label, on the other hand, was a happy coincidence. I was looking around for other venues -- things that could fit in my budget, which let out most of the Big Guns of Webcomics (the other advantage to Something Positive is it's affordable). But here's Blank Label, just starting up, but with six extremely established cartoonists working for them and extremely affordable ad rates for webcomics creators. Affordable rates that would put our ad banner on Shortpacked, Checkerboard Nightmare, Greystone Inn, Melonpool, Wapsi Square and Ugly Hill, among others. Solidly established strips, among the top tier, with (once again) compatible senses of humor to mine. It made a lot of sense to advertise with them.

Though I did find it morbidly amusing that this meant I was actually advertising on It's Walky. I'm waiting for David Willis to laugh and laugh and laugh at me. And then possibly do me an injury.

The Blank Label ads cost less, but Something Positive is a full day's sponsorship, which means a lot higher percentage of people seeing it. A good tradeoff.

So. The question... back from the beginning of this snark... was "is it worth it to advertise." I mean, we had a solid readership to begin with. Not huge, but pretty damn good.

Holy crap, dude.

Our page views for the past three days have been in six figures. We did as much bandwidth yesterday as we did in April. We've done more bandwidth since May 31 than in the entire history of our webcomic combined times two. We have a huge number of people coming over. And a good percentage of those people are trawling back through the archives. I've gotten e-mail from new readers. We've gotten a passel of new links elsewhere. This has been huge.

The Something Positive referrals have been higher -- but then, as I said, that's a persistent ad. On the days I've sponsored, it's always there. That's huge. Certainly, we've had a solid response from Blank Label as well.

Now, part of the credit goes to the ad banners themselves. Greg Holkan knocked himself out on them -- look at that sidebar advert again. It's great. Visually it strikes you solidly. Hooks you in. Creates a sense of dissonance that makes the viewer want to resolve. It's the same sort of dissonance -- in a different form -- that he did with the vertical banner.

The next step is to let these advertisements run out, and see how many readers stick around. Once we've done that, then it's time to advertise again, possibly in these venues, but definitely in some others as well. Almost certainly, we'll advertise on Real Life Comics -- Greg Dean actually linked to us in his links list, and we get a decent number of referrals from that, so we owe him to begin with. And again, his audience is a good one to shamelessly beg to. When Modern Tales/Joey Manley's Ad Comics Nation spins up, we'll no doubt participate. And I'll start exploring the costs over at Dayfree and Dumbrella, where applicable.

(Why not Keenspot? I can't afford Keenspot. Q.E.D. It's not because I don't feel love. There is the love! See also PvP and Penny-Arcade and Sluggy etc. Frankly, I'm stunned that I could afford Something Positive. S*P is, for right now, one of the best values in advertising.)

In the meantime, advertising has clearly, solidly worked. Now it's our job to actually keep the new readers.

Because... I find I like having people read this webcomic. Go figure.

Yet more talk about dancing bears.

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(From Gossamer Commons. This is not a snark. This is only a rumination. Had this actually been a critique the thumbnail would have been followed by official opinion.)

It's been just shy of a month since the last Gossamer Commons notasnark, and I'm not really here to talk about the strip. This is more... well, an experience comment. Something of a philosophical snark, in other words. More or less.

Over the past few days, the premise of the strip has been made explicit (the process isn't fully over, but the premise could be pretty much stated from what has been said). And there's been a run of good strips, in my opinion. I think my writing's been as good there as anywhere in them, and Greg's art has been superb. And there have been increasing numbers of forum comments on what it all means, on the ground rules. And that's been cool.

With the above strip, however... things changed. With that strip... Gossamer Commons stood up on its own.

See, I mentioned a few snarks back the old saw about dancing bears. You know -- "it's not that the bear dances well -- it's that it dances at all." (Which Shaenon Garrity reports was originally about dogs and was sexist, but that's neither here nor there for my current purposes.) Only this time, I was the dancing bear.

I have been extraordinarily lucky. I got to have people reading a comic I wrote from the first day. Of course, that means that the inevitable shakedown strips at the start of especially the very first serious comic strip someone writes had a lot of attention. But it also means I didn't have to go through long periods of twelve people reading the strip. And, I even would get a few links and mentions. I seriously appreciated all of it, and I know Greg did too.

But all the comments outside of the forum, up until now, have been of the form "Eric Burns of Websnark is writing a comic of his own! Check it out! It's not bad!"

Like I said, we took it and were damn happy -- but the point was that the bear was dancing, not that the dance was good. The Websnark Guy was writing a comic strip.

Yesterday, there were a good number of links to the strip (including some from people I strongly respect, which blew my mind). But, almost without exception, they weren't about the Websnark Guy writing a comic strip. They were about yesterday's strip. Some people agreed with it. Some disagreed. A lot felt it resonated. It was about writing. About the dream of writing. One quote from it that I've seen quoted elsewhere was:

I want to inspire dreams. I want to be remembered. I want this to be my novel. I want to write it. And I want the world to know it. I want annoyed Freshmen in College forced to read this thing four hundred years from now. I want symposiums on Keith Onzeker. I want theses and discussions on where I fit as a voice of my age. That's the boon I want. If you're not going to give it to me, you might as well kill me right now.

This passage meant something to people. And they wrote about it. And they linked to it.

And a number of the links never mentioned my name.

I know this sounds weird, but the most complimentary thing anyone could have done was link to Gossamer Commons and not mention my name or Websnark. It means that they like the comic strip. They really honestly like the comic strip for itself. People are getting it. They're getting something from it. And it doesn't matter who's writing it.

It's not about the dancing bear. For yesterday, at least, it was just about the dance. For at least one day, we succeeded on all levels.

That means everything to me.

Logo: Sleeping Snarky

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