Recently in The Websnarkery Category

And hello and good morning, action force! It's the start of a new week -- and as it works out, a pretty important week for Weds and I. We get up tomorrow morning, bright and early, and head down to Boston to board a plane which then takes us to Las Vegas, Nevada. There, I go to a work related conference with other folks from work. In the evenings, we hang out and listen to the sounds of the bells.

And then, at the end of the week, there's a wedding. And that's downright awesome.

Needless to say, of course, we need more money than we currently have. And as we have done before and promised to do this time, we're turning to eBay -- land of getting rid of stuff -- to raise said funds while also clearing some room. It's win-win!

My eBay page is still here, and there's about 30 items up right now with more being added this afternoon. It's cool stuff! Here's a few highlights:

I won't kid you -- this has been a very expensive month for us. Between moving, getting household stuff set up, and preparing for a Wedding (just because we're going the Vegas route doesn't mean there's not, y'know, money that needs spendin') things are a lot tighter than we'd hoped for this stage of things. If folks have an inclination to use the donation button on the sidebar, we'd certainly be appreciative, though I'd admit I feel odd asking for that. Thus, we put stuff up for sale, and continue to do so. So please, bid early, bid often, and tip your waitresses. You know, your waitress doesn't get paid very much -- it's your appreciation that means she eats. Now, please enjoy the dulcet tones of mister Rudy Vallee.

G'morning, all -- as promised, it's time to shamelessly sell things! Wednesday moved here over the past couple of weeks, which has been amazing and fun and exciting and expensive and have we mentioned it will be months before Weds can legally receive money for work in this country? We haven't? Well, it's true! The guv'ment done has rules and we follow those rules, dang it!

Further, in less than a month Wednesday and I fly to the city of Sin to... er, stop sinning. I have a conference work is sending me to in beautiful, neon-laden Las Vegas, and Weds is coming along with because... well, we have to get married within 90 days of her entering the country, so we pretty much need to elope, and we're going to be in Vegas anyway. Plus we have some friends who are meeting us there. So we need money for Vegas, money for the wedding, and money for immediately after Vegas since we don't need to stop eating when we get back from a trip, you know.

It is also worth noting? We now have a lot of stuff in our apartment, and some of it needs new homes. Our kitchen has been overwhelmed by boxes.

So. We're doing what geeks do when they need money and space -- we're selling bunches of stuff on eBay, and you're invited!

The stuff we're selecting tends to be stuff A) we have duplicates of (oddly enough, we have a lot of the same stuff), B) is clearly stuff we're never going to use (I have a lot of DVDs already up on eBay -- DVDs that have never been taken out of their shrinkwrap. Obviously, watching them isn't a priority so they might as well go to a new home), C), stuff we have no idea how we got in the first place (I own a Kim Possible DVD? Really? No, really? Huh.) and D) stuff that we like but that can fetch some needed coin.

My eBay page is churning away, working on 23 happy 3 day turnaround auctions with more being added throughout today and beyond. Why 3 day? Why not!? There's been some activity already, but there's going to be lots more.

For those who might wonder -- this isn't specifically a donation drive. The paypal button is still up, of course, and we will be appreciative for any donations we get. However, with the dearth of posts around here, I would feel dumb as a post shilling for cash that way. And even if we get donations, we're still going to sell bunches of stuff because... well, see A-D above!

For those also wondering -- yeah, there should be a State Of later today, work willing.

So, here's a few highlights of what's currently on the page:

  • Fred Perry's Gold Digger: The Time Raft: Volume 1: This is the first DVD, animated by Perry himself, adapting Perry's popular Gold Digger series to glorious OVA video. So far, it's the most hotly contested item, with 8 bids and over twenty bucks asserted so far -- feel free to jump into the fray!
  • Fred Perry's Gold Digger: The Time Raft: Volume 2: Oddly, where Volume 1 is a hotbed of activity, Volume 2 is currently going for... a dollar. That seems wrong.
  • Muppets Magic From The Ed Sullivan Show: This rare DVD highlights the original debut and subsequent public appearances of Jim Henson's Muppets, from their early pre-Sesame Street gigs on the Ed Sullivan Show. Region Free for your convenience!
  • Hell Comes to Frogtown: I'm not sure the best way to shill this. If you don't know about Hell Comes To Frogtown, starring Rowdy Roddy Piper as the last genetically clean male in a post-nuclear apocalypse, then you're sitting there wondering why anyone would own a B movie starring in a monumentally low budget 'thriller.' If you do know about it, you're already bouncing in your chair and clicking on the link to get in on bidding. That Rifftrax has not released a commentary rifftrax for this yet is a crime.
  • DC Archive Editions: All Star Comics Volume 1: People know that I have a love of the hardbound archive editions that DC put out. (I still think fondly of the Legion archives that once I had, though they're in the best home I can think of, now.) Well, this is the first four issues of All-Star Comics to feature the Justice Society of America (the first two All-Stars didn't feature the JSA, so they're not included). The Flash, Hourman! Doctor Fate! Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt (including several fiction pieces featuring Johnny)! Good fun, collecting four of the most influential comics of all time.

There's also a bunch of GURPS stuff that's gone up, and more to come this morning, so folks looking for RPG goodness will find it. Also, some nonGURPS RPG stuff later on.

Please enjoy some delicious auction commerce!

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 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 -- 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.


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.


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.

Logo: Sleeping Snarky