Podcast: Red Space Blues
Photo by John Poole
Welcome to Evil Ink’s very first podcast. I’m your hostess Amber Dalcourt, a design consultant for small businesses who want to increase their professional credibility through branding and digital media.
We’re happy introduce John Poole, the creator and artist behind the web comic Red Space Blues which can be found at www.redspaceblues.com. This web comic is very much an example of a hobby based project that is showing signs of success with very little effort put into marketing.
Hello John and welcome.
1. Why don’t we start by telling our listeners what your web comic is about.
My web comics about basically a rabbit who’s an intergalactic mercenary but has absolutely no idea what the hell she’s doing.
2. How long have you been running this comic?
I guess about 5-6 months now.
3. And has it been going well?
It’s been going pretty well, yeah.
4. I know that web comics generally find that their starting points are very slow. I noticed when I was looking at your analytics when I did work for you a while back, that you have tremendous success right off the top. Your traffic was just amazing!
Yeah I have no idea how that happened.
5. What did you do before you started this web comic?
Before I was an animator then I basically been doing freelance work since then.
6. More animation? Or did you go more into comics or did you do illustration. What sort of freelancing?
Freelance was almost all illustration based on people want something drawn I’d do it for them.
7. I guess that’s your full time job then. It’s just the freelance stuff, right?
Pretty much, yeah.
8. How long did you work in animation before freelancing?
I guess about three maybe four years.
9. Did you find that it helped you develop the skills that you needed in order to do your web comic?
The time base, yeah; because everything is usually on a tight schedule. It gets you up to speed basically.
(So it really helps you focus on ‘I need a page out by Friday’?)
Yeah, pretty much. It just helps you sit down and do the work basically.
(Yeah, and that could make or break a comic, especially if you can’t meet a deadline.)
10. What made you want to start your own web comic?
Basically to keep sane. I mean...
I’m doing all this stuff for other people; I just wasn’t doing any of my own work. I wanted to do something on the side basically.
11. Did you work on other comics specifically for other people?
No. No, I never actually did a comic before.
12. What were your inspirations?
Inspirations? Well, Star Wars, Star Trek, basically anything Sci-fi, which I spend a lot of time making fun of.
13. What did you do to market this web comic?
Not much really. I got a small advertisement on Belfry comics but that through something ‘Project Wonderful’ I guess. It goes for web comics. So basically, there’s a little thing on my site that says ‘Advertise here’ and what money I get for that I put towards advertising on other sites. So I haven’t actually spent any money advertising it.
14. Have you set up options to monetize the comic? Or do you have plans to do so in the future?
I really haven’t focused on that side of things. I guess you can do the standard things. Advertising: I got adsense up, but yeah, it’s adsense. As soon as I figure out the rules, sell t-shirts and stuff like that I guess.
(I noticed that you had the donation box on your page as well...)
Yeah, no one donates.
15. How much have you planned before you decided to sit down and draw?
I’m not really the best example to follow on that, because I don’t really plan ahead. I mean I got a few scenes in my head that I want to draw but it’s just kind of loosely connected from there. I know actual comic book guys who’ll sit down and do thumbnails...My thumbnails are actually my comic.
(You have a really unique style I find. So it’s working well for you.)
Yeah, well I hope so!
16. Why don’t you walk us through the making of one of your comic book pages.
Generally I start with a rough idea of what I want to do. Then I figure out how much I can actually fit onto a page, because it’s a certain size, right. It’s all kind of loose chicken scratches. Then I make another layer where I guess I actually ink it, where I put down a fine line over top of that, then it’s just colour. Again, I’m not the best example to follow here, but if you ever mute a TV and just make up what people are saying, that’s basically what I do for the dialogue. I don’t even pretend to be a writer basically. That’s pretty much it.
17. What tools do you use? Do you have a preferred set?
Yes. For the drawing bit I use a program called Paint Tool Sai. That’s a great program. It makes the best line work I’ve seen of any program really. It’s cheap too! And to letter it I use Photoshop CS2. Oh yes, I use a Wacom. Yeah, I couldn’t do this with a mouse.
18. How long does it take you to do a page from start to finish?
Again, I’m not doing this as a living so I spend about three or four hours doing a page. Yeah, so if I make a mistake it pretty much stays.
(You obviously don’t have the perfectionist gene.)
I do, but again that’s part of animation teaching there. You have to stick to deadlines.
19. Storytellers usually have a message to communicate with their audience. Do you have a message that you are attempting to communicate with your audience?
That I’m a mean and vengeful god I guess. I just put these people through horrible circumstances and they’re just not up to the job basically, which I find is entertaining.
(You figure you’re just poking fun at the sci-fi genre then?)
Oh, yeah. You’ve got the typical female armour that protects nothing, you’ve got weapons that are just all over the place in terms of how much damage they can do, and everyone in a red shirt dies pretty much. No one stays dead so it’s alright.
20. Do you feel that your audience has a sway over what your characters do in the story or even how the plot advances?
Well somewhat. If someone tries to guess what’s going to happen I’ll try to veer off in a different direction just for the hell of it.
21. Can you give an example of such an instance?
Someone thinks that someone is going to live or something. Recently there was a bunny guy they think that was going to be okay after I blew his head off. I was going to have him come back but no, not now. He’s just dead. I don’t think I even bothered giving him a name.
22. Did you actually create any back stories for your characters yet or are you still trying to find you way with them, find their voice?
I’ve got back stories in my head. Whether or not I’ll do them or not, I don’t know. I think I’ll at least get through what I’m doing now with the story before I go there.
23. Where do you see your web comic in the next few years?
Pretty much where it is now, I guess. Entertaining for entertainment’s sake, I guess.
(This is just one of those things where you were much rather keep it a hobby, but if it saw success it would still be just a hobby.)
Yeah, pretty much. Like I said this is kind of a no pressure thing for me so... If I did turn it into a business, I’d have to do another one just to balance that out.
24. With everything you’ve learn over the past few months doing this comic what would you do differently if you could?
I might make them people instead of rabbits and things just to make it more, I don’t know, user friendly.
25. Do you find the fact that they are bunnies that it has actually had an impact on the draw?
Yes, it keeps it all cartoony, basically. I have no real desire to make it super realistic or anything which is a problem I’d probably run into if I did it with human beings.
Red Space Blues can be found at: redspaceblues.com
You can also follow the comic on Twitter at: twitter.com/RedSpaceBlues
Let’s focus on what John Poole is doing right with Red Space Blues:
The web comic is currently attracting on average 1,500 unique visitors a day. By December 31st 2011 the comic has seen over 64,000 visitors. If there’s anything at all that we should take away from John Poole and Red Space Blues is that passion can lead to incredible results with very little effort.
The next part that we should take away is that is possible to draw traffic to your website with targeted ads. Knowing his target demographic, has helped John to place ads to attract more web comic readers.
John Poole’s ad is very simple. It’s very colourful compared to what else is there, it easily draws the eye. It uses its title ‘Red Space Blues’ with a by line or slogan which is crafted specifically to sell its product. The hover text is humorous and intriguing, also playing up a specific audience.
So when you create your ad, you have to have your demographic in mind. Everything that you’re doing is pushing toward your perfect reader.
For everything that he’s doing right there are still areas that he can improve in.
As he said before he’s not interested in turning the comic into a full time business, so he wouldn’t want to invest a huge amount of time, energy, or money into the project. However if you visit his website you’ll see that he has a donation box there, and he’s also mentioned in this interview that he uses adsense. This suggests that he is willing to generate some profit if it took very little time.
Here are a couple of things that he can do through services that are free to set up and really easy to use:
Zazzle: through Zazzle he can create a variety of different products with a few clicks. He can do posters, canvases, postcards, buttons, stickers, t-shirts, hats...
Because Zazzle is handling the manufacturing and shipping they make the profits and John would be making a commission off of whatever he sells. When he sets up a product it specifically asks him what kind of commission he wants to make on it. On average it sets it up at 10% but you can set it to whatever insane amount that you desire.
This gives the shop keeper the opportunity to decide how much he makes off of every item. It’s important to note at this point, for those of you who figure that you’ll just go in and set it at 300%, you have to be aware of what your demographic is willing to pay for your product. I’ve seen some paintings go for about $3,000; that’s a really big shock if you’re not prepared to pay for that. As an added bonus, you can set what price they actually see initially.
I have a series of mugs for Evil Ink, and the one that shows up happens to be the most expensive one. What the shop keeper can do is select the cheapest unit, in my case it would be the smallest mug, and that would show the smallest price and then the user would decide “well I don’t what that mug. I need something bigger” and be better prepared for the shock of the price later.
The other benefit behind working with Zazzle is that you do have control over your storefront; at least in terms of colour scheme and importing a banner. If he doesn’t want to put any energy into promoting his products, all he has to do is include a link to his shop on the main navigation of his website.
Blurb or Lulu: Once he feels that he has enough content, he can package his web comic in volumes through these two self publishing sites. He has the option then to either register for his own ISBN number or use one that is registered with the company. By going with the second option, it will list Blurb or Lulu as the publisher. This is only an important note if you’re planning on creating a publishing and distribution company yourself.
Once again both companies will handle the manufacturing and distribution on his behalf while paying him a commission.
Each service has their limits. Either they’re taking a huge commission or you’re not seeing all of the profits, one way or the other there are other ways out there where you could further increase your profits by handling a lot of these items yourself.
That concludes today’s podcast. Thank you for joining us. Please feel free to leave your comments and questions bellow and either John Poole or myself will get back to you.