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The Economics Of Art
December 10, 2010 3:28 PM   Subscribe

How much money do you make with that webcomic internet thing? Dorthy Gambrell of Cat And Girl Answers.
posted by The Whelk (48 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks like the T-shirts sure help a lot.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:30 PM on December 10, 2010


No kidding.

Cory Doctorow was right!
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on December 10, 2010


Seems like the obnoxious newspaper-deadender Ted Rall is too.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:38 PM on December 10, 2010


Cory Doctorow was right!

LOL. Cory Doctorow makes most of his money from speaking fees.
posted by Ratio at 3:39 PM on December 10, 2010


Interesting. I wonder how Randall Munroe fares.
posted by eugenen at 3:48 PM on December 10, 2010


Holy shit. This was really nice of her to do!
posted by Greg Nog at 3:54 PM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oddly, seeing someone so talented make relatively little money actually enthuses me to try to make money on my own creative endeavors, as I feel that if even the talented among us are not doing amazingly well, I don't have to feel bad about making $5 a month doing something I love to do anyway.

and every few months I could buy a t-shirt from her, so that would work out well
posted by davejay at 4:00 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those totals do not count the income from Mr Chen's stuff. SO THEY ARE RIDING HIGH.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:02 PM on December 10, 2010


To be fair, Ms. Gambrell has an idiosyncratic approach to finances, her book doesn't have an ISBN entry and she doesn't do any marketing that I can tell. Her public profile is low, pretty much deliberately, and he did things like take a year to travel around the world without getting on an airplane and move to Tuscon for a while to save money.
posted by The Whelk at 4:03 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


eugenen: I wonder how Randall Munroe fares.

On a rather unhealthy diet of superiority and insecurity.

What? I keed, I keed.


But seriously, this isn't simply the economics of art, it's the viability of a specific brand of intellectual humor as presented in thrice-weekly webcomics, with the usual merchandise (shirts, books) and other venues. It'd be interesting to know more about her freelance work, as it looks like a significant increase to the otherwise slim month of June. It'd also be interesting to see this sort of information from other webcomic artists, along with estimated readership information, number of conventions they attend, and diversity of merchandise offered.

Greg Nog: Holy shit. This was really nice of her to do!

She likes info graphics, some of them rather specific. I thought she did something of this sort before, but I'm not finding it.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:05 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It'd also be interesting to see this sort of information from other webcomic artists, along with estimated readership information, number of conventions they attend, and diversity of merchandise offered.

I would love this so much but, you know, it's considered rude to ask all the details of someone's personal finances.
posted by The Whelk at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2010


I thought capitalists do it ruthlessly.
I feel an urge to buy a shirt though, so well played Sir.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 4:09 PM on December 10, 2010


I notice that her charts don't include the money she makes from SELLING BABIES!
posted by titus-g at 4:28 PM on December 10, 2010


Looooooots of T-shirts.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:30 PM on December 10, 2010


" Cory Doctorow makes most of his money from speaking fees."

Doubtful, to say the least.
posted by beschizza at 4:33 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy crap those old strips look weird now.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2010


What the fuck. How did I not know about this strip? This is your job, MetaFilter. To tell me this stuff.
posted by cmoj at 4:59 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doubtful, to say the least.

I'll believe that when I see Doctorow's version of Gambrell's graph. He certainly doesn't make a living by giving away his books. I wonder how much Forbes, or The Guardian, pays him for his DRM rants.
posted by Ratio at 5:02 PM on December 10, 2010


cmoj, Cat and Girl (or Dorothy) is not new to the blue.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:09 PM on December 10, 2010


some of them rather specific

I can't read that graph at all.

In neighborhoods whose median household income is at least $100K, there are to be found Belgian restaurants, gastropubs, ice cream shops, northern Italian restaurants, Roman restaurants, pan asian, comfort food, soups, brunch?

Is that it?

Belgian restaurants are to be found in all neighborhoods whose median household income is between $0 and roughly $105K?
posted by kenko at 5:09 PM on December 10, 2010


The (Average? median? mode? only?) Belgian restaurant is to be found in neighborhoods with median home values of $105K.

If the input data were any good, you could use it to extract some market knowledge of the tastes of the rich and poor. Most of which is obvious, but it could be sample bias.
posted by pwnguin at 5:30 PM on December 10, 2010


He certainly doesn't make a living by giving away his books.

I suspect he makes a fair bit by selling them. Which, believe it or not, is not in any way contradictory to anything he's ever said on the matter.
posted by Artw at 5:41 PM on December 10, 2010


It pleases me to have been responsible for part of the light-purple part of the graph; Dorothy did the icon and about-page graphic for my Postmodernism Generator iPhone app (and did a bang-up job of it too).
posted by acb at 5:46 PM on December 10, 2010


What do the colors on the T-shirt number graph mean?
posted by halogen at 6:21 PM on December 10, 2010


I hope she wasn't inspired to reveal all this by a big lizard wearing a T-shirt with a big "B" on it.
posted by JHarris at 6:25 PM on December 10, 2010


Various traffic stats site put her daily page views at under 1000. So 14k/year isn't bad. It would seem that if she could up her readership by 3-4x she'd be in reasonably good shape. This is not a terrible place to be for a self funded business which was started with limited capital. The key will be to build the audience and community such that the operation can meet her goals and expectations for revenue.
posted by humanfont at 7:03 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What do the colors on the T-shirt number graph mean?

My guess is size. On her linked store each shirt has 10 size choices, which corresponds to the # of colors.
posted by neustile at 7:06 PM on December 10, 2010


I suspect most of Doctorow's income is actually ad sales on BB.net. There have be credible analyses putting their annual gross in single-digit millions of USD. I don't doubt he could live a comfortable middle class existence on his book sales---he's one of a few scifi A-listers, but I imagine the real money is in the website revenue.
posted by bonehead at 7:19 PM on December 10, 2010


What do the colors on the T-shirt number graph mean?

I assumed they meant the months of the year (Jan-Oct, anyway)... which would make sense, since I think "Exoticizing the Otter" and "Stop Believin'" are some of her more recent designs, and those lines have no blue parts.
posted by otherthings_ at 9:04 PM on December 10, 2010


Our revenue is comfortably in the seven figures.

However, while I'm not privy to his personal finances, obviously, it's easy to underestimate what established bestsellers can make from their books. For example, the limited edition hardcover of Cory's new book (http://craphound.com/walh/) sold out in a couple of days.
posted by beschizza at 9:07 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


he's one of a few scifi A-listers

LOL
posted by Ratio at 11:35 PM on December 10, 2010


I love "Cat and Girl", I wish she were making a comfortable living from it. I honestly think she deserves it.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:56 AM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ratio, I'm rather disappointed that your latest LOL lacks the customary angry, mistaken claim about Cory! Here, let me help:

LOL. Cory Doctorow makes most of his sci-fi using Markov chains.
posted by beschizza at 5:40 AM on December 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Seems fair enough to me. It strikes me as obviously wrong that someone should make lots of money out of drawing comic strips. Bill Watterson excepted, possibly.
posted by Decani at 5:42 AM on December 11, 2010


Decani, that statement makes me nauseated. Care to explain?
posted by orville sash at 7:02 AM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Beschizza, you're right. That needed something more. Here's goes!

Cory: "Hey artists! You can make a living even if you give your works away for free! It totally works! Cast off your corporate chains and come with me!"

Spoiler: Cory is only able to do this because he makes most of his money from BoingBoing's corporate ad revenue.
posted by Ratio at 7:31 AM on December 11, 2010


He does frequently suggest giving works of art away digitally and making money in some ancilliary way, yes. See my first comment - which I deeply regret making now, sorry The Whelk.
posted by Artw at 8:00 AM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Full marks for mistaken: Cory published at least one successful Nebula and Locus award nominated novel before Boing Boing made a dime. But the anger is slipping! You should read BB more often for new material: you'll find our original features particularly self-satisfied and hip.
posted by beschizza at 2:27 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apols to the Whelk too for contributing to the thread-snarl. Good for Dorothy! It only gets better, and her ability to multitask commercially is key (and something that we can learn from.)
posted by beschizza at 2:48 PM on December 11, 2010


I thought she did something of this sort before, but I'm not finding it.

So did I, but then I saw that this came out in September. It must have made the rounds then.
posted by dhartung at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2010


You should read BB more often

For others who are considering following beschizza's advice, let me save you some time:

I GLUED SOME BRASS GEARS ONTO MY IPOD OMG STEAMPUNK
followed by
DRM IS WORSE THAN AIDS AND THE HOLOCAUST COMBINED
followed by
CORY'S NOVEL TRANSLATED INTO KLINGON AND INUIT
followed by
OMG A STEAMPUNK SEX TOY
posted by Ratio at 4:34 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hilarious. Now fuck off.
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hilarious. Now fuck off.

Oh for fuck's sake. Take a quaalude.
posted by Ratio at 6:55 PM on December 11, 2010


This was really awesome and brave of her to do. Why are people are so afraid to talk about money?
posted by mere at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2010


cause of the very severe cultural taboos surrounding it.
posted by The Whelk at 11:30 PM on December 11, 2010


There have been other instances of writers or artists discussing money on MeFi, and any time it's been more than a pitance MeFites have really ripped into them.
posted by Artw at 6:34 AM on December 12, 2010


For instance
posted by Artw at 6:43 AM on December 12, 2010


The TVO podcast Search Engine recently interviewed Ryan North about this.
posted by elbie at 1:43 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


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