Virtuoso is an alternate history of an Africa that never existed, one run by steel and springs, commanded by vast matriarchies and past the height of its culture.
Virtuoso is the story of Jnembi Osse, a professional weapons manufacturer for the most powerful empire in the world, and how her private rebellion becomes a full scale international incident.
The past two months have taught me an important fact about self publishing a comic: expect delays. After a month of back and forth with the patient people at Ka-Blam Printing, I finally have comics in my hand. Actually, they're sitting in a box underneath my desk, and I'm printing out shipping labels post haste. Speaking of haste, the first draft of Book One, the little add-on that made the comic all the more crunchy, is a thing of true literary hideousness. I forgot, when I set up the rewards, that my first drafts are the inane ramblings of a RedBull buzzing ten year old. Most of the time its just snippets of dialog and arrows promising "insert cool stuff here". So you've been warned.
The pendants that Improbable Cog made for me came back all funky the first time-- 3d printing is still tricky with certain shapes, and the pendant was made mostly of those shapes. So its back to the printer with them, and another 4-6 week turnaround time. Huzzah.
Krista is sending me the signed prints, but its international postage, so who knows when those will get here. As soon as they're on my desk I'll turn them right back around and shoot them out the door.
The map-- oh, that map has been a source of grief for me all month. I put together the first one, sent it to the printers, and summarily decided that it was no good pulling some Lord of the Rings stuff off on you fine people. So back to the drawing board, and this time I'm leaning more towards Master and Commander chic, and less towards "I've been playing D&D since I was twelve, does it show?" The new map is looking splendid, and reminds me that the action in the series is taking place in a 2-inch by 2-inch section of this 17-inch map.
And last but not least, the website. I got extraordinarily lucky and found someone with the chops to set up the website. We transferred over everything, got the domain set up-- and then I went and got a job. You combine living in Seattle during the winter with an office job during crunch time, and you have a recipe for never seeing anyone ever again.
In happier news, the script on Book One is looking great. If you thought the Prologue looked neat, wait 'til you see what we have in store for you next.
Last but surely not least, let me thank each of you for your patience-- Virtuoso is a two-person team with six jobs between us, and that isn't counting the actual real life jobs we have. We haven't forgotten you all.
posted by jon_wake @ 14 Jan 2011 09:37 pm -
So this Saturday night I'm doing laundry and crunching numbers on comic creation. It doesn't take an accountant to tell you that printing, distributing, and selling your own books won't make you a profit. Case in point: If I print out 500 copies of the B&W issue of Virtuoso, I have to sell 315 of them just to break even. That's selling them at 3.00 a piece, which is on the cheap end of comics. But selling that many means doing the convention circuit, which drains the coffers fast. So take that profit I earned in and flush it if I do it that way. This isn't even thinking about paying myself or Krista.
(Consequently, if you want to make sure that a fellow Whitechapeler gets paid for doing great art, go here:)
Anyway, seeing as how this profit model doesn't really work, not if you want to make a living at comics, you have to think laterally. Most webcomics make money on merchandising. The comic is free and online, and connected to a merch store. Collections are sold to the readers, and the profit margin on trade paperbacks is considerably higher than floppies. Actually, it doesn't make much sense to print floppies for an indie creator. Unless you're a big name like Kirkman, or doing something totally groundbreakingly brilliant like Hickman, you're probably going to be eating ramen noodles and dodging landlords until the trades come out. I know that's what killed Phonogram, and in a sane world Phonogram would be carried in every record store on Earth, and Gillen and McKelvie would be snorting blow off skinny indie girl's backs.
Back to making money. Money depends on audience, and audience depends on value. Also, being good helps, but isn't necessary. People like Amanda Palmer give their audience value by being accessible, passionate, and very very good at what they do, and so people will give money to be part of that. She creates a amorphous community of a sorts, a cult of personality all dedicated to making sure she eats and pays rent.
But Palmer has a lot of advantages. She was on a major label for years with a popular band, and even though the label screwed her in the end, she had huge international exposure because of it. She paid her dues, you know? What about guys like me, who don't have a massive audience, who have to build an audience?
I suspect that building a community at this level cannot be about the person. For example, if Amanda Palmer stops making music and starts, I dunno, a macaroni duck greeting card business, she'd have a significant number of hanger's on. If Warren stopped writing Freakangels, there would be a huge loss of readers. They have clout, history, and proven value.
So the community has to be built around something more interesting than the comic creator. Which is why I'm launching the Virtuoso Compendium. The idea is to bind the community to the collaborative process of world-building. It's a risky venture-- if it turns out that writing the imaginary history of a pseudo-Africa is boring, or such a tiny niche of a niche that it only supports a dozen contributors, I've hooked my cart up to the wrong horse.
On the other hand, if people begin to feel a sense of ownership with the world, the chances of gaining financial support from the community increases considerably, and it provides a launch pad for other creators to riff on ideas, broadening people's exposure to the world and characters. Here's hoping.
posted by jon_wake @ 26 Sep 2010 04:49 am -
Get the Virtuoso .cbr right here. http://drop.io/qpdxyis
posted by jon_wake @ 17 Sep 2010 12:12 am -
As I said, here is the link to the torrent for Virtuoso.
posted by jon_wake @ 07 Sep 2010 10:52 am -
I'm a lucky guy. I know some of the smartest, most dedicated, creative people around. One of those people is Noah Beasely, the sole brain behind Improbable Cog. He designs jewelery, releases the designs as open source, and in one of those "yes, you're living in the future" moments, sends them to a 3d printer. As you can see, we're collaborating to bring you jewelery inspired by the world of Virtuoso. For now, the only way you can get this stainless steel Raptor pendant is by donating at the Virtuoso Kickstarter.
Which brings me to point two. You might have noticed the little Creative Commons tag on the banner. After much debate with Thom Becker of Lastwear Clothes, I've decided to release the comic under a Attribution, Share-Alike license. That means you can take it, print it, mash it up, make derivative works, sell it, what have you, so long as you give credit where its due (that is to me and Krista) and preserve the license. And to help you out with that, I've set up a torrent file for the book. I'll link it in the sidebar as soon as the trackers are updated.
posted by jon_wake @ 07 Sep 2010 09:13 am -
posted by jon_wake @ 01 Sep 2010 01:10 pm -
Kickstarter is the best idea in crowd sourced economics I've heard of since Kiva. By allowing your fans to fund your work, it frees the artist to innovate and create.
Okay, so I have an ulterior motive. A good friend of mine has a Kickstarter project with only a week left--Thom Becker, a Whitechapel alum and generally great guy. I'm not sure if my comic would be in existence without Thom putting me up when I first moved to Seattle. Also, his clothes are, as they say on the continent, bloody marvelous.
There are also tentative plans to create a series of Virtuoso themed clothes-- Just imagine how dapper you'll be in a genuine Mahanake Empire Officer's Jacket!
posted by jon_wake @ 22 Jul 2010 12:36 pm -
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