Daniel Lieske writes,
Creating webcomics is a rollercoaster ride, especially if you’re trying to make a living of it. I’m writing and illustrating the Wormworld Saga, which debuted with its first chapter on Christmas 2010. It has been a hobby project which I worked on besides my full-time job as a game artist. I was completely overwhelmed by what happened anout two weeks after the launch.
I kind of hoped that my project would be noticed. I’ve put an insane amount of work into the artwork, which looks more like a traditionally animated movie than a comic. I’ve used an unconventional format, inspired by the “infinite canvas” described by Scott McCloud. And I’d written a classic epic fantasy story about a boy who enters an exotic fantasy world through a magic painting. I thought that this should make for an intriguing mix.
It turned out that hundreds of thousands of readers thought the same and they came all at once. I vividly remember days when I was sitting at work when mails from Paypal floaded my inbox, confirming new donations. My story was successful and I somehow had to manage it. Three months after the launch of my project I started a Kickstarter campaign, to raise the money for the development of an iPad app, which reached nearly 200% of its funding goal. The app was designed to be the place where people would be able to buy my content and provide me an income. A few weeks later I also signed a book deal with the German publisher Tokyopop and 5 months after the launch of the Wormworld Saga I quit my job.
I knew that every hype at some point would have to come to an end. I managed to create a second chapter which was published on Christmas 2011. Again it got a lot of attention but nothing close to the insane numbers of the first months. I’d arrived at the point where every webcomic author eventually finds himself to be. When you’re work doesn’t spread virally you have to work with the fans that sticked to your project after a hype and slowly grow your fanbase from that point on. In hindsight I regard the first months of the Wormworld Saga as an incredible jump-start that propelled my project to a point that you normally only reach after several years of hard work.
I produced 3 more chapters in 2012 and 2013 but then I hit a wall. It was an unfortunate combination of a new revenue stream that not even closely yielded what I had hoped for and an unexpected tax bill. I was forced to put my project on hiatus and start doing freelance work. The months went by and another chapter of the Wormworld Saga became more and more unlikely.
Then my German book was picked up by a French publisher and the advances they payed put me back into the game. I had the budget to produce one more chapter of the Wormworld Saga. I ended my freelance work as soon as my contract allowed for and started to work on Chapter 6 in February 2014. I planned to spend 4 months on the production but during the pre-production it pretty soon became obvious that this was a very ambitious goal.
Chapter 6 is by far the largest of all Wormworld Saga chapters and it features the most detailed and elaborate artwork I’ve ever created. The story takes place in a huge city with thousands of people in it. I completely underestimated the amount of work this called for and went far beyond my original schedule. When I was finally able to publish my new chapter in the app and on the website – it was August, over 15 months after the last chapter had been published – I received notice from my app developers that we would have to put the app out of service for unexpected reasons, one being that it basically generated more costs than it generated income.
While this was a huge setback, I’ve already had a backup plan at hand. Although the Wormworld Saga book is published by established publishers in Europe, I’ve never been able to find a publishing partner for an English print edition. While this had been a big bummer at first, now it turned out to be a great opportunity. I knew that there was demand for an English Wormworld Saga book. 70% of the online readers of my story live in countries where English is the mother language. I made good experiences with crowdfunding in the past and I figured that, if no publisher would be interested in my story, I could just turn to the fans to make the English book a reality.
The kickstarter campaign for the first English Wormworld Saga book launched together with Chapter 6 on August 18th. 8 days later, the funding goal was reached. The campaign is still running until September 16th and promises to enable me the production of at least one new chapter of the Wormworld Saga. A second book is already finished and waiting in line.
I’m ready for the next round on the rollercoaster!
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