'Twenty sum years ago when I was going to school the illustration students had an ongoing debate with the fine art students about money and art. The illustrator's argued that illustration was art in spite of the commission and art direction. The fine artists said by nature an assignment takes the artist out if their vision - so it's not art that's being created. I think both sides were right and wrong depending on the individual project but I think it sets up an interesting way for artists to evaluate the value of their work.
This is the blog post where I reveal my sales for my Gary's Place children's story app. Even though we have gotten a handful of 4-5 star reviews - we've only sold a few hundred apps at $2.99 each in the past two months. This is no doubt disappointing for many of you and I won't pretend it's not a little disappointing for me too but it's only part of the story.
If you've been reading my blog you will remember that I sold tens of thousands (60k to be exact) of my ebooks starting back in 2010 and that I concluded that it was mostly due to market timing - aka “luck”. Now that we’ve had about 4 good years of story app and ebook creation the marketplace has obviously gotten a little noisey. But, most of the noise is coming from ebooks and story apps of low quality.
I still believe that an audience can be cultivated over time with a great story and good art. My long term game plan is to keep working on the series of Gary apps and Rick and Aaron are equally committed. Each new app released points back to the earlier ones and thus each new app becomes a marketing piece. The total project should gain traction over time.
Over the past 6 months I've received questions such as: Will you be able to make enough money? Aren't you worried that your self publishing will be looked at as a downgrade in the publishing world? Seems like a tough road are you sure this is a good decision? Many people aren’t recouping their time and costs what will you do differently? The marketing seems like the hardest part - are you ready to spend twice as much time marketing your apps?
These are all good questions but none of them address the most important aspect of creating art such as: Are you having fun with it? Are you creating the art you want to make? Do you think children and parents will respond to what you’re doing? Are you committed to doing this for years? If it doesn’t make any money will the enjoyment be enough compensation? ...Yes.
I don’t think most people ask the right questions of themselves in regard to their art. They’ll question my decision to venture down this road while they themselves have been working for years trying to get picked by a publisher - sounds like a tough road. They’ll question how much money I’m making with my apps while they aren’t making much or any money with their artistic ventures. One question I'm never asked is: What are you doing different to engage parents and children? I think people don't ask this one because they are afraid that they can't create something remarkable. I'm affraid of that too and we do spend a lot of time discussing it and working on it!
I can’t think of many successful companies or products that came from following a proven method. Most success stories share a lot of peronal struggle and negative criticism. Apple came from a couple of guys following their dreams of tinkering with computers and listening to professionals that thought nobody would want a personal computer. Stan Lee kept Marvel comics going when everyone told him there was no market for comics. If U2 hadn’t won a $500 contest they wouldn’t have had enough money to record their first demo tape. The stories of artists working on their dream projects and finding success with them years down the road is endless. Yes I hope to be one of them. I’m a dreamer. I work to be able to afford to work on speculative projects.
But what am I talking about money for? I'm in this for the sheer joy it is to find time to tinker with a new medium that allows me to express creative ideas in so many new ways! That's the gold!
But perhaps this kind of speculative project is in my comfort zone because I've had a few successes with my own projects in the past. Starting a freelance illustration business was supposed to be nearly impossible. Making my ebooks was a total unknown in 2010 but has generated a tidy profit. Making and selling illustration video tutorials on my willterry.com site lead to starting Folio Academy which has been a wonderful addition to my income. That has lead to starting SVS online teaching with Jake Parker which is also been an amazing project.
Each one of these projects has been born out of a labor of love. I love creating art and teaching.
So can money corrupt your art? I think so - if you base your artistic decisions on money you may never explore the projects that your audience will love the most. If you play it safe your art will be more predictable. If you follow the “proven” method you’ll find yourself competing with many who can do what you can...that seems risky to me. You are unique. You have an artistic fingerprint that nobody else can generate. I’m not willing to make all of my artistic decisions based on financial compensation.
If this thing we call art was easy it wouldn't be of much value. If it were easy to make lots of money as an author or illustrator it wouldn't be special. Trust me - you don't want it to be easy.
We should be releasing Gary’s Worms sometime towards the end of March! I’ll continue to give updates on sales throughout the year because I do think that it’s valuable information if not to understand the potential both for risk and reward. I'm a realist. I know you have to eat to live but artists also need to create to live. The trick is to make sacrifices to afford the time to create in your down time.
Make no mistake - Gary’s Place has cost me much more than time. I’ve turned down numerous freelance projects to afford the time to work on Gary...and now that my weekly blog post is finished I'm going to dig in!