Artist search update - Xin could return
The last couple of days have been quite a ride.
The kindness that we've received from the fans during this gigantic mess has been really heartening. Your comments and emails and suggestions (and yeah, even the criticisms) and all the new subscribers and upgrades (we lost nobody since the news, and gained well over a dozen Tools) have all added up to one thing: Erfworld matters to a lot of people. You do make me feel like it's worth pushing this rock back up the hill again, as much as I might want to crawl under it and hide. Thank you for that, everybody.
One thing that rang out loud and clear among the hundreds of bits of feedback I received about the last site news was that your best case scenario is to bring back Xin or Jamie to draw the comic again. That was my first thought, too, when David gave me his notice. But in both cases, I kind of viewed that as out of the realm of possibility. As far as I was aware, Xin's lack of availability and Jamie's continued interest in his other artistic pursuits hadn't changed.
But I talked to Xin about it, and it turns out that her personal/family situation has improved a lot recently. There's still no way she has the bandwidth to be Erfworld's sole artist, especially at a pace of 2 updates per week. But there is the chance that we could build a team around her, with Xin on pencils and leading another artist or artists to do the inks, colors, and touch ups (I still do the lettering and sfx).
So that gives me a ton of hope for getting Book 3 back on the rails. Xin's extensive knowledge of the story and her experience with illustrating it would be a major factor in getting other artists up to speed. At least one other artist we've been talking to is shaping up to be a good candidate for inker, although I'm talking with others. This is probably a more expensive solution overall, and Book 3 was already slated to expand beyond its art budget. So those of you who suggested we do a "Kickstarter to bring back Xin" might just have hit the nail on the head.
Stay tuned and hang in there, I'll post more news as I know more.
Glad to hear things are staying in the positive.
Also this brings up a point I've wondered about any long-term project that a lot of people love but can die with the loss of interest from the author (or with the death of the author). Are there any contingency plans out there if you were to meet an untimely demise? I mean, does someone else know that overall metaplot.
I know as a storyteller the actual details can change over time, so it's not like every little thing is worked out. But when looking at something like A Song of Ice and Fire series I know that George Martin has shared the big plot points with the creators of the HBO series so that if something were to happen, they would be able to finish the show with his overall vision (they already different in the details from the books anyway, but the major things are the same). Just curious if you have taken any similar precautions.
I'm not going to lie, this post title made me so happy when it popped up on my phone, I danced a jig then and there. (After explaining my behavior to the Missus she joined me.)
This would be an incredible development, and I would gladly contribute to a "Return of Xin" campaign. This is a webcomic that is well worth waiting for, so while I'm sorry about the parting of artist ways, thank you Rob, for taking the time to make sure it is as excellent as it needs to be.
Makes me proud to be a tool. :D
This does sound like a very good possibility - I had mused on the possibility of an 'art team' approach but thought maybe it was too expensive. If it works out though, this could be excellent. And in point of fact, text update style sepia/tinted panels would be OK too (although changing from colour to tinted halfway through the book would obviously be somewhat undesirable).
Please, please be sure that Xin is really able to commit to this though. Not just for the comic's sake! From what was reported last time, it sounded like Xin had been literally working herself to death. I adore Erfworld, but the one thing it's not worth is burning out Xin or your health on it.
I haven't been able to sign up as a tool due to simple ongoing financial stress. But I always get books when I can and have been a reader since the GITP days.
I have to admit I never warmed to David. He did okay there at the end and the more regular updates were great. But I feel like he never really "got" Erfworld, not in the sense that Jamie or Xin did.
Having a team is probably the way to go. As deep a project as this is putting the entire weight on the shoulders of any single artist is probably never going to work. But a team of three or so with Xin as lead could probably deliver the quality the fanbase loves with the consistency they need.
If it takes a kickstarter then I'm all for it. I may not be a regular but I can kick in a little bit as a one off if that's what it takes. I bet a lot of other people would feel the same way.
If Xin returns, expect a raise on my Toolship contribution.
I'll just be honest and say that David's style was never really on par with Xin's or Jamie's, but that is a steep hill to climb.
I also really loved Jamie's less serious and more 'fluffy' and 'dummy' style, which suited Erfworld perfectly.
Anyway, exciting news, mr. Balder.
The last page from David, some text updates, a wildly insane event that shakes Erfworld to it's very signamancy, and then boom, an artist returns. :)
I love that you're considering building a team around Xin. Here's the thing: It's going to be difficult... and the inclination will be to drive the vehicle back onto the well-worn path of a single artist doing it all. Fight that. It will definitely be uncomfortable at first but make sure to job duties stay separate until the group builds the good habits and familiarity to keep the story moving forward. The Penciler pencils, the Inker inks, the Colorer colors, the ToucherUp touch-ups...
You're going to hate it at first because instead of interacting with, correcting, and learning how to instruct one person you're going to have to juggle a crew but stick with it! Also realize that you may not find all the right people in the beginning either... be willing to give people some opportunities but if it doesn't work out then finding a better fit is indeed an option... and personnel changes like that won't be as ground shattering since multiple people are contributing to the art.
Good luck! -Noigel
I only just saw this in one of yesterday's responses you wrote: In fact, I have done it so often that Eiphel in this thread says all Erfworld's problems from the very beginning can be traced to me being a crappy manager.
I hope you know I didn't mean anything so reductive as that! You have, at the least, been able to get Erfworld going as its own concern, with merchandising, worldwide reach, and sufficient strength to support you as a primary income, and you've maintained that for several years. Evidently, you have some managerial skill. I do have the impression you have distinct blind spots though that repeatedly undermine your project management - And I think they come from your passion for the comic. The comic is what you care and enthuse about. Accounting and projections and website logistics isn't what you live for. And understandably, I think your enthusiasm for the comic gets allowed to override logistical caution at times. That's what I'm saying is the weakness I've sensed, not just 'You totally suck at all aspects of running things'. I really hope I didn't give you that sense. And also, I recognise that tracing problems to that weakness doesn't mean it's the sole cause. Health, travel, disasters, all sorts of things. I totally recognise there's been much of that to deal with, and you've honestly had worse luck than you had any right to expect. The impression I've formed is you have weaknesses in project managing and that has contributed to various issues. But it's definitely not that you're totally incapable of management and that you're the root cause of every problem!
Erfworld is a very interesting anomaly in the webcomics world. Normally even one stint of few/no updates crashes the reader base and spells the end of the comic, or at least the comic being a viable revenue source. Erfworld has had more than one and continues strong. So you've obviously got something abnormal going on here.
It would be great to see Xin back on the project. She grew so much as an artist in her time here, learning on the job as it were, that I think it would be fitting to see her much more polished work on the comic again. Given the donations you are getting per on-time update, I would like to think it's possible to manage it all fiscally. I certainly hope so; I have been with this story from page one, panel one, and want to see how it all turns out.
@Nightfalke Well, we'll see. There's a lot that's unknown right now and some math to do on it. We had been planning for a small KS project similar to the 1-week lapel pin project, to do the 2016 pin-up calendars. If we can lock an art team in place and figure out the difference between the Book 3 art budget as raised (200 or so updates counting splash pages, paying one artist), and what it's going to actually be (300 or so updates, paying multiple artists), then we can add some art-related tiers and have the difference as a big stretch goal. It's one option.
@Eiphel No, I was exaggerating a bit in that. :) It's certainly the case that I'm not a good manager, though. You're also right that the problems come from my passion for Erfworld, knowing what I want it to be now and what I want it to become in the future. When my collaborators (I include everyone on Team Erfworld in that) don't seem to share that vision (either because I haven't communicated it clearly enough or done enough to convince them it's not crazy), then I get frustrated.
I know some posters in the other thread said "you don't have to be such a perfectionist." I'm really not. It's just that I know what parts are important to the outcome we're trying to get. I know which parts make Erfworld good, and which ones we can slide on. I'm unwilling to compromise on things that are critical, and sometimes unable to communicate why those things matter so much.
I mean if Steve Jobs had said "iPhones can have plastic screens," then he would have been a much easier boss to work for. But he said, essentially, "I don't care if we have to buy up a significant portion of China's glassmaking industry, iPhones need glass screens." And thereby he saved Apple. And thereby people wrote posthumous books about what an asshole he was to work for.
I keep working on improving my own understanding of what the people on my team really need to see and hear from me. But the one thing I need them to understand is that I don't see them as working for me. I see us all as working for the fans, for the final page, the final finished story. The only reason to make Erfworld is so that it can be loved by people, the way certain other stories made me love them. And anyone who wants to stay on my team just has to feel that same way.
I am very very excited about the potential to bring Xin back, and have a suggestion that might make it easier.
I propose a shift to 1 update a week, at least to begin with. I think most dedicated readers would definitely prefer consistency over speed, if they can't have both. And I think that with the combined incentive of Xin returning and the reduced frequency, I imagine many people would be willing and financially capable of increasing their pledge levels, so your income may remain fairly similar. Xin does amazing work, and I would definitely pay more in order to ensure she is brought back in a sustainable manner that won't burn her out or result in frequent missed updates.
Are there any contingency plans out there if you were to meet an untimely demise? I mean, does someone else know that overall metaplot.
Xin does, Linda does, and some others know pieces of it. There is an extensive IM trail between me and Xin. My family knows that I would want Erfworld to continue under other authorship, but only if the right writer could be found to complete the series. I have given Linda only one name as someone who I think could do it, and no I won't share that name.
I'm a new tool, I'm posting for the first time ... and I've been reading since this crazy thing called "Erfworld" popped on my Order of the Stick sidebar ... I feel very confident and safe in saying that Erfworld is life. It is probably the most unique read I've had ... and one of the most awesome reads I've had. I jones for the next Erf update ... and because the story is booping incredible, I will patiently wait for each update, whether it's a text update or a full color comic ... Rob you're doing awesome, we've got your back.
And Fawkskull had me completely riveted for each update. :)
Maybe part of the way to raise more $$ to keep Xin and the other artists sustainable, plus a living wage for Rob and family, is to allow the art team to create more easy to sell items like T-Shirts that can be wrapped into kickstarters. You order in bulk at a low cost, sell on the site, package into kickstarters, etc, Then, the Kickstarters have some pre-built swag. (whatever it is... T-Shirts, printed phone cases, coffee mugs, etc)
You may not get a ton of money on each thing, but, it's long term trickle in income. (like OOTS has a ton of ornaments and T-Shirts that people still buy from 10 years ago)
Additionally, you go to a lot of conventions where, having more swag is bonus.
What about 3D printed Erfworld Dice? Or just regular dice in an Erfworld printed container?
Or, since you already have character drawings from Xin for most of the major characters, how much of a reach would it be to print an Erfworld card pack of some kind? Stuff that is not as much of a reach to create... (like, a video audio comic is a lot more work, and no clear incoming revenue results)... and you have it handy.
You could have "warlord cards" and "unit cards" and "caster cards" where everyone gets a warlord, caster, and stack of units, and it becomes a "magic-lite" card experience.
You might have to draft a game designer and playtester from the forum for that, but, once you had it, you'd have it, and you could always keep selling it and wrapping it into Kickstarters.
I don't know the exact answers, but, hopefully there are some food for thought for you in this post.