Holy crap. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a positive response to a new comic. (See yesterday’s comments.) It looks as if about 80% of you like it a lot.
Let me put that in perspective.
Dilbert is in 2,000 newspapers, and I would guess that only 20% of the general public enjoys it. That’s all it takes to be a big commercial success, especially if that 20% is an identifiable demographic group.
Pick almost any famous music group and ask yourself what percentage of the general public loves it. First, 70% of the public won’t like music from the entire genre (country, hip hop, whatever). If your art moves two-out-of-ten people, that’s huge.
Readers of The Dilbert Blog are far from a representative sample of the world, so one must use caution in interpreting the feedback. As I described in a much earlier post, the thing you look for in evaluating entertainment is physical activity, not opinion. These two comments, for example, are not equal:
1. I love that comic.
2. I added it to my RSS feed.
Saying you love a comic is words. Adding it to your RSS feed, or taping it to your door, are examples of action. While only 20% of the public might enjoy Dilbert, the workplace humor inspires an unusual amount of action. It’s probably the most copied comic of all time, thanks to the Internet. Action predicts commercial potential.
If you look at the comments about Basic Instruction, you see a lot of action. People added it to their favorites list, or subscribed to it, or said they would buy it in book or calendar form.
Opinions were divided on whether the original square-and-wordy format was better than the slimmed down comic strip panel form. The comic strip form is far more commercial, assuming you are selling to newspapers. But as many of you pointed out, the market for newspapers is shrinking. Many of you advise that Scott Meyer should take his work directly to books and calendars and Internet publishing.
Has that ever worked?
Yes, on a small scale. I believe Scott could leverage the visibility he is getting here to earn perhaps $100K per year with a small book deal, small calendar deal, self-publication in smaller alternative newspapers, and a small but growing Internet presence. I put his odds of making that strategy work at about 90%.
Now let’s look at newspaper syndication. Assuming the comic got picked up by 500 newspapers in five years, and licensing started to take off (books, calendars, greeting cards), that would put him in the $500K to $1 million per year range, with lots of room for upside growth. But what are the odds of that happening, even with my support?
Only a handful of comics per decade have made it to 500 newspapers. And the newspaper industry is struggling, so the odds of it happening again are falling fast. In all likelihood, Dilbert will be the last mega-comic, and it launched in 1989.
Syndication means splitting your earnings, typically 50-50, with the syndication company, in the hope that they can more than double your sales. For a complete unknown, as I was in 1989, that’s an easy choice. But Scott Meyer already has traction, a small stream of income from Internet ads and small publications, interest from potential licensees, and now some extra attention from this blog.
What are Scott’s odds of making the syndication path work? If he keeps to the old and square format, I would say 5%. If he moves to the strip form, all things considered, I think his odds of getting an offer for syndication are 90%, and his odds of making 500 newspapers, even in a declining market, might be as high as 50%. If that happened, even if newspapers continued their decline, it would be a springboard to larger book and calendar deals, etc.
The rational path is to try and develop the strip to the point where Scott gets a syndication offer. Then he can make his decision.
Your question of the day is this: Should Scott stick to relationship humor, so the comic is easier to market, or stay broad?
I’ll pause from this topic for a few days until Scott has some more samples.