Saturday, February 23, 2013

Working on cover art

Here we go! I've turned that sketch into something pretty! It may still seem a bit wide for the cover if I stick exactly with the prior book layout, but one well-placed bit of text will make up for that!

I need to come up with a clever caption and throw this on a t-shirt or something.  Unlike the last book, the working title isn't shirtable without context.

Update: How about a possible magnet design? Heh. I should stop messing around and get back to doing actual work things.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Charm change?

(Since there's been a flurry of news posts, I'm obligated to remind you to read down the page and see them.)

Working on final charm designs today, and I decided to see what I had to make an alternate to the Bake Sale one, since it seemed to lag behind in support. Going through the art done for the book, I found Dionne pulling a Nixon and decided to try that.  My guess is it would get more love, so I'm likely to keep it. Oh, and those little dots are where the holes are going to be punched in the charm, of course. I'll surely make some tweaks here or there before I'm done, but please enjoy this preview.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guest art everywhere!

It's a SpiderForest collective lovefest today, featuring two pieces of guest art by me and the one above, by Nick Perkins of Cooties. This one was part of a Secret Santa art exchange, so apologies for just sharing this amazing piece now. Cooties is the story of a bunch of kids dealing with an alien invasion. Check it out!

As for the stuff I drew, head on over to Spare Keys for Strange Doors to see my guest art contribution. Stick around and read the comic too! It's a brilliant collection of cute and fun supernatural short stories, making for easy reading and great entertainment! Oh, and congratulate her on her babytimes, and maybe draw her something cool too!

Finally, here's *my* contribution for the SpiderForest Secret Santa, a guest comic for Silent Pirate! When I entered that draw, I admit that I was totally hoping to get Silent Pirate, as it's so cute and unique! I got what I wanted, and rewarded Ahmed with a comic that RUINS EVERYTHING. That's how I show love.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thanks for the responses!

My thanks go out to everyone who submitted surveys. They have been very helpful in evaluating stuff. For the charms, I feel confident enough to do a test run. I will start getting 25 of each set, and we shall see what happens with that. If successful, future runs (and more sets) will happen.  Incentive: Future runs will have to be with another, more expensive, charm maker, so this first run will be the most cost-effective!

There's a chance the book 2 pre-order and charm sale will overlap, but they will be separate. The book preorder is now planned to start early March, and the charms will only go on sale when I have them in my possession - and printing may take a while. At worst, people buy the book and will have to grab the charms later, like maybe at my Anthrocon table? (Table N19!)

For survey results, I thank you folks for being surprisingly kind and gentle with me. I didn't expect to see so many nice statements! Informative AND sweet. You all rule!  And here are some reactions to what I've read (many were prompted by only one or two replies, but I felt it was worth talking about anyway):

-Most issues raised about the website are already on my list. Can't say I'll get them fixed soon, but know I'm aware of them. Some things I can't do, as the site has to be versatile enough to work on many screen resolution/font size configurations. On, and sometimes your questions are already answered! Just look at the links on this page and you might be surprised!

-It's a wonderful problem when I get a many "I'd like to see more of..." requests, especially since they're varied. I have many more stories to tell, and even with daily updates it takes a long time to hit every note. I hope to make you all happy down the road!

-As much as I'd love to offer everyone the world, I'm one guy - and that guy is currently broken. To keep Precocious moving, I need to be a writer, artist, colorist, designer, publicist, accountant, secretary, marketer, packer, courier, etc.  I am *trained* to do... funky looking fine-art prints using archaic methods? Uh oh. I'm doing a LOT of learning on the go, and I don't have the means to bring on assistants. I try to put the comic updates first, even before me earning money, so a lot stuff slides until I can get to it. So many of you were so kind about this, and I thank you again for your compassion.

-On a similar note, I am a tiny enterprise and very limited in what I can do right now. That means many grand ideas for high-end merchandise and various goodies can't happen yet. That also means I MUST do what I can to start earning more and preventing more loss. The prices I charge for various things are as low as I can reasonably go.  I can't compete with major publishers who make up their discount prices by sheer volume of sales. Bargain basement and discount options might be great for you, but I know I can't sell at the volume needed to keep me afloat. (I mean, it's already a free comic. I'm not begging for charity here. Just let me get something from the merchandise!)

-And with *that* being said, there is a plan for simple, low-cost bonuses. It likely won't be ready until the second half of the year, though. I'll talk more about it when I have the system more in place. Again, the delays are because I lack the hours and manpower to do things quickly, and lack the funds to buy those manpower hours.

-I can't stress enough how amazing your responses were. All of them were helpful, no matter what they said. I love you all. (Even the one person with wildly unrealistic ideas was useful, as that survey alone prompted half of the above notes!)

Of course, now you've spoiled me. Now I know that these surveys are a great option, and I shall use them again when needed!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The first book 2 cover sketch

It's weirdly late in the process for me to not have a cover, but here we are.

Group Projects is an important arc in relation to Precocious, so it makes sense that it should provide the cover idea/image. This one taps into how each side of the class has a complement on the other. The composition as it is now is a bit too horizontal, so I'll have to figure out how to work around that.  If I push forward, I'll likely draw each character separately, using a light box to keep them balanced, and composite them digitally. That way I can grow and shrink figures as needed. I also don't *have* to put all main pairs up there. Some pairs can move to the back cover or title page. (Which is where the other kids in the class will land at the moment.) I'll keep playing around with it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book and Charm Survey! (Updated!)

If I did it right, and I have no idea if I did, there should be a survey over here you can fill out! Please do! It'll help guide my decisions over the next few weeks, and into the rest of the year.  I need to know what you guys want to buy from me, so I can provide it! Even if you aren't intending to spend cash on Precocious any time soon, I'd like to hear from you too and get feedback on why. (And please ignore scrambled writing and potential typos.)

If you need more context, read the news posts below for info on proposed Precocious charms, my health issues, and check the buy stuff page for examples of buttons/magnets and the commissions that I hope to start up again in a few months. All prices listed in the survey are estimates and can change.

UPDATE: Thank for you the responses everyone! I'll be collecting surveys for the next few days, so those stays can get in here. More responses the merrier, be the feedback good or bad.

On the charm front, the feedback seems positive enough that a basic order should be worth it.  A friend pointed out that I was estimating prices with 1" charms in mind, but designing for 1.5" charms. The increased production cost is going to boost the final price.  I also found a service that makes better-quality charms - clear acrylic and DOUBLESIDED - but those charms would be based at $6 each. What does it all mean? When charm designs are done, I'll be giving you another survey before placing any order. Mwa ha ha. Surveys forever. (They're really handy!)

Charmed, I'm sure.

This is what I do on my "day off." Using the feedback I got, I went ahead and drew up two demo charm sets. Set A features the kids being cute.  Set B features beloved Precocious in-jokes. Look, you goof off your way. I'll goof off mine.

Not in color, and I haven't cleaned up the line work, but you get it. The tilting is so I can maximize the charm size in the template. Bonus: If your monitor is the same size as mine, and set at the same resolution, the sketches appear near the exact sizes of proposed charms! (I'm not telling you my specs. You guys have to guess.)

This will all remain a dream unless I can get around 15 folks willing to offer up $15 $20 for each/either set of 4.  (Updated cost estimate, because these are 1.5" charms, not 1" charms.) I'm just testing market interest now. (If you only have money for one Precocious goody this year, save it for the book. Also, increase your Precocious budget, tightwad.) Throwing money at me will not get you any charms, unless you are throwing enough money to get 15 of each charm.  (And if that was the case, I'd be kinda creeped out. Why do you need so many?!)

If you're wondering about me printing these things on my own and selling them as a bundle with the new book, other cool stuff is planned for that - and managing multiple artist bundles at once is a great way to end up paying for a lot of unsold merchandise.  (It doesn't move *that* well at cons.) If I don't think it's financially viable right now, I'll sit on this idea and pounce when the next custom charm printing site appears.

In the end, it was fun to sketch fancy things on the day between finishing the comics for the Fall Festival arc (I have a comic buffer! Woohoo!) and doing the glorious grind of business junk this upcoming week. So there!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Do you find me charming?

I've considered the idea of Precocious charms as luxury merchandise. I have no idea how my readership overlaps with those who charm it up, so I have no clue if I could earn back the expense it would take to create them. Still, if I want to make charms, I have to decide soon, as the window closes at the end of the month. Thing is, I am *awful* at coming up with proper merchandise ideas.

My vanity says people should desire to show off my cute characters alone, as that is enough. My brain says, haha, no. I'm so very far away from that kind of popularity.  I'd do better with something clever and fun - that serve as conversation pieces and be likable to those who don't know Precocious.  More logic says such a marriage of ideas is impossible in tiny charm form, but whatever. We're speculating now. Besides, I prefer a dreamy optimistic post to be atop the news section.

So what do we have?  Well, these would be a set of four.  Doll versions of the main four would be easy as a set, but purely for Precocious readers.  To go even deeper into my vanity, I'd love people to desire comic in-jokes such as the Muffin of Doom, Pingoball and Chrisp-Cola can.

It depends on you guys to tell me if I want to keep sketching ideas, refine ideas or let the luxury item go. I can play with this project, or go back to random sketches when I have the time and energy. I don't consider this a likely success, but what the heck? I felt like sketching tonight, so I did! (There are more merch ideas that will come later in the year, so no one has to hitch themselves to this particular fancy.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Big Ol' Health Update

This is my Valentines Day card to all you wonderful readers! And, yeah, that's a good summary of my current health too.

For those who haven't gotten the play-by-play over on my Twitter feed, I'll try to summarize what's been happening to me. Be warned: It makes ZERO sense. I am baffled. The docs are baffled. Everyone's baffled!

The fun of my toothache and extraction is over, and what's taken its place is a strange muscle problem in my face. No one really knew what was happening to me for a while, and even now we aren't sure WHY it's happening. It's obviously tied to the extraction, as I've never had these symptoms before, but that's all we know.

The problem with such a muscle problem is that it's far worse than a sore tooth. It could take months to recover from - and I'm not helping it by trying to fight through it the way I am.  I have an official letter from my doctor, demanding I cease drawing. It's not the main trigger for pain flare-ups, but the most controllable. Eating is the worst for me, as any chewing whatsoever will knock me out. Talking hurts me. SMILING hurts me. I am medically advised against watching comedies on TV, or cheering for my sports teams. (Not that there's much cheering these days for Caps fans.)

What this means is that my pain increases throughout the day as I do such strenuous things as eating, breathing, talking and having emotion. Pain leads to fatigue. Pain and fatigue keep me from drawing. I'm seeing more doctors soon, but for now the general consensus is to rest as much as possible.

I do sometimes have small windows in the morning to work, but it's not enough to keep pace with what I need.  It's easier to do light work than work requiring intense concentration - which is why I mostly post fancy sketches these days. It's the only way I can give anything back at the moment.

So what does it all mean? I'll do what I can, but the chronic pain is going to take its toll. I can't say what will happen yet. My priorities must be focused on the most important deadlines, and I still intend to meet them. The Fall Festival arc will continue uninterrupted until its end, and Precocious will keep updating after that in some form. (I have ideas that are pretty cool, *and* could help my health!) Since no one knows what's up with my stupid face, no one's able to make any predictions about what will happen to me.

What can you do? Be patient, and save up your money! Medical bills combined with a loss of all commission income puts me in a very bad spot, but I'm full of pride and I want to earn my keep!  Wait for the book announcement! Wait for merchandise announcements! The Precocious store will pop up eventually. All the plans are still in place, just delayed. (The donation bar remains on the front page, just in case someone still wants to help now and earn color for the bonus story that, yes, will come as soon as I can draw it.)

I understand everyone's frustration, especially since I've done all I could to spoil you all rotten to this point. Please be patient, and please be kind. The comic is free, remember. The paid stuff has been suspended until I can deliver. (The four with outstanding commissions have been contacted, understand the situation and can write me again if they have more concerns.)

The best thing you can do for me is to come back every day. Be an active reader, whether it's through re-reading the archive, commenting on strips, writing me, asking me questions on tumblr or formspring, going through the sidebar links and following my antics, spreading the word to others, clicking on the page's ads (disable adblock, please) or reading through the links I post, retweet and include on my linking page! It means the world to a creator to *see* people enjoying his work - especially in trying times.

I'll try to keep things entertaining and running smoothly for the casual readers, but I felt you all had a right to know why some things have slipped. As mentioned before, I had a *great* plan! I have several scripts for Precocious and Copper Road and bonus stories! I have sketches for merchandise! I just need to be healthy enough to make those happen! If more rest is needed, more rest will happen. I need to survive the now to thrive in the long term - and that's a delicate balance.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Charm ideas.

After hearing Printcess is shutting down at the end of the month, my Precocious charms goals have to be fast-forwarded.  (There are surely other charm-making sites, but Printsess has a great reputation.)

The goal for Precocious charms is not just to make them desirable to Precocious readers, but have extra appeal for those who don't know a thing about the comic. That's where I'm having issues. What you see here is a first attempt, with me turning the kids into the suits from a deck of cards.  (Current setup: Autumn=diamonds, Bud=spades, Tiffany=clubs, Jacob=hearts.) I need something that people might want, that also comes in a set of four - and doesn't require a label to identify, as these are charms.  These things can't be too complex in design. (I could, in theory, also design them as jack, queen, king and ace cards.)

If I was less egotistical, I would design cute charms for the conventions I attend, but I know so many others who could do a better job.  (I'm hoping to set up a deal, where I can have the adorable charms from Becca and/or Heidi with me at Anthrocon this year.)

These charms are my first idea for little table trinkets people can grab at my convention tables. I have other plans that I'd like to pursue, but with my health issues I have to tackle these things when I can.  If I'm on the ball, maybe I'll create a reader survey for Precocious readers and test the market a bit. Every promo I do costs a hefty chunk of change and LOTS of development and drawing time, so I need to pick my projects wisely.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Copper Road! 2/1/13

New month, new Copper Road! Votes are reset on TWC, and now the fight for votes begins again. Please, vote and accept my bribe of a new Copper Road comic! Your support helps bring new readers to Precocious. New readers make me happy. Me being happy with the comic is what keeps Precocious going.

As it's a new month, I've updated the archive page with all of January's Copper Roads, starting here. Rejoice! Read! Respond in the comments!