Captain’s Log L9·J1: Requiem for Selling Jam

My mother has a 40 acre farm which, with her blessing, I aim to turn into some kind of dynastic residence where my children and grandchildren can stand against the encroaching darkness.

Bit of a tall call for a man with bad ADHD where it’s all he can do to promise to draw one three panel comic per day and maybe try to get a job. Where is epic scheme to make vidya is predicated on getting medicated.

Now, my mom has bills to pay, and has never had a proper day job in her life. What she does is she cans jams and jellies and pickles and takes them to craft shows and somehow manages to make just enough to cover everything. I’ve been able to ease the pressure since my return — at least when I was employed. But that’s still her thing.

And I always end up going along as muscle, to lift crates of jelly jars and set up the tables. So I had a thought the last time I was lounging around at a farm show, hawking my mother’s jam: what if I brought along some of my own products and tried to sell them too?

The result was both illuminating and unsurprising. The crowd that shows up at craft shows to buy jam and pickles doesn’t overlap greatly with the crowd that buys pictures of wizard bunnies and piqha riding therians. in 2 days of showing my art I had 3 customers, for a gross profit of $22 and a negative net — spent more than that on gas, food, and supplies to set up.

My mother, contrawise, made hundreds of dollars each day. This crowd is her customer base.

Nevertheless, it’s not a terrible idea moving forward. I’m going to be at these craft shows helping my mother until she decides to stop doing them. I may as well have the potential to pocket an extra $5 for myself while I’m there.

Now, I didn’t have time to make new pictures for this craft show. I wanted to. I wanted to make a funny cartoon about mosquitos, or maybe a rural scene of cows driving tractors. The sort of thing that would actually appeal to the local crowd. But I was wrapping up the October Monthly until five minutes before the show started, so I only had a chance to print pictures I’ve already made. And if the urge strikes to make such pictures, I for sure am going to indulge in it and thereby furnish myself with a higher chance of pocketing beer money while helping my mother. But…

The tiny slice of overlap between her customers and my customers changed my whole attitude.

There was one nerdy couple that literally came out for my mother’s jam, sidestepped into my booth, and gushed for twenty minutes over my art before walking away with one of my framed prints. And that single compliment session gave me enough positive vibes to last a week.

But besides that, every time a family with children pulled up, the kids were drawn like magnets to my booth. Man, if only I had some more of my books, or some toys of my characters, instead of cards and prints! Ah, but it doesn’t matter. Kids don’t have cash, do they.

But my audience is 10 year old boys. And girls, but mostly boys. And other ages, including a handful of adults if they love what 10 year old boys love.

They aren’t going to turn up in large numbers at craft shows, farm displays, or farmer’s markets. That’s not where my audience is. But they are mine, I appeal to them effortlessly, and I love them and I love having them for an audience.

I spent the first day of the jam sale fretting over whether or not I could find a spare minute to make product for my mom’s audience. After all, I can’t make money doing this unless I do. And that’s true. It’s a true fact that unless I appeal to the people who are there, I won’t make any money.

But I don’t care any more. It doesn’t worry me. Because like I said, I appeal effortlessly to the people I want to serve. The question isn’t how to change up my art. The question is how to get to my actual customers. My customers, and not my mom’s.

10 year old boys don’t care about business cards.

Or authentic home-canned preserves, for that matter.

I’m going to consider that over the next few days. Maybe write up a blog post or two. This is a Captain’s Log at the end of a week, though, and beginning of another, so I’ll finish up the after action report with a few takeaways, and then I’ll make another post examining my plans.

  1. My current plans are fine: That is, keep Bunny Trail Junction alive. Make a small video game followed by a larger video game followed by a larger video game. Kickstart Awesome Moments in October. I should note that I feel there may have been a bit of Providence in the fact that I finished the Awesome Moments draft long ago, but didn’t feel up to Crowdfunding it until after I spent a month learning to use, and then love, the brush.
  2. My Colored Ink Drawings Print beautifully, my Paintings do Not. I’ve discovered I prefer my cartoons to my paintings on a screen, but that effect is magnified tenfold in print. A painting I kind of like on a screen looks hideous on paper. A cartoon I was okay with but not thrilled about, on screen looks pretty good on paper. I think painting is a discipline now reserved for practicing my art as opposed to making products.
  3. Children’s Books are Great, Actually. Even though I’m focusing now on comics and vidya, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to pair illustrations and text in a non-panel-dependent methodology. In fact, I might prefer it to comics. I’ll get to spend fewer illustrations on conversations. In fact, I may consider formatting Bunny Trail Junction less like a comic and more like a children’s book in the future.
  4. Saving the Beauty is a Matter of Principle, not Gonads. Over the last few decades I’ve looked for excuses to get attractive females into my stories because I like to draw attractive females. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to my audience and it doesn’t matter to me whether I can get a space princess in a bikini. I need to stop trying to force it just so I can draw space princesses, and instead let it happen when it is right to do so. Shocking SJW prudes with teh sexy is already well handled by Kamen America team; my audience is 10.
    Which is not to say we eschew Space Princesses, just that we focus fare that will entertain and uplift 10 year olds.
  5. I Need to Bring my Products Where the Audience Can Get Them. Scholastic came back from the dead by using pulp writing techniques to produce series like Goosebumps and Animorphs, and by holding book fares at public schools. I’m perhaps not likely to be the most welcome at public schools. But my marketing efforts need to be similarly inspired. This is an important consideration: for Awesome Moments to fund, I have to be better at marketing than I have ever before been. And I have been planning a marketing push for Bunny Trail Junction to coincide with the New Year. Going on podcasts and mentioning my merch on Twitter is nice and all. But what I really need to do is make more things the ten year olds want and get them to the ten year olds.
  6. I Think I Need a Short Term Way to Make a buck and selling pictures at a craft show isn’t it. I’m on leave of absence from my day job right now, meaning I’m not making money, because I refused to wear the mask for a second bout. Now that our Fearless Leader has mandated companies with 100+ employees get the experimental gene therapy for their workers, all chance of me going back — or going back to a similar company — has dried up. The soonest I get funds from my current plans is November, a week or two in, if Awesome Moments funds.
  7. I Should Consider Pixel Art for Comics, and HD Art for games. 10 Year Olds aren’t nostalgic for the Game Boy days. But they aren’t 100% graphics snobs either: they like Minecraft just fine. They’d get a kick out of a pixelart comic that goes with an HD game that goes with a pixelart comic.

Well. Today is the Lord’s day. The 8th day of Creation. Time to reflect on what came before, but also to begin anew.

Tomorrow we put the petal to the metal.

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