Print, merchandise and the future of Pictures of You

I wanted to let everyone know, a decision has been made about the printing of Pictures of You, and the decision is that we will not be going to print. We will also not be looking at any other methods of merchandising.

There are a variety of reasons for this decision, but the most significant one is that I don't feel that there is an audience for Pictures of You books or merch. A small handful of people have been vocal about wanting a physical copy of the comic, but I don't feel that these represent a larger group or greater demand. I believe the readers who have asked about print editions are the majority of readers who are interested in one. As there is no avenue for marketing Pictures of You (specifically PoY, not webcomics in general) outside of the existing online audience, printing the comic would be an unwise placement of time and money.

Pictures of You is simply not a property that will ever make money. Common wisdom says that webcomics rarely make money in their frist five years, but here at the edge of our fifth anniversary, that shows no sign of changing. This is where the questions need to be asked.

After five years, Pictures of You gets no attention in the comics world save for modest word of mouth, and while industry attention is not the decisive element, lacking it often makes a huge difference. Recognition by our peers is an important thing to creative workers, and despite being read by a number of comickers I respect and whose work I love, the greater comicking world hasn't signed on.

In addition, the audience for Pictures of You has not grown significantly in more than a year, and in fact has dropped by more than 20% during the hiatus. Webcomics who lose followers rarely gain them back, and efforts to market to new readers is not bearing fruit. I've also been rejected from the Artist Alley of every convention to which I've applied, which is at the least a bellwether for my potential to market the comic offline.

I should say also that this decision is unique to Pictures of You and doesn't impact the decision to print other work. I continue to talk with other artists about new projects and Our Time in Eden is still a property I believe in. Pictures of You is simply not marketable, and despite the wonderful feedback and relationship I have with my audience, that doesn't translate into sales.

We will continue to do the comic, of course, for as long as I enjoy doing it and people enjoy reading it, because Pictures of You is a labour of love and not finance. Of course it would have been nice to make money doing this project, but that didn't happen and that's okay. Plus, the comic has made an enormous difference in the lives of some of it's readers, and I can't explain how rewarding that is.

I apologize for any disappointment, and I thank everyone for their continued support of Pictures of You.

Gibson Twist, Feb 2012
posted by Gibson Twist @ February 2nd, 2012, 3:59 pm  |  21 comments

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tezzle, February 2nd, 2012, 4:24 pm

I have a similar yet opposite problem with one of my projects. My video series is starting to pick up in its viewership, which means it's making more ad revenue money, and if I make more episodes even MORE people will see it, BUT the effort I'm putting into it is more then I'd like to put into something that was just a side-project. If I stopped altogether I could focus a lot more on my significantly less likely to be successful web-comic endeavors that I'd love much more.

However, while my videos haven't exactly touched people like PoY has I do really feel like I'm doing people a service, and that's what's keeping me going. I've gotten comments from fans of the cartoons I critique saying "I watch this show because of you" and that's EXACTLY why I started doing them, because a lot of older fans of cartoons don't give the new stuff a chance just because it's not what they grew up watching, and I want to change that.

If PoY will never see print I'll keep supporting you however I can. You're still the coolest dude on Smack Jeeves.

C Corene (Guest), February 2nd, 2012, 5:16 pm

I think you should at some point print SOMETHING. PoY or another project. Artist Alleys can be really key to selling books, but a lot of AAs don't accept you until you have a book to sell. :/ You obviously shouldn't give up on marketing your comics, but do find the right comic to market. I support whatever that decision is.

Rowan (Guest), February 2nd, 2012, 5:46 pm

I only recently found your comic, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I am sorry that it is not as lucrative for you as your hard work deserves, but I am overjoyed that you are going to continue writing it.
Thank you for your time and effort.


Sandy (Guest), February 3rd, 2012, 1:28 pm

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious...

The ongoing craziness of the OOTS Kickstarter instantly comes to mind. It's a safe way of launching an expensive creative project when financial success is otherwise in doubt.

C Corene (Guest), February 3rd, 2012, 5:08 pm


Conditionally, yes, I think you should do a kickstarter. The one condition is if you have doubt about letting PoY go as a printed book. If you've already moved on and are thinking about Eden instead, then move on. If this decision is going to haunt you and make you miserable, then do a kickstarter. A kickstarter would be the way to make absolutely for certain that there is or isn't funding for this book.

You also said you hate promotion though. If going to a few AAs a year is going to make you want to die, then maybe printing *anything* is a bad idea unless you work out additional selling venues that are not AAs and not strictly online via word of mouth.

TacoTotes, February 3rd, 2012, 5:27 pm

"If going to a few AAs a year is going to make you want to die, then maybe printing *anything* is a bad idea unless you work out additional selling venues that are not AAs and not strictly online via word of mouth."<----THIS.

Gibson Twist, February 4th, 2012, 1:29 am

Artist Alley isn't really what I meant by promotion. I love interacting with people, to be honest I miss it from my counter-monkey days, and I like talking about my work. Mostly, I mean when I have to act like a salesman. "Buy my widget! Act now! Click this link for happiness!" I know that exists in Artist's Alleys, but I'm good with people one on one. I know that might sound unbelievable, but there you go.

Thanks for the words everyone. Cheers.

darkamnios, February 4th, 2012, 9:12 am

Bummer Well this definitively caught me by surprise, but then again I know nothing about the ins and outs about online comic and profit and all that jazz. Of course my support for Pictures of You remains intact but it's just a shame that the people that could help sorta jump start all this craze about a POY being a cult classic (yes, I went there)aren't taking interest. And As disappointing as we are as readers I'm sure it is 10000 times more to you as an artist and creator of the comic. So over all Im sorry that the ones that should take notice aren't quite doing so :(

TacoTotes, February 5th, 2012, 2:48 pm

Sorry this is REALLY long OK, what you said actually makes a lot of sense. I'm awful at promoting myself or bugging people to buy my work but I do enjoy tabling at cons, because it usually is one on one when someone decides to stop and look around. I will spark up conversations with people as they look at my stuff and indulge the story if they ask--and sometimes they buy it, sometimes they don't but I'm always gracious for their time and will usually give them a post card or business card.

I had one guy stop by my table a couple of times, and we chatted a bit and he went and walked around, came back a few more times and then he bought a couple comics from me. A lot of sales were based on building a rapport with people--AND based on your demeanor in the Q&A yesterday, I think you would do just fine at an AA table.

Some people work differently though, one person, a table down, said THE SAME THING over and over and over to every single person who walked by "my comic is about blah blah blah blah" and maybe it worked for them, I wasn't about to ask them how their sales were, but man, I kind of wanted to flip a table.

God, I'm blabbing and I'm really sorry--but I think what point I'm trying to make is that everyone sells their stuff differently and people appreciate (at least I find they do) when you're more into them, and not just trying to make a sale.

I'm so socially awkward, and if I can do it, I'm more than positive you'll do just fine.

xkrazydog, February 10th, 2012, 9:17 am

Its a shame too, since PoY fans tend to be ones with money since it has a more mature audience and would genuinely like to see it continue.
Albeit small, i could see it as being a book read in comic shops. But the decision is yours, yeah.

LCR (Guest), February 12th, 2012, 9:01 am

Finance, eh? I've had a similar issue for the last five years; I was running my own theatre company in Britain, and there just isn't any money in it unless you're willing to churn out Shakespeare and musicals for I did a medley of new writing from undiscovered artists whom I believe in, and I did it because I love it. The enjoyment was my payment.
On a more relevant note, it does suck that you don't get money for POY. Even from a purely objective, analytical, and non-screaming-fanboy standpoint, it's the most well-written webcomic I've ever seen with consistently high production values. It's kept me reading avidly for the past two years with story lines I can really relate to; Bishop Street in particular.
I hope that at the very least it leads to more paid work in the future.
I hope you never get tired of writing it, and I'm really looking forward to the new book :D.

Shaz, February 22nd, 2012, 10:00 am

Okay I'm coming to this late, since I usually only hit up the comic page and tend to forget about the main news page for for weeks at a time.

I read many comics. MANY. And have for years and years now. This comic would honestly be ... um, the first and only one I would actually buy a print copy of. It's just that important to me, for some indescribable reason. It just resonates with me exactly where it matters.

However, I can fully understand your decision not to go to print. I can also understand your decision not to do merchandise (truthfully, I wouldn't be interested in buying anything but book(s) anyway). But... I would dearly like to support PoY.

I don't have any online friends who really read comics, so I can't advertise for you. But I would still like to support PoY. Donations, perhaps? I *am* serious. I don't have a lot of free money myself due to disability, but this comic is truly important to me, and I would like to do something to 'give back', since you've given me a lot.

kotor, February 23rd, 2012, 10:18 am

I just wanted to congratulate you on making a difficult choice. I know all us webcomic artists dream of making a living from this, and it takes real guts to look at the reality of the situation and decide not to get in over your head.

When faced with a similar situation, a dedicated small following of readers desperate for a book, I made the opposite choice and it's caused me nothing but trouble. I'm out of pocket, given up a lot of time that would have been better spent on other projects, and am no closer to getting the book printed than I was at the beginning.

yayness (Guest), February 29th, 2012, 3:20 am

Overall good decision I think. Jumping into book printing is a big decision, and I have seen many webcomic artists struggle with it. Interestingly, the guys who end up making money (teahouse particularly springs to mind...) seem to be those that decide from Day One that this is a money-making effort, and therefore go into it very customer and product focused. Trying to change a loving side-project into a money-endeavour is something that takes a lot of power and determination and, if done badly or if you're just terminally unlucky, makes you hate the thing.

PoY has gained you a following of people who will be happy to at least consider buying any other stuff you market though! And I am very, very relieved that this post was not signalling the end of the comic. The tone made me all worried.

freef (Guest), March 5th, 2012, 5:23 am

Digital release maybe? I was wondering if some form of digital distribution may be viable. Like a .pdf or a .cbr?
The cost would be low and I would gladly pay for a version I can read offline.

VoxAngeles, April 4th, 2012, 11:38 pm

Sorry to hear the printing didn't work out, but I wish you the best of luck with this comic in the future.

I, personally, adore it and always look forward to its updates. Please don't stop making it, and thank you so much for such a wonderful work.

MeesterRoss, April 9th, 2012, 10:15 pm

Thank You I happened to stumble upon this comic by accident this past Saturday night. I was hooked before I finished the prologue. Thoughtful, heartfelt and heartbreaking and so many other emotions rushed through me. I'm currently uprooting from my current locale to the New England area and needless to say there are plenty of emotions running through me. This comic has given me great comfort in this time. Thank you for producing such a splendid body of work!

crusaderstar (Guest), April 29th, 2012, 3:20 am

Thank you so much! I just read all of pictures of you tonight, and I love it! Thank you for continuing to work on it despite the lack of monetization, I appreciate it (and if donations/something would help, let us readers know!)

Faracha (Guest), June 22nd, 2012, 12:47 am

Faracha Awesome! See you here, also do you know if there has been an event page set up for this? Basel gets pretty crazy and want to make sure I make it to this!

Smith (Guest), July 8th, 2012, 12:32 am

Thank you / You can make money off of anything first, Pictures Of You is brilliant (art, story, writing, characters - it's really a little too real sometimes) and you can count 3 people in this household alone that have been deeply and profoundedly moved by the story. We'd buy $50+ worth of books if you came to ECCC. Each year.
secondly- Have faith - "people will come" as the movie says. As a small business starter/entrepreneur, and 12 year veteran webcomic lurker, I gotta offer my observations: there are ways to make money doing this.

Smith (Guest), July 10th, 2012, 12:10 am

Merch it up, baby!! Let me add 2 bits:
that ONE INCH PUNCH tee shirts and Temp Tattoos like the bishop street gang have would SELL OUT. Just set yourself up with a shutterfly/vistaprint/lulu model of print-on-demand style inventory rather than preordering a garage-full of bulk crap, then price accordingly for P.O.D., and test the waters with a handy, but not needy, little link on each comic page (or make it rare/for those intheknow and only have a certain day of the week (friday) that the merch link is there). Toss in an occasional Fanservice for people who tap the merch link, and you'll be golden. Might even pay for itself + bandwidth after a year... Best, -S

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