In this second portion of the interview, I asked about the ways Pete earns money from the comic, including Amazon and other referrals and his premium subscriber program, “Defenders of the Nifty.” I also asked about his feelings about or experience with e-books.

Previously: Part One

Me: How did you decide to start the Defenders of the Nifty program?

Pete: There again, that’s been going on so long I can’t remember exactly how it started. I guess it just came from the idea of, instead of just offering donations, kind of giving a little bit back to people who donate because, with the way I do business, it’s very hard to have merchandise bring in that much money because, well, for one thing, I’ve been ages behind on books; I’m trying to fix that. And the shirt design, maybe it sells, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t sell then I have two good designs to make up for the one that didn’t work out so well. It’s kind of tricky in that way.

But with the Defenders of the Nifty membership, all the money goes straight to cover my expenses and pay me for the comic. The money doesn’t go to pay for the shirt materials, the merchandise, to put the stuff in the box and ship it—it all goes directly to the strip. So in that sense, it’s the single best way to support the strip and it’s been the biggest support. I think it’s like anything else in Sluggy, it just happened kind of organically. Just a concept that went through and worked really well.

Me: So does Defenders account for most of your revenue now?

Pete: Currently it’s most of my revenue. Of course, as I said I’m about seven years behind on books. Once I get some of those books out, maybe that would come into the running. Advertising has never really been a significant chunk of the money. Not so insignificant as I’d stop running ads, but advertising has always been an up and down kind of tug of war with me as far as profitability goes.

Me: How effective are the various referral programs from Amazon, Omaha Steaks, and so on? I actually ordered from Omaha Steaks from Sluggy, by the way. Very good steaks.

Pete: Yeah, I like Omaha. And Amazon has been actually kind of an unsung hero. That probably gets me more than the advertising combined. And it’s not like it costs anybody anything, they simply go through my link when they want to go shopping at Amazon. And I basically do probably about 90% of my Christmas shopping through Amazon. I wish I could use my own link, by the way—they won’t let you do that. Heh. Yeah, that’s been a huge win-win. I only remember to mention it around Christmas time, I’ll point out the link’s there, but every quarter it brings in a lot of money.

Me: Do you think there’s much of a future in web cartooning for a living for people who aren’t you?

Pete: No! You should all stop. Except for me. I’m allowed to keep going, everyone else stop.

Me: So, that aside, what advice would you give people trying to get started?

Pete: Run! <laughs> I have a lot of difficulty with that question because, as I said when I started there was almost nothing out there webcomics-wise. Now there’s tons of different things, and I’m not even aware of all of them. I mean, I always knew about Keenspot for example, and Keenspace was a place to go where new people could start up with their webcomics. Keenspace changed their name sometime back, I think, and I think there’s other competing sites with them, but you know, I just draw pictures in my cave, I don’t get out much, so I’m not aware of what a new webcartoonist has as options, and I don’t know which ones are good and which ones are bad. But there’s a lot of smarter people than I am doing this and figuring out how to make a living doing it, so better to ask them. Or better yet, take up another occupation, like logging!

Me: So do you think the newspaper industry could learn any lessons from webcartoonists when it comes to making free online content pay?

Pete: I don’t know, if you’re talking about newspaper comic strips that’s different than the newspapers themselves. At this point I think newspapers are losing a lot of money because there’s so many sources for news. They’re all over the place. And how do you get your news I don’t think is as important as the fact that I worry about the level of journalism we’re getting. Like people going into journalistic profession and hunt down stories and hunt down truth instead of grabbing newsbites from each other and just putting the same stuff up there. I want to make sure we still have journalists doing what they’re doing and find a way to get them to get paid for what they’re doing whether it be on print newspapers or on websites, what-have-you. So I’m not worried about the newspapers, I’m worried about journalists.

Me: Do you read e-books, or would you if you had the time? What hardware do or would you use?

Pete: I don’t have a lot of experience with the different devices, but from what I’ve seen…I’ve seen the Kindle and I’ve seen the iPad and both of them seem to do a really good job of letting you sit back with a book in your lap and read it. Kind of the old-fashioned way with new-fashioned technology. So, I don’t know. I’d have to find time to read books first. So little time in my life. I have not picked up a book in ages. But yeah, so I can’t really commit to one of the book readers at this point.

Me: Now I know this is a bit of an odd question given the electronic nature of Sluggy already, but have you ever considered making Sluggy Freelance e-books available, like in CBR files or PDFs?

Pete: Yeah, I’ve considered it. There’s more of a time issue. I think there’s probably a lot of opportunities for that, but my options time-wise to investigate them are very limited. So, something like that can happen at any point. It’s definitely something I’m considering but until I have time to look at the options, I can’t commit to anything particular. Right now I’m trying to get them into just print.

[To be concluded!]


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