Image from Tonoharu: Part Two
Happy New Year!
Every year since I first started this blog in 2007, I’ve written a New Year’s entry reflecting on the year that was.
As I looked over last year’s entry in preparation to write this year’s installment, I realized that not much has changed. I’m still working on the second volume of my graphic novel Tonoharu, and still attending Shikoku University on an East Asian calligraphy research scholarship from the Japanese Government.
So this year, rather than write a recap of 2009, I’ve decided to write about the year to come, as it will bring dramatic change to my life. My two-year research scholarship is nearing its end. In about three months time I’ll be packing up my things and returning to the States.
I’ll write a comprehensive reflection on the experience when the time comes, but for this entry I’ll limit my remarks to what it will mean for me financially, as this has been weighing heavily on my mind recently.
When the scholarship ends, with it will go the monthly stipend that has been covering my living expenses since April 2008. The stipend was just barely enough to get by on, but it allowed me to devote myself to my research (and cartooning) without having to worry about shrinking savings accounts or part time jobs.
With the end of the scholarship imminent, financial concerns I have been blissfully ignoring for the past twenty-odd months have returned to the forefront of my mind. I need to decide what I’m going to do once the Japanese Government stops paying my bills. This decision effectively boils down to two alternatives: looking for a “real” job, or continuing my absurd little experiment of trying to profit from my comics.
I’ll admit I’m a dreamer (no reasonable person would even consider trying to make a living as a cartoonist) but I’d like to think I’m not completely out of touch with reality. If my efforts to earn a living as a cartoonist hadn’t produced any meaningful results by now, I’d like to think I’d see the writing on the wall. I’d relegate cartooning to the status of “hobby”, and seek my fortunes elsewhere.
It’s just that there have been so many encouraging signs. I got a $10,000 grant to self-publish Tonoharu: Part One. It was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly. The first printing sold out in a matter of months. I got the two-year research scholarship thanks in large part to the examples of Tonoharu that accompanied my application. My comics aren’t anywhere near earning me a living wage, but I have made some money off of them. I feel that for a first-time, self published author, I’ve done quite well.
And then there are other comics-related revenue streams that I’ve been meaning to explore, which I never got around to because I was preoccupied with my research. I’d like to try selling original art and foreign publication rights. I’d like to try giving presentations/lectures about my work/Japan/East Asian calligraphy/whatever (some authors say that it’s through presentations, not book sales, that they make most of their money). In the past couple months I’ve applied for a few other art/publication-related grants, so that may bring a few bucks my way.
Also, I never really gave Tonoharu: Part One the marketing push I should’ve given it, since I left for Japan to begin my research on the same month it came out. When Tonoharu: Part Two comes out later this year (in the third or forth quarter, if you’re curious), I hope to give it the sustained marketing push that I should’ve given Part One, and see if that translates into increased sales.
So for the short term at least, I’m going to continue my foolhardy pursuit of a cartooning career. This will mean I’ll have to dip into my savings, which have already been significantly reduced by the stock market crash and breaking my ankle without insurance, but hey. You gotta follow your dreams… er… right?