Mark Mayerson

Writer, Cartoonist, Sculptor

Pitch Audiences, Not Gatekeepers Part 4
(April 10, 2014)

Part 3 is here.

Younger people don't realize what an opportunity the internet represents. Yes, everyone is using Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to share things with friends, but the internet is the largest audience ever assembled. It dwarfs network television at its peak.

Before the internet, there were many gatekeepers between creators and the audience. Those gatekeepers controlled infrastructures that were necessary to get work to the public. Because those infrastructures were expensive and because they had limited bandwidth, the gatekeepers were picky. Only ideas that would appeal to a wide audience and had the largest profit potential were accepted.

If you wanted the world to read your writing, you had to find somebody to publish it. That meant printing copies and distributing them to retail outlets, which required presses, trucks, and affiliations with retailers who were willing to take your product.

If you wanted the world to see your movie, assuming you had the money to produce it, you needed a distributor to make prints, ship them to theatres, collect the money and return the prints when the screenings were over.

If you wanted the world to see your TV show, you had to find a network with millions of dollars of equipment willing to broadcast your work nationally or a distributor who would sell your show to individual TV stations.

Those things are no longer necessary. This week, my blog has been read in over 15 countries and it cost me nothing. The internet infrastructure is more far-reaching than any that's existed in history and is also less expensive. There's never been an easier time to get your work in front of the audience.

Of course, the audience has to know about it. Marketing and monetizing your work are the great challenges, but the distribution challenge no longer exists. Computers and software have also greatly reduced production costs. No one can stop you from making your work public. That wasn't true 20 years ago.

It takes time to build an audience, but everyone with internet access has a network of friends, no matter how small, and that's a starting point. Building that audience takes patience and persistence, but you'll need those two qualities even if you're pitching to buyers.

From the first day you bring your work to the audience, you should have something to sell. The difference between a hobby and a business is income. There's nothing wrong with hobbies; they bring great satisfaction. However, if you've considered pitching, then you've been looking for income and you might as well be looking for income on the net.

Maybe you'll charge for your work. Maybe you'll finance by selling advertising. Maybe you'll give the work away and sell merchandise based on the work. Maybe you'll charge for special access to you or to your work in progress. There are multiple potential revenue streams.

The internet is full of companies looking to service creators. serves successful webcomics creators by taking care of their merchandise creation and sales. There are suppliers that will make custom T-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, etc. in small quantities for you. There are online stores like etsy or ebay that will host your merchandise.

There's a Frazetta Conan image on a phone cover, that sells for $18 U.S. The image is over 40 years old but is still generating revenue for the Frazetta estate. That's the benefit of retaining ownership.

There are fundraising sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or Patreon that are places to raise money for specific projects or for ongoing support. These sites are best used to monetize an existing audience rather than build an audience. For example, Dick Figures, an existing animated web series, raised $313,412 on Kickstarter to make a longer version.

Just as there are companies that will create merchandise and sell it for you, there are now companies that will help to service Kickstarter pitches.

Building and monetizing an audience are not simple things and they have no instant solutions. Two books that I would recommend are The $100 Startup and How to Make Webcomics. While neither applies directly to animation, both books are very practical about how to get started with limited resources. The webcomics book is an excellent guide to using the web for marketing, distribution and sales and is written by four cartoonists who are making their living from their creations.

Their webcomics model is being used in animation. I'll cover that in part 5.