The financial realities of going viral

One of Lucy Bellwood’s cartoons went viral a while ago, being shared by Boing Boing, Chris Hadfield, the Atlas Obscuria, George Takei and others. So what does this exposure mean in terms of cold, hard cash?

SO: To date, including the money I was paid to produce the artwork, I have made $1,761.50 from this image. Not bad! Notably: $814 of that came after Boing Boing decided to feature the art with a proper link pointing people to my shop. There are a bunch of factors to consider here.

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But I also think it’s important to share these numbers as a reminder that just because you’ve seen someone’s work shared on a popular platform (or by a popular person), doesn’t mean they’re automatically set for life. It does, however, mean they might be making a couple hundred bucks more than they usually do in a given month, and when you’re trying to make it as a freelancer that makes all the difference in the world.

I’ve shared one of her sailing cartoons before, on Metafilter, but I’m not sure I’d buy a print myself, if only because it’s usually such a hassle to get that sort of stuff shipped from the US. Bellwood’s essay is a good reminder of the financial realities of “going viral” and what that means for an artist or cartoonist and why proper attribution is so important. Something I’m not always practising myself, I’ve realised. Not often we get such a honest, open look into what large scale exposure means for an independent artist like Bellwood.

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