Creator of the Week with Namesake
Meet Meg and Isa, a writer and an illustrator who joined forces to create the fairy tale adventure comic, Namesake.
Members: Isabelle Melancon (Quebec, Canada) and Megan Lavey-Heaton (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/namesake
Q+A with NameSake
Describe, in your own words, what it is that you create:
Isa: Together, me and Megan make comics, often in the fantasy genre, and often inspired by fairy tale and literature. Our lead series is the fairy tale adventure comic Namesake.
How did you get your start as a creator?
Isa: I’ve been interested in doing comics since I was a kid, my parents had a lot of French comics for me and my brothers to read. During college and University, I had a minimal webcomic experience by upkeeping a daily life blog comic. After I graduated, I published a short comic with a Quebecois editor, and decided to try the webcomic format for Namesake with meg. It was really fun. After we began, helpful entities such as Hiveworks, Kickstarter and Patreon appeared, helping us monetize our project.
Meg: I began writing when I was a kid, and I haven’t really stopped. My career path took me into journalism and non-fiction, but I wrote fanfic as a means of relaxing. It was through fandom that I met Isa and eventually began working on Namesake with her.
What did it take to end up where you are today?
Isa: Very light insisting from Megan.
Meg: Very light insisting being code for “so are you doing it yet? Are you doing it yet? Are you doing it yet?” Then Isa finally went, “OK, but you’re doing it with me.”
At what point did you decide to develop your creative passion into a business?
Isa: I suppose it happened very organically over the years, rather than us waking up and taking this decision one day. We have always treated Namesake as work, so anytime something new would pop up, we’d always try it almost immediately. The research-loving aspect of our personalities took over. When we started, we both had jobs in our respective domains (management and journalism), and we still do.The additional revenue makes it so that we don’t have to take on additional freelance contracts outside of our day jobs, and have revenue to spare for cons, new comics, helping friends, and stuff like that.
Meg: It really wasn’t that hard to make the leap into doing Namesake as a business. Isa and I already had a healthy respect for things such as deadlines, and because it’s the two of us, we’re not afraid to experiment. Our business further developed when we decided to publish our fairy tale anthology, Valor, and when we got involved with Hiveworks.
What are three tactics you’ve used to grow your audience over time?
Isa: I try to be very active on social media, drawing fanart and interacting heavily with other creators. That’s 1. Another is to buy advertising, which I do thanks to Hiveworks and through my own means. So method 2 is definitely, have a marketing budget. Method 3 is to have a sense of humor. As a web creators, I find our personal identities are often bunched with our projects, so it’s helpful to be kind, funny, and committed.
Meg: Likewise, I am active on social media and still am involved in fandom, though on the writing side. I also make sure I’m open and available to other creators and our readers, engaging in the comments of our comic and having avenues they can easily reach me. A lot of people tend to look at how a creator behaves in public in addition to their work, so I’m aware that whatever I say and do also reflects back on my comic. And yes, have a marketing budget and ads!
What has been the most effective monetization method for you the last year?
Isa: Ads, comic conventions and Patreon have been all very efficient this year. We use all 3 on a monthly basis.
When was the hardest time in your creative career, and what do you wish your present self could’ve told your past self during that time?
Isa: Oh, the hardest time was probably when I had to juggle two jobs to survive, while also doing freelance and updating our comic. Cutting corners in creativity because of time constraints is never fun. Probably would have told my past self to take a week off but I’m not sure she would have listened.
Meg: For me, it was the two years between when I was laid off at a newspaper in Arizona and when I began Namesake with Isa. Until the layoff, my identity was so tied up in being a journalist that I didn’t know who I was outside of journalism. Doing Namesake with Isa has led to me developing a whole new career, and even though I am back in my original career, I feel like I can do a lot more creatively now than I did back in 2008-09. I wish I could tell my past self to have more confidence.
What is the greatest challenge you face right now as a creator?
Isa: I think the greatest challenge right now, especially for the web, especially as a female creator, is that you’re kinda always proving your worth over and over. People wonder why you don’t work in print. People wonder about what makes a “real” comic. Digital versus hand drawn. Etc, etc. You’re basically always needing to prove the validity of your choices, not as the “best” thing, but the “best” thing for you. I think folks hope for an all-encompassing answer. A recipe rather than a mix pot of options and solutions. But that’s why stuff like Patreon and Kickstarter is pretty cool. It’s a base for you to work off of. It allows you not just to monetize your work, but to turn it into a business in a way that works for you.
Meg: Isa nails it. I feel like at times that I am so scared about getting things wrong that I’m paralyzed and can’t do anything at all.
How have your fans helped you throughout your creative career?
Isa: The comments and social media interactions are a huge source of energy and inspiration. One of my teachers used to say “Spectators add the last part to a piece of art, it exists because it resonates with people” and I honestly believe that now more than ever.
Meg: The fans are the absolute best thing about it, hands down. We’ve gotten really lucky to have this amazing fandom develop around Namesake. Since Isa and I are both deeply engaged in fandom ourselves, we knew how to handle the one that sprang up around our comic. At Emerald City Comicon a couple years ago, one girl came up to our table, flustered because she was such a huge fan of Namesake and didn’t know how to talk to me. I confessed that my favorite actress was two floors above us, and I was about to go to her signing and not know how to talk to her.
What does Patreon mean for artists and creators?
Isa: To me, Patreon is a good monetizing tool, but also a direct line to some of your most passionate fans. So, it’s a way to gain confidence in your work. Not just because you have a tangible revenue source so you have less stress, but as a tool to have a direct dialogue with people that very clearly trust you. It’s just nice.
Meg: I think it’s a way of people directly supporting your work without having to wait for a Kickstarter or rely on those old PayPal tip jars. I feel like fans have a vested interest in how the product turns out, and we have a commitment to those who decide to support us.
How did you first announce your Patreon page to your community? What was the general feedback?
Isa: I remember it was a very long-winded YAAAAAY. Our fans really appreciate the additional art and comments.
Meg: I think we did a blog post? But yes, everyone was super supportive of us.
What’s next for you? Are there any exciting projects or big goals you are working towards?
Isa: We’ve been working for quite some time on a second webcomic series and new anthology projects. 2018 is going to knock socks off! We also have a Kickstarter for Namesake’s third book happening right now : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1987386669/namesake-volume-3
Meg: Yes, please check out our Kickstarter!
If you could challenge creators to do one thing that worked for you, or was transformative in your experience, what would it be?
Isa: Well, I know one of the hardest criticism I ever got was from someone that I adored – they said that my art (at the time) was good, but still lacked a distinct personal/original quality. They were right, of course, so the following 2 years I ventured to prove them wrong and it was my first steps towards the style I use in Namesake today. I guess my recommendation is to find a good mentor, someone you love, and let them give you a very honest critique. Not cruel – honest, and not just about not just the quality of your artwork, but about other aspects to the comic. Like, if your goal is to sell comics, have them comment on the marketability of the style and story. Have them comment on how easily they can read your panels. Have them comment on your page design. It’s going to sting, and hurt your pride, but you’re going to grow twice as fast and twice as strong thanks to those words. Getting very honest overview of how your art looks, but also how it can meet your goals, is very instructive and can completely change your work path.
Meg: What was transformative for me was letting go of what I thought I was supposed to be to Isa as a creative partner. I thought I had to write a certain way and do things a certain way, otherwise I was doing it wrong and I wasn’t pulling my weight. Especially if you work with a partner, you need to figure out what works for the two of you and constantly adapt to your needs.
That’s all, folks! Want to say hey? Reach out to Meg and Isa here: