Creator of the Week with Zach Weinersmith
Meet Zach Weinersmith, a multi-talented illustrator, writer, and comedy show producer!
Location: Houston, Texas
Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/ZachWeinersmith
Q+A with Zach Weinersmith
Patreon: Describe, in your own words, what it is that you create.
Zach Weinersmith: I draw a comic strip called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. In addition, I occasionally write books, and I produce a science comedy show called BAHFest.
How did you get your start as a creator?
ZW: I was working a soul-crushing job in the film business, and one day I decided I just wanted out. I started doing comics as a way to move in that direction, and pretty soon I was able to go full time.
What did it take to end up where you are today?
ZW: A lot of work! Most of my time is spent reading books or writing things. It’s really a full time job to be a professional artist.
If you could be any ocean creature aside from a dolphin or a shark, which would you pick and why?
ZW: Finally a real question. I think if I lived in the ocean, I’d rather not be terribly cognizant of my surroundings. So, maybe a jellyfish.
At what point did you decide to develop your creative passion into a business?
ZW: I think it would’ve been in 2005, while working in the office of a talent agency.
What are three tactics you’ve used to grow your audience over time?
ZW: The main thing I do is to try to just produce the best content I can – to make my work as interesting and original as possible. General promotion is also helpful, via things like advertising and meeting peers. And, it also helps to, now and then, do something really ridiculously amazing to get some attention.
What has been the most effective monetization method for you the last year?
ZW: Ad revenue, followed closely by kickstarter. Patreon doesn’t provide quite as much revenue, but it’s sooooo much more stable and reliable than other sources.
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?
ZW: A couple years ago I had a particularly hard time with some personal relationships and health stuff, and at the same time my site was starting to lose audience. I would’ve liked to have told myself to relax, because it all worked out fine!
What is the greatest challenge you face right now as a creator?
ZW: Time. I have two small children at home (one of whom is 2 months old!), and my wife is a research biologist. We split time between work and family, and it’s often a bit crazy. I suspect I will remember this time fondly, but at the moment it feels a bit crazy!
How have your fans helped you throughout your creative career?
ZW: Many ways, but best of all they’ve helped me branch out by financially supporting my weird projects. BAHFest has actually been the biggest surprise. If you’d told me in 2013 (when we started) that we’d have sold out big shows on three continents, I would’ve been amazed.
When did you decide to launch on Patreon, and in what ways has it affected your creative goals?
ZW: Back when patreon started! I think I was one of the first comic creators on the platform. The biggest way it’s affected things is that it allowed me to get a full time helper. This means I spend most of my time on creative projects, and very little time on “business.”
What does Patreon mean for artists and creators?
ZW: It’s the most reliable and relaxing way to make a living for creators. Every other way to make money (ads, crowdfunding, merchandise, conventions…) is subject to seasonality and random fluctuations.
How did you first announce your Patreon page to your community? What was the general feedback?
ZW: I just mentioned it on my blog and social media. The reaction was immediate, positive, and pretty overwhelmingly awesome!
When times are tough as a creator, is there anything you continue to come back to, something that keeps you going and keeps your eye on the prize?
ZW: I mean… there’s stuff I like, but one of the nice things about doing comics full time is that you really don’t have a choice but to keep going. If I got sick of comics and couldn’t do them, I couldn’t pay rent or buy my kid more terrible Disney movies. For me, burnout really isn’t an option, so generally I don’t think about it too hard.
What’s next for you? Are there any exciting projects or big goals you are working towards?
ZW: Yes! I actually have two major projects in the works. One is a graphic novel about immigration with Bryan Caplan, and one is a major project with my wife which I can’t announce yet. I’m also working on a toy and some other book projects. OH, and we’re doing BAHFest in 6 cities in 2017 – Seattle, Houston, MIT, San Francisco, London, and Sydney. It’s crazy!
If you could challenge creators to do one thing that worked for you, or was transformative in your experience, what would it be?
ZW: One thing I always tell people – you have got to be more interesting in some way than your audience. That requires work because most people are pretty interesting! So, you have to do something extra – climb mountains or become an expert in riddles or learn how to build robots. Something extra. For me, I try to read more books than anyone I know. For you, it may be something else. But, you’ve got to do it. If you’re just doing work anyone else can do, eventually you’ll get displaced when a younger version of you comes along.
If you could collaborate with one creator, dead or alive, who would it be?
ZW: OH MAN, too many to count. In this past year I’ve gotten to collab with some heroes of mine already – Bryan Caplan, Scott Aaronson, and Boulet. But, since I’m also allowed to pick historical figures… maybe Stanislaw Lem. I have a feeling he wouldn’t be fun to collaborate with, but I’d like to meet him!
That’s all, folks! Want to say hey? Reach out to Zach here: