Wasted Analysis

Jam's picture



Sketch Request Frequency and Transit Time Analysis for the Special Editions of Wasted Talent: Welcome to the Real World




Let's have fun with this data I've got lying around!


In March of 2012, I launched my second book: Welcome to the Real World. As part of the launch, I offered 300 "special editions" of the book, which included a custom drawing.


In order to make life easy for my readers while still generating somewhat unique sketch ideas, the order form included three customization fields.



The character field included characters from the comic. The comic is about Jam and I definitely expected that to be the most common request, but I wanted to give people a chance to request a different character. (Believe it or not I do get sick of drawing myself!)

  • Jam
  • Trevor
  • Red
  • Ainaz
  • Lucky
  • Jocelyn


Prompt #1

Prompt #1 was meant to be an "action" prompt. These are themes that are common in the comic, so it's a way for the reader to choose their favourite aspect.

  • Character's Choice Beverage (for Jam this would usually be coffee or tea - occasionally beer, for Trevor: Coke)
  • Psychotic Squirrel
  • Silly Hat
  • Delicious Snacks
  • Working
  • Being Silly
  • Sports


Prompt #2

Prompt #2 was meant mostly as an "environment" prompt. The four weather bits indicate the season, which informs the type of outfit the sketch would feature.

  • Summer
  • Rain
  • Wind
  • Snow
  • Urban (City Setting)
  • Nature
  • Kittens!*


* I wanted the prompt fields to have an equal number of options, but I ran out of settings and had one space left. On a whim I decided to add "Kittens!" to the end of the list. I don't have a cat, but I really like them and I enjoy drawing them, so I figured: why not! I really didn't know what I was getting in for.


CHART 1: Sketch Requests

As you can see, Jam was far and away the most frequently requested character, which was not a surprise to me. Trevor (my husband, the second most-frequently featured character in the comic) clocked in at a healthy 9%. The most popular theme prompt was "Being Silly", closely followed by "Psychotic Squirrels". The least popular was "Sports" which, again... I think surprises no one. But I really did enjoy the sports-themed drawings I made! The urban setting was very popular, and winter (snow) was the most popular season.


And then there were the kittens. Over 1/3 of the requests included kittens. Which, again, I didn't mind but I really didn't expect! On average I drew three kittens per kitten request, meaning that during the course of this project I drew approximately 333 kittens. That's a lot! That's a lot of kittens, my gosh.

Some further analysis on the kittens shows that "Being Silly" with kittens was BY FAR the most popular sketch request. I had to come up with some very innovative ways to "be silly" with kittens by the end of this. Mashups of Kittens and Squirrels were also very popular.


Transit Time Analysis


I shipped these books as they were finished over the course of 5 or 6 weeks. The shipping date was recorded for all orders. Books were shipped through Canada Post using their "surface" option. Now, Canada Post is not known for their predictability. The postal standards for surface parcels, as is publicly available, is listed below:



CANADA: up to 9 business days

USA: up to 6 business days

International:up to 6 weeks


Many of my readers would tweet or email me to let them know that their order had arrived safely. I recorded the "received" date for those who did report, 46 orders in total (a little over 15% of the books I shipped) All of this data is self-reported.


Distance from Vancouver, BC (in km) was calculated using this website: http://www.mapcrow.info/

And the transit time (business days only) was calculated using this site:




I've outlined four different areas: West Coast, East Coast, Europe and Australia. The trend line, as you can see, does not have a very good correlation value, which demonstrates how variable shipping times can be.


Most parcels to the West Coast arrived within a week. Most East Coast parcels also arrived within their 6-day estimate. The majority of these parcels are in the United States, and I've found that once you get the parcel in the hands of the Americans, they are very reliable about getting it to their destination. Lots of shipping centers and dense populations make East Coast deliveries much simper, I imagine. For this reason, Americans tend to be the most anxious when their parcels experience slight delays... they're so used to having a reliable postal service! We aren't so lucky in the rest of the world...


The European band of orders shows how unpredictable the delivery estimates are. A couple arrived within a week or two, which verifies my theory that - even though I only paid for "surface", they occasionally will throw a package onto a plane if it's convenient. As for the rest of the parcels, I honestly have no idea how they get it across the pond, but it usually takes four weeks before it lands on the continent.


After that... who knows. Maybe it gets hung up in customs. Maybe it gets put on a bunch of trains... but most European packages took six or seven weeks to arrive. Some took as long as nine weeks!! But very few of these packages were (thus far as reported) fully lost. They got there.......eventually.


The last band of orders is the Australians. I hear a lot from Australians who want my book, but are reluctant to order it for reasons that should be pretty obvious from this chart. (Australian orders are also the most expensive to ship). I sympathize. I really, really do. I wish there was a better way. Even though Canada Post's official estimate is six weeks, the true estimate that they'll tell in you in the stores is two months. Which is ludicrous, but true according to this data. Sorry, Australia :(




  • Everybody loves kittens!
  • I still hate the Post.
  • This is why I normally ship from the USA (and thus can't offer signed products)


I know that paying high rates for shipping and waiting so long for a book is frustrating. It doesn't frustrate anyone more than me. This is the thing that gets me the most excited about ebooks. I love real books (LOVE) but it's nice that I can finally provide SOME common experience to people around the world without forcing my foreign readers to pay astonishingly high shipping rates for delivery times that I consider below mediocre.


I have a new plan that I'm going to be testing out for book 3 (tentatively scheduled to launch October 2013), so we'll see how that goes! In the meantime, thanks again for your tremendous support of the book, making the artist editions was a lot of fun :) (sponsors now have access to a gallery where you can see all the book sketches I did!)


-- Jam


chinquary's picture

Very interesting graphs. I feel very privileged with my six kittens. (^^)

George Watson's picture
George Watson

I spy my delivery time there, skewing the data. ;)

How the hell did Canada Post *and* the Royal Mail manage 4 days between them?! I'm still ferklempt!

Still picking-up and browsing the book btw. :)

Pierre Lebeaupin's picture
Pierre Lebeaupin

*usually repressed statistician self† suddenly surfaces*

Interesting, but for the purposes of affine regression I would regress not so much against raw distance, but rather against a model of proximity that takes into account a structure (even simplified) of shipping networks, e.g. a graph. Of course, the risk is that you would end up tuning the graph so that it would best fit the shipping times, but that would allow refining the correlation value to strictly be about intrinsic shipping time variability.

Also, one effect that might have to be taken into account is the possibility of longer transit times being more reported than shorter ones (the "at last it arrived, how comes it takes two weeks even though I am in Canada too?" effect and the "hey, where's my package?… three days later… oh, my package arrived!" effect).

†my little sister is the statistician in the family. What statistics skills I have, I use to read critically news and other such things which claim to properly use statistics.

Jam's picture

Yep, being that I have limited experience in statistics I knew someone would take issue with the way I did this. This is just for fun. It's only 46 data points.

I don't agree that only those who were waiting a long time for their package reported results for the following reasons:
1) Most of these data points are from people who could not contain their excitement upon receiving the books and posted photos of the sketch inside to twitter. They would have done this regardless of whether it was delayed or not.
2) My anxiety regarding sending things by post is pretty well documented so many people were emailing me "Just to let me know it got there safely." Again, a consideration they would take regardless of whether it was delayed or not.

Pierre Lebeaupin's picture
Pierre Lebeaupin

Ah, I'm not saying "only those who were waiting a long time for their package reported results", I am saying they may be *more likely* to; if it is the case it is enough to skew the average for instance; but given your points the effect is indeed likely low, if it exists at all, in your case. And your methodology is basically sound, I am nitpicking on details here. :) (yes, I am obsessive-compulsive, why do you ask?)

For what it's worth, I report back arrival times for all packages from webcomickers as a common courtesy (at least for those who do not use a fulfillment service). Which reminds me, I need to write to the Foglios.

Jam's picture

We appreciate it! :D

Red's picture

Whoo! Third most popular character!

In your face, everyone who isn't Jam, Trevor or a kitten!

BearPerson's picture

Completely random and probably Horribly Impractical Idea:

Instead of having all the books printed in canada and shipped,
could you find a Reliable Printer somewhere europeish (and australia),
send them the digital proofs, and have them ship the results?

I guess printing up these tiny batches means it'll be way more expensive,
and you can't guarantee what the books looks like (and sketches are out,
without bookplate stickers), but it could save shipping costs and time.

Jam's picture

Yes, for larger groups this makes much more sense. This is the logic behind selling international rights. So, a popular author will have, for example, a British Edition, Australian Edition and American Edition of their books, as well as locally translated and distributed books in Japanese, French, German, Italian... etc. Unfortunately, since it's just little old me doing *everything* I don't think that would be possible. I'd have to find a print-on-demand service that also offers direct shipping, and those services usually have very high margins and - more importantly - lower quality product. It also, for obvious reasons, would not be possible for people to get signed copies. I have not personally heard of anyone who works in self-publishing at my scale having success with that.

So, for these reasons the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. At least, in my specific case and opinion at this time. The technology is changing and the more books I can manage to sell from a run, the more options open up to me :)

ctbrokaw's picture

How quick/cheap is the post when delivering envelopes (instead of packages) to far-away lands? Or is it always slow and expensive?

My guess is that the majority of the expense is from shipping large amounts of paper across the world. It's the pictures on those pages we want, not the paper. What about this: print just the covers and a few special pages, add a sketch, and put the rest on a pdf, so it all fits in a large flat envelope and doesn't weigh much. Then the recipient can go to their local print shop (or maybe they have a good printer at work or home) and can create the rest of the book themselves.

No, I have not run the numbers, I have no idea how much any of these steps cost, but there could be situations where the extra expense is worth the shorter wait time. Or there could be people that want to support their favorite artists, but are running out of shelf space.

Jam's picture

This is essentially the same as using a print-on-demand service, which as I've mentioned above I don't like using for quality reasons. The quality difference between a POD book and a high run offset book is really night and day, and if you're willing to support me I want you to have a consistent, quality product in return :) Also if you're looking to print one copy of a full-colour book, it's probably going to run you ~$30 anyway. Just the printing cost! None of that goes to me. This is why, again, I really want to work to make an easily accessible quality ebook experience a reality.

I do occasionally sell just sketches, but because it is time consuming I can't do it very often. You're right! Shipping a letter is much much cheaper and faster.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Thanks so much to our Patrons!

Thanks so much to our Patrons! [Apr 2020]

A Patreon of the Ahts ♥Ada Kerman ♥Alexander Botkin ♥Ali  ♥Amanda Chou ♥Amelia Meyer ♥Amos Onn ♥Amy Poli ♥Andrew Swanton ♥Anna Izenman ♥Anna Walsh ♥Anthony Gilberti ♥BearPerson  ♥Becky Landry ♥Billy  ♥Blake Rothwell ♥Blorg³  ♥Boreas  ♥Brandon Lu ♥Bria Morgan ♥Brian Kim ♥Bryce Chidester ♥Caleb Amos ♥calicosarah  ♥Capucine  ♥Charlie Owen ♥Chris Russell ♥Christine  ♥Christopher ♥Christopher Chung ♥Christopher Ingram ♥Christopher Schurman ♥Cindy Norton ♥Damon Hart-Davis ♥Daniel Cornelius ♥Daniel DeRosia ♥Daniel Karnes ♥Dave Coleman ♥David Drum ♥Dean Bailey ♥Delta-Fox  ♥Doctor Professor ♥Dylan  ♥Elaine Short ♥Erik Edberg ♥Ewe Knee Knot Know ♥Faith Nelson ♥Frábás Tamás ♥Giles Sutcliffe ♥Glade  ♥HardZero  ♥Henrik Lindhe ♥Holly B ♥IcyMidnight  ♥Ilana  ♥James A. Thornton ♥Jamie Furtner ♥Jed Spradling ♥Jeff Grafton ♥Jens Banning ♥Jeph Jacques ♥Joanna  ♥Joe  ♥Juan Chanco ♥Justin Sorbello ♥K Fung ♥Kai  ♥kaitou  ♥Karl Dahlberg ♥Kathleen Ralph ♥kelly bush ♥Kevin  ♥Kris Lipscombe ♥Lauren Singer ♥Lewis Allen ♥Lisa  ♥llearch n'n'daCorna ♥Logan Arias ♥Maddy B ♥Matt Zweig ♥Matthew Powell ♥Mattis Jensen ♥Melissa Huston ♥Melissa Nurmi ♥Mike Purvis ♥NJGR  ♥Parabet  ♥Patrick Bernier ♥Patrick Hallal ♥Patrick Naish ♥Peter Kempson ♥Peter Rönnmo ♥Phil  ♥Phill Peach ♥pikafoop  ♥Probably Human ♥Raphael  ♥Ricardo Bittencourt ♥RJAR  ♥Scott  ♥Sean Horn ♥Sinogen  ♥Stacy Nicole ♥Stefan Schmiedl ♥Sune Ewert Astrup ♥Svend Andersen ♥Tanya  ♥Thomas Pritchard ♥Tim Willmott ♥Tina Klassen ♥Tina Nichols ♥Wayne Dang ♥William Hector ♥Wolfgang Behrens ♥Yurgan Urjack ♥



Join them on Patreon!