Hello fellow creators or comic artists ‘in progress’!
in 2015 I’ve started my adventure in the webcomic’s world and today I decided to share with you what I’ve learned, hoping this will help you saving some time and focusing on the things that matter. I had to divide the article in 2 parts cause it ended up being really long, so this first part is meant to be an introduction for those of you who are at the beginning of their journey. In the second part we will explore more in details how to promote your comics.
Without further ado, here we go.
WHERE TO START.
If you have a comic that is ready to meet its readers, the first thing you wanna ask yourself before reaching out to the web is: what am I doing this for?
There is no wrong answer here. But there is a huge difference between creating a comic for your own amusement and creating a comic with the hope of becoming the next Neil Gaiman.
If you’re planning to make some comics just for fun, you probably wanna hang out on social media and see if other people enjoy it too and that is awesome, go for it!
But if you’re creating something you really believe could get big (or that you plan to make big), I would suggest you plan a little bit ahead.
Many artists won’t agree with what I’m going to say next, but I have a business consultant background and for me comics are just like any other business. Any time a client would come to me saying they wanted to make a website for their company, I would always suggest to make sure to claim their identity.
To claim your identity online means to make sure that your artistic nickname (if you have one) and/or the name that you have chosen for your comics are available. The next step is to make them yours.
At this stage you might not be sure yet about investing some dollars to make your own website. Whether you make your own website or you intend to publish on a free platform, the least you can do is to claim your ‘brand’ spots on social media.
@yourname and/or @yourcomicname have to be yours.
There are dozens of ‘name checker’ on the web. They also work for domain names. You can use one of these:
Why so many artists won’t agree with what I just said? Cause they’d be like ‘I know many famous artists that don’t have their own names in their Twitter or Facebook’.
Which means that they opened those accounts AFTER they’ve become famous.
But if you’re reading this article you’re probably not famous yet. You’re probably gonna have to promote your comic a lot. You’ll probably have to write an infinite amount of time ‘follow me on this/that social media’.
So maybe now you’re starting to see the difference between saying “follow me online” and having people typing your ‘brand’ only once and finding you on Google or on any social media without any effort, and saying “Follow me: on Facebook look for “/mybrand“, on Twitter is “@adifferentname“, on Instagram is “@yetanothername“, etc.”?
Believe me, it SAVES TIME.
As a web consultant, I would advice my clients to buy their domain name (10USD per year that you can stop renewing whenever you want), even when they’re not creating their websites right away, just to avoid regrets later on.
A comic artist recently suggested to use https://www.safecreative.org to secure your work in case someone tried to steal it. This is actually a great idea but just keep in mind that whatever you decide to put ‘out there’ (online) can be stolen at any time, especially now in the AI scraping era. People stealing your identity and pretending to be you, other posting your comics and pretending to be you, other stealing your ideas, style, copy-pasting your work and others making comics IN YOUR STYLE. Yep, that s**t happens.
Artists are trying to fight back and the Glaze project is probably the best you can currently find out there, but remember: if it’s out there… You won’t be able to control 100% where it ends up.
In 2006 I used to publish my illustrations on Deviant Art (so long before they embraced the AI parade). Several years later I’ve found those illustrations on a t-shirt website. Someone was selling them. Make sure you are aware of these risks and that you are ready to take them.
Claim you own your identity online.
WHERE TO HOST YOUR COMIC
As I told you before, if you’re making comics just for fun, you might not need to host your comic anywhere. Social media are the place for you: you can start with Instagram and take it to any other social platform you like (Tik Tok is currently the best option for emerging artists).
If you are more serious about getting your work recognized, you might want to explore the hosting options available.
The biggest difference between these options relies in the degree of control over your content.
The control I’m talking about not only concerns the nature of the content in general, but also the technical aspects that go with it. For example the possibility of keeping track of the traffic that your content generates is an important aspect to consider.
If you record the activity of your readers on your website you are able to see which content they enjoyed the most, which content they come from and even make plans to advertise. This is something easy and free to implement thanks to Google Analytics, but private platforms don’t allow you to access their data and the statistics that are available to creators are often (if not always) basic and mostly useless. If you’re not ready to give up this kind of valuable information, you can either make sure that the platform you have chosen support Google Analytics or you can always make your own website.
Control is not the only element that your have to keep under consideration. The way the public will access your comic is a also key factor. In the webcomics world, having more control is inevitably accompanied by having less visibility.
The reason is pretty simple: a platform that has already a huge public, needs to keep its audience there in order to profit from the views (monetize them through ads). Sharing visitors with its creators means losing money.
On the other way around, to have full control on your content means that you’ll be on your own: having your own website means that you have to go find your public and build your own readership from scratch.
Publishing on a private platform and keeping a mailing list is also a third option many artists utilize to be able to communicate more effectively with their public and promote things like merch and crowdfunding campaigns. For some artists this is actually the most effective tool.
It’s only up to you to decide where you stand, according to your goals, the time at your disposal and your values.
The only piece of advice that I have for you is that you be careful with the distribution of your assets. Any platform, even the most successful one, might face some issues one day. This means that if you rely exclusively on one platform, it they sink you’ll sink with it.
My advice therefore is to diversify. Make sure you have a backup plan in a place where you have full control and then go on and spread your assets wherever you can take advantage of a great audience. This way the moment that a problem appear on one side, you can easily transfer your assets without losing precious hours of work.
You will never regret diversification.
Here’s a table of hosting options from less control/more visibility up to more control/less visibility.
There are other places for hosting comics out there, but, as far as I know they are not as effective as the ones I just mentioned.
There are also platforms that work through a submission process such as Gocomics (aka Andrews McMeel) and The Nib (only for political and social interest topics). The advantage of these platforms is that if you get selected you also get paid. But, as you’ll see in the second part of this article, there are also ways of monetizing your comics on the other platforms 🙂
If you don’t write your comic in English or you plan to translate your comic in another language have a look at this article about how to translate your comic in another language.
Social profiles are up.
My comic is online.
Some of you might think that this is the moment you jump and you start putting your comic literally everywhere and promoting it as if there was no tomorrow.
I’d say this is the right time to step back.
Personal experience 🙂
First of all: you might be the next Mœbius, but chances are that you are not… yet. Especially if this is the first time you release a webcomic. Therefore you’ll need advice. As many as you can get.
Let me explain what I mean with a culinary parallel.
You just made this amazing cake at home. You’re not a cook (yet), but everyone around you told you that your cake is amazing, and that you should sell it online so everyone could taste it and recognize your talent.
So you do it and then…
- You suddenly discover that as long as there was only one cake to make from time to time everything was fine, but a cake every week? Isn’t it a lot?
- Your quality is not consistent: you aren’t able to reproduce the exact same cake and every time you get a slightly different version… are you really ready for selling cakes based on this recipe?
- You and your relatives like this cake so much… But people out there are mean: you get really bad reviews from a couple of people and you get discouraged.
- Your cake is vegan, but people aren’t that attracted to that concept yet. You really wanna get popular but you have to choose: keeping the recipe true to your values and condemn your cake to never sell outside its niche, or add eggs and become the next cook celebrity.
Yes, I know, this is a lot of cake to take in.
Everything I just said in unavoidable whatever you’re gonna do.
But there is something you can do before all this happen: you can reach out to other creators who have been there already.
A network of people who know what it is like, a network of people who have a lot in common with you, a network that will be there for you and “feel” you.
In the comics universe, connections can make all the difference.
Successful artists are also successful networkers.
Even before publishing your comics, but especially afterwards, make sure to find your comic ‘home’.
You have plenty of options:
Update 2023: currently Discord has become the main place where artists exchange. Unfortunately the invitations are often given and obtained privately, so it’s impossible for me to make a list of artists servers.
What you can do is to target a particular discord (for ex. Tapas or Webtoon discords) and see if there’s already an official channel on their website or ask to creators around you to provide you with an invite.