This is the second part of my “How to” webcomics in 2020 article. If you missed the first part (“Introduction”) you can find it here.
– own your identity online
– choose the best place where to publish your comic according to your needs and goals
– make connections in the webcomic community and embrace feedback from other creators
Time to move on to the next level!
REACH OUT FOR YOUR FIRST READERS
This is THE big deal. Getting your first readers is by far the hardest step of the whole process.
Nowadays there are already so many creators out there that is really hard to make your voice heard.
Not only the number of comics available online is gigantic, but the average quality is steadily growing. More competition means that in order to be recognizable artists have to make an extra effort with their style.
That said, don’t get discouraged. Your art will inevitably improve if you’re consistent enough. In no time you’ll be able look back at your panels and happily cringe, like we all did (and then keep on doing that for the rest of your life) ^_^
Where to start? If you’re on a platform that has already its own readership you’ll be able to get your first readers without making too much effort. Webtoon, Tapastic, SmackJeeves, Graphite, Madrill Comics and other big comic websites have their own ways to promote new and fresh content. Just make sure you placed your comic in the right category, that your comic is readable without effort from a mobile device and, even more important, that you have a kickass thumbnail/banner to represent it. All your new readers will only bite if the cover of the book is worthy.
Posting on social media.
First thing you wanna do, is to get your hashtags ready.
Hashtags are fundamental in almost every social platform out there, but particularly on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. You can go on and hashtag away on Facebook, Tapastic and everywhere else you can add tags. It just won’t work as well as for the first four.
In order to hashtag effectively you might wanna have a look at what your favourite comic artists are doing, possibly those who have a similar content to yours (fantasy, gag, drama, etc.).
Make different lists and see which one performs best on each platform. Once you have a well performing list of hashtags you can go on and copy/paste in your posts (at least on Instagram and Twitter) and just add more specific tags to each post.
For ex. I have some very general hashtags like ‘webcomics’ or ‘comics’ in my list, but then I add some more specific tags according to each post’s content.
On Twitter you wanna limit your tags to 4 or 5. On Instagram you can add up to 30.
On Twitter you can add some tags that are dedicated to promote comics (like #makecomics) and quote the related accounts like @promotecomic and @supportcomics (see my previous article for more Twitter hashtags).
We already talked about Twitter chat events, during which you can use the event’s hashtag to interact with the participants and show off your work when it’s allowed. I’d suggest you make your own comics-calendar that includes not only these weekly events, but also some yearly events like Inktober (the whole month of October) and #hourlycomicday (every February 1st).
I have used Crowdfire to manage my Twitter account in the past and it helped a little growing my followers base. Some other creators tried it and didn’t like it. Up to you 🙂
Another great thing you can do to save time on social media is to use social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer. But you have to make sure your pictures look good on each and every platform without needing resizing, and this might prove difficult.
I’ve heard about a tool named Sketch that could help you with that, but I haven’t tried it yet.
Groups, forums and communities.
We aready talked about Facebook groups (see “Introduction“). Here the situation is more delicate: most of comics groups are invaded by spammers. And with spammers I mean comic artists like you, with very good intentions, that basically go there to show their work and don’t care about giving anything back to the community. Needless to say, this is not appreciated.
Most of Communities all over the web allow you to introduce yourself when you get there, but they don’t expect you to use them as your personal launch pad. Usually there are very passionate people behind those groups who invest time and energy in order to moderate them and keeping them interesting and useful for everybody.
So you have two options: play by the rules, introduce yourself, connect, be useful to the community and eventually be noticed for your good karma, or just go and make your own rules by creating your own community. I personally don’t support any other option.
Same rules that apply to Facebook apply to any forum.
A good one where to start is Tapastic’s forum. Very good vibe, very nice people, very interesting topics and overall great community. As Webtoon passed on having their own forum, this has become one of the best places to discuss Webtoon matters too.
Whatever forum you choose to browse, always introduce yourself first and then look for the #showcase/#promotion section of the forum to post your content.
If you’re ready to take a bigger psychological risk you can try to post on Reddit, 9gag, ifunny, Bored Panda or Imgur. They all have ‘comics’ sections (Reddit in particular has many /r dedicated to comics that accept self-promotion). Be careful though, these websites aren’t just for comics and the communities there might be toxic. Make sure you stomach is ready for whatever can happen or just leave it there.
Other websites to get traffic for your website.
You can also register your comic for free in the Top Webcomic List and get friends to vote for it. By the way, while you are here… *angel face* PLEASE VOTE ^_^ http://topwebcomics.com/vote/22962
Finally, you can create your comic series as a Trope in TV Tropes. TV Tropes is the Wikipedia of pop culture. It’s a pretty interesting site once you get the hang of it. Careful not to get stuck in there for half a day (talking by experience here).
Stumble Upon used to be a steady source of traffic but right now it has been merged into a new website called ‘Mix‘. I just saw it so I can’t say much about what it’s worth, but it definitely looks like Pinterest more than the old Stumble Upon, so… We’ll see 🙁
BOOST YOUR READERSHIP
Make special comics for promotion.
Now that you have a bunch of readers/followers, you might wanna start reaching out for other comic artists in order to help each other grow by sharing your audience.
There are different ways you can achieve that and it goes according to you situation, your goals and your feeling.
Here’s what you can do:
- cross-promote your comics with other artists (you just mention each other’s comics in your profiles)
- realize a fanart for an artist you like (you pick a character of your favourite artist and you draw it in your own style)
- collaborate to make a crossover episode (when characters from difference series meet).
How to reach for other artists.
If you haven’t tried to make friends yet (like we said before) this is a good time to start.
Sometimes in comics forum there is a section dedicated to collabs where you can post an ad (and the rules on how to ask for collabs). Here are some exemples:
In some servers dedicated to comics on Discord’ there is a dedicated #collab section.
This is the most ‘formal’ way to ask for collab, but there’s also a much more direct way: you just go and message the artist you wanna collaborate with.
I would recommend a different type of approach according to the development stage of your webcomic career:
– when you are a beginner or when you just started publishing go for FANART and CROSS PROMOTION;
– when you are at a more advanced point (you have hundreds if not thousands of followers and a good readership base) you can go and try to pitch a CROSSOVER idea to another artists. Remember that this one is the most complex to pull off and you’ll have to decide who draw what and agree about the plot. It’s also the most rewarding in my own experience.
Obviously all these things don’t matter if you know the artist already. That’s why I encourage you to join artists community from the beginning 😉
Other types of common promotional content:
- milestone celebrations of your work (comic anniversary, your first 1k followers, etc.)
- Q&As with readers
- sneak previews
Videos are THE thing that works on social media nowadays. No matter which website your choose, videos have more chances to be seen than pictures.
There is plenty of ways for a comic artists to take advantage of videos. For exemple:
- make art tutorials (Youtube/Skillshare);
- make livestreams and videochat of your work process (Twitch, Youtube live, Instagram, Facebook);
- make short videos of you, if you want to connect with your readers more personally
- make reviews of other webcomics (for ex. Webcomic Relief)
- make gifs or short animations with your characters (more on this later in this article)
A good exemple of a successful Youtube channel from a comic artist is Jason Brubaker’s channel. Have a look!
Also, there are more and more comic artists running successful webcomics on Youtube thanks to almost-animation. What do I mean with ‘almost animation’? It’s basically taking a comic and animating just some parts of it (the mouth or just moving the drawing around the screen). Some of the most successful artists use stick figures or simplified shapes in order to cut the production complexity, but it’s still an impressive amount of work, considering also the sound and video editing effort.
I’d say the effort is 100% looking at the mind-boggling numbers (spoiler alert: MILLIONS of views) that these creators are able to achieve. Just on the top of my keyboard:
Some comic artists make podcasts. I’m a total noob about them so I won’t venture into this but if some of you have some good advice to share or good podcasts to recommend please go ahead in the comments.
The only podcasts I know and I recommend are:
- the art corner podcast (anything from making to promoting your creative work)
- the podcomic webcast (interviews with famous webcomic creators by the daneman)
- webcomicshub podcast (webcomics topics and interviews)
Make Stickers/Emojis and Gifs.
Facebook, Line (Webtoon), Whatsapp, Instagram… We all use them to chat, right? And what do we add to our conversations to make them more interesting? Exactly: stickers/emojis and gifs!
Many artists I know collaborated with different platforms to get their designs in your chats.
Here is the process for each platform: good luck!
How to submit your stickers to Line (Webtoon).
INVEST IN YOUR COMIC
If you are in a comfortable place economically and you want to invest a few bucks in your comic there is plenty of ways to do it for a relatively small amout of money.
Instagram ads are probably the best type of investment at the moment and you can start with 10 dollars a day.
I wouldn’t suggest Facebook, Twitter or Google ads for the simple reason that I don’t know any comic artist that was able to make a good return on their investment using these platforms, but if you know about someone who knows how to make the best of them or if you are aware of a valuable article about those types of ads please share them in the comments.
You can also sponsor your comic for a couple of dollars on Topwebcomics.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR FIRST DOLLARS WITH YOUR COMIC
The easiest way to make money with your artistic skills is selling commissions.
If you’re not confident enough to start working for clients you can start with friends and family or by making fanart of famous people and characters. In this way you’ll also have an idea of how long it takes you to finish an illustration and you’ll have a solid basis to figure out your pricing.
Publish on platforms that pay their authors.
Webtoon and Tapastic offer different opportunities to comic artists to make money. As I’ve said before there are other comic platforms such as Hivework, Gocomics, Webtoon Factory and Lezhin that pay their authors, but the difference is that you can’t self-publish your comic there, you have to submit a full pitch and pass a selection, exactly as you would with a traditional publisher. Instead with Webtoon and Tapas you can start by self-publishing and try to become a featured artist from there.
Webtoon has 2 options:
– contract and regular payment for their featured artists
– shared revenue through their advertising program (for artists with at least 40k monthly views) with Google Adsense rates
If you just started in the webcomic universe and landed on Webtoon you might ask yourself ‘how do an artist get featured on Webtoon‘?
Here is my personal answer in order of probability (knowing that it might be wrong):
- you win their annual contest (ah!)
- you do exactly the comic the platform needs, which usually means the comics that the readers wanna read. In the case of Webtoon this often means romantic comics in a manga/manwa style (likely to happen);
- you are already super famous somewhere else in the web-sphere, so you’re likely to be valuable to the platform (also likely, but in this case they will most likely ask you to create exclusive content for them);
- you were in the Discover section and people showered your comic with so much love that they couldn’t possibly ignore you (slightly less likely);
- you are so overwhelmingly talented as an artist and as a writer that they can’t possibly miss you (the less likely option);
- you are blessed with some sort of super power that helps you get in (the chances of likelyhood depend on the super power).
Tapas also feature artists, but I don’t really know much about how they select them. My guess it’s through staff pick, campus, contests and normal pitch submissions. As for any platform, there might be a fast pass to featured if you’re already an ultra popular creator somewhere else.
You can also earn money (very little for the vast majority of the artists) by collecting tips from your readers and by letting Tapas show advertising on your profile. I’ve been told that in order to have the ‘tips’ feature activated on your profile you’ll need to enable the ad revenue feature first (directly on your profile’s dashboard) and then you have to reach at least 200 subscribers. Tapas regularly creates ‘tipping events’ during which they offer free ink-coins (their currency) that the users can spend on the platform and apparently during these events the 200 subscribes threshold doesn’t apply and you can request the tipping button to the Tapas’ crew (by sending an email).
Tapas also started different types of shared Adsense Revenue programs mainly with successful Instagram creators, but it’s their staff who hand-picks the creator they collaborate with and there is no way for you to pitch to be part of it.
Once upon a time there was Project Wonderful… Today there’s only Google Adsense. I don’t have much traffic on my website and, even after several months since I joined the program, I haven’t managed to make the 70 USD you need to withdraw your money yet. I can only guess that this tool becomes interesting once you have thousands of daily views (I’m still counting in hundreds, more often a single one).
Also, since the EU implemented the GDPR it has become such a hassle to maintain it that I’m seriously considering if it’s worth to keep it or not.
If you know someone who knows how to make the best out of Adsense please introduce them to this article so I can link up the content.
Sponsoring brands on social media or on your website.
Some creators use affiliate or sponsored content, but it would take an article just to talk about all the options available (soon!). The idea is that you get paid when someone clicks on a unique link that a brand has provided you. Every time someone clicks on that link, the brand will know that the traffic they get comes to you and they’ll pay you a certain amount per click.
As you can easily imagine, this option also requires a lot of traffic in order to become interesting, as one of the basic parameters on which online advertising is based is called ‘CPM’ or cost per mille aka cost for 1 thousand impressions.
If you’re not generating thousands of impressions yet, you’re gonna need to focus on growing your audience first.
Instagram sponsored content is by far one of the most popular and its prices are fairly standardise. You can expect to charge $5/1K views and between 2 cents and $2 for clicks.
Instagram stories are by far the brands’ favorite tool and in order to start attracting them you’ll need to be able to place external link, that becomes possible once you hit 10k subs on your profile.
Suggestion: make your Instagram account a business account in order to be able to collect data about impressions and clicks. You’ll need them in order to establish your price when a sponsor comes knocking at your door.
Here is a tool you can use to simulate your hypotethical Instagram earnings.
If you grow big enough you’ll start having companies knocking at your doors asking you to give them your prices for a story, a link or a post on Instagram (or whatever other support you grew on). When this happens you might wanna use Geek Smash or Social Bluebook Instagram social value calculators to start having an idea of how much you could charge and also to explore an influencer network, like Relatable Me.
When you work with businesses a contract is needed. Make sure that: 1. you can read and fully understand one and you are able to negotiate it if they send you one 2. you have your own that you can offer to them if they don’t offer you one. You’ll find plenty of resources about contracts at this particular address.
There we go: any artist who doesn’t live in a cave without internet has heard of these platforms at least once.
Some of them are still in beta (Tipeee, Drip) and some of them are well established (Kofi, Paypal donation buttons, Patreon, Kickstarter). Each and every platform has its own purpose.
I would suggest to start small (Kofi/Paypal) and move on to Patreon when your comic project is well define and you have already a work routine (so you can add some Patreon-related work to your schedule) and to Kickstarter when you are ready to move to printed material or to finance bigger projects in general.
Comics and merchandising love each other. Pins, mugs, t-shirts… Readers definitely appreciate them, so why not giving a try, especially when today you can do that online FOR FREE?
I wrote an entire article about how to create and sell merchandise of your artwork, so don’t hesitate and have a look (it’s also free).
Finally you can still do all the comics-related traditional marketing, who said you couldn’t?
Selling prints, going to comic-cons, participating in comic contests… Everything that can make your wallet grow.
Some people sell on Amazon and/or make ebooks. Another option that I haven’t even started exploring.
Comics contests and Comics challenges.
Let’s put it out there: I know nothing about this topic. But I know many artists who enter contests and challenges (especially artists with long form comics). Challenges are particularly popular on social media, where usually you can spot them by following an hashtag.
In both cases the idea is to gain visibility by surfing on the contest/challenge popularity. It could also be a good way to network with your artists peers.
Definitely recommended if you have some time at your disposal.
If you have tips or lists of challenges/contests to share please get in touch so I can add it to the article.
Twitch, Youtube and Instagram let you livestream and Twitch has a whole set of options to let creators make money with it (Youtube as well, but it’s still Google we are talking about… you need crazy numbers for very little gain).
An article about the magical world of livestreams is coming soon… Stay tuned!
Magazines and Syndicates.
If you make stripcomics you can also try to work as a freelancer for a magazine. The best thing to do is to apply exclusively to magazines that publish exactly the type of content you do.
For ex. if you have relatable and light-hearted funny content you might wanna check out Buzzfeed. If you’re into politics and social movements you might try your chance with The Nib or a newspaper. For something in between these two there’s Vice.
You’ll just need to find the submissions address and send them a sample of your material.
If you only make stripcomics and you plan to do that for a long time you also might be interested in getting syndicated. This is so specific to the US market that I’m not 100% it might interest you if you don’t live there, but it might be worthy to have a look. The most famous syndicate for cartoonist that I know of is Andrews McMeel of Gocomics.
CHANCES TO MAKE A LIVING OFF COMICS?
But many people already told you so, right?
You’re here cause you wanna hear a different story. You want to try, who cares about the result.
Because making a successful comic means:
- you’re gonna dedicate an enormous amount of time to it;
- you’re gonna have to entertain your audience every single day… okay, not every single day, but at least every single week;
- you’re gonna have to learn how to use new tools and deal with new technologies all the time (making videos, changing platforms…);
- you’re gonna have to grow up and mature business-wise, cause the money in the comic industry tend to migrate and you have to be ready to leave a safe nest to catch new opportunities as soon as they arise. Sometimes you’ll find yourself spending more time taking care of the business than drawing;
- you’re gonna have to be social and build a network.
And even if you do all this, you will still need luck.
But hey, who said the contrary?
Thank you for being here and coping with my bad English and this unbearabe huge amount of information. I personally wish you the best luck in your comics adventure and I hope to see you successful one day, maybe also thanks to this article, even if just a little bit.
My name is Kotopopi, I make silly comics since I was 10 and I hope I’ll be still making them at 100.
Stuff that you need to consider if you’re an artist, by the Oatmeal himself:
The ultimate guide to webcomics (106 pages), by a bunch of amazing professional webcomics artists:
Websites about comics’ promotion:
Websites about general tips for comic artists:
A tool that will allow you to slice up your comics in the perfect format for Webtoon and Tapas without lifting a finger:
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
My super friend Moonsun: http://witw.thecomicseries.com
The author of Galebound for her amazing work: http://www.galebound.com/
All the kind people who contributed to this in the Tapas forum: