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 on as many platforms as you can
– choose the best place where to publish your comic according to your needs and goals
– make connections in the webcomics 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 content.
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 first panels and happily cringe, like we all did (and then you’ll keep on doing that for the rest of your life) ^_^
Where to start?
Posting on webcomics platforms.
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 and other big comic websites that allow self-publishing have their own ways to promote new and fresh content. Just make sure to place your comic in the right category and that your comic is readable without effort from a mobile device. Even more importantly, make sure you have a kickass thumbnail/banner to represent it. Your new readers will only bite if the cover of the book is worth it.
Posting on social media.
Since I first wrote this article a few years ago, many things have changed. Platforms came and went as well as strategies to find success on social media.
I want to keep it short and real: today there isn’t any bulletproof strategy that will guarantee you thousands of views online. Facebook has incorporated Facebook’s algorithm to Instagram and de facto killed reach and engagement.
Twitter has been stagnating for years. Tumblr and Deviant art are no man’s land.
I’m not gonna waste your time writing what miracle hashtags will save the day or a list of ’10 things you gotta do to make 100000 followers’. Nope.
I’ll tell you how it goes down in the shortest way possible:
- Twitter: if you’re late to the party, don’t even hope. Still a good place to make connections and network. Defo the worst for showcasing your work and gain an audience
- Facebook: also dead. Facebook uses your work to get people engaged and then ask you to pay to promote it when no one comes to your page. If you wanna pay them pay them. I tried a couple of times and it kinda worked for a page and did nothing for two other pages, so. It’s just disgusting giving them money but if your priority is to have those sweet numbers to impress a potential customer or publisher then do it. Just don’t expect engagement to soar even after the page’s likes do. Last time I checked price was 0,03/0,04 cent per like.
- IG: it used to be our last change to make it organically. Last year Facebook got a gigantic fine for the Cambridge analytic scandal. Those 5 billions had to come back home so they aggressively started implementing Facebook’s algorithm and the facto killed the platform. You can still grow but don’t ask me how. Literally the only things that I feel like recommending are: adding at least 4/5 hashtags (making sure they’re not banned by clicking on each of them, otherwise you’ll get shadowed) and posting every single day. Yes, I said every single day. They don’t like it when you’re wasting your time not doing them precious money.
On any social platform you can still try to get seen by participating in collective challenges or trends. Here’s the first ones I can think of:
- Inktober (the whole month of October)
- #hourlycomicday (every February 1st).
- #DTIYS (Draw This In Your Style): artists challenge other artists to draw their OCs in their style and then repost the fanarts in their own profiles
- #artistsvsart (artists post a picture of them sourrounded by their works)
- #meettheartist (artists post a self portrait with their likes/dislikes and a few info about them)
Fanarts in general are also much appreciated, especially if the subject your make the fanart of is currently trending.
Remember that if you don’t have time to be on social media every single day you can still use third party apps to schedule your posts. I’m not even trying to make you a list because they come and go so often my links would be broken in no time. Just Google so you make sure you have the most recent app on the market.
Promoting your work on groups, forums and communities in general.
We aready talked about Facebook groups (see “Introduction“).
The situation is pretty 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,not only it’s not appreciated by the members, but it’s also useless from a marketing standpoint. Remember you want to find your audience and other artists are also looking for their audience… See where’s I’m going?
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.
Although I’m being super strict here, mind that a lot of communities have specific days for promotion and most Discord servers have channels dedicated exclusivly to promotion. So there’s still room for advertising.
I think that a good place where you can start promoting your webcomic is Tapastic’s forum (of course, if you publish your comic there, otherwise there’s no point). 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’ dedicated sections.
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.
BOOST YOUR READERSHIP
Make special comics for promotion.
Now that you have a bunch of readers/followers, you might wanna start reaching out to other 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 I said in my previous article) this is a good time to start.
Sometimes in comics’s forums there is a section dedicated to collabs where you can post an ad. 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 DM the artist you wanna collaborate with.
I would recommend a different type of approach according to the development stage of your webcomics career:
– when you are a beginner or when you just started publishing go for FANART and CROSS PROMOTION with artists with a similar fanbase;
– 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 draws 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 encouraged 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
- comics about current or seasonal trends
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 Live, Facebook Live);
- make short videos of you, if you want to connect with your readers more personally
- make speed drawing videos
- make reviews of other webcomics
- 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) and voicing them over. 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% worth the pain if you look 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).
I know that many artists have started exploring TikTok’s video’s potential but I’m not there yet. I just know that organic growth is still a thing there are december 2020 so why not giving it a try.
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.
We already talked about this in my previous article but here it is again: you can promote your Facebook page with 0,003/0,04 cents per like. It will grow your followers number but most likely you won’t see your engagement growing as much.
I would not recommend IG ads as they are… I can’t find any other words but A TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY.
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 artists to monetize their comics. As I’ve said before, there are other comics platforms such as Hivework, Gocomics, Webtoon Factory, TheNib 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’s just my personal opinion):
- you win their annual contest (ah! Well… Not SO impossible apparently as I did it with ‘The ladder’, but still hard!)
- you do exactly the type of comic that the platform crave for, aka the comics that the readers wanna read. In the case of Webtoon this means romantic comics in a manga/manwa style (slightly more likely to happen);
- you are already super famous somewhere else in the web-sphere, so you’re valuable to the platform (also likely, but they’re now implementing more and more different partnerships besides featuring – like additional ways of monetizing Canva content through locked episodes and video ads – so being popular doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll become a full fledge featured artist);
- you were in the Canva section and people showered your comic with so much love that they couldn’t possibly ignore you (the chances are the same as for the comics superstart who joins Canva – aka you could be offered a partnership instead of a contract -);
- you are so overwhelmingly talented as an artist and as a writer that they can’t possibly ignore 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 features artists, but I don’t really know much about how they select them. They open submissions from time to time, and the best way to know when submissions are open is to read your notifications. 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 ads 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. Same goes for their bonus program (I know because they got in touch first with me!).
Using ads monetization.
We’re talking mainly about 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.
Once upon a time there was Project Wonderful, a network of comics artists promoting each other through a bid system. The modern version of PW is Comicad Network.
Note: I knew, used and loved PW but I’m not familiar with Comicad. Many people wrote to me saying that the community is growing, so I think it’s worth a try 🙂
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 (one day, I promise). The idea with affiliate marketing is that you get paid when someone clicks on a unique link that a brand has provided to you. Every time someone clicks on that link, the brand will know that the traffic they get comes from you and they’ll pay you a certain amount per click.
The most famous affiliate to-go brand for artists is Skillshare.
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 the stats 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 social you were able to build an audience on). When this happens you might wanna use Social Bluebook Instagram social value calculators (you need to sign up in order to use this tool for free) to figure out how much you could charge.
Another option is to join an influencer network (there are a gazillion out there) and wait for them to throw sponsors your way.
When you work with businesses a contract is needed. Make sure that: 1. you can read and fully understand and negotiate whatever you’re gonna ask you to sign 2. you have your own that you can offer to them in case 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 defined and you already have 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 online of your artwork, so don’t hesitate and have a look (it’s also free).
Finally you can still do all the in person traditional marketing, who said you couldn’t?
Going to comics convention and sell self-printed books, or prints or whatever merchandise you can carry it’s an amazing way to meet your fans and create strong bonds with them, as well as to network with other creators and get used to signing. If you’re not confident about going by yourself you can try to book a table with someone else: half the price, double the fun!
If you don’t know where to start with comics conventions and in person selling here the place where to start: https://www.facebook.com/groups/artistalleynetworkinternational
Comics contests and Comics challenges.
I don’t have a list because it would be as big as Google.
My suggestion is: try to find something local (your region or your country) and if you don’t find anything up your alley move to the international ones. There are contests all through the year of any genre. A little bit of patience and you’ll find something right for you. Make sure to check the requirements carefully: sometimes the contests don’t accept material that has already been published, even if it’s self-published.
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 even for making a few dollars).
This is another whole article for me that I still have to write… Possibly in 2021! Meanwhile I suggest you get familiar with OBS studio.
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.
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.
I added a few submissions links in my previous article, in case you missed it.
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:
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
The author of Galebound for her amazing work: http://www.galebound.com/
All the kind people who contributed to this in the Tapas forum