“How to” webcomics in 2018 – INTRODUCTION

Hello fellow creators or comic artists ‘in progress’!

2 years ago I’ve started my adventure in the webcomics’ 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 comics journey. In the second part we will explore more in details how to promote your comics in 2018.
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 Batman.
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 and that is awsome, 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 prepare a little bit.
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.

how to become a successful comic artist in 2018
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.
I came 2 seconds too late and my own @kotopopi was taken on Twitter (when I checked, it was still available, it got stolen immediately after I created my Facebook page).
There are dozens of ‘name checker’ on the web. They also work for domain names. You can use one of these:
https://www.namecheckr.com/
http://checkusernames.com/
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.
Again, I know some of you won’t agree with this process and obviously you’re free of doing whatever you want so please take it for what it is: just a piece of advice.

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. 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…

In 2006 I used to post my illustrations online. Several years later I’ve found them on a tshirt website. Someone was selling them without even mentioning me or my work partner. 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 this comic 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.
If you are more serious about getting your work recognized, you might want to explore the hosting options available.
making a living with your comicsThe 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 exemple 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 acess 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 public there in order to be profitable. Sharing visitors with its creators means losing money. This is a conundrum that the future webcomics platform hopefully will resolve, but for the moment we are stuck in this situation.
On the other way around, to have full control on your content means to be on your own: having your own website means that you have to go find your public and build your own readership from scratch.
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 relied exclusively on one platform, 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 whenever 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.

- control + visibility50/50+ control - visibillity

Webtoon

Tapastic

Basic stats about your traffic, zero customization possible. Fixed format for your content.

SmackJeeves

ComicFury

Possibility to use Google Analytics, your own domain name and to customize the interface. It’s basically a mini-website that guarantee you a minimum of readership from the start. The only difference is that you’re hosting on their servers, so if there’s a problem… you heard this before.

WordPress

(Or any other CMS) You do what your want 🙂 I said WordPress as they have tools created especially for comic artists and easy SEO and Google Analytics features to implement, even for noobs.

There are other places for hosting comics out there, but, as far as I came to know from my experience and from the experiences of those around me, they are not as effective as the ones I just mentioned. Just for the records, it’s The Duck and Becomics.
There are also platforms such as Hiveworks and Gocomics that only publish the material of creators that have been invited to participate. I don’t know anyone who publish for these platforms so I’m not able to tell you more about them, but their authors are paid. Gocomics used ot have a service that allowed anyone to submit a comic (‘comic sherpa‘) but it has been on hiatus for a very long time.

Your comic is online. You set up your social profiles. What now?

Connect!

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.
Why?
Personal experience 🙂
First of all: you might be the next Moebius, but chances are that you are not yet. Especially if this is the first time you release a webcomic. Therefore you’ll need advice.
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 and…

  • 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 that a bit too much?
  • You really aren’t able yet 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 yourself and condemn your cake never to sell outside a small niche, or add eggs and become the next cook star.

how to promote a comic onlineYes, I know, this is a lot of cake to take in.
Everything I just said in unavoidable whatever your’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 will walk alongside with you.
In the comics universe, connections can make all the difference.
Succesfull artists are also successful networkers. quote
Even before publishing your comics, but especially after, make sure to find your comic ‘home’.

You have plenty of options:

Others

These are some options that are becoming more and more popular within the comic artist community but that I still don’t know very well. I just started out on Twitch and Discord and I haven’t tried Steemit yet, but I know for a fact that some creators are already there.

Twitch: the platform is built to livestream videogame sessions and it’s proving to be a good place for artists to livestream their process, meet their readers and make friends.
Discord : in between Skype and Slack, Discord allows you to rejoin several group chats of comic artists. Some creators build their own servers to host live chats with their readers (for exemple like a tier reward for their Patreon). The communities look positive and well organized to me, even if I’m just at the beginning. You can start browsing for webcomics chat here.
Steemit: Steemit is a platform with the ambition of becoming the new Reddit (just that, right?). They added a crypto currency to the mix in order to be able to remunerate its members. If any steamer gets nearby and wanna drop two lines about his/her experience in the comments it would be very much appreciated, I’m very curious 🙂
Disqus: no, I haven’t forgotten Disqus. I personally use it only to allow comments on my website. I tried to use it to interact with people but it feels to me that the place is not 100% suitable for comics creators. If you wanna prove me wrong, the comments section (yes, the Disqus comment section!) is at your disposal.

THE ARTICLE CONTINUES IN “HOW TO” WEBCOMICS IN 2018: PROMOTION