Secrets to Webcomic Success
Like any other business -- don’t let yourself be fooled,
a business --
it takes about three years before you know if you are going to be
successful. Some people are lucky and their business takes off running
from the git-go, but for the rest of us it’s usually a long, hard, slog
to get to the point where our business is actually supporting itself, and us. Some
webcomics never really become that successful, but the author/artist
decides to persist because it is a source
of work for them, either by referrals or as advertising for their
artistic services. Many regard whatever they earn off their webcomic as
extra “pocket-money” for the month, their “mad-money” if you prefer. In
any case, it’s going to take about three years before you’ll know for
sure that your future is as a wedcomic artist or not.
Unfortunately, as with any other business, there are an
infinite number of ways you can contrive to sabotage your success
without really meaning to do so. The web is littered with webcomics
that might have been a success except the author/artist persisted in
making mistakes, ignoring advice, and generally managing to chase away
the very people they wanted to read their webcomic. Eventually, those
webcomics end up abandoned, with both the author/artist and the readers
discouraged--with the author/artist thinking “That was a great concept,
I guess nobody liked it” and the readers thinking “It was a great
but there were too many mistakes and time-offs.”
Below is a list of
things you need to keep in mind to
avoid that self-sabotage, and also advice on things you can do to help
bring about your success as a webcomic artist.
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a product. They are about building an audience that trusts
what you do.
Copying a popular
webcomic will not work because that webcomic already
To build an audience
you must bring people back to your site regularly with new and
Most new viewers to
your site only spend 45 seconds on your site. You must catch their
interest in that time.
The art and web design
must be clean, understandable, evocative, and consistent in style to
catch a reader in 45 seconds.
- Make sure your webcomic
website or blog has good navigation for readers. “Hide and
seek” isn’t a game that readers like to play.
Art does not have to be
good--it just has to be easy to understand and matching the comic
theme to catch new readers.
- The harder you make it
for people to view your site the smaller your audience will be and
the less successful you
animation, and sounds make it harder for people to view your comic,
thus lowering your audience.
Put your comic up
today. It will
never be “good” in your eyes, but it is “good
enough” right now.
Update your comic on a
regular schedule--taking frequent breaks, irregular updates, gaps
between updates, all chase viewers away. Readers hate any hiatus
of any sort.
Build a buffer of
extra “pages” before you start, create “filler”
art to use in emergencies. At least you’ll be updating on
schedule when you use them.
put filler art in your archives, it slows down the new reader who’s
trying to catch up And it emphasizes the number of times you were late
- You should have a plot, a plan, or at least more than a
vague idea of what
your webcomic is about. Stale jokes, over-worked cliches, and bad
writing will chase away readers.
- Good writing will help
keep readers, trust
will help market your comic virally. It will not
- Nothing says amateur like obvious typos--too many and
people stop reading. Type your dialogue into a word processor with
spell-check turned on.
Then copy it to your comic.
- Comics and manga are
different from books, so concentrate more on artwork and less on
words. Too much conversation and exposition will chase away your
- Unless your comic is about politics or religion, do not
use your webcomic to preach or moralize to your audience, like #17
above it will chase away your audience.
- Prompt your readers to add you to their Bookmarks/Favorites
list. Some Browsers let you add
code to your website that makes it
simple for the reader to do so.
- Make it easy for readers to tell others about your comic,
Social Media links to your webcomic pages (FB, LinkedIn,
Google+, Twitter, and so forth).
- The easiest way for people to know when you update your
webcomic is an RSS
feed. With RSS, Webcomic Link Sites will check your site and
tell people when you update.
- Not everyone uses or likes Social Media (or their parents
won't let them), so prompt your readers to send their friends an email
(like this example
- Simple code is here).
- Make your comic
stand-alone, it shouldn’t need a blog, Wikipedia, Urban
Dictionary, or Google access for the reader to understand what’s
Your skill will
improve through practice and dedication to putting your comic online.
It will become easier to hit regular dealines.
Be open to criticism.
Your readers will tell you what you are doing right and wrong.
Don’t be bullied
by your readers when it comes to your story. Technical flaws, though,
should be corrected.
forums/twitter/facebook can be free advertising for your site,
provided you don’t look like you’re advertising.
To advertise without
looking like you’re advertising, have intelligent
and put your comic link in your signature.
To successfully build
you must stay active in online communities related to your
comic. Pick a few that interest you, and participate!
The more you cater to
a community the more they will trust you.
- Set up a blog, FB, Twitter, or other Social Media account
and use it to tell your readers when you update your comic,
include a link back to it.
- Use your webcomic Social Media account only
webcomic and related items--your personal account is where you put your
dating problems, not this one.
Once you have that
trust (~5K viewers) you can sell them things to make money.
It generally takes 3
years for a webcomic to begin to see financial success (as in, it
begins to pay for itself).
No one will buy
anything from a comic that has been around for less than half a year
or has less than 30 comics--unless you are famous, or very, very
You can only sell
things that the audience would normally buy, and the product must be
of good quality. Selling crap will destroy the trust you worked so
hard to build.
People won’t buy
things with your logo/characters on it--unless you are famous, very
funny, or very, very good.
prints, etc., can sell to a receptive audience provided you have free
bring people back regularly.
Sex sells, but sex
with no substance of story and/or quality of art behind it will chase
your readers away.
Paying for advertising
works as long as you spread your money out over a long time instead
of spending it all in a flashy splurge.
Putting advertising on
your website earns you money, but won’t even pay for your
advertising unless you have tens of thousands of views per day.
the real world: Make an 8-page mini-comic on 8.5"x11" or
8.5"x14" quarter-folded paper and hand it out at
conventions and other places. Use the last page as advertising.
For a cool business
card, make a 16-page mini-comic (fold the quarter-fold one more
time). You could make it more impressive by creating a color cover
out of card-stock.
Let people know they
can buy your comic strip original-pencils and inks (if you draw by
hand and scan the finished work, people are more willing to buy your
illustrations and other artwork at image publishing websites, such as
Deviantart or Flickr. Include your url in the images at the
Name your artwork
things like “12-14-2011_b.jpg”). Search engines note
image filenames, and a well-named image file can attract viewers to
using your originals as prizes or offering commissions. If you want
to appeal solely to your fans, have them do something to promote you
to be eligible to win.
Go to conventions.
Reserve a table in artist alley, if you’re up to it, otherwise
take note of which artists’ displays and companies impressed
Make large posters
advertising your webcomic and put them up near the convention
freebie tables. Or make 11"x14" posters and leave them on
the freebie table.
conversations with comic and art fans whenever you meet them. Don’t
be too much of a salesman. Find out what they’re into. Give
them your business card.
Submit your webcomic
to directories. The more webcomic directories linking to your
webcomic the better ranking you get from search engines. You’ll
also get more traffic.
Everything you need to
know about making webcomics is online for free. You don’t need
to pay for the knowledge (but there are some good books out there).
Trolls are to be
ignored. Do not speak to them or of them. Anything else will
Webcomic creators are
lonely people. Send them questions on email. If they have time, they
will respond and help you.
It is possible that
you suck and you won’t have a career as a webcartoonist. You
will never know until you try for 3 years.
from an original
post by Drowemos (Exiern) as
“The secret to webcomic success in 30
Copyright © 2012 by Terry Kepner, All Rights Reserved