My name is J Gray. I write a webcomic named Mysteries of the Arcana. Here are my bona fides:
As of December 11, 2013, Mysteries of the Arcana is a month shy of four years old and we’ve posted 316 story pages. 61 readers have subscribed through Comic Rocket—25% of those in the last month. Our visitors have read 28,000 pages in the last two weeks, with our best day being December 5th, when we had 2,994 page views.
Why did I just list all those statistics? Because you deserve to know. There are a lot of people out there giving advice on webcomicking. Some of them charge money for it. Before you take that advice, paid for or free, you deserve to know if the source has the experience to back up their words. Now that you’ve seen my bona fides, you can decide for yourself if the advice in this article is worth taking.
That said, let’s move on. You’re a new webcomic creator. You’ve created your site and posted the first page of your webcomic. What should you focus on for the next six months?
First off, create a Comic Rocket account. Search to see if your comic is listed. If your comic isn’t listed, submit it to Comic Rocket. In either case, claim ownership of the comic and then take advantage of the Comic Rocket genie. The genie serves as a fantastic, basic checklist of everything a beginning creator needs to do once their comic is online. It guides you to the most well-trafficked comic listing sites, mentions which social media accounts might be helpful, and even gives an option for tracking the metrics of your comic.
Next, keep working hard. Write your scripts, illustrate your pages and most importantly, stick to your update schedule. There’s a metric ton of webcomics out there to choose from. Readers want proof that your comic’s here to stay before they invest their time and emotional energy in it. Missing update days, especially in the first few months, sends a powerful message that you’ll probably abandon the story somewhere down the road. The best way to avoid missing an update day is to build a buffer with several weeks of completed pages in it. Better yet, build the buffer before you post your first page and then work hard to keep that buffer full.
Be patient. It takes time to attract readers. It takes even more time to attract readers who are invested enough in the comic to comment on it. Once people begin commenting on the comic, make sure to respond. One of the biggest advantages to webcomics is the immediate feedback it allows from readers and from creators. Building a relationship between you and your readers goes a long way towards keeping their loyalty to the comic.
Don’t pay for advertising during the first six months. Instead, build up advertising credit by running ads from either Project Wonderful or Comic Rocket. That will reduce your out of pocket expenses for advertising down the road when you have a nice, thick archive for new visitors to peruse. During those first six months, engage in a more social form of advertising. Place a banner promoting your comic, complete with link, in the signature of any email or forum post you produce. Set up accounts on Twitter or Facebook and gather followers. Post regular announcements about new webcomic updates via social media but also engage people in conversation. Build connections. The more interested people are in you, the more likely they are to read or at least help promote your comic.
Remember, be productive. Keep improving yourself as a writer and an artist. Keep your buffer filled. Be patient. Webcomics are a slow medium. It takes a long time to tell a story and even longer to build an audience. Be dedicated. Update your comic regularly and interact with readers. Above all, remember, there’s no guaranteed path to webcomic success but without productivity, patience, and dedication your webcomic is almost certain to fail. That’s webcomic truth.
[editor’s note: Thanks for this excellent guest column, J! Readers, please check out Mysteries of the Arcana. And if you’d like to share your thoughts about webcomics with Comic Rocket readers, let’s chat!]