Creating WebComics: A Brief Guide

The Really Heavy Greatcoat: Death Comes in Threes

In 2007, I was part of a panel at the Birmingham International Comic Show and there was plenty of advice offered on web comics creation, and I figured it was high time I shared some of it on downthetubes. Many comics creators are now creating strips for the web rather than print, but are there dos and don’ts? Is it worth all the time and trouble? And, most importantly, how do I get people to read it?

First things first. Don’t be under any illusion that a web comic is going to make money immediately! “A webcomic costs next to nothing, a print anthology costs a bomb,” feels Smallzone publisher and distributor Shane Chebsey, talking about web comics on a thread for the Smallzone forum.

“A web comic is on a screen (and it sometimes hurts my head to read them), however, they can reach lots of people, a print comic is an object to treasure, but will only reach a few folks. Neither are likely to make you any money,” he added cynically, “so unless you love comics don’t do it!”

Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, a comic creator and new media lecturer based out of St Albans, England and one of the real web comic experts on the panel reckoned you needed about 10,000 unique users before you could start to make money from associated merchandise (t-shirts, print comic sales collecting the strip etc.) That doesn’t, of course, mean you shouldn’t start making merchandise available from Day One. If you want to see samples of his work, check out the impressive web site e-merl.com.

“Brand Awareness”

The most important thing about web and mobile comic formats is that you are raising the profile of your creation, what companies call “raising brand awareness”. Several good strips have been picked up for print collection as a result of web publication.

Cost wise, the only real expense to creating a webcomic is your time and materials. There are several places you could run a web comic: Comic Genesis, Comic Fury, DrunkDuck, and Smack Jeeves, to name but a few. Most of these do not charge for storage space.

You can also run comics on blogs and in other places for free without the expense of setting up and paying for web space.

Promoting Your WebComic

When it comes to promotion, there’s nothing more effective initially than telling your friends about your strip by good old e-mail. Consider including a sample of the strip in your email (just make sure the file size isn’t too large) as well as links to where your webcomic can be found online. Michael Jantze, who publishes The Norm, mails out his strip daily to subscribers, as do many other webcomic creators.

If you’re clever with HTML and stuff, one way of promoting your strip is to create a way for people to add an ’embed’ to their own sites which displays the latest episode of the strip and links through to your site(just how Amazon ads work). That way, other web site owners get ‘free content’ on their site they don’t have to worry about updating and you get a higher profile and, hopefully, trackback for your creation.

There are several people out there who have got promotion down to a fine art. Thomas Cochrane, who releases a collection of his strip Fat Man in 2008, tells me he has a slew of places he regularly updates to push the strip, including a Flickr account. All of this helps to raise the strip in terms of search engine profile, which, for Thomas, should pay off in terms of PR when the book is launched.

There are also several comic aggregator sites where you can also promote your strip, as well as via a Facebook page or Twitter — the possibilities are pretty endless and growing all the time. Just bear in mind that the more you set up, the more you have to work on when it comes to keeping them updated!

And keeping them updated is VERY important, the most important thing being the strip itself. I don’t know how often most creators update their strips but Nick Miller over at Team Sputnik manages to add an image or cartoon every day to that site’s associated blog but I think that as long as you can add something once a week, possibly more (and the big web comic sites manage a daily or bi-weekly publication schedule!) then that will ensure more ‘hits’ and a bigger audience… providing the strip is a good one in the first place of course!

Making Money

As mentioned above, there’s no guarantee that creating a webcomic will make you any money but if you get an audience, the chances of just that increase. Most web comic creators will tell you, howver, that they make money from related merchandise (t-shirts, for example) rather than the strip itself. That said, if someone likes your work it can bring you work in terms of commissions, as I’ve found with editing downthetubes for almsot ten years. The tipping point, as mentioned, would seem to be around 10,000 unique readers.

Other ways to make money would be to include affiliate ads on your site – check out Commission Junction for a range of these, or just sign up for an online book stroe’s referral scheme. You can also make money selling banner ads, using services such as Project Wonderful or Google AdSense.

And Finally…

While making some money from creating a web comic is a bonus, the main thing about making web comics is, surely, to never lose sight of why you are doing it – to express yourself, to have fun and be creative! Be it in print, web or mobile, there’s nothing more satisfying.

Web Links on downthetubes

Online Comic hubs and some links to British web comic creators
Online Comic Creation Tools
Creating mobile content, including mobile comics

External Links

E-Merl.com
Comic Book Creator Guide? Where Do I Begin? (By writer Cameron Corniuk)
Create Your Own WebComic by Daniel Punch

• Please note that this page has been updated to remove outdated links to great sites like the original ROK Comics; and Web Comic Nation, which ceased to function after the passing of digital comics pioneer Joey Manley in November 2013

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

2 thoughts on “Creating WebComics: A Brief Guide

  • June 19, 2008 at 1:10 pm
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    It’s not a bad guide – a lot of what is said is pretty sensible, but there are a few misconceptions that seem to re-appear in discussions of this sort.

    For example the idea that “A web comic is on a screen … however, they can reach lots of people, a print comic is an object to treasure, but will only reach a few folks. Neither are likely to make you any money,”

    It’s such a separatist argument. I know plenty of webcomics that do both, print and screen reinforcing each other in terms of readers and sales. It’s a very different business model to the one Shane uses and it is quite subtle, but it does generate some money if done right.

    I think the main misconception with webcomics is that they don’t make any money… the good ones do, it’s just that there are an awful lot of poor ones too…

    Daniel Goodbrey’s observations also seem a little unfounded. A quick check on his project wonderful advertising account shows that his site has only on one occasion in the last month gained anywhere near the 10000 hit traffic mark, and that’s just pageviews, not individual readers. Presumably he has researched other webcomics and their traffic,but from my own experience, a hardcore fan set of a couple of thousand readers is enough to turn a profit (especially when everything else in a webcomic can be done for free). It seems that the bulk of his traffic is transient social network traffic such as stumbleupon. There is a growing consensus that these visits which tend to be brief, single-page views are not exactly quality traffic… it’s like measuring how popular a shop is by the number of people who look in the window as opposed to those that enter the shop and as such gives you meaningless figures.

    I agree with your closing statements though, that you really should be in it for the love of comics, not necessarily the money… it’s sound advice in any endeavour, and will probably lead to more success.

  • June 19, 2008 at 1:32 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks Adam — really useful feedback. I agree with you, print and web can be worked as one when it comes to raising awareness of a comic.

    Isn’t the whole issue with good versus poor webcomics the same in any field of creativity — i.e.we’re seeing Sturgeon’s Law in operation?

    Sturgeon’s Law is the name given to two different adages derived from quotes by SF author Theodore Sturgeon. The first (which was first stated in the story “The Claustrophile” in a 1956 issue of Galaxy) is “Nothing is always absolutely so”, while the second, and more famous, of these adages is: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”, also known as “Sturgeon’s Revelation”

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