When my friends got me into comics back in 2008, the norm for indie creators was to print your comics in black and white, then photocopy them to sell at comic conventions.
While I could have done the same, I had concerns about the durability (and thus, value for money) of a photocopied comic.
Webcomic publishing then seemed a great way to get my comic out there without risking its quality and wasting the money of the people willing to pay to read my work.
But hold up! Turns out there were things we needed to consider before posting our work online.
Here are 5 Questions To Ask Before Making a Webcomic:
1.) Am I paranoid about art theft?
Copying content has never been easier. You may have the source files and larger-res copies but art thieves seem to be undeterred. Expect them.
Whenever you publish or share anything on the internet, you make these available to everyone (even when you use a subscription service or a pay-wall to limit access).
While there are web practices that make it harder for plagiarists to steal, there’s no foolproof way to keep them at bay without risking inconveniencing your other readers.
Hitting a certain level of popularity means your images will definitely be shared around the web (which is great) but that also puts them within reach of unsavory characters who won’t hesitate to piggyback on your success (not so great).
The best you can do is apply a reasonable watermark or incorporate your website’s URL into your images, and hope that your reader base is large enough to recognize your work and alert you when someone’s infringing on your copyrights.
2.) Can I handle doing everything myself?
Or at least a large chunk of it?
Not everyone’s fortunate enough to have partners who share their creative vision. When going solo, understand that you’re essentially functioning as the scriptwriter, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, editor, and more all by yourself. These roles normally require you to be versed in subjects like typography, anatomy, plot structures, and color theory, just to name a few.
Good news is that you have the Internet at your disposal, bringing hundreds if not thousands of freely available resources on those subjects within easy reach. So jump online and swim through the best tutorials you can get. There are dozens of great lessons on how to draw, write, and market yourself online, and I plan to feature the best ones here just for you.
Of course, your job doesn’t have to be too hard. It depends on what kind of comic you’ll be making.
Gag-a-day strips like those in Cyanide and Happiness or XKCD aren’t necessarily easier to make, but they will be much quicker to render compared to pages from longer narratives like Tracy Butler’s Lackadaisy, or Der-Shing Helmer’s The Meek, which take on a more painterly look.
Daunting as it may be, there are tons of noteworthy creators who make their comics by themselves such as Jeph Jacques (QuestionableContent.net), Der-Shing Helmer (The Meek), and Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots)!
Keep in mind your personal skills, vision, and schedule, then find the balance that’s best for you.
3.) Am I tech-savvy enough to publish on the web?
Let’s face it: Some of us do prefer to finish our pages and just pass them on to a publisher. Although webcomic creators today don’t all handle the webhosting, publishing, and maintenance themselves, there will be a chance that you’ll need to touch HTML at one point or another.
For those of us who are nigh-allergic to coding, we could use websites like Tumblr or Blogger to share your comics straight away. There are plenty of themes that are available for free, and more are on the way. The downside is that these services aren’t built specifically for webcomics, so your search for an appropriate theme and features might take a while.
If you’re used to coding your own sites or CSS and you want full control, you can use free Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress (which powers almost 70 million of the world’s websites) to publish your comics on your own webhosting account.
Unmetered webhosting is now available at most hosting providers for approx. $4-$9 USD/month. With your own WordPress site, you can choose from the thousands of free plugins and themes so you can tailor it to your comic’s unique needs.
If you prefer a comic-oriented site but don’t want to set everything up yourself, there’s a happy middle for you: Specialized hosting sites exist, such as DrunkDuck and Smackjeeves that are intended specifically for posting webcomics online. They even have bustling communities of their own full of fellow webcomic artists, which helps a great deal when marketing your work or simply learning from your seniors.
Comic Fury, which I joined back in 2010, was (and continues to be) an amazing webcomic host–easily my favorite out of the ones I’ve managed to try. As a bonus, Kyo (the founder and developer) seems adamant about not charging his users anything (to the point that it made for a pretty amusing theme for a previous April Fools prank).
There’s no right or wrong to this since we creators all have different needs. It’s fine whether you choose to go with either a self-hosted setup or a specialized comic host. (There are pros and cons to each option but we’ll leave that topic for another day.)
4.) Am I doing this just to make money?
As it happens, webcomic publishing isn’t the magic button that’ll rake in heaps of cash overnight.
It involves a lot of work and very few ever get lucky enough to support themselves on their comics alone due to a myriad of factors. One of them being how the traditional model of paying for each issue doesn’t seem to translate well onto the web, considering how there are literally thousands of free alternatives (a great deal of them being of amazing quality).
Different creators use different business models to generate revenue from their webcomics and not all are successful. Some rely on ads, some ask for donations, while others sell comic merchandise.
Research and experiment to find which one works best for you! Some techniques are bound to click while some won’t, as these all depend on the kind of content you’re planning to make and how you’ll deliver them.
Not sure where to start? Check out this nifty post by Jonathan Strickland on how to make money with webcomics.
5.) Can I commit to my comic?
Starting a comic is easy, sticking to it is harder to do.
Committing to your comic generally means keeping your promises, whether it’s about a certain character staying dead, improving the art or story quality over time, or simply posting an update when you said you would.
No one’s got a gun to your head but it’s a great way to show your audience they aren’t just a bunch of numbers to you on your pageview counter.
If you do decide to publish a webcomic, remember great things always take time. You will fail, make mistakes, make great decisions, then worse ones. Breathe.
Any endeavor, be it a project, business, or a relationship, requires you to put in both time and effort in a consistent manner. A webcomic is no different, since it’s technically a combination of all three, but with several dozens of users all at once.
Are you ready to start on your comic?
What other things do you think we should consider before making a webcomic?
Let me know in the comments below!