Hello friends! Everyone enjoying February so far? 2017 has been pretty good to me – I relaxed a lot this weekend, playing way too many Steam games that I got on sale. I feel like I have been burnt out on content ideas for this blog – I don’t have Photoshop on my new PC, which is how I made all my graphics! But I’ve alway been a “quality over quantity” kind of gal. Why spend hours on a mediocre blog post just for the sake of posting every other day?
Another thing for me has been working on my current love project – my new webcomic! This is my second attempt at making a webcomic, the first being an Avatar: The Last Airbender fancomic that I did for fun. I never intended to make any sort of money off of it (no Patreon, no prints, nothing!) but it took a lot of my time and energy and no longer became “fun”. You can see where some pages are rushed and sloppy near the end, and I was extremely stressed out by the whole thing.
But! I did learn a lot from this first try, so as I work on the beginning details of my next webcomic, here’s what I’m keeping in mind the second time around!
First off, this isn’t a “how to draw” or “how to write” sort of post. Those are things I can’t teach you in a few paragraphs, but instead I suggest using the vast amount of knowledge the internet can give you!
I can’t guarantee your webcomic will reach whatever your idea of “success” is from this advice, but I do think it will produce an overall better end result!
Take your time and plan everything out first
This might be obvious advice, but I thought I knew the entire plot of my ATLA comic from start to finish. And I didn’t. I knew the beginning, and I knew the end, but I never outlined the entire plot. So once my comic started to sink its teeth into an actual plot, I got stumped. And that’s not the sort of place you want to be when you’ve been religiously updating regularly.
A webcomic is like a novel – make a notebook of all the essential stuff and write a basic outline. It doesn’t have to be 100% detailed, just important milestones. What sets off the conflict? What was your character’s life before the conflict? What does your character have to do to solve the conflict? Having a basic timeline of events makes it easier to fill in the small details if you know where your story is going. You can read more about the formula of the Hero’s Journey here.
Of course, this is if you are going for a definite, epic plot sort of comic, which leads me to…
Figure out what kind of comic you want to make
The “Hero’s Journey” sort of comic is what I want to make – but it’s not the only kind of comic out there! You can make short gag strips with something witty or funny. You can make a “slice of life” comic that doesn’t have much of an end, maybe it really does end when you get tired of working on it. You could even have comics about your own life and experiences!
I also wanted to make a list of motifs or genres that I loved to read and use that to shape the sort of elements I wanted my comic to include. Things like “magic”, “non human creatures” “girls with swords”, “old legends”, “multiple gods” – a good reason to fall into a pit of TvTropes.
Create a Pinterest board & Spotify playlist for your comic
This makes is really easy to have inspiration nearby! I use Pinterest to collect both writing tips/exercises and imagery that I really like while I shape out my universe. I also find it hard to get “in the writing mood” without distractions, so a playlist really helps me!
Create a backlog before publishing your first page – and have an update schedule
This is something I did for my first comic, but it eventually caught up with me. This depends on how complicated your pages are to make and is up to you, but I would suggest at least 15-20 pages before you show your comic to the world.
Geez Peony, that’s a lot! It is a lot! But that’s also a lot of time to make more pages. If you updated once a week, you’d have 20 weeks to make that next page. That’s 5 whopping months. I personally would stick to one update a week (although once every other week is acceptable if you need to!) But make sure it is a consistent day of the week to post and make sure this information is easy for readers to find!
Consider getting a domain name & website
This will obviously require spending some money if you have it, but I think it makes it really easy for readers to follow along. The usual combo I’ve seen is WordPress + the Comicpress theme, which is a simple layout for comics that you can easily adjust. If you want to go the cheaper route, I purchased a domain name that redirected to a Tumblr account (which is free!) that I used for my ATLA webcomic. It also has a comic related theme you can find, but it’s not as nice as Comicpress, but it was the sort of compromise I accepted due to Tumblr being free.
Never make a webcomic for the sake of making a living from it
This is my last bit of advice, and it’s the most important and also the hardest to accept. It’s very very difficult to pull this off, and your end goal for making a webcomic shouldn’t be to make a profit. It should be to simply create something! Webcomic artists that are able to make a living on webcomics are able to do it because 1. They have a high amount of unique visitors everyday visiting their site and creating ad revenue and 2. They have a regular fanbase that purchases products from them. Webcomics take a lot of money to print, so while you can definitely sell them if you have enough people interested, don’t expect to make that much of a profit back.
Patreon has changed webcomic revenue, though. The reason I switched from a comic set in a copyrighted universe to making my own universe was because I would like to make a Patreon one day! I don’t plan to ever make a lot of money from it, but it would be a nice way to produce exclusive things for my readers, such as prints or charms or even a physical book. Because they would have already paid for it, I don’t have to risk ordering a bunch of items to put in an online shop that no one will order from. It also creates a sense of community that I can interact with! I can show upcoming WIP pages and hopefully have my readers excited and talking about what is happening next. I highly, highly doubt I would ever make enough to quit my job and have my bills paid, but it is a nice way of being rewarded for contributing to the tip jar.
At the end of the day, people want a quality storyline with characters they can relate to. They want a regular schedule update and ways to interact with the author/artist.
So this is only a handful of advice I’ve collected in my time, and hopefully when I get more into my new comic, I’ll have more “intermediate” insight to share! What sort of webcomics do you like to read? Let me know in the comments!