Friday, January 4, 2013

Making it Big With a Webcomic

Every year, a string of game conventions known as the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, is held across the United States and the world. These are huge events and it's no secret to anyone familiar with PAX that the whole thing sprang from the minds of two webcomic creators. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik had already made it big with their series, Penny Arcade, in 2004 when PAX began, and today they have over 3 million regular readers of their comics. They recently launched Penny Arcade Sells Out on Kickstarter and were successfully funded to the tune of almost $530,000. The goal of their Kickstarter? To run their site ad-free.

This type of success is often what up-and-coming webcomic artists and writers imagine when they first set out to create the next online comic sensation. Of course, Penny Arcade is an anomaly. Most webcomics are lucky to see a year "in print" online, largely due to misconceptions about the work needed to keep a series afloat combined with cost and an initially small audience to show for it.

But in all, webcomics are a wonderful thing! No more are aspiring comic book or comic strip artists who hope to get their own creations off the ground, stuck with sending their ideas to publishers in hopes of recognition and a juicy contract. We all have the means of creating a comic online, and that goes for you as well as it does for me and the people living down the street from us!

Like anything, webcomic authors and illustrators are often not of the overnight success type, and there's plenty of work to be done before anyone will start reading. Before you sign up to do a webcomic, consider the following:

  • Do you have the time to commit to regular updates? This is the number one reason a webcomic will fail: The creator can't be counted on to update. Perhaps you have another job or perhaps it's your family life that's getting in the way of your updates. Perhaps you have neither of these and you just don't want it bad enough. Either way, if you don't commit to the time to make the actual comic, your comic is going to fail. The simplest of business logic applies, here: People can only buy your product when you have one to sell. Make sure you're good at keeping a schedule and working ahead of time to weather bumps in the road that could pull you away from updating your series on time!

  • Are you an artist or are you a writer? If you ask this question to a lot of first-timers, their answer will inevitably be "both!" This could be true, but all too often, it is not. I myself have written plenty of comics and non-comics alike and have been lauded for my writing skills, but I consider my artistic abilities far superior. I am therefore an artist first and foremost. Want to be both? Read about the one you're weaker at or study the techniques of artists or writers that you like. If you're hopeless, consider going in with a collaborator who can pick up the artistic or writing chores for you. And please, if you can, pay them or share the profits.

  • Can you take harsh, direct, instant-feedback criticism? People on the internet are brutal and sometimes they have good reason to be. If your webcomic isn't up to snuff with the other thousands and thousands of good comics out there, be prepared to hear about it. This too, can be a good thing. Instant feedback allows you to immediately correct the mistakes you make, if they seem to be popping up frequently in comments people make about your work.

  • Do you love it? If you don't, quit now. More than money and throngs of adoring fans, it takes love for the craft to keep most webcomic creators pushing on. For a while, you may only have love for what you're doing, but if you keep at it and keep pouring love into it, the other things like money and readers, will come.

If you're new to the whole webcomics thing but you're certain it's what you want to do, then I personally want to welcome you to the fold! I hope you find this blog insightful and helpful as you make your webcomic journey and I wish you all the success in the world!

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