Ten Resolutions for a Better 2016
We all make resolutions this time of year. Sure, most of us forget about them by February, but it’s useful to set goals at a time like this. It helps to focus our attention on those areas that we know we need to work on. Here are ten resolutions I think you should consider if you’d like to do a better webcomic in 2016.
Don’t wait for the Right Time. There’s no such thing. The only way you’re going to improve is by going out there and making mistakes. I constantly get approached by people during conventions who tell me that they’re waiting to launch their comic until it’s Just Right. I always tell them that while they’re waiting, someone else is out there building an audience.
2. Consistent, Frequent and Significant
Update as frequently as you can update consistently, while making every update significant. It’s the best way to train and retain new readers. You’re getting new potential readers every day. If today’s update doesn’t grab them, you’ve lost your chance at making a new fan!
3. Social Media
Use it. Make your social media presence(s) a major feature on your site — as close to the comic as possible. Make it easy for fans to use Twitter/Facebook/Google+ to spread their excitement about your work. And spend a little time on the social sites yourself, letting your readers get to know you a little bit. Much of webcomics is built on the personal touch.
4. Save your money, don’t advertise… yet
Chances are, your work just isn’t ready for prime time yet, and that’s OK. Save your ad money, and rely on the many free alternatives (like #3 above). Heck, until you’re able to identify a target demographic for your comic — and locate them on the Web — you’re not really spending ad money wisely anyway.
5. Get healthy
Cartooning is a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. But you can’t make with the comics if your health goes south. So one resolution that could make you a better cartoonist is to step away from the drawing board (or tablet) for a little while each day and do something that gets your heart rate up (and keeps it up) for thirty minutes or so.
6. Don’t make excuses
Please don’t post a hastily-drawn sketch to update your site with if you’re sick. And if you do get sick and miss an update, don’t do that “Sorry! I got a case of the urpie belly!” blog post. Nobody wants to be tripped up by those dumb sketches while they’re reading through your archives, and if you keep posting about how you weren’t able to meet the commitment of posting a comic on time because of small inconveniences, you’re telling your readers that this isn’t very important to you. If you miss an update, come back strong on the next update. Save the stories about your fever sweats for your mom.
7. Your readers are looking for entertainment
This applies directly to #3 and #6. Whether you’re tweeting, updating your status or posting a blog, keep in mind that your readers are looking to you for entertainment. They aren’t necessarily interested in your gripes or your pains, and they may very well be turned off by your thoughts on religion and politics. As I’ve said before, your Web presence should be done in the same frame of mind that you’d assume if you were hosting a party. Make your guests feel welcome.
8. Stop looking at your stats
A once-a-day check-in is plenty. If you’re checking your stats more than that, you’re putting the cart before the horse. First you post great work, and then you get traffic surges. The time you’re spending living-and-dying over hourly fluctuations in pageviews is time that you should be spending on becoming a better cartoonist.
For the love of god… pay attention to your lettering! Almost every new comic I see could be improved drastically by paying a little attention to some very basic rules of lettering. They’re not hard. Learn them, and apply them.
10. Love it
If you don’t love it, quit now.
Right now, you should be in it for the love… and only for the love. If you’re doing this because you think it’s a career choice, you’re screwed. This isn’t a choice, it’s a calling. And the love you have for cartooning now is going to be the only thing that buoys you a few years from now when you’re up at 3 o’clock in the morning cranking out tomorrow’s strip before sneaking in some Zs before you have to be at work. Love is the only thing that can get you from hobbyist to part-timer to almost-full-timer to full-timer.
It just gets harder from here on in. If you don’t have the love now, you’re not going to make it.