ComicLab Ep 144
This week, our friend Erika Moen joins us to talk about one of the most important topics we’ve ever covered on ComicLab — Mental health. Coming soon from Erika Moen… Drawn to Sex Vol. 2: Our Bodies and Health. Have you ever wanted […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
Patreon content trade
In the early days of webcomics, a preferred method of promotion was the ol’ link exchange. “I’ll link to your comic if you link to mine.” Today’s crowdfunded business model requires a little twist on that old axiom. The content trade […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
October To-Do List
This is a time when creativity seems to be at an all-time high everywhere you look. From carved pumpkins to costumes to haunted houses to the really scary stuff like, well…Read more
Banking on success
One of the smartest things you can do as your webcomic starts to transition from hobby to business is to establish a new bank account for your burgeoning venture. Keeping comics finances separate from your household income has several benefits. […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
Don’t forget “Meanwhile”
It seems like it happens every time I’m stuck in writing a storyline, I keep forgetting my ace in the hole. It happens so often that I have a standing page in my sketchbook that I’ve marked for writing emergencies. […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
One of the glaring drawbacks to using Instagram for social-media outreach is the inability to post a hyperlink in a post. It makes generating any kind of valuable engagement on the site nearly impossible. For this reason, the one link […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
ComicLab Ep 143 — Setting an Emotional Hook
As a follow-up to our conversation about writing a strong beginning to your story, we’ve discussed the benefits of beginning a story in media res. But action, action and more action isn’t going to do the trick alone. So today […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
It’s one of the most-often-heard complaints in webcomics today: How do I get my comic seen in a market that’s oversaturated with comics?
You’re… not gonna like the answer.
The market isn’t oversaturated
It’s a false premise.
The webcomics market isn’t oversaturated. Are there more webcomics in 2020 than there were in 2001? Unquestionably. But on the other end of that equation, webcartoonists working in the early 2000s didn’t have social media. So although there were fewer competitors, it was incredibly difficult to direct people to one’s site. Moreover, the vast majority of the potential readers didn’t even understand the concept of reading a comic on the Web.
Enter social media and viral promotion. Now, exposing new readers to a comic is vastly more efficient (and effective) than it was in those early days. And, predictably, there are also exponentially more people publishing comics on the Web than ever before.
So, the market is oversaturated, right?
Because we’re forgetting to factor in the most important variable of all: Quality.
Do a good comic
It is undeniable that there are more comics, but — let’s face it — most of them are pretty horrible. In fact, I’d argue that the ratio of good comics to low-quality ones is about the same as it was in those early days before social media.
However, since the main conduit for consuming web content is social media, the system itself eliminates most of the low-quality content.
When a low-quality comic is published on social media, the outcome is fairly consistent: Nothing happens. The creator might get a couple of favorites — perhaps from other webcartoonists expecting a quid pro quo relationship. Very few people are going to share it or comment on it. Overall, the net effect is that the post’s engagement will be negligible. And posts with little-or-no engagement get filtered out rather quickly by social-media algorithms.
If a webcomic is posted on social media and nobody sees it, is it even there? I’m going to argue that it’s not. And since the vast majority of content consumption on the Web happens through social media, these low-quality comics are certainly not having a significant affect on the saturation of the webcomics market.
On the other hand, posting a good comic — along with making adequate use of social-media best practices — will get engagement. Even if you’re starting from an audience of zero, eventually someone is going to see your comic. And if it’s a high-quality comic — a comic that connects with its audience — they’re going to engage the post. And as that happens, more and more people will be exposed to your (good) work. And their engagement will help you to steadily build a larger and larger readership for your work.
Those other low-quality comics are a non-issue. In a social-media sense, they’re not even there. And if they’re not there, they can’t saturate the market.
In short, you’re going to be better served by spending less time worrying about the saturation of the webcomics market and more time improving your skills (and your understanding of social media). In the end the former is nothing more than a weak excuse for failing to do the latter.
A person who was just starting to do comics asked a question in a forum for creators: “How long does it take you to do one four-panel strip?” He got a wide range of answers — each one of them as unhelpful as the next. He had asked the wrong question, and his creativity was going to suffer as a result.The content you are trying to access is only available to members.
Patreon has unveiled Annual Membership — should you promote it to your backers?
Questions asked and topics covered…
- Catching up with Snares, a/k/a “Singapore Bob”
- USPS announces temporary price increases*
- Patreon Annual Membership
- Using sound effects well
- Avoiding politics?
*From USPS.com: …the Postal Service is planning a time-limited price increase on all commercial domestic competitive package volume from Oct. 18 until Dec. 27, 2020. Retail prices and international products will be unaffected.
The planned price increase would go into effect at 12:00AM Central on Oct.18, 2020 and remain in place until 12:00AM Central Dec. 27, 2020.
The planned prices, approved by the Governors of the Postal Service on August 6, would raise prices on its commercial domestic competitive parcels – Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Package Service, Parcel Select, and Parcel Return Service.
Brad and Dave talk about black-and-white comics — are they still viable in today’s publishing landscape?
Questions asked and topics covered…
- You are exactly where you need to be for the next step
- Do the recent AT&T layoffs indicate the end of DC Comics?
- Using the Sunday strip format to tell a short story
- Doing a Writers’ Room… but for non-humor comics
- Choosing a color palette
Merry Christmas — and Happy New Year!
Set down the sunblock, and step away from the pool. It’s time to start planning for December and January.
I know it’s hard to get into the spirit, but this is the time to start working on merchandise for the holiday shopping season. In recent years, webcartoonists have offered an increasing compliment of holiday goodies that have ranged from specialty T-shirts and mugs to holiday-themed greeting cards. And let’s not forget to add calendars to that list. Those will start appearing in stores by November — at the latest!
So, let’s take a closer look at some of those specialty products, and how we can start working now to be ready to compete when the snow falls.
I’ve been pretty dour on calendars as merchandise in the past, and, truth be told, I’m still not a huge proponent of the practice. As I’ve stated before, calendars have a very limited shelf life. Few people buy them after January. That means you either have to have a very strong, dedicated readership to pitch to or you have to go Print-on-Demand (POD) which brings the unit profit way down.
I am a fan of the calendar-creation tool at Lulu.com. (Redbubble.com did awesome calendars. but the demand dropped so low, they discontinued them.) So, as long as I don’t invest too much time on it, I can usually justify putting out a POD calendar.
Lulu gives you a choice between two sizes: a large-format calendar that measures 13.5 x 19 inches and a standard-sized one at 11 x 17 inches.
For a step-by-step walkthrough of Lulu’s calendar-creation tool, read this archive post.
The large-format calendar (like the sample on the right) has a spiral-bound spine at the top, holding sheets of 13.5 x 19 -inch stock.
Add some extras!
Dates: Add some significant dates to the calendar
- Your birthday
- The anniversary of your comic
- Any comic-related milestones (500th update, etc.)
- Character-related dates
Pricing: Lulu allows you to set your own royalty, but try to keep the final price as close to $20 as possible (for the standard size). $30-range for the larger version.
Buying in bulk
Of course, you could buy a larger number of calendars for yourself, driving the unit cost down, and then try to sell them for a larger profit on your own site. You can do this through your POD vendor or you could invest in an offset print run. However, you risk buying too many and then being stuck with them in January when sales dwindle.
Of course, you can always use them as a loss leader to drive sales to your store later in the month.
When I released my 2010 calendar, it was November. And, truthfully, I figured this was plenty of time. One of my readers was very upset with me for releasing it so late.
I was perplexed. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to purchase a calendar before November, and yet, there was clearly a segment of my readership who had already completed their calendar-shopping for the year — and given the choice, they would have chosen my offering if it had been available.
So, the following year, I offered my calendar in early-October. And my sales were brisk.
But my new recommendation is to release your calendars at the beginning of September! I’ll get into why in a moment.
About midway through the convention in New York, one guy who was buying a calendar asked for a sketch inside it — the way I do with books.
How did I overlook that?!?
Thinking on my feet, I asked him what month his birthday fell in. He said “April,” and I flipped the calendar open to that month and did a special sketch, with one of my characters delivering birthday wishes.
Every calendar after that had a special sketch on purchaser’s requested month.
Even though most conventions are canceled due to the Covid crisis, you should still plan to have your calendars prepped and available by September because if you do, you can order yourself a small stack and offer them on your Web site as Artist Editions.
Most storefront solutions include a way for the purchaser to communicate with the merchant. In PayPal, it’s “NOTE TO MERCHANT.” Advise your readers to indicate the month they want the illustration drawn in — and any birthday messages (if this is a gift for someone else, for instance) — and you’ve got a rock-solid early-Fall merchandise offering.
And your sketches could be simply your characters, or they could deliver birthday wishes, or they could contain references to the person’s astrological sign… the possibilities are endless.
Heck, you could do a very limited number of calendars with sketches on each day and sell it for a premium price.
A few years back, I launched a couple of Christmas cards and the response was so overwhelming, I vowed to start earlier the following year so I could take advantage of this opportunity better.
Designing Christmas cards — and let’s note here that the term “Christmas card” is being used as a catch-all phrase for all of the holiday cards that get purchased during the winter holidays — is a lot like designing T-shirts.
No one is going to buy one with your character(s) on them. No one is going to buy them with your strip re-printed on them (unless maybe it’s a single-panel comic).
What they are going to buy are cards that express your unique sense of humor or your identifiable illustration style. It’s perfectly fair game to swipe a punchline from a strip. And it’s perfectly OK if the card has little-or-nothing to do with your comic.
Take the this good advice about designing great T-shirts and apply it to your Christmas card concept.
Like I said, I produced two that year. Both are posted a little further down. The first one is related directly to the theme of my comic, but had content that had not appeared in the strip (yet). The second one was completely unrelated to the comic. Both sold well, although the one that matched more closely the “Evil Inc” theme sold a little bit better.
When you think about it, designing a greeting card is very similar to creating a two-panel comic. The cover is the first panel and the inside can be the second panel.
In fact, it’s an incredibly effective two-panel comic because it’s impossible to look ahead to the punchline and ruin the build-up. You can build a nice amount of suspense that will charge the pay-off nicely. For example…
Of course, you can also approach it as a single-panel comic — with a nice, themed message on the inside.
The usual online printers are already offering specials for people printing greeting cards for the holidays. PSPrint has offered as much as 60%-off. Overnight Prints has offered 50%-off on holiday-related printing.
Make sure appropriately-sized envelopes come with the order. If not, buy some, and factor that expense in to your final price.
Remember, you’re shipping off someone’s greeting cards. They need to arrive in good shape. I bought these cardboard boxes from Uline last year, and they performed beautifully.
Brad and Dave talk about ways to find other cartoonists and comics creators in your local area.
Questions asked and topics covered…
- Internal narration
- ‘Return to Oz’ cartoonists
- Finding one’s local community
- What is the Message you’re sending to your readers through your comic?
- Side stories make good Patreon exclusives
- deliberate practice
- blue mechanical pencil leads