1. Introduction – How to get more readers to your web comic?

So, you got some pages of your web comic ready and you think they are great. You create a website and upload them. Some close friends comment: Cool! You upload some more. No comments apart from your three friends that like you and consequently also your comic. A month passes by. Nothing happens. Three months pass by. Nothing happens.

This is exactly what I experienced when I started publishing my web comic. I thought: My comic is great and it’s out there for free. Why is no one reading it? I am sure a lot of people would like it! What am I doing wrong? After feeling some sad feelings, I dug in and started to plough through free blogs, newsletters and podcasts about publishing web comics. When you have read this post you’ll know how to market your web comic. For me, it took a year to learn the stuff that I am going to talk about here.

Before you read ahead think about these questions:

  • If a reader is looking for a new web comic, what are the chances they’ll find your web comic?
  • Where and how will they find it?
  • Why will they like your comic?
  • When was the last time you started to follow a new web comic and why?
  • How did you find it?
  • How many web comics do you follow?

The answer to these questions holds many of the answers to how to market your web comics and I will discuss this in part three.

When I started my web comic I wasn’t fully aware of some of the hard truths when it comes to the internet. There is a lot of interesting stuff available so the competition for attention is extremely hard. Everybody is lazy and stick to their routines. On the other hand, I soon discovered that there are also some factors which make marketing web comics a bit easier. Comics are visual and can be quickly grasped. They are also self-explanatory and people have mostly a positive attitude towards comics.

2. Two Jobs

Making a web comic is a two sided endeavour, just like making any kind of art for a living. On the one hand you have your artistic strivings with the drawing, colouring, etc. and on the other hand you have the striving of making your web comic known.

Traditionally speaking these would have been two different jobs – artist and marketing professional. You have to enjoy and excel in both areas to succeed in getting a readership for your comic. This post focuses on the marketing part.

The starting point in finding new readers will be your own intuition. However, as quickly as possible you should try to move on to market your comic based on the data you have collected. I am talking about data that shows you how readers found your comic and what they like or dislike about your comic. This information is available to you through your statistics tool for your website, like Google Analytics for instance.

You will only get new readers when you are able to reach people who are not reading your comic. You need to break into peoples’ routines and make your comic matter so much in their life that they get into the habit of reading your comic. The only way they will do this is by trusting you. And this is a tall order. I will talk more about this in part 3 and 4.

By the way, this post is not about how to make money on your web comic. If you are an unknown artist you need to make your comic available for free to create an audience, in my opinion. In the far future you might be able to make some money.

3. Basics you need to have in place to get more readers       

“Certain elements have to be in place for success, as these are prerequisites for creating trust”

Have a nice website – Your website should at best please your readers but at worst annoys your reader. Make sure that it is easy to focus on the strip. Get rid of all unnecessary functions and buttons. Your comic must look appealing and the site shall be easy to navigate on any device or browser. Test this, by using your friends’ and families devices! Statistically (December 2015), most people will read your comic on their mobile phone, so make sure that it looks good on a small screen. Strike a balance between pleasing the new reader and the regular reader. Make it easy to read the comic from the first page to please new readers and from the latest page to please returning readers. Building a great site is a continuous process. Try to gather as much information as you can of what works and what doesn’t on your site and update. Minimise the down time of your site.

Follow a schedule – Make sure that you follow your schedule in uploading content. People will abandon your comic if you don’t upload regularly as this is a trust killer. You can only post when you like when you have a big readership and that will be in the hopefully not too far future.

Quality of your web comic – Your web comic must be interesting visually, content wise, or both. This means that you should make sure that you draw nicely or have an interesting story going on. Ultimately, the number of readers will show you how popular your comic can become. Naturally, not all web comics are meant for large audiences.

Have a wide presence – Make sure your comic and you are visible on the places where your readers and potential readers are. Only having a web site with your comic is not enough. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. are all worthwhile, but ultimately you need to look at your data to understand what you should focus on

When you have the basics under control you can launch your web comic.

4. Marketing your web comic 

“Getting more readers requires hard work. Otherwise all comics would have a lot of readers.”

How can people find your web comic? Do they need to know your web address to find it? Do they need to know the name of your web comic? Where is your comic listed? Who is linking to your web comic? By answering these questions you will know what the probability is for potential readers to find your web comic.

In the table below you can see the amount of readers that Kirkkonummi had in 2015.

Launching – Before launch, have enough content ready to hook readers. No one will be interested in a strip or two. There is no universal answer to how much content is enough but there should be enough material available to lure your first time reader to come back and read more. You can only do a first impression once, don’t waste it by having too little content. I launched in September 2015 and had about 28 pages ready. Don’t be scared of your launch. Done is better than perfect.

The idea of launching a web comic is to gather additional momentum to push your web comic into more people’s attention. For a low budget launch of a web comic the essential idea is to present the web comic in as many place as possible and to repeatedly inform people about your web comic in order to squeeze the comic to their attention (without annoying them).

My launch included setting up a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kirkkonummiwebcomic?fref=photo and inviting all friends I have on Facebook. I posted more frequently on Facebook and started to upload cropped versions of the weekly strips on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/hellabok/ . I uploaded a teaser on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tCaXdZVEZU. I talked with everyone who wanted to talk with me about Kirkkonummi, online and in person. I listed my comic in some comic forums:

I also put an ad in our living room window. Trams pass by every day so I hope some commuters will see the ad.

My launch resulted in 80 new likes on Facebook and 10 new followers on Instagram. Traffic increased from 275 in August to around 580 in September. That’s it. That was my launch.

Channels – Be smart about where you focus your marketing efforts. Working on your own and doing two jobs make sure that you don’t waste time on advertisement channels that are not working for you. After your launch, try to understand what kind of marketing works for your comic. The simple measurement is; what brings traffic, works. Give some time to the channels as some channels might need some time to mature.

Below is a list of common channels with some pro/cons for web comic advertisement:

Facebook – A lot of people use Facebook. It is easy to publish images and is in general a visually easy social media. Content with images do well on Facebook. Your friend will probably like your comic, which generates quickly likes and followers. The plus with having some followers quickly is that you can show that people read your stuff. People tend to like stuff that other people like. The drawback is that these people know you already and are not only reading the comic because it’s good but because you made it. Many will lose interest as they are not really interested in comics. The worst thing with Facebook is that it is hard to reach new people who are outside your network. How you reach the biggest amount of people with your Facebook post is rocket science.

Instagram – Instagram is very visual and simple which supports web comics advertisement well. It is much easier to get new followers and likes from strangers. Publish regularly, like and follow others. Instagram is much better than Facebook in reaching new readers. Choosing the right hashtags is a science in itself. The rule of thumb is to put a lot of hashtags to increase the probability of someone searching with a hashtag you use and include the address to your web comic. It’s not that easy to see the amount of traffic that Instagram is generating when people switch from Instagram to a browser to visit your website.

Twitter – I haven’t used Twitter much. I will write more about this when I know more.

Youtube – Video brings a comic to life in a completely new way. It’s also a great way to raise your own profile. So far I have made a teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tCaXdZVEZU. My aim is to make some clips about how I make Kirkkonummi.

Comments to your blog – An important source of marketing is also your comments area in your web comic. Comments will be read by other readers and generate a sense of community around your comic. Make sure to answer all comments you get, do it quickly and be polite.

There are more channels, but I don’t use them yet.

Evaluate your performance – You can only understand things that you can measure. It’s easy to assess your drawing performance – if you have the strips ready on time you are doing OK. If you have your strips ready on time and they look great you are doing well. The marketing evaluation is mainly based on the data you collect from your analytics tool and the comments you receive.

Again, understand how your readers find you and your web comic. Focus on the channels that work and ignore the ones that are not paying off. The rule of physics working here is that it takes a lot of time for readers to find your comic.

In my most recent performance evaluation I concluded the following:

By best referrers are Facebook, Belfrycomics, Serieforum, Kvaak and The Webcomic list. I assume many of my friends are checking my comic every time I update the Facebook page. New readers come from all channels except Facebook.

I don’t know how much traffic Instagram generates. I also don’t know how much traffic the ad in my window generates as I started with both in the same time.

The conclusion I made in my last performance evaluation is that I should focus on the top ten referrers and try out new channels. I can ignore the ones that do not bring in more traffic.

Marketing strategy – A marketing strategy is about understanding where your potential readers are, go there and let them know that your comic exists. Be smart in how you find these potential readers as there are a lot of people out there but most of them will never be interested in your comic. Don’t waste your energy on those.

The mantra about social media marketing on a general level (not only applying to web comics) is that you need to create interesting content, have interesting titles/headlines, make it visually appealing and post frequently. Usually this is presented as the key to get traffic. I can tell you I have done this and I don’t nearly have as much traffic as I would like to have. What have I done wrong?

The main point with the marketing strategy is to make sure you reach the ones who might be interested in your web comic. It’s not enough if you do all the things above.

Find out where your potential readers are by placing your web comic in a context. Web comics are in this sense easier to market than many other things. There is a dedicated group of people reading web comics and they go to dedicated places where they know they can find new comics.

Check the comic lists I mentioned above. Make yourself a list of groups of people that might be interested in your web comic based on books, interests, forums, websites, age, geographical location etc. Think of key words and use Google and other search engines to understand which people and sites are big in these areas.

I haven’t finished by marketing strategy yet but key areas I will focus on are: preppers, apocalypse interested people, fans of Tintin, Nordic and Finnish people, people from my home town Kirkkonummi and fans of certain computer games that are said to be similar to my comic. This is just the start.

You are a master at marketing when you know how to build efficiently relationships with your readers, hold readers attention and engage with readers. These are questions that all market professionals are dealing with and there are no one size fits all answers.

5. Making money

I am making no money on my comic at the moment. That’s OK because my sole aim is to increase my readership. In the far future I might make some money, if I am lucky. I hope to generate some visibility before launching a Kickstarter campaign to print the first book of Kirkkonummi.

In brief, common ways to make money in web comics is through: donations, Patreon, affiliate links, advertisement on your site and selling merchandise. 

I’ll write about this when I have made some money! 8)

6. More information

For a whole range of blog posts about web comics check comic’s creator Jason Brubaker’s blog http://www.remindblog.com/2011/08/30/growing-your-audience/ . He knows a lot and has been a mentor to me (through his blog posts and podcast).About marketing strategies check this: http://conversionxl.com/social-media-strategy-doesnt-rely-hope-getting-resultsI intend to work on this post further as I learn new stuff. Please let me know what you think and feel free to come with suggestions.