Ok, we’re in the home stretch. No sense having done all this work and not getting your comic out there for people to see.. There are two basic options: publish it yourself, or go with one of the umbrella groups that publish multiple titles.
I took this route, not because of any particular merits of the method but because I didn’t know any better. However, it has worked out fine for me, and I’m not competing with other strips on the same site.
I use WordPress, with the Comic Press plug-in. Both are available for free download, but you have to have your own hosting site. (There are actually two WordPress optioons. The one linked above is WordPress.org, which is free; WordPress.com will host your site, but charges a fee and is less flexible than WordPress.org,
I have to say WordPress is not anywhere near as easy to install and manage as their promotoion would lead you to believe. WordPress is an open source program, so there’s no one funnel for information. I suppose if you’ve already mastered PHP and CSS you’ll do ok; otherwise, be prepared to spend a lot of hours searching for answers to what seem like basic questions. The forums are largely worthless.
Comic Press is fairly straightforward, and it makes loading the comic pages a snap. The forums are a little more organized, but I find that you still have to know CSS and PHP and general geek speak to be able to unbderstand a lot of the answers, or even to ask the questions.
Some people call these networks, others call them collective; I’m just feeling a little mavericky today. The idea is that one hosting service features multiple strips. Some are devoted to a single genre, like fantasy, while others are very diverse. Some only feature a handful of strips, others have dozens.
Here’s a list of links to the ones I know of, in no particular order:
Webcomics Nation -wide variety
Palace in the Sky – fantasy/anime/manga
DrunkDuck – wide variety
Koala Wallop - eclectic
+x comics – eclectic
Webcomics Inc -variety
There are a lot more, but these wil get you started.
Now here’s where the rubber hits the road. There are so many webcomics out there that you are sure to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t promote the site. If you have any visions of selling t-shirts and other merchandise, you’re going to have to get into paid advertising.
Your first step is going to have to be getting your SEO terms right. SEO stand for Search Engine Optimization, and the basic idea is that you have to choose keywords that not only fairly describe your content, but that are also used in your content in such a way that the search engine spiders can find and index the page. If i could explain it better than that I would, but frankly, I’m kind of on the dense side when it comes to stuff like this. I read dozens of online articles and checked out two books from the library and I still don’t know if I’m doing it right. I do the best I can, and my comic shows up on the first page of search results for various permutations of ‘Lovecraft’. That’s the goal: to appear as high in the search pages as possible. I’ve been told if you’re not in the top ten searches on something like Google, it’s unlikely anyone will ever navigate to page 1,006 to see your listing.
Next, you want to take advantage of the sites out there that offer free promotional opportunities. There are a number of webcomic indexes/lists that you can post to, Top Web Comics having by far the highest visibility.
Then there are comic message boards and review sites, both written and podcast. You can submit your comic, or post notes on a forum. I have no favorites in the written sites, and there are a million of them. I tend toward the horror related sites, obviously, but you should search for those sites that relate to your particular comic. Of the podcasts, I stick to Digital Strips, both for listening pleasure and trying to get the word out.
Advertising is a big step up, though it doesn’t have to be expensive. Most sites offer ad space, and the rates can vary widely depending on the popularity of the strip. The easiest way to get started with ads is Project Wonderful, which allows you to bid on ads on sites you select, and you are only charged for the time you’re ad is up. For instance, if you bid 50¢ a day on an ad, but only make it active for 12 hours, you would only pay 25$ if it was up all that period. If someone else bids 60¢ for 4 hours, your ad won’t be up, but you won’t be charged either. As soon as that other ad expires, your ad returns to the slot.
There are different size ads and thousands of sites available, though not all webcomics. You can even bid $0.00 and get some exposure on sites, though most bids are a few cents or more. The really popular strips, like Something Positive, get as much as $60.00 a day for their ad slots.
(And don’t forget, you can set up PW ad sites on your own strip and though you won’t get rich, the money that comes in can help pay for your own advertising.)
Finally, there are conventions. I haven’t explored this area too much, as there are few local cons, but this year and next I plan to travel to a few gatherings outside of Oklahoma.
One last piece of information: the Web Marketing Checklist. Not all of it is relevant to webcomcis, but it might give you a few ideas.
So get thee to it. Get your comic out there, promote the heck out of it, and enjoy the ride. There might even be a payoff at the end, but don’t get your hopes up. It will be so much sweeter if the payoff is icing rather than the cake.
I wish you all the best of luck.
Be here next Wednesday when the the blog returns with a new Occult Detective review
and, need I add, next Friday for the debut of Lovecraft is Missing Book 4: The Truth or Falsity of Our Beliefs.
Have a good weekend.