Writer Alex Woolfson

Alex writes guy-on-guy action-romance comics for women and men to enjoy.

You can read his comics for free at http://webcomics.yaoi911.com/

I got this question via email the other day:

I’m currently working on the script to my own original comic, and considering publishing it online. Can you give me advice on how to promote the site, and setting it up to take donations? I think online publishing would work best for me, since it can be hard to know what independent publishers are lookig for. Any advise you can give would be a huge help, thanks.

This was my response: 

Heads up: there are some affiliate links I included in a craven attempt to get filthy lucre…

After my experience with Artifice, I definitely agree that releasing a comic as a webcomic is the best way for regular folks like us to build an audience (and to connect with them!) After my one year “experiment” in webcomics, there is no turning back. :) And of course, for better or for worse, it gives you complete editorial control over your content.

In terms of technical stuff, I recommend using Wordpress with a webcomic plugin for the most flexibility, security and ease of use. The plugin I use is called “Webcomic”. You can read about it here:

Webcomic Main Site

Wordpress Plugin Directory: Webcomic

and watch videos about how to set it up here

Webcomic Vimeo Page

There’s also another plugin called ComicPress that’s also quite popular. So you might check that out to compare.

I’d recommend self-hosting your Wordpress install under your own domain name using a service like Dreamhost. The hosting is inexpensive and they have a “One-Click Install” that will set up Wordpress for you with, well, a single click. Very easy. And using your own domain name costs like $10 a year and gives you flexibility with your site you’ll almost certainly want in the future. 

That said, it does require you to be willing and able to technically administer your site. It’s not as hard as it’s sounds, unless you’re looking to very heavily customize your look, most things are very straight-forward. But if that’s not your thing, there are other options.

You could set up a managed Wordpress site over at

Wordpress.com

Set up at a managed Wordpress webcomic site like

Interrupted Reality

Or you could choose to skip Wordpress altogether and host with a webcomic hosting site like 

SmackJeeves

In terms of donations, I use the Donation Can plugin for Wordpress. That was the only one out there that did everything I wanted and didn’t charge me some kind of additional transaction fee. Considering the success I had with my “donation bar”, I was quite happy to donate to the plugin’s creator later. :)

I use Project Wonderful to both advertise my comic and also to generate income. They specialize in webcomics and I’ve found they are good people. (They also were the only advertisers willing to give me the time of day when I launched my comic to which I am also grateful.) And because they specialize in webcomics, they gave me access to a world of other webcomic readers—so your ads will be targeted to the very people you’d want to see them. (And you’ll be offering them a “product” they would actually want to check out. Win-win.) I believe my PW ads were a huge factor in any success I had.

In terms of ad creation, it’s just like anything in comics—great art really helps. I suspected that showing a little skin in my ads would boost the number of clicks, but I underestimated how big a difference that would make—like 500% more. So if your comic has romance elements, even if romance isn’t its main focus, that’s something to keep in mind.

PW gives you all kinds of stats to monitor how well your ads are doing. IMHO, the most important one is the Cost-Per-Click—basically how much you’ve paid for the ad divided by the number of clicks that ad got. If you’re paying more than 3 cents a click, you’re probably doing something wrong. In that case, consider

  • coming up with a more compelling image (probably the most important)
  • coming up with better written “copy” (this is less important)
  • choosing to place your ads on webcomic sites that actually would have audiences interested in your kind of story (this is rather important)

In terms of general advice, if you’re following what I tried to do, I’d say you should

  • write the kind of story that you’ve always wanted to see but haven’t seen much of out there. (Trying to guess what other people might like is a losing game, IMHO.)
  • I prep all my pages for print and then convert them for the web—because I always hoped to go to print. I’d recommend the same thing to you—it’s harder to go the other direction.
  • And if you want to work with good artists, you’re going to have to pay them and pay them without delays—factor that into your budget. Good art takes hours and hours of work per page. (Yes, I know we as writers put in hours and hours of work too, but asking strangers to put in 10+ hours per page is a huge ask.) For anything more than a few pages, there’s really no getting around compensating an artist for their time and it’s the right thing to do. I’ve paid all my artists right from the start and have never regretted it. You can begin your search for artists using the Web sites I mention in this blog post (which is older but the links are still valid) on my somewhat NSFW blog.

Anyway, I hope that helps! Good luck!

Alex

UPDATE 5/1/13: A follow-up question via email has lead to another post: Last Minute Advice for a Webcomic Creator: Before You Launch that talks about the next steps.

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