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How To End Your Webcomic, for #WebcomicChat

How To End Your Webcomic, for #WebcomicChat published on No Comments on How To End Your Webcomic, for #WebcomicChat

Technically I’ve ended 3 webcomics. They’re all Hellsing fancomics — And Shine Heaven Now, The Eagle of Hermes, and Sailor Hellsing — so the full archives are collected on the same site.

This. If you’re losing steam, at least stick it out long enough to give your readers a satisfying conclusion, but then move on.

Gag-a-day strips are also easy to switch to an “updates when I’m inspired” schedule. But if you end up going months (or years!) between new strips, then do declare an official end. If only so readers aren’t left in a state of indefinite false hope.

BICP always had an endgame in mind. It’s been running for 7 years, and we’re at least a year away from getting there. Although I’ve been in the mindset of “okay, all the plot and character arcs are sufficiently set up, now I’m heading for the finish line” for at least 2 years at this point. Payoff is gonna take a while.

I knew the general outline! There are mysteries and conflicts getting resolved now (chapters 25-26) that were set up in chapter 1. And there’s a Big Bad to be neutralized. Most of the finer details were developed over the course of the writing.

Elsewhere, Leif & Thorn is 2.5 years old, and was deliberately designed so I can keep doing it indefinitely if I feel like. It’s generally headed toward certain reveals and emotional developments – but none of them is a firm End Point. And there’s much more room to come up with new arcs for the (large ensemble) cast along the way.

Ending Shine was mostly fulfilling, partly sad, definitely a relief. I wasn’t going to bail before playing out the full endgame, but it was pretty tiring in the last few years.

You can see the tiredness in the way some of the arcs feel rushed or too-easily-resolved, glossing over scenes that could’ve been really significant. (Why didn’t I actually draw the Paper Sisters’ reunion, whyyyy.) But in retrospect, there’s still a lot that feels satisfying.

And it was a Good Decision to do a late-stage free-for-all author Q&A. There was nothing left to spoil! You could ask anything! It gave me a direct connection to which points (from the major to the trivial) readers wanted closure on, and a great vehicle to cover all of them.

Plus: now that I’m working on non-fancomics, it’s a lot of fun to repurpose my favorite original gags and characters into the works I can actually, you know, publish.

Shine ended in 2012 and I just did a new April Fool’s strip for it in 2018, so…yeah. (And then the Actual Final Strip, raising a glass to Hellsing’s 21st anniversary.)

The other long-term works I’ve finished are all fanfiction, but they have a pattern that’s almost certainly going to repeat with other comics. After I officially post The End, there’s a tapering-off creative period that comes with bonus strips, side stories, extra art.

Just leave it on the site you originally posted it on! And maybe print a book.

I did rehome the archives of my older complete comics — from ComicGenesis onto a self-hosted WordPress install — but that was mostly for the sake of technical advances (tags & searching) that the original host didn’t have.

There’s a ComicLab episode where they talk about moving the archives of older/complete “the sites are barely getting hits anymore” comics behind a Patreon paywall. Which…listen, that’s completely within your right as a creator, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Leave it up, for the sake of the occasional nostalgic rereader.

(A thing which Shine gets on a regular basis! Couldn’t have told you that before — but now it’s on a site with functional visitor stats, so I can see the hits coming in.)

All my completed favorites are recced here. Go to town.

Webcomic Buffers And You, for #WeHeartComics

Webcomic Buffers And You, for #WeHeartComics published on No Comments on Webcomic Buffers And You, for #WeHeartComics

I keep turning up new webcomic-related Twitter discussions. This one was an (irregular?) offering from WeHeartComics, a product of the SpiderForest collective. (Think “Hiveworks for artists who aren’t into bees.”)

Last Friday was a chat about buffers. Which was a striking thing to jump into, because I’d just been listening to the ComicLab episode where the hosts go “ahh, regular updates are so 10 years ago! Just update whenever you draw something. Readers will be into it.”

And that works great if you’re Kate Beaton (of Hark! A Vagrant) or Sarah Andersen (of Sarah’s Scribbles), where your whole thing is random self-contained standalone bits. (It also helps if they’re Really Good standalones.) But, listen, it’s all wrong for a comic with any kind of continuity. If you slack on the updates there, readers will forget where they are in the story, and end up losing interest.

I don’t know if if strict update times are necessary in the social-media age. Nobody knows when Webcomic Woes is going to update, and it doesn’t matter, because as long as you stay on top of your Patreon/Deviantart/Tumblr feed, it’ll be served up to you.

But for those story-based comics, you’ve got to keep a regular update rate (e.g. “twice a week”). So you may as well keep the posting dates and times consistent too. Keeps your life simple, makes it easier to track your to-do list.

And with that, on to the questions…

For Leif & Thorn, yes. I like titling strips in the format of “This Storyline 1/24” (a tic picked up from Bruno The Bandit)…and that only works if my buffer reaches the end of This Storyline.

The current arc is getting broken up into sub-acts — starting with “The Show Must Grow On: Overture” — mostly because I’m not far enough to have the numbers otherwise. Did the same thing splitting off the 14-strip An Incredibly Platonic Shopping Day, even though it leads straight (hah) into the next storyline, because Summer Sunshine clocked in at a full 84 strips. I could manage to be 84 strips ahead, but not 98.

As of this writing, I’ve drawn 18 strips into The Show Must Grow On: Act I. Which is…not bad, but there’s gonna need to be a crackdown of work this weekend. And the next one. And probably the next.

For But I’m A Cat Person — eheh, it used to have a buffer. Now I’m almost always working one page ahead. Talked a lot about the effects of that in an earlier WebcomicChat about pacing.

And then there’s Webcomic Woes, which is bufferless by nature. It gets made on a “whenever I have an idea” basis, and I don’t have more than one relevant idea per day.

This here is a heroic effort. I’ve never had a full-page buffer that long.

(Technically, I’m 50-ish updates ahead with Leif & Thorn right now — but since it’s a daily strip, that only comes out to a month and a half’s worth of lead time.)

…and here we have the winner of this thread.

Low buffer gives you a quick turnaround on “whoops, readers didn’t understand that reference, I’ll have a character explain it on the next page.” High buffer gives you security in case you fall out of a tree and have to put your drawing arm in a cast for three months.

…and then there’s algorithms. Or, on a site like mine, the Webcomic plugin is configured to send cranky emails if the buffer runs low.

Although I find that having a large buffer, so you can redo something while it’s in the buffer, is much easier than redoing it after it’s posted! If you realize on page 10 that you need a Chekhov’s gun that should’ve been on the wall on page 1, you really want page 1 to be unposted. I’ve resorted to post-posting edits, but only in the case of serious continuity errors.

(If you’re really bored some afternoon, go through the BICP archives page-by-page and see how many errors you can spot compared to the originals — which are all preserved on the SmackJeeves mirror.)

With Leif & Thorn: hasn’t been a problem. (Knock wood.)

With BICP: uh, mostly posting stuff late with apologies. The comic was originally 3 pages a week, and I couldn’t keep that up full-time, so I took it down to 2 (it goes back up sometimes for special events, like the second Christmas special), and that helped.

I do a week or two of filler between chapters, and I’ve given myself a couple longer hiatuses…but do not have the discipline to use them for buffering, heh. I just use them to recharge before jumping back into the “whoops, gotta draw tomorrow’s page now” rollercoaster.

Waaaay back in the day (2003!), And Shine Heaven Now had 6-strips-a-week updates. When my Dell died and the buffer ran out, I drew a week of filler at the library in MSPaint rather than go updateless.

In retrospect, under the circumstances, I’m sure readers would’ve forgiven a mini-hiatus! But for some reason it honestly didn’t occur to me as an option.

Work up a big one before your comic actually launches. I had several months of Leif & Thorn drawn before I started posting, and the buffer has been healthy ever since.

After that, just pace yourself. Figure out what your workflow is, and adapt your schedule to work with it! Some authors like writing out a script beforehand, others like working it out as they draw. Some artists need strict and well-planned schedules, others (*cough*) get revved up by looming deadlines. In the immortal words of Jan Valentine: whatever works is cool.

…I mean, if your comic is suited to irregular updates, you can always just do that.

If not, you’re allowed to take breaks. Just give your readers accurate information about your plans, and then stick to them. Don’t be the person whose site still says “after this short hiatus, My Awesome Comic will return in May 2017!” when it’s April 2018.

If you can’t do irregular updates, and you can’t make a buffer, and it’s too stressful to keep up regular updates, and you can’t even get back from hiatus…then maybe this isn’t the comic you should be doing, and it’s time to gracefully bow out. (More on that next post.)

New Leif & Thorn merch!

New Leif & Thorn merch! published on No Comments on New Leif & Thorn merch!

Hey, does anyone remember that I have a Society6 store?

Because I finally did! At least, enough to add a bunch of new But I’m A Cat Person and Leif & Thorn merchandise.

Click on through to get some new shirts, phone cases, mugs, clocks, and other exciting gear. And if there’s any art I’ve already done that you wish you had on a pillowcase, now would be the time to ask.

Ads and advertising on your comic, for #webcomicchat

Ads and advertising on your comic, for #webcomicchat published on No Comments on Ads and advertising on your comic, for #webcomicchat

An extended versions of last Sunday’s chat, since I didn’t have time to go into all the detail I wanted.

(…mostly because I was in a moving car with spotty Internet access.)

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Q1: Does your webcomic have ads? If not, would you ever consider getting some?

Yes, on both comics, because why not?

This is when some creators talk about Having Pure Motives and Providing The Best Experience. Thing is, as a reader, I’ve never found ads distracting or disruptive on anyone else’s comics. Not to mention, I can’t afford to directly support a ton of artists and writers, so it’s nice to know that at least my presence is doing something good for them.

For people who really can’t put up with ads, even for the sake of supporting indie creators, and haven’t developed the ability to tune them out…there’s always AdBlock.

Q2: What ad sites do you know of or use to earn revenue for your comics?

I use Project Wonderful, because it’s easy, automated, and works no matter how big your site is.

(Services like Google AdSense have a minimum traffic threshold. PW just gives people the ability to advertise on low-traffic sites for free, if nobody else is bidding.)

It doesn’t make a lot of money, just enough that I can turn it around and funnel it back into…

Q3: Do you advertise your webcomic? Do you use paid ads? Do you promote yourself using free strategies?

…buying PW ads. I’ve never actually withdrawn money from PW and spent it anywhere else. Set up a good campaign and it’ll be a reliable source of traffic.

The trick is to make lots of different banners, compare their performance, and cull the ones that nobody ever clicks on. If you set up a campaign that aims for cheap ad space on low-traffic sites, you can use that data to pinpoint the banners that really get attention, and use those in higher-cost campaigns.

PW lets you target by keywords, too. You’ll get a noticeably higher click-through rate if you search for, say, gay/LGBT sites, and then bid on them with your “romantic scenes with the m/m couple” banners.

I shelled out for banner ads on TopWebComics once. The admins actually screwed up the initial display date, so they were very apologetic and gave me a bunch of extra slots for free. It was nice, but not noticeably better than PW.

Free strategies: crossposting on DA/Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook, sharing with general-interest groups and blogs like lgbtwebcomics, urging readers to vote on TWC, the occasional fanart piece for someone else’s webcomic, and, lately, guest posts on LGBTQ Reads.

Q4: What techniques for earning ad revenue do you use, besides banner ads?

The only one that comes to mind is product placement, so…nothing.

Non-ad revenue comes from Patreon, commissions, and books/merchandise.

Q5: What is the most notable ad experience that you’ve ever encountered as a publisher and/or advertiser?

I’ve had to nix a couple of individual ads. One was a straight-up scam — it got reported and the user was removed. The other image wasn’t TOS-breaking, it just had a joke that didn’t look good next to a comic full of LGBT characters, so it got blocked from bidding on my sites.

It’s nice that PW makes that kind of filtering easy. (On top of the usual broad filtering for “child-friendly” on one end and “NSFW” on the other.)

Comments, for #WebcomicChat

Comments, for #WebcomicChat published on No Comments on Comments, for #WebcomicChat

Took a break from remastering BICP chapter 7 this afternoon, to talk about comments at @WebcomicChat.

(I’m also more than halfway through re-uploading And Shine Heaven Now to the new site with comments enabled! Not that I expect to get any, I’m just saying…it’s topical.)

Q1: What are your favorite types of comments to read on a webcomic?

Comments that catch stuff I missed. Especially helpful when there’s a code or puzzle…or a Dramatic Appearance by a character I totally forgot about, so I’m counting on more-avid readers to say “wow, it’s X’s sister we all thought was dead!”

That’s referring to other people’s webcomics, btw. I don’t forget about my own characters. (…usually.)

Q2: How can a reader craft a great comment?

I don’t want readers worrying about Greatness, I just want to hear from them. Even if it’s as simple as quoting a line that made you laugh and writing “LOL” afterward.

Trying to imagine the greatest possible comment, though…”I love your work, I told all my friends about it, these characters are my faves, here’s some fanart I drew, I just sent $10K via your PayPal Donate button, and would you like a book deal?”

Q3: Which platforms or systems do you find work best for commenting?

I like WordPress best. Disqus is useful for sites that don’t have a built-in system, but needs all kind of fussy Javascript to load properly. (Gonna go ahead and say Tumblr is worst.)

The personal feedback on Deviantart is nice, but it doesn’t give notifications for replies that aren’t directly to you, which makes it almost impossible to notice inter-reader conversations. And sometimes those are the best comments!

Q4: Are comments a necessity on webcomics? Why?

Well, uh, webcomics predate Web 2.0, so no.

(Kids these days don’t know how good they have it! Back when I got started, you could only “comment” by emailing the author, uphill in the snow both ways…)

Depends on how much moderating you’re able to do. Unless you hit a certain level of traffic, or a really dedicated army of trolls, it’s not hard to manually-approve all comments before they’re visible to the public.

Q5: How can a creator help foster a positive commenting community for their comics?

Be engaged and responsive, but don’t be too quick on the draw with Word Of God that stifles discussion and shuts down speculation.

(Lots of other people covered “set reasonable boundaries, and don’t be afraid to ban people who won’t respect them.” Although luckily I’ve only had to do that once. Or, technically, multiple times…but all for aliases of the same person, which only reinforces my conviction that they deserved to be banned in the first place.)

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