If Starting A Webcomic was Easy, Everyone Would do it.
So, you’re ready to start your own webcomic. Well, chances are, you’re really not. Trust me I know how easy it is to become impatient when you’ve got a brilliant idea. But realize that more often than that, that’s all people have, an idea. There’s a lot that goes into a webcomic. The creative process alone is a huge hurdle to overcome. That’s why I’ve put together this blunt guide to starting your own webcomic. This should help to take a lot of the uncertainty and guesswork out of creating a webcomic and sets you up for success.
Mold Your Idea for A Webcomic
The very first thing you need is an idea. Hopefully, you’re at this point already with at least a basic idea of what you want to create. That’s the first step right there. However, you’re nowhere near ready. You need to know the story behind the idea. What’s it about on a small and grand scale? Is it limited or ongoing? Who are the characters? What are their likes, dislikes, history before the comic starts?
This is the part where you build the skeleton of your comic. Most importantly, it’s where you come up with the name of your series. As unromantic as it sounds, I suggest coming up with an idea for a name and then running it through AdWords to see if it gets any searches. Don’t change it too much, but getting a few “accidental” hits doesn’t hurt in the long run.
The most important part here is to make sure you have the script for the first arc of the story completed. This isn’t the first time I’m going to say this in the article, but you always need to be working ahead. So, even before you start your comic, you need to have your script (or at least a detailed outline).
Now for the Art
If you’re drawing your comic as well. You can skip over most of this. However, if you’re like me and can’t really draw that well, you’re going to have to find an artist to work with (then again, comics like Cyanide and Happiness, XKCD, and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, get by without having amazing art). Here’s the bad news, most talented artists, the ones you’ll really want to work with, are going to want to get paid for their work. Which is completely fair. If you don’t have a budget to work with you might be out of luck for a while. The good news is that thanks to the internet you can collaborate with artists anywhere in the world. That means that what you think isn’t that much for a page, might be a week’s worth of wages to someone else. There are a lot of artists in southeast Asia and South America that are incredibly talented and the dollar is still really strong in a lot of those countries.
I’m going to suggest using pages like Deviantart or Digitalwebbing to search for artists. Remember to post that it is paid work and to ask for samples of sequential art to review from artists. One of the things I’ve always done is have people bid on the project. Have them give you your page rate and that way you can negotiate with the ones you like that came the closest. Remember though to respond to all requires with a thank you and let the others know when you have chosen a new artist. Manners maketh man after all.
Now one of the biggest tips I can give you when working with an artist is to never pay completely up front unless you really know them. So, I always tell people to split the payments up. Send them about 30% upfront, 30% after the layouts/ sketch is sent to you for approval, and the last 30% after you get the final version of the art. This will not only save your butt if something happens to your artist, but it gives them the incentive to stay on track. It’s really a win-win for both sides. You can work out the best method with whoever you decide to work with, but I still suggest splitting up payments.
Get to Work on Your Webcomic
So, you’re ready to start producing pages from your comic. Before you do that, make sure you come up with solid designs for the characters for 2 big reasons. 1) To use as a reference later on in the process 2) To help start promoting your comic. While you’re working on your pages, you can also be marketing your upcoming comic. Whether you’re starting your own website or using a site like webtoons, tapas, or comic rocket, posting a few teasers on social media through the process will start to get people interested in what’s to come.
Now that’s you’re actually starting to do art work too, I’m going to suggest you make sure your work is at least 300 DPI (dots per inch). The reason is if you ever get to a point where you want to sell prints of your work, the more dots per inch, the better the print will look.
The biggest piece of advice I have for you at this point is to make sure you have a backlog of comics already created before you even post your first one. This might push back your timeline, but you’ll be grateful for it that week you’re sick or planning to go on vacation or your artist disappears. Most people who have made webcomics before are going to laugh at that because they know how quickly a backlog can disappear. It’s easy to say you’ll always work ahead, but life is going to happen and that’s going to slow you down.
Get Your Webcomic Out There
Like I mentioned earlier, you’re going to need to find a place to post your comic. You can either host it yourself or use a webcomic site to host it for you. Personally, I’m going to suggest doing both in the long term. If you don’t have much experience building sites or a lot of money to spend buying your own domain and hosting, then I suggest posting through a webcomic site. It’s pretty easy and it’s a great alternative. Instagram is also a great alternative if you’re creating a strip like webcomic. Not that you can upload multiple photos in one post, you can post each frame and let people swipe through them.
However, it’s not just about putting on a website and calling it quits. You’re going to at least want to get a Facebook page set up for it. In fact, you’re probably going to want to set this up before your comic launches. That way you can share teasers and things like that on it. It will also give you a place to communicate with fans and post updates or even cross promote with other comics.
Now, I know it’s very exciting that you’ve started posting your comic, but resist the urge to spend too much money promoting it or pushing it on people. You’ll want to have 20 to 30 entries up so that people can really get a sense of it.
Remember when it comes to a webcomic, you’re most likely going to need to think in long terms. Don’t rush too much at first, because consistency is king. Too many missed publication dates and your audience will lose trust in you. More importantly, you need to make sure you stick with it. The first few comics you published will probably only get a few views. Stay with it though and your audience will come. Remember, you can’t control other people, only yourself. So if you make sure you’re putting out the best work you can, then you’re going to find people who will enjoy it.
There you have it, a few tips for starting your own webcomic. Hopefully, it helps you on your journey to being a creator. If you found this helpful, let me know in the comics. I happy to add more tips and tricks in the future if you want.
Photo by Jens Rost