I don't even have a self link to self link yet
July 16, 2010 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of starting a webcomic. Questions about the technical side and the business side. Also, if you run a webcomic, what do you wish you knew before you started?

I do not expect to make any money and am willing to invest a few hundred dollars a year in webhosting, software and advertising. This is just meant to be a hobby and I envision creating one comic per week.

First: What do most people do in terms of software? Realistically, I can draw well enough (pencil on paper) for what I have in mind and my thought is that I will scan my drawing, trace them in Gimp (free Photoshop clone) and then color. (Think nedroid). What file format should I use? Also, should I train myself to use a drawing tablet?

Second: Where do I host my images? I was planning on using a simple blogspot theme (which I would purchase) and edit as need be.

Third: How do I get people to visit my site? Obviously I would tell all my IRL friends. Is there something better than just submitting links to reddit, digg, etc?

Fourth: Should I bother with ads at this point? And if no, at what point would they be worth it?

What else do I need to know? Best practices?
posted by 2bucksplus to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Disclaimer - I don't do any webcomics, but I've done the sites for a couple in the past.

1st: Absolutely get a tablet, (Wacom is the ONLY brand to consider), and get as large a tablet as you can afford. Even if you are going to scan and trace, the tracing is WAY easier with a tablet than a mouse. Most people I know have started with scan and trace and moved on to just doing everything in the computer.

2nd: Either do your own site (or hire someone to do it) or go with one of the many webcomic hosts out there. Your own site will cost you some money, particularly up front, but you do get to make exactly what you want.

3rd: There are tons of comic listing sites, contact your favorite or similar comics and see if you can do a link exchange.

4th: Ads for your comic or ads on your site to help defer costs? I'd say do both, but I think I'd personally wait until I have several finished comics up before I started advertising.
posted by jjb at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Typically you would scan your inks at 600 dpi in line-art mode, which brings them into GIMP as b&w graphics.

You would then convert that to RGB so you can do coloring work, using the magic wand tool to select areas you want to work on. If your work is elaborate, you'll want to consider saving your selections (Select menu).

File formats: Save your working version as a high-resolution .xcf file (GIMP's equivalent of a PSD).

You can then use the Save for Web plugin to resize and export to JPG if you're using lots of colors and effects, or PNG if you're using fewer colors, more like Nedroid does. Otherwise your PNGs would be huge or ugly. Anyway, you can preview filesize and image degradation in the plugin.

A lot of people like drawing tablets, but I personally have been using one for a few years and like drawing by hand on paper better.

Source: Just started working on one myself -- here's a test I did, trying to figure out what width to use if I'm going to have people on mobile devices reading it. I used Photoshop for the typography, since GIMP's typography-fu is weak (you could import to Scribus and try that), but it's a complete joke at that size anyway.

You might be interested in a thread I started on the GIMP-users mailing list recently about "smoothing my inks," wherein I wish out loud that I didn't need to smooth my inks in Inkscape to remove rugged bits, and get several good answers.

Image hosting: I would just get a web hosting account. I'm sure you won't exceed the standard limits for now.

How to get people to visit: Marketing (seriously, study it -- the internet is not immune to its power, and otherwise you'll just get a bunch of random bits of advice)

Ads: Don't bother, most don't make anything off them anyway. Watch your web stats, though. See where people are coming from and try to amplify those connections when you can (drop in and say hi, etc.)

Best practices: Depends on where you want to go. Important thing right now (I'm learning) is to just put in the effort, don't try to be perfect from the start.

It's a great feeling to have something going... :-) Good luck.
posted by circular at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2010

If you host it yourself, I think the simplest way to get going tis to use WordPress and install the ComicPress theme.
posted by crickets at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Here is the best information I have ever seen - So You Want To Start A Webcomic? by Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content. Must-read.

Follow-up from Jeph: Should I buy a Wacom tablet?.
posted by komara at 12:23 PM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

Agree with almost everything here.

Also: motivation. Starting a comic (or any creative project) is exciting. But once the novelty wears off, are you going to keep it up? Doing anything you can to keep yourself motivated, and baking that into your early thinking, can be helpful.
posted by jragon at 12:31 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: HOSTING: A free host is fine if you're just starting out, but if your audience grows too large or one of your comics becomes popular on Digg or Reddit, you'll be in trouble. I hosted my site at LunarPages until my site outgrew them, and they're a good host overall, and very affordable.

ADS: I'm still pretty clueless about this myself, as I hear other webcartoonists discussing ad networks and stacks and things that don't make any sense to me. One thing I do know about is Project Wonderful, developed by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, which is an ad network where you bid on open space for sites you want to advertise on. I do believe you'll have to have a certain amount of content on your site before you can put ad space on it, though.

For me, the best advertising has always been word-of-mouth. Almost all of my traffic comes from people who read my comic and then tell their friends about it. If you're a part of any online forums it can help to put a simple link in your signature (if it's allowed there).

FUN: The best advice I can give you is to just have fun with it. Don't worry too much about your audience or what you think people would like to see; draw what you would like to read. There's an audience out there for everything. Be persistent and they will find you.
posted by Nedroid at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Even if you're only doing one a week?

Buffer. Buffer buffer buffer. You want a fallback for that week where you mysteriously contract dengue fever or whatever and cannot even think of lifting a stylus.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:51 PM on July 16, 2010

That is a great point, which reminds me of something else: stick to what you say. If your site says "Updates once a week," then update once a week. No matter how much they love your comics, readers will complain to anyone who'll listen about missed updates.

There are people like Zach Weiner (SMBC) who update regularly and are wildly successful; there are people like Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) who update irregularly and are wildly successful. Either way can work, but if you can't stick to a regular schedule, then don't promise a regular schedule.
posted by Nedroid at 1:01 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Lots of good things here; all I really have to add/reassert is:

a) Your equipment/software needs vary with your process, really. I draw by hand on paper) and color/letter in photoshop, and a mouse is plenty (tablet would be sort of handy, but definitely isn't required).

b) If you do decide to self-host, WordPress with ComicsPress is a godsend. And think long-term navigabiity for your users; ComicPress does a great job with that, I'm not sure if a blogspot theme would (unless it was specifically designed for webcomics, and had Next/Previous/First buttons, etc).

c) Don't jump the gun on trying to monetize. Wait longer than you think you need to. My current strip has shown really, really good audience growth, and yet I'm still bogging down and having trouble with a Kickstarter campaign for a small-run print collection. Don't worry about ads or books or merch until the strip is humming like a mighty engine.

Good luck!
posted by COBRA! at 6:45 PM on July 18, 2010

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