They’re out there. Passionate, dedicated, willing to support indie creators, and yet so very elusive: The Typical Webcomic Reader. As we have discussed on this site and on our podcasts, although we can easily find fellow creators quite easily on social media, finding the READERS… you know, the ones who keep up with every update and pay for books or merch… is the trick of the trade. We need to figure out where they are hiding, what type of comic appeals to them, how to approach them and how to keep them coming back for more! The best way would be to stumble on someone who is NOT a creator, yet has a handful of webcomics they swear by every day with their morning coffee. Then, we could ask questions to get inside the mind of the this coveted demographic.
Oh Wait! I Found Another One!
Many of you have seen him around, he eats up Twitter and spits out RT’s like it’s no body business, and many of you have been graced by his comments on your sites. He’s none other than Todd McElmurry. Todd, when not perusing webcomics is also a contributor here at the Webcomic Alliance, sharing with us news about…yeah, you guessed it– Webcomics.
Todd, we comic creators want to reach more readers– not necessarily fellow creators who also read some comics, but the passionate fans who would grow our readership and maybe even make a purchase here or there! People like YOU! Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Todd McElmurry, I have 3 awesome little boys and an incredible wife. I have been working in IT as a Network Administrator for the last 15 years, and have been enjoying comics ever since I could see, much less read.
How were comics introduced to you, or how did you view comics early in life? As an adult, how has that changed and how do they factor into your every day life?
As a kid comics were a huge part of my Sunday’s, and anytime there was a long road trip. As far back as I can remember I always loved comics. Not to mention they worked great with Silly Putty. As an adult my patterns didn’t really change much, with the exception of now I had some expendable cash of my own to drop at the comic shops. I remember riding my bike an hour to get to the closest comic shop, just so I could get the latest Superman or Detective Comics. We had a lot of antique shops in and around the town I spent my teenage years in so I would purchase a lot of the old serial horror comics from them, these introduced me to the diversity that was comics. It wasn’t just Sunday paper strips and Marvel or DC. As an adult I started reading a lot of the Paper comics online (Alley Oop, Beetle Bailey, etc.) and reliving some of the classics I grew up with like Doonesbury and Calvin and Hobbes. Then I stumbled upon a comic that I had never seen before, honestly I can’t remember my first one, but along the side bar were links to other comics. I was hooked. Now my favorites bar is chocked full of over 100+ webcomics that I try to hit when a new update comes around. Thanks to Twitter, I’m adding more and more monthly.
Ah, so as you aged, your interests in comics did as well, and you discovered that the “Newspaper” comics weren’t all there was to offer. Do you think the quality of “Newspaper” comics has declined?
I still Love the newspaper comics like Curtis, Dilbert, and Zits to name a few, but as I find myself working more in a digital world it’s nice to have those comics and these new ones at my finger tips. I don’t think Newspaper comics have declined, per say, they just don’t provide the wide range of variety that you can find with Webcomics.
Let’s get into the dirty details. Which webcomics (comics published online) do you read on a pretty steady basis? What about them attracted you to first start reading, and what KEEPS you coming back for more each week/day?
Wow, that’s a hard one to answer cause I follow so many. Just to name some of them I follow and really enjoy, now remember these are not my favorites, I feel they all offer something great and compelling, these are just the ones that come to mind first. Of course Z&F is wonderful, my kids and I love it. Cheesebo is another great one, very fun cast and story lines. Deep Dive Daredevils is one I discovered within the last year and it’s a really cool comic, their is a great collaboration that keeps the readers on the edge of their seats and really engrossed in the comic. Ouro Bros is another awesome collaboration comic, I’ve followed it from the second week it started and I love what Jeremy and Jeff are doing with it. How much time do we have, cause I could just go on and on with the lists of comics I love PCWeenies, ThunderPaw, Aedre’s Firefly, Gatorhead, Z&G, etc. Oh, and for the record “Rick the Stick” Rocks!! Do you know he’s about to reboot the strip soon? Man, I can’t wait. RTS was one of my first 20 webcomics to follow, and I’ve helped with promoting it in the past and look forward to sharing more in the future.
What keeps me coming back personally are:
1. The Characters and Story
2. The Interaction with the artist (comments, twitter, Google +)
Have you, or would you, consider purchasing books, ebooks, T-shirts, commissions or other merch from a webcomic creator? Obviously, we know you are not made of money, so you have to choose carefully where you spend your money. What qualities does a webcomic or its creator have, that make you WANT to support them?
I have bought merch from creators in the past, and I would every day if I could. I know you guys work hard and when I can I love to purchase merchandise not only to have something y’all created but also to help keep you moving forward. I know y’all aren’t getting paid to do this.
When I look at where I’m going to spend I look at ways I can purchase something and help promote the strip at the same time. Lots of creators I follow have from time to time created merchandise that is not related to their strip, doesn’t contain their characters or any mention of their strip, I just don’t have a desire to buy that from them, if I’m going to buy a Koozie (do people still use Koozies, I may be showing my age) or a T-Shirt, I want it to have a character and a website on it so it serves two purposes, cool to wear and advertises something I love.
I love books, but I love to have something in them that is not on the dailies out on the web, that’s what peaks my interest to want to purchase. I think sharing something extra with your readers when they purchase not only gives them a little extra for their buck but connects them to you as well, sort of a shared secret.
Many creators are looking ahead to the digital age, and creating ebooks for people to download, for an easier way to read their comics than the usual archive-clicking format on websites. Do you think you would give a $1-2 ebook a try, to sample a new comic?
Me personally, not unless there was special content, but that’s just me.
So, you have your favorites all set. Can you remember HOW you found them? We creators do all we can to get our comic exposure, but often fall short in terms of actual results.. we try every form of social media, paying for advertising on other (more popular) webcomic sites, promoting at comic cons or other fairs/festivals, or all-out spamming our friends and begging them to share our comics with others. So, tell us… which method would pique your curiosity enough to actually start reading another webcomic?
Wow, that’s the Million Dollar question isn’t it, what all creators are wanting to know how to get their content to more people. Well when I first came across webcomics I was finding them by links on the side bars of other webcomics, then after I joined Twitter and started following some of the creators I started pulling them in on RT’s and now with Google+ as I join more and more circles that grows and grows. I don’t think there’s really an answer that will work for everyone, but I have noticed that sharing another creators work and taking an interest in it get’s your content shared, then a reader of theirs sees it, and shares it and so forth and so forth. That’s how I find most all my new comics now is by what the comics I follow are sharing.
What should we NOT do as creators, what turns you off or makes you not even WANT to check out our comics?
Don’t push your agenda’s too heavy in your comics. I have followed some comics that suddenly became agenda driven in their story lines that have just driven me away. Also, don’t attack other creators who have different opinions, we readers see these in the comments, or on the social sites and it leaves a bad taste in our mouths or we choose a side and somebody loses a reader over it.
Also, don’t change your rating just to draw in other readers. If you’ve had a PG themed strip since inception, keep it a PG themed strip, don’t suddenly go hard PG-13 or R just to draw people in with a shock factor. It draws more away.
Thanks so much for your time, input, and point of view Todd! And THANKS for being a webcomic reader!