Workshop Mailbag: Marketing Retired Comics

The Alliance wants to get more input from YOU guys. For this, we’d like to do a Webcomic Workshop together regarding one specific issue. Let’s be fun and constructive. I’ll post the actual issue below, make my own comments and then, of course, you guys can start discussing. You can either reply to my own comment or start your own feedback. Sound like a plan? Here we go.

From Danny Burleson of Oy Comics:

“What are some ways to keep marketing a retired comic even though it won’t update anymore?”


Dawn says: My first thought is actually ANOTHER question– “WHY would you want to market a retired webcomic?” I didn’t want that to sound as derogatory as it does. And yeah, it kinda does… so sorry about that. Just because a comic is retired doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading … either a re-read as an old fan, or as a new reader, diving into it for the first time. However, if I personally, came across a comic online, and saw that it hadn’t updated in months…or years… my first reaction would typically be to move along. That’s because, to me, a webcomic worth investing my extremely short allotment of spare time in, would be one that I knew was going to update. I suppose that’s because I feel as though a good webcomic is as dependable as a syndicated newspaper strip– I get a new one to read on a very consistent basis. It’s ALIVE, in that respect. Another part of the webcomics field that I enjoy is interacting with the creators. If a comic is retired, I’m not so sure that the creator will still be around to converse… nor do I WANT to interact as much, knowing the comic is defunct.

That said, I also buy comic collections and graphic novels. This type of media comes to an end. I am OK with this. That’s how a  book works, and how it differs from webcomics in my mind. There may be more books available, or just that one. Doesn’t much matter to me if I am just dipping my toes in something new. If it sounds interesting and the art is impressive, I’ll give it a chance. I have no need to interact with the creator, as books are a separate entity than comics online. The purpose of a book is for me to enjoy, alone and as a I please. Yes, probably on the throne. Definitely no need to converse with creators, then. :0P

The point I’m getting at, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, is that I feel the best way to “market” a retired online comic, is to offer it to people in the old fashioned way: a printed collection. THAT you can market without the pesky “sorry, it’s retired” tagline that just brings the product down. Now you can boast that it’s a finished product! It’s a full-fledged book, start to finish, and here for the taking… erm, BUYING! Get it now before it’s gone! (*note: This could also be a downloadable PDF or an App, for a cheaper price.) Marketing tends to be nothing more than a clever spin on a product… highlighting the benefits and casting a shadow over the downfalls. “Retired” or “Dead” Webcomic doesn’t sound too enticing. But “The Full Collection”, “Packed with bonus material”, now there’s a way to look at it.

No doubt you still have to use the webcomics business model to a degree. It WAS a webcomic, after all. And if you want people to give you their cash for a comic, you have to entice them with more than a few marketing taglines and call-outs. A sampling of the comic is a good idea, maybe a cast/about page to get to know the characters and story. Also, for the past readers who have already read your archives (before you took the bulk of them down), a slew of bonus materials would entice them as well to buy the book. This can be sketches, tutorials of how to draw the characters, fanart, pinups, guest art you have done for other creators, or whatever else you can think of that ties into your comic.

Once all of that is assembled on your website, I see no issue advertising the book, or downloadable PDF/App, the way you would for a webcomic. (ie: Project Wonderful, banner exchanges, Google ads, ect.). Just be sure to focus on the collection, and how GREAT that is… and the fact that it’s a retired webcomic will be an after-thought instead of the tagline that turns people like me away.

Again, my apologies for being blunt. This is just my opinion, and how I see webcomics vs. books being marketed best. So, Alliance readers… what’s your take on a retired webcomic? Is it marketable? Was I too harsh? How would you market it?



Don’t forget, if you have a question you’d like for us to cover, either in an article like this, or at the end of the Workshop Podcast, feel free to send it to us via the Submission form for Listener/Reader’s issues.


Posted in Business, Featured News, Workshop Mailbag.


  1. I gotta disagree. A retired comic has a lot of value. Making it mostly unavailable to the public is, in my opinion, losing out on a great opportunity, both to sell your old work and to direct people to new projects.

    I had a year-long break between finishing my first project and starting my new one. Now, all the old material is still available on the old site, and the original site is an auto-referral. Despite lying dead for a year, it’s one of my top-ten new traffic sources for LeyLines. About 15%-20% of the people who find my new site do so by searching for Shades of Grey related keywords. Many of my current readers found me by looking up SoG out of nostalgia and discovering LeyLines as a result. Plus, I get far more responses and reviews for it NOW than I did while making it, because people are re-reading it and getting a new perspective on the work.

    What would happen if I put it all into book form and took the pages down? Basically, the same thing that would happen if I stuffed it behind a paywall. I wouldn’t make a dime on it, and I’d lose all that traffic and goodwill.

    On the HOW part of the actual question: A completed work will be consumed once by most people. I’d keep the pages all up online, but offer a reasonably priced PDF download for it as well. If a print copy is made, it better be loaded with extras. I’d also make the website as personal as possible. Go back and add comments to pages that have extra insights, commentary, etc. Because the people who read it won’t have that regular dose of relationship-building that they’d get with a “live” comic. The more you can add to the reading experience so that people connect with you, the more likely they are to want to invest in a book by the end. You’re creating a story for people to bond to, not only of the work, but of you and your process as the webcomic went on. The book(s) should be culminations of that tale that people feel invested in.

    I also think that having something finished is a marketable trait, not a disadvantage. How many webcomics up and die, leaving readers to forever wonder what happened next? I always hesitate to start reading new things unless the creator seems committed to actually finishing what they’ve started. In the case of a finished work, that problem doesn’t exist! Highlight this to make up for the fact that it won’t be updating. It doesn’t need to update, it’s already complete, ready for a lazy afternoon of webcomic reading.

    • I see your points, but I think in some ways we are comparing 2 different entities: a webcomic that was never finished or was a never ending gag-a-day type comic that hasn’t updated for years ….vs….. a finished, all-ends-tied-up comic that is ready for book-form or to be re-read online. Which YES, is an accomplishment and should up the value just because it IS completed.

      I never meant to imply to take the comic (finished or not) off the web entirely. A nice site to present it, to welcome new readers or old readers, along with a chunk of comics to read would be a great way to start. No way is anyone going to buy the book based on the cover itself, unless you’re already a famous author/creator. If you wanted to, say, put up chapters 1-3 of a finished work online for free, and the offer the entire 10 chapters in graphic novel form at the end (once the readers are hooked) would be a nice way to bring in some dough along with being welcoming to readers. For gag-a-days, this could be the first 100 comics, and the entire collection would be available in a book or multiple volumes.

      I would agree that if the finished comic is fully posted online, a downloadable PDF is your best best at making some money off it. Just a hunch that people would rather pay a couple bucks to read it quickly, then spend $20+ on a graphic novel of a defunct comic (that’s fully online anyway) where the creator may or may not be available to interact with. That hunch is based on the fact that webcomics earn their hardcore readers who spend money not just by creating an awesome comic, but by interacting with the readers… you, as a person, become just as much apart of the “brand” as the comic and characters. Without “you” there, the readers are less likely to throw down $20’s for your material. However, if the creator moved on to another project, and is frequenting the old site and promoting the old material, there’s more of a chance of selling that $20 graphic novel.

      and yes, bonus material is key! You’re completely right about that! Paywalls for a completed work are useless too, correct. They key is giving enough to get new readers hooked and old readers feeling nostalgic & wanting more. If the goal is to earn some money and market it well, I think you have to give just enough to tempt, and offer a cheap PDF or a full graphic novel to satisfy the appetite you have created.

      In the end, we somewhat agree anyway. My harsher feelings were aimed towards dead gag-a-day comic or ones that were left hanging. Finished works still have a chance, and an even better chance if the creator is still involved with marketing it, interacting with readers. I just think those have a better chance as a downloadable PDF or a book– as the site itself doesn’t feel as alive anymore without updates and new comments.

      • Ahhh I see what you’re saying now. If it’s a unfinished long-form work or a defunct humor strip, I can see what you’re saying. Less so with the strip, as many of them aren’t continuous anyway, but especially with a long-form story. In that case I completely agree with you and see no point in marketing it. Trying to get people engaged in something that will never be finished seems more like a cruel joke than anything else.

        I guess it really depends on how it stopped. Calvin and Hobbes is “defunct”, but that didn’t prevent me from buying the collected books when they came out.

        Perhaps the best option for a selling a dead gag strip might be a “Best of” book, particularly if you’re set on taking at least some of the content down. That way readers might feel like they’re getting the “top quality” of what the strip had to offer. Maybe even some new strips to say “good-bye” and give the unfinished work a completed quality.

  2. Archiving a webcomic can still net you some ad revenue, and more (including merch) if you set it up properly.

    If its a gag strip with limited to no story arcs, you could package a bundle of strips in a themed collection in print and in sections on the website.

    You could also set up a taster page that has your introduction to the comic, ‘the best of’ strips and a long list of your whole comic if you want to go all the way through from start to end. You can capitalize on the ad revenue from the traffic AND make money off of print/PDF selections of the work.

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