In the previous post, I talked about the benefits and potential drawbacks of leaving the heavy lifting of hosting and displaying your comic on tapastic, and tried to answer the most commonly asked questions that pop up. I also alluded to the fact that I’ve committed to using tapastic as my platform of choice – so now, I’ll tell you why.
Making the move.
You all know I have my own website, where I’ve been producing my own work El Cuervo: The Latin Assassin, and have been contributing here to provide the viewpoint from a hobbyist creator. On the podcast I’ve see-sawed on whether or not I want to attend cons, create some tangible items (books, issues, prints) and tried to figure out a way to increase exposure for my work.
I won’t lie – it’s a full time job: promotion + creation. It’s enough of a job that it creeps into my day job and occupies some of my family time at night. Everyone says it: it’s the nature of the game…. sacrifice.
But there’s one important thing here: For me, comics are a hobby, not a profession. Sure, I’d like to increase exposure, but my priorities are my family and my day job. So, I have to find ways to make the process a bit more automated and assisted.
During my Christmas break, I contemplated my future with comics. I’ve wanted to go full-bore into illustration, but my love of creating comics and illustrating stories is just as strong. Plus, it’s easier to put down a creator-owned piece of work than a paid commission, so I had to come up with a plan that would boost the signal of my creator owned work, on a platform that catered to an accessible market.
And then it hit me like a hammer to the toe.
Last spring, I had published my work on tapastic while I was revamping my website, so the updates wouldn’t get screwed up (I was messing with the archives and was worried something would get buggered) and used it like most creators have been using it: as a mirror.
That worked fairly well, I had great exposure and built a small following. I tried to engage folks in the forum and continue the conversation back on my own website when it returned. But as we’ve discussed before, it is very difficult to get people to leave their ‘comfy couch’ online.
During my reflection process, I realized that I was trying too hard to coax people out when there was a perfect opportunity to join in and build momentum. It’s like going to a house party, and trying to get people to leave and go to a different party. Some may come, but the majority of folks are fine where they are and having a good time. In this case, tapastic is throwing a HUGE shaker and everyone is invited.
and people know…. I like to party.
In the first week of January 2015, I did a midnight move. I put a link on my front page leading to my uploaded work at tapastic, and took down the archive on my website. I started redirecting any web links to my comic over to my little corner on tapastic. I’ve yet to hear any complaints. It worked – people are enjoying the work and spreading the word.
There was one thing that was gnawing at me. With SO many comics and so many readers, how was I going to be heard and how was I going to succeed on this platform. The answer was in a word that many artists fear – commitment.
Yes. The only way I was going to get something in return was to start giving and sharing. Believe what you will about the laws of attraction, paying it forward, karma, the golden rule and how the universe works… the reality is, if you’re awesome to people, that awesome-ness eventually pays dividends.
With the dawn of a new year approaching, and with me personally trying to loose the albatross hung from my neck – I decided I was going to go for it.
I went all-in.
You don’t have to play poker to understand what I’m talking about. Yes, I bet everything, I’m supporting, cheerleading, being active, being respectul and engaging and understanding, trying to make it work on a platform that has been misunderstood and misrepresented by our community in a number of ways.
Call it what you will – DREZZ IS DRINKING THE KOOL-AID. HE’S PART OF A CULT. WHAT’S NEXT, SCIENTOLOGY!?
Relax, kids. I’m not pushing anything down anyone’s throat here. I’m just here to tell you that I’ve changed my course and stepping out to try something new. When you’re a hobbyist, you have way more flexibility than someone who relies on their website and its functions to provide revenue.
The Webcomic Alliance is all about presenting people with ideas and options to suit all different types of situations. This just happens to be one of them, and so far – this party continues to rock.
So why the sudden change? What’s gonna happen to your website?
I changed course to host and update my comic exclusively on tapastic because I felt the offering had everything I wanted. It was under my nose the whole time, and I just had to trust the platform and get involved. It’s been over 2 years, the site is gaining big momentum and is highly popular. Artists are getting rewarded for their hard work, and it doesn’t look like there’s any plans to fold in the near future.
My risk level is quite low – so the only thing holding me back was the commitment. I’ve decided to buck the trend and make things easier on myself. And that’s just fine with me.
As for my website – it’s going to remain active. The website is still a valid tool for exposure and marketing your work. Right now, I’m using it as an additional portal to my work and as an information center – areas which tapastic is lacking in. I have a background on the story, characters, setting, etc, contact points, etc. But the comic is only found on tapastic from this point forward.
But how are you going to gain traction on a site that big?
The same way you do with your own website. Your success is contingent on the amount of work you put into spreading the message that you’re a creator and where your work is found. The difference is, there is a built-in readership browsing away at tapastic that you can tap into once you’ve achieved some notoriety. It removes some of the guesswork in where you’re pointing your update notifications.
I realize that sounds like a big catch-22, but with the number of readers on tapastic, you’re bound to find someone who reads comics using the platform – and it takes no time at all for them to browse your work while they’re reading their favourites. Instead of prying eyes away from someone committed to a different webcomic on a different site, you’re on the same site… lowering the barrier for engagement.
What are some tips for achieving success on tapastic?
I’m glad you asked. A number of folks have talked about how their mirrored work on tapastic doesn’t get any views, comments, etc. It’s the same argument we’ve faced when we’ve hosted our own sites. We’ve looked into reader interest level, accessibility, social media attention and genres. But, we’ve overlooked a key area that has changed the game significantly. Delivery.
It wasn’t until I looked into what makes a comic successful on tapastic that I realized how it can be applied elsewhere. In my research, I’ve noticed a few things.
• Mobile is the new delivery platform of choice for a number of comic readers.
How often have you heard the response – I don’t like reading books online. I’d prefer reading them in print, or on a tablet or my phone. The same applies to comics. There have been a number of different solutions to help artists – guided view, zooming, scrolling etc. For strips, these options work well. But if you’re the creator of a long-form work with page spreads and visual beats/breaks it ends up being more of a hassle to reformat your work.
The cold truth is, mobile has been gaining ground as the option for most to view their content. It’s handy and easily accessible – which means there’s going to be some adaptation needed and it also means your beautifully rendered pages are going to get squeezed down to a palm sized screen, and that’s a damn shame. You’ve spent all that time trying to make panels and page breaks set up for visual flow – only to have that door slammed in your face when displaying it online.
So there’s another decision to be made. Do you invest the time to reformat your work to increase readership online, or do you continue to format pages for print in the hopes that purists will continue to find your work?
At this stage of the game, I’m tired of trying to force a square peg into a hole that is getting more and more round by the minute.
• Long form comics can do especially well – if they are formatted for mobile viewing.
This means that each panel must be displayed individually, with artwork that can be clearly seen and speech bubbles/text that can be read at 100% size of the confines of a mobile device. Users don’t mind scrolling on mobile devices, but comics are not built for responsive layouts and are proportionately shrunk to fit the confines of the viewing area. Yet another drawback to those who create beautiful, full page works.
It appears that everything you’ve done may have to be remodeled to work. I feel your pain. It’s something that made my heart sink – but if you’re going to keep up with the trends in tech, your content has to adapt too.
Many artists have – and achieved success in doing so. Check out THIS comparison. The following content is from Samurai Genji by Geoff Trebs.
On the left is the page set up for print. On the right is the page set up for tapastic.
(CLICK TO ENLARGE AND COMPARE)
Now, if you had the page layout uploaded to tapastic and viewed it on mobile, you’d have to zoom in to each text bubble to read the narrative, taking you out of the flow of the book. Part of the reason book layouts work is the immersion factor. The minute something pulls you out of that experience and your concentration is broken, reading becomes difficult.
Compare this to the version where each individual panel is formatted for viewing on a mobile screen, and the user merely flicks to advance, with seamless transitions from one panel to the next – with large images to fill the screen and text that is large enough to be read comfortably. No extra effort to read pages.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future of media. This is the future of comics.
• The artwork should be beautiful and appear to have an effort put into it.
We all know that great looking comics tend to fare better online and gain a massive following quicker than comics which aren’t as artistically professional. On tapastic, this is highly evident – the comics that are rendered beautifully and update frequently are the most popular.
On the surface, it may appear that strips and one-off gag comics get most of the exposure and attention, but that’s not the case. There is a thriving long-form community that is active and enjoys longer story-based comics. The key is to engage the community and social media to give and receive recommendations. tapastic users are pretty good about sharing their reading lists and recommendations with others. Especially on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
We constantly see strip comics fare better than long-form comics due to their sheer numbers – but on tapastic, there are a number of amazing long-form comics that are better performers than popular strips. Work your magic and network with readers and creators to get your work seen!
• You need to update with consistency.
Some things will never go out of style – consistency is a prime example of that. People WANT to see great work on a frequent basis. As long as you set the frequency to a schedule that is easily managed, people will subscribe and check in. The same goes for any website, really. But on tapastic, part of the trust-building and subscription recommendations by readers comes in the form of sharing comics that update regularly. There are many series on tapastic with great art and writing that get overlooked or left behind because the updates are too infrequent – causing people to unsubscribe and fill that slot with content that is regular.
Think of tapastic like a TV station. If you find a show you like and plan on checking it out, but it gets cancelled or new episodes don’t appear on a regular basis, do you think you’re going to waste your time waiting for it to come around again? Probably not.
• You need to engage your readers and the creator community.
tapastic has taken advantage of setting up forums for artists and readers to engage in conversations about the platform, their comics, their likes/dislikes, recommendations and suggestions, and helping each other out creatively. The community is growing rapidly, and the feedback is constructive and extremely helpful.
The good thing about the creator community is the interaction with tapastic staff not only in improving the site, but improving the visibility and exposure of your own comic. They offer tips and advice on formatting for mobile, success stories and offer contests and programs for the hard work creators put in.
If you’re out on your own, you have to build your own network for improvement. With tapastic, it’s there waiting for you to join.
As always, I leave you with something to ponder and a few observations.
I mentioned it earlier – readers are reaching a point where they may abandon comic viewing on their desktops and move towards devices that display content just as rapidly and effectively. It’s up to us to optimize our content to make that viewing experience more comfortable.
Personally, I’ve found something that acts as a solution to the issues I face as a hobbyist. I’d like SOME exposure but don’t have the desire to commit to working like a self-employment empire around my work to increase that exposure. I enjoy the interaction with other artists and readers, and the distribution of my comic in a slick interface.
Call it a vehicle for exploitation or call it the new wave of indie comic distribution, I’m calling it home.
And you’re always welcome to drop in for a visit.
Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is an illustrator, author, and podcast personality. In addition to creating the comic book series ‘El Cuervo – the Latin Assassin,’ he provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic process and their production.