Good day folks. I’m not going to beat around the bush in this article – I’m just going to come right out and say it.
A lot of comics you see on the Internet = FAIL.
It’s not always due to the people in charge, but more likely because they are lacking a key ingredient in the big mix. That key ingredient is the binding agent that is required for readers to come back and keep reading, for a community to emerge and thrive and for authors to stay motivated and committed. If you’re working on a comic and you’re not seeing some measure of results, chances are you’re suffering from one of these common problems. Here’s 5 reasons why your comics fail.
1. Your comic is focused on trying to exploit a niche and not about passion.
There’s been a few comics out there that have jumped on the bandwagon on a specific topic (COUGH Video Games?) only to be ridiculed, called derivative and have lackluster results. If you’re creating a comic because you think you’re going to be the next Penny Arcade, good luck. If you’re creating a comic hoping for it to be the online version of Spider-Man, once again I say to you – good luck. It’s been done before, and done well for many years before you came around and we don’t need another similar yet less valuable comic clogging up our precious browsing time.
FIND A TOPIC that you’re knowledgeable in and source your ‘competition.’ (I use competition loosely – we’re artists and we’re all supposed to be friendly creatures.)
If you have found that there is an abundance of comics that are similar to your ideas, go back to the drawing board and come up with a completely DIFFERENT idea. Place that derivative idea in your mental toilet – what you’re starting to do is rid your mind of the mental diarrhea that plagues ALL artists. You want to flush out all of the stuff you’ve seen before and come up with something that is truly unique, and something you know a lot about. If there’s something you know a lot about, chances are you’re passionate about it. The passion will inject itself into your work and people will take notice.
Worry about the financial rewards later when you have books and merchandise and a fan base that rabidly eats up your stuff.
2. You focus too much time on keywords to draw search results to your comic’s site
If you have a comic online, I’d be willing to bet that you’re using WordPress as your platform, and have a blog attached to your pages. Within that blog, some authors feel the need to cram as many tags and keywords as possible to hopefully boost that particular page’s ranking in search results. The amount of time taken to do this (even with the help of plugins) is definitely NOT worth the result.
Why? The answer is simple – people who are searching for a particular topic aren’t necessarily interested in reading a comic about it. Think about it – you make a funny about an electric banjo, stuff the page with electric banjo ALT tags, descriptions, links to electric banjo sites, backlinks from electric banjo sites and write a blog post about the history of the electric banjo in the hopes of catching people who are interested in electric banjos. When a person willingly searches for “Electric Banjo” they’re looking for information from an authority on electric banjos – not a comic about electric banjos. Get it?
You make a comic. That is your passion. NOT electric banjos.
This “wide net” approach might be okay in some types of blogging, but unless you’re truly passionate about that particular topic there’s no point in trying to stuff your pages with specific keywords to act as a catch-all. It’s a poor strategy.
3. You spend too much time on the look of the site instead of the look of the comic.
I’ve seen an alarming trend emerge in the last few years – comics that are absolutely terrible wrapped up in a slick presentation. Sure, the site looks fabulous, but the comic is flawed in its writing, art execution or selection of genre. It used to be the other way around – authors were too busy working on their comic and had to rely on Phil Hofer’s ComicPress default skin to create a look for their site. You know which one I’m talking about – the silver accents with the red gel buttons and the black text? Everyone who decided to make a comic used this template or modified it in some form just to get it up and running.
Now – in order to look less amateurish and more polished, authors are farming out the design to specialists then scrambling to fill this new site with content. It ends up being lackluster and disappointing to the reader. My suggestion to you is to have some PATIENCE.
Try this set of steps if you’ve got a comic idea swirling around in the toilet of your mind.
- Create a proper outline with a theme/setting
- Create your characters
- Draw and develop a style (or have someone do it)
- Determine how long it takes to produce the one strip/page
- Multiply that by the number of times you THINK you can update.
- Reduce that number by 1/3rd and set a release schedule.
- NOW find someone to create a site (or D-I-Y it)
- Make a month’s worth of comics before posting to the website.
- Show it to your closest friends
- Release to the public.
NOW you have a complete package you can be successful with. Running out the door with a bunch of strips in hand and a poorly executed website or vice versa is detrimental to the growth of your comic if you’re starting out. Don’t fall into the trap of making everything look pretty on the outside, when the guts are rotten and rusted.
4. Giving up too early.
Some of you may have read this post and trashed all your work. Some of you may have been discouraged to start.
You quitters suck.
Instead of taking stock in what’s wrong with your comic and FIXING the problem, you curl up in the fetal position with your thumb in your mouth. It’s called constructive criticism for a reason. You take an objective viewer to find potential flaws in your work in the hopes of improving and rectifying the problems. THAT IS HOW YOU GET BETTER AT YOUR CRAFT.
If you quit before you even try fixing the problems, you’ll eventually come across a new set of problems (or regress into old habits which caused the FIRST set of problems) and you won’t be able to avoid them. By attempting to fix what’s broken, you learn how to avoid the problem popping up in the future. Problem-solving is an important aspect of achieving success. If you just run away every time something gets hard, then you’ll never become a master of anything – just mediocre at some things and terrible at everything else.
PUSH yourself to get better. You’ll find that you’ll get to a breaking point where you need to assess the value of your effort vs. the value of your work and it’s only at THIS critical juncture where you can make the decision to continue or cut and run. Never beforehand – that’s just poor form – and quitting early makes you look like you never commit and finish a project.
5. Refusing to invest in your comic
Investing in your comic means a number of things.
- Investment of time
- Investment of money
- Investment of interest
These points seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people cannot meet all three criteria! Tell me if you fit into one of these scenarios…
You have a lot of time on your hands and are highly motivated, but you can’t afford to make the jump and buy merch for re-sale.
Money and motivation are no issue to you, but can’t find the time to sit down and produce the comic.
You have time and money, but you lack the patience to finish a project.
With each scenario, there are ample solutions. It is up to you to take the final step and complete your commitment to the comic and all of its parts.
Don’t have the money to fulfill your goals? Look to your readership and start a pre-order drive. Look for grants, Kickstarter initiatives, and potential investors. Selling out isn’t a BAD thing – being too full of pride to seek out money is no excuse. If you can’t ask people, then get others to help out and do it for you.
Don’t have enough time – cut out a time vampire (TV is the worst!). By allocating that extra hour you gained from wasting it on TV, you’ve gained an hour to work on your comic. That’s YOUR time put to good use. Maybe you’re a bit of a sloth and sleep in for no reason. Set your alarm clock to go off an hour earlier and dedicate that early morning hour to working on your comic. Stop checking your e-mails/facebook/twitter for a day and work on your comic. Unplug your internet and create! Less distraction = more production. It is the TRUTH!
Finally, learn how to focus by employing a bit of work ethics from point #1 and point #2. Make that work into a goal and run headlong towards it. You have the money, you have the time – now focus on what you need to do to complete and execute. Hire a writer/artist. Hire someone to do PR. Talk to indie publishers to distribute your work – the point is, it is on YOU to get off your ass and make it happen. Setting and completing goals is addictive. Once you succeed at it the first time, it is something you want to try and do again and again.
I hope you learned something from this, folks. Don’t let me discourage you and destroy any aspirations of becoming a cartoonist or comic author. I will however, serve it to you straight up – if you’re suffering from one of these 5 issues, it’s time for a serious gut check. Correct your course and it will be smooth sailing – remain in denial, and suffer the consequences.