It’s been a few months since my last update regarding the comic service Tapastic. I talked about the pros of being a part of a larger entity to display your work, and how the future of mobile content will affect the delivery of our work to the masses.
I completed the migration of my comic, El Cuervo: The Latin Assassin over to Tapastic a few months ago and I couldn’t be happier. I was trumpeting the possibilities for success using the platform, and along the way I ended up ruffling a few feathers and was accused of writing a puff-piece that didn’t show any negatives to joining the service. In the essence of fairness, I will share a few of the negative issues surrounding the platform for comparison.
There was a time in the very beginning where Tapastic was including comics without the author’s consent (not maliciously) as a vehicle for promoting comics and the platform. That was in the beginning – currently they house a lot of user-uploaded content as well as comics with artist’s consent and have made deals with other comics services (inkblazers, etc) to bolster their ranks. But a bad rap can be tough to beat, and often, the accusations of being a comics scraper still linger.
This is a constant struggle with the platform. Tapastic has a number of completed series which they plug as part of their premium pay-per-view comics. They also have a number of categories and content displays for up and coming artists, collections by genre, new and fresh content, etc. Getting views on the main page can be trying, and for creators that are just starting out on the platform, it is very easy to get lost in the constant stream of updates. Some of the content promotion seems random, and could be perceived as favoritism for popular titles and gag-a-day content which produces content and is (easier to share) at a rapid rate.
The platform has been criticized for serving ads between comics as a means for generating income, to which they offered to share it with creators at an undisclosed rate (for those outside of the program.) The ad revenue model they once employed was only for those that qualified (had to meet a minimum number of views and have a certain number of subscriptions.) The program was taken offline in order for it to be retooled, yet the ads remained, irking some creators looking to earn income from the revenue sharing. A direct to artist support system was developed (similar to Patreon) where fans could set an amount to support their favourite creators.
Recently (as of May) Tapastic has rolled out a revamped ad revenue system and the display of the results appear to be fairly positive. The system allows creators to track the number of impressions they have daily/monthly, the amount of income they have generated and the profit they have made after Tapastic takes their cut. It has only been a month into the new system, and it has been met with overwhelming approval from the users. Only time will tell if this model will work long-term (many questions about sustainability from skeptical users.)
Since Tapastic is a closed platform, it is difficult to brand your page as you would brand your own website for your comic. Your comic will always be displayed in the Tapastic environment, regardless of the content or header information/graphics. A number of users have requested more customization options to alter the look of the presentation of their comic to no avail. Currently, Tapastic is the platform/service and adheres to their branded look of the platform in order to maintain focus on their brand overall – this is a concession that needs to be made when posting your work on Tapastic. If branding is vital to you and your work, you may want to look for a different option.
The Push for Mobile-Friendly
The Tapastic experience works best on a mobile environment, therefore comics which have not been formatted for mobile suffer greatly in terms of subscriptions and views. Long-form comics creators have raised the greatest concerns, as most long-form comics are set up in page spread format for compiling into issues or graphic novels. These formatting issues are a great hurdle for creators strapped for time and unable to reformat their work to conform to the mobile friendly environment (larger text, downward scrolling movement). For creators, the pressure to conform to the mobile format is too much and increases the frustration level.
Tapastic doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to presenting comics on the platform. There are some basic guidelines for displaying work, but the greatest success is achieved by comics which present well on mobile devices. There have been some accusations of favouritism towards comics that have been created specifically for mobile format, but it is more of a business decision (Tapastic IS a mobile platform, so the importance of showing great looking and functional mobile content is key.)
So what now?
The folks at Tapastic are pretty keen on fixing problems when possible. There are some things that they are firm on and will not change (ie branding, mobile-first) but for the most part, they’ve tried to address a number of the issues that readers/creators have brought up. Many have criticized the platform and its creators for using gang mentality to address issues, but I can honestly say that the folks at Tapastic are extremely receptive to listening and engaging folks who have legitimate concerns. They may not have answers for everything (or answers you want to hear) but you can count on someone at least making an attempt to engage.
I’m not here to persuade or dissuade anyone from using the service, but I haven’t had any issues that would make me want to leave – I had talked about Tapastic as a viable option when it was first making strides but even I was disappointed with a number of things and discontinued using it.
I kept my eye on the platform and watched it evolve and decided to give it a second chance. I was pleasantly surprised at the internal changes. Tapastic fit my needs perfectly, just as it does for many other creators – but your success with it is contingent on your willingness to conform to their rules.
If you’re fine with that, you’ll do well. If this isn’t your cup of tea, don’t read any further and keep doing what works well for you. Don’t just drop everything to convert to mobile because you feel you have to.
The takeaway – A case study.
For a typical case study on using Tapastic, I’ll use my own work as an example.
I don’t have a big following, for starters. Most of you know that I’m a hobbyist, so I don’t do a lot of active promotion or attend cons to extend my reach/viewership. I’m relying on word of mouth and basic social media to attract a few interested folks – so, if you’re a LOT more active than I am, your results will be much more positive.
I have three versions of my comic running on Tapastic right now. The page-a-day, standard print-based spread format – which is my biggest contributor as it has the most separate episodes and updates (bulk), the second is a full 24 page issue condensed into a single episode which appears monthly, for folks to read in one shot as if you had a single print comic in hand, and the third option – a mobile friendly version which bridges the gap between quantity and quality.
The third option has the most potential since it was crafted explicitly for the Tapastic environment. The results have been quite positive, and the comic translated quite well. It makes for a bit more work, but it actually features in some of the front page content from time to time.
As for ad revenue, I have less than 100 subscribers, but each new subscriber tends to do an archive dive on my daily comic update, bringing in an additional 300+ views a day (when the dives occur.) Multiply that by a few new subs that are looking to bite off a big chunk of reading and the ad impressions go up sharply. So far, so good – my numbers are not staggering by any means (I think I earned a dollar so far – ads don’t exactly pay well…) but you can see the potential for decent gains. The revenue sharing program won’t net you enough to make a living, but it’s some extra padding in your wallet.
Do I recommend using Tapastic? Well, it depends on you – it works well for me, and if you’re slugging it out in the same way I am, it may be something you can use to your advantage. If you’re going to go all-in, be informed. Understand the benefits and the limitations of the platform and judge for yourself.
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.