No Comments? No Friends? No Problem!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been at this for 10 days, 10 months or 10 years. Getting people to comment on your comic/artwork/writing is something we ALL struggle with. It’s not rocket science, but it can appear that way sometimes.

We’ve all tried different strategies to incite engagement, but people just don’t seem to hang around. What gives? Well, I’ll tell you.

Understanding the Reader Mindset


Before you can get people to post on your fan page, twitter feed or comic page, you must first understand what goes on in the minds of your readers.

Typically, there are 3 types of readers that view your content – The fan, the casual reader, and the new reader.  The fan follows everything that you do – your twitter feeds, your rss feeds, your blog posts, Facebook, comics etc.  The casual reader may like your work and pokes in periodically to see what you’re up to. The new reader is looking around to see if there is something that will capture their lintiest and keep them around.

Of all 3 types of readers, there are some common patterns in behaviour that occur.

  • they are too shy to be the first to post
  • they will put off posting in order to do so at a more convenient time (and then forget)
  • they are uninterested in the subject or don’t have an opinion
  • they are afraid to post their views for fear of appearing to take sides
  • they don’t have the time to post, ever
  • they are intimidated by jumping into a community that is already established

Now that we’ve seen some of the common patterns for readers not posting, it is up to the creator to get more creative and find ways to entice readers into starting up some engagement and further developing a community.

Here’s a few ways we can get this done. NOTE: This doesn’t work for everyone, but it is well worth an experiment to see if it generates results.

How to get comments from…

Your Fans
These people are the easiest to get to comment. They may already go as far as interacting with you on a personal level, even about things outside of your work. You already know that they are passionate about your work, so directing a question in things they are interested in will more than likely elicit a response.

Your Casual Readers
These people can be tricky to get to stick around, as they have already decided on how they wish to absorb your content. Again, it is a matter of trying to elicit a response from them by offering a chance to engage through a discussion in something they are interested in. Chances are, the interests of these people is so broad that it is difficult to cast such a wide net.

Your New Readers
These folks are fishing – hoping they’re going to latch on to something they like and enjoy, whether it is the art, the story or the community. As the author, your mission is to establish an environment that is inviting and interesting to the new reader. Typical newbie/starter questions and introductions work best here – that way you can turn these people into fans and keep them from merely becoming casual readers.

So what do I ask these people to get them to start talking?

The conventional approach to getting your readers to comment is to simply ASK them to.
e.g. – What do you think of this week’s update? Send me your comments and tell me what you think.

It’s a start, but will it provide long-term discussion? Probably not. So the next step is to go a bit deeper and examine what the content of your day’s strip or page or update is. Is there a deeper meaning to your work? Is there a social commentary tie-in of some sort? Is there something relevant to an event, item or place in real life that you can take from the update and will allow you to start up a conversation with people?

Chances are, you’ll get a few folks commenting on the content of your update for the day. The ball is rolling. Now you have to build on that momentum – your next update could feature a certain bit of information that you can elaborate upon (an event, item or place) and give people a bit of a information lesson.

e.g. – The design for the steam engine featured in this comic is influenced by etc etc

Now you ask a question in regards to it – perhaps its a bit of trivia, or if they’ve seen it in person, or if they can share their knowledge about it, and so on.

You may have some specific commentary on this topic with very few readers engaging with you, but it will give you some insight into what they know and what they’re interested in. Now it’s a matter of casting a wider net.

The Combo


eehhh….. close enough.

We’ve tried asking reader’s about the update and their thoughts, then we added an additional probe about the specific meaning or relevance to a real-life situation, place or thing, and now we’re getting even more specific by enlightening your readers (or in this case supplementing your work) with information, and asking for additional discussion from readers.

That’s a pretty good combo if you ask me.
– basic query
– thoughts on theme, setting, item relevant to comic
– information on theme, setting, item relevant to comic with a probe and call for additional info from readers

Now, you can cast the widest net by opening it up to everyone and turning it into a contest with a prize. You could start a poll and have people do one of the following:

  1. invent a name to the place or item
  2. have them answer a trivia question
  3. suggest a direction for the comic related to the content for the day

This allows casual readers, super-fans and new readers to get involved without getting in too deep, and leave them with the feeling that they contributed to the comic, AND get something in return for their troubles.

In theory, it could work. Now, I know that seems like an awful lot of work for getting people to comment, right? But you get how the system works. You have to invest time in creating a place where contributions are welcomed – there’s no witchcraft or illusions, just persistence, patience, and experimentation.

You don’t always have to go as in-depth as the Combination route, but you can see how to open up commenting possibilities with your readers by leaving the doors wide open and inviting them to contribute. Experiment with these methods and make them a standard practice. Over time, people will be talking to you, and to each other.

That is how you build a community. One comment at a time.

Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the author of the neo-noir Online Graphic Novel El Cuervo. He provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic skillz so they can pay their bills. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @DrezzRodriguez

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Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints, Tutorials and tagged , , , , .

25 Comments

  1. Interacting with your readers is such an important skill that so many webcartoonists never bother to learn. It’s really the biggest advantage webcomics have over the cherished newspaper strips, being able to respond almost instantly to your audience and getting them more involved.

    I don’t know why a lot of webcartoonists never respond to comments. Not enough time? Too much stress? Don’t care? C’mon, someone took a minute out of their day to tell you that they liked your comic; give them at least a ‘thank you’ or some acknowledgment. If not, they’ll be more than happy to go read someone else’s comic!

    • I agree – the only thing I can think of is that there’s ‘not enough hours in a day.’

      Commenting is probably very low on the priority scale – maybe its just me, but I enjoy commenting. It could be like pulling teeth for others.

    • Let me play a little devil’s advocate here, but what kind of web cartoonist are you referring to? For the more established cartoonist who have been doing this for years, then I can totally understand why they might not be able to respond to everyone, if at all. If it’s a new cartoonist who is brand new to the webcomic world, then I can understand your point.

      I find that generally a lot of cartoonist at a certain level can’t always respond, despite their best intentions, but they are at a point that they have to run a business and that means less time to be able to interact.

      I’ve emailed Dave Kellet a couple of times, with a question or comment. And sometimes he responds. Sometimes he doesn’t. And I can totally understand why.

      Now if I wrote to one of the Penny Arcade guys and they never wrote I wouldn’t be offended because those guys are running a small time empire and probably don’t have much time to respond.

      Now if some chump who ran a small time webcomic didn’t want to respond to me because I wasn’t a big time name, then yeah, I would take issue with him.

  2. Sometimes it’s the comment system itself.

    We never used to get many comments, but we knew people were reading.

    Since the site launch, we used Disqus comments — thinking it would encourage people to comment by allowing Facebook and Twitter logins.

    It had the *opposite* effect. People HATE Disqus and told us so when we announced we were 86ing it.

    Now we actually *do* get a decent amount of comments, and we added that Facebook and Twitter functionality into the WP comment system via plugins.

  3. I’ve tried a few systems – Disqus, IntenseDebate, etc. Just keep it simple – so long as there’s a way for readers to leave a comment via FB/Twitter/WP, then you should be fine. Adding a new plugin to the mix often turns people away.

  4. The comments above are spot on to the biggest reasons I do not comment on certain sites. While I enjoy a strip the hoops I have to go through to comment (including logging in or captcha) keeps me from commenting. And if an artist doesn’t seem to care if he/ she gets comments (they don’t have to respond to everyone individually but at least providing comments that you know they are reading them). Then I don’t bother commenting too often

    • The other negative to that is signing up for a commenting service and then forgetting that you’ve signed up for it – or allowing it to use your twitter, facebook, wordpress, tumblr login, etc.

      It’s supposed to be convenient but really, its just another gate you have to push through.

  5. I often find that receiving comments is a give and take process. Sometimes you can be more connected if you comment on other webcomics as well as encouraging people to comment on yours. But this nevertheless is good advice. I’d ought to put it into practice more often.

    • Commenting on other webcomics works to some degree, but I find that commenting is being replaced by Twitter and Facebook. Two valid reasons for having accounts to both. An option may be to direct discussion over to one of those areas – Twitter is a good spot for firing off quick commentary, and FB is better for things like this – a thread of comments.

  6. You missed one, Drezz: they go off to compose a witty/interesting response in their head and then believe they commented. One of my commenters does this continually. I know her well enough to ask her and she usually replies “Oh! I thought I did comment…”

    What keeps me from commenting is a combination of time restraints, the extra time it takes to log in/do a captcha (IF, my corneal dystrophy will even let me SEE the captcha bits. Even dragging an item from a box to another box, and puhleese! Don’t ask me to do Math!), having their website continually forget that it’s ok for me to comment. I’ve stopped commenting on sites I used to comment on lately since WP added this weird Jetpack comment thing and keeps asking me to login using my WP.COM account, but I don’t have one,and it won’t accept my WP.ORG login. Very confusing.

    I only have less than a minute to comment on the huge number of webcomics I try to keep up with.

    I like it best like right here: whenever I land on this site, the comment boxes are already filled in for me. I breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude and I can concentrate on what I want to say.

    Drezz, you’ve made me aware that I need to ask my readers a very important question: “Is the site itself creating any roadblocks to commenting?”

    Thanks very much for posting this.

    • I used to hate commenting. It was getting into blogging that made me change my ways. It is what professional bloggers teach you to do and just common courtesy to show your favourite creators that you are a living breathing entity that enjoys their work.

      The artists thrives on commentary and discussion about their work – it inspires them to continue creating and pushes them to work harder at their craft. The problem is breaking out of that bubble of shyness, and also having an accessible route to bend the creators ear.

      • Yep! you’re preaching to the choir here, Drezz. Going through the isolation of creating a comic is daunting enough without having it seem to sit out there in the ether and getting no feedback.

        The feedback I’ve been getting has improved my comic and more importantly the paper-media book of the comic when that’s ready to roll out.

  7. I tell new creators that one way to get comments to come in is to actually ask questions. That shows that you are indeed receptive to what your reader thinks. Everyone has an opinion. The hard part is pulling it out of them. 🙂

    It’s similar to the old ways people tried to one-up someone. It works in the comment section too. If my comic features, say….Hank faking sick in bed just to stay home from school, I could ask my readers if they’ve ever tried something like this and how did it work out for them?

    I will receive a variety of answers ranging from entertaining stories of school truancy to tales of actual sicknesses. And once somebody speaks of illness, the old competitive nature arises with a long list of “Yeah, you were a little under the weather, but lemme tell you what sick is…”

    I never know what will prompt a bunch of comment responses form day to day. Some strips I figure will illicit lots of feedback just land flat. Other comics where I suspect there will be a few decent comments ends up making the Top Ten list. It’s hard to gauge and I try not to create comics based on their
    comment-garnering potential, but I do have an idea occasionally of which comics will provoke readers due to the subject matter.

  8. If you’re going to have a comic comments section or even a forum for discussion and response, you need to participate with the readers. If you don’t, why is it there? When I visit comic sites with areas for interaction and I see the author not bothering to give back to his/her readers, it automatically makes me wonder what their purpose is? [I automatically “assume” its a self gratification issue for them and if thats the case, I’m not their to lube them]. I’m a firm believer, if you can’t be bothered, I can’t be bothered!

    It actually annoys me to the point that there are some sites I no longer read because of this. If your going to have a one sided relationship with your fan base, then build your website to reflect it. I’ll respect you more for it, then to “pretend” you want your readers to be engaged with you.

    If you comment on my site, I always respond to it. I even take the extra effort to visit the sites of those who have them and interact with their work as well. I see it as a common courtesy and a way to network and build rapport.

      • With YOU yes, not only is it an obligation, it’s a kind of pleasurable torture as well! [smirk]

        For anyone else, it’s a way to connect and share in each others work! There are sites I comment on that don’t comment at my site [not mandatory], but they interact with me at theirs, or I see them connecting with readers, then I continue to invest.

    • I agree with Jynksie here. I’ve been to some sites where the ownwer nver participate and a certain kind of club forms, with old-timers controlling the conversation, sometimes in ways unrelated to the comic itself and pushing away new commenters. I won’t name the comic I am thinking of, but like Jynksie, I won’t be bothered with that.

      On my site, I always respond to every comment, because I love to interact with others. Comicking (my wife prohibited me from calling it comic stripping) is a lonely pursuit, so I love when I get evidence of someone not only reading it, but taking a bit of their personal time to leave a note on my site.

      If a day comes when I can;t respond to comments, I think I’d just eliminate them from my site.

  9. The one major problem to commenting I’ve had is the spam comments. I couldn’t figure out a way to weed out the spam comments without making the non-spam commenters jump through more hoops to sign in and comment. To date, I have yet to find a decent balance between security and convenience to get the commenters to comment.

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  11. Thanks Drezz (and Robin for pointing me in the direction of this post) I will have to change my ways and see if I can get things moving. At present i seem to have a fan base of mute followers.

  12. I know I’m way late to the party here, but just enjoying your good information. I’m right on the cusp of publishing my first graphic novel “Destiny”, should be out at least by Feb. 2017 and I have to say I’ve been very frustrated with getting beta readers – I know a little off topic from this topic – but along the same lines. Here you are wanting to give a FREE graphic novel for someone in exchange for comments and all you hear is ‘cricket…cricket’. I finally was able to find a few people on ‘goodreads’, but it still seems such a laborious process. This topic you have here is more about consistently engaging your fans, which I’m sure will also be a challenge, but good advice here. You’ve done an amazing job on these posts and I’m enjoying reading them. Thanks!

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