Following up the motivational beginner articles by Ken Drab and Drezz, about how to start creating a comic from scratch, the next step is to get that chicken scratch online! Now, there are varied viewpoints on how many comics you should crank out before “going live” with your website… or if you should start out in a free community or go straight to your own hosted website. My opinion is that it doesn’t really matter in the beginning. If you want to have a good archive to kick off your comic, that’s fine. If you’d rather post one at a time, and leave the buffer for later, that’s fine too. Keep in mind just because your site is launched doesn’t mean the entire world is watching. Probably NO ONE is watching, actually (okay, maybe your mom). You have to EARN that readership, and it’ll take years, so settle in, bub. Here’s the thing though… The majority of people just starting out in webcomics are going to see one of three outcomes:
- They realize webcomics is NOT a get-rich-and-famous-quick field and quit after a month, and only 5 comics (plus 10 Tshirts– and maybe a plush– that they thought would rake in the dough) to show for it.
- They find the tedious and relentless deadlines too much to handle and the updates fizzle out
- The concept or story never quite gets started fully, or the inspiration for it runs dry.. thus the comic goes on temporary, then full, hiatus.
Yes, this is kind of like the “Look to your left, look to your right” speech they give you at college. Most people are not suited for creating a webcomic for the long-haul. Life gets in the way, other things take priority. Nothing wrong with that, not all of us have that level of insanity. But for those of who do, or are pretty sure they will, I’m here to give you your options for getting your comic ONLINE.
Option 1: Free Community Website.
Hey, it’s where I started. Back when I was still submitting to syndicates, I wanted an easy (FREE) website where I could just upload my new comics. DrunkDuck.com, sounded good. Two weeks later I find out Z&F is “Featured” on the front page, I’m suddenly getting a ton of hits and readers, and thus this propelled me into the webcomic community, which I never even knew existed… or was an actual …. well, “thing”.
These communities (others being ComicFury, SmackJeeves, and ComicGenesis) are wonderful ways to dip your toe into the world of webcomics. It’s kind of like training wheels, and riding your bike on the sidewalk instead of being thrown in the street. You get to know other people within that community, get involved in comic jams and group activities, all while working on improving your own comic. My time on drunkduck was something I’ll never regret, and I still have good friends and readers that followed me after I stopped updating on drunkduck. In fact, unless you’re an already established creator or you have extensive website creation experience with HTML and CSS, I highly suggest giving these communities a shot, while you see if webcomics can factor into your life and if it’s worth it to you.
Yes, as you may have heard, the community itself (drunkduck especially) ebbs and flows, and the ratio of solid creators and amateurs who are just goofing around can vary widely. This is the risk you take, but for the cost (*ahem* free!) it’s worth a shot when you are starting out.
Option 2: Create Your Own Site From Scratch
I’d only suggest this for the IT-programmers-turned-cartoonists, or if you have a good CSS-HTML-geek friend with a lot of time on their hands. Typically, the extra work it involves isn’t worthwhile, and updating the site with a new comic may also require extensive knowledge as well. But hey, a fully-customized beautifully designed website can be unique and stand out from the pack, and that can strengthen the experience for your readers.
Option 3: Free WordPress Site
WordPress is a content management system software that gives you the back-end of your site, where you can schedule posts, create pages, and customize your website design. You can get a free (yes, FREE!) WordPress site set up, to see if this route works for you. Most webcomics host their comic on a website with WordPress installed (and using a Comicpress theme and plugins, that allows you to post a comic with your commentary). But the process, and price, of getting your site fully hosted, a domain name, WordPress installed and customized, can seem daunting. It’s a lot to digest, for a website newbie, especially if they are also just digging into what a webcomic entails. That’s where setting up a free WordPress site comes in handy. It allows you to get adjusted to the dashboard and the process of posting comics, understanding what themes and plugins are. By the time you feel you have a grasp on WordPress, you may have a sizeable archive and be ready to upgrade to your own hosted webcomic.
You guessed it, there’s some downsides to the free WordPress site. For one, your URL will have “wordpress” in it, such as “www.yoursite.wordpress.com”. You can only install free themes (themes are like a pre-customized web design template) and the free themes can be headaches…. if you try to further customize them, or update WordPress, or they could even come with maleware installed. Comicpress is also not available for free WordPress accounts, though there are plenty of free themes or plugins that may suite your needs.
There’s other free blogging software out there that could be tested out as well, such as Blogger, but WordPress is more the standard for webcomic creators.
Option 4: Host Your Own Site with WordPress/Comicpress
Like I said in option 3, most webcomic creators host their comic on a WordPress-enabled website. This requires a lot of set-up, and time, and frustration as you teach yourself basic HTML and CSS, if you don’t know it already. The basics of WordPress do allow you to publish your content without knowledge of HTML or CSS, but if you want to customize your site with certain colors, images and buttons, you’ll have to tinker and play the “trial-and-error” game. I did. It sucks. But I have taught myself quite a bit (A huge THANK YOU to the Comicpress Guru, Phil aka “Frumph“), and having full control over my own website is the main reason I had left drunkduck.com. Great power is great responsibility. I heard that somewhere.
So, here’s what you’ll need to set up your own WordPress/Comicpress Site.
- A URL/domain name. This is what you type to go to your site- www.yoursite.com.
- Hosting. This is where your content (website files, images, posts, etc) lives, on a server somewhere, and whenever someone types in your URL, it accesses that server. Be careful who you choose, some do not offer WordPress installation… whereas others make it easy with one-click installs. I use Dreamhost, though many people are also happy with GoDaddy.
- WordPress. Well, you knew that. It can be installed once you have your host set up, usually from within the host’s site itself.
- The Comicpress Theme. Once WordPress is set up, you can then add the Comicpress theme, and plugins that go with it.
- An FTP Program. It just makes life easier, trust me on this one. It will allow you to manually transfer files back and forth, by accessing the “guts” of your website.
You probably have more questions. I could give you a run-down on the different hosts and domain registries, but I’d be stepping on some toes. Instead, I’m going to refer you to the person and article that helped get me off the ground and off drunkduck- DJ Coffman’s “How To Host Your Own Webcomic”. DJ gives you a detailed roadmap, along with his specific suggestions, in this very handy how-to article, and I felt it worth the shout-out. DJ, thanks and you can take it from here….
So, take a bit to decide how much effort, time and money you wish to put into your webcomic. If you’re just testing the waters and not sure if this will be an ongoing project for you, a free service may be a more economical option. If you know you’re dedicated enthusiast, you might as well dive in head-first and spend a weekend figuring out domain names and hosts and WordPress. Either way, just KEEP DRAWING, nose to the grindstone, friends. It’s a long road ahead!