So You Wanna Put Your Comic on the Web

 

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 ONEΒ  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:

  1. 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.
  2. They find the tedious and relentless deadlines too much to handle and the updates fizzle out
  3. 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….

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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!

 

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26 Comments

  1. Great info, Dawn! I wish this had come out when I first started around Labor Day ’08. I waited thru about 8 months of having a rinky-dink cheapo drag-and-drop website before I got into ComicPress.

    CP was fantastic for me because I could blog as well as answer/read comments for my site. And the upload scheduling was heaven on earth. Previously, I had to wait until my posting time to upload each comic strip (and I posted seven-days a week).

    I am not at all CSS or HTML-savvy, but I learned a lot thru the webcomic community. That’s one of the things that I love about you guys. You are willing to accept some newcomer from out of the blue, just so long as they seem to be willing to put in the work and pay their dues. There’s no other industry or field where you get a lifeline like that. πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, I converted to Comic Press in August of 2008 myself. My original host, FatCow, had a terrible MySQL server and it was SLOW. I got a new host and everything sped up big time. So make sure your host can handle the load Comic Press puts on it (which really is not that much).

      Mr. Frumph taught me everything I know about WP/CP and he’s a fantastic resource.

      And you’re right, the webcomic community is a very welcoming one indeed. They took in this old fart with no problems, so we’re very lucky to have such a great community to be a part of.

  2. I’m a big fan of the WordPress + Webcomic (instead of ComicPress) myself. I find Webcomic much easier to use. Ever since ComicPress went PHP-heavy, I found it almost impossible to figure out. Granted, tech and me don’t really get along, so that’s probably my own ineptitude talking. Still, if you’re like me and not exactly comfortable with this whole ComicPress thing, consider Webcomic as an alternative – http://mgsisk.com/webcomicms.net/

      • What I like best about it is:

        (1) Creating an archive is really easy and fast, and I don’t have to follow any specific naming convention for files. I got my old story SoG (800 pages) up and running in a few hours.

        (2) Navigation via arrow-keys from page-to-page when reading is automatically coded in.

        (3) I can build in storylines and cast pages that are automatically linked to the pages I upload. So if a reader wanted to know who Pakku was and what pages he appears on, they just click on his name in the info below the page and get: http://leylinescomic.com/character/pakku/

        (4) Video tutorials which are well-paced and easy to follow, even for the tech illiterate like me.

        • I’m as big an idiot when it comes to HTML/CSS/PHP as they come. I can fake my way through things, but I’m not a coder by any stretch of the imagination.

          I want to see what it takes to customize the theme/look of this plug-in. If I can get the look I want and it has does what you say it does, then I may be switching over!

          Thanks!

  3. For my last webcomic, I built the entire site from the ground up using scripting and HTML/CSS. While it rarely failed (unless I outright broke it), it was difficult to maintain and a royal pain to update. I never made my own content management system (CMS) to update it, so everything was done by updating the database by hand. It was far more trouble than it was worth. Not that I didn’t have the skill to make the necessary changes, but because I didn’t have the time to implement everything I wanted. Time is the most crucial resource for any webcomicker.

    It was for this reason I decided to commission out the creation of my new webcomic site for Valkyrie Squadron. I commissioned Alice Fox at http://mogki.com and I think she did an excellent job. Creating websites is not my forte and frankly I hate doing it. Rather than kill myself creating a website that would only be half as good, I thought it best to farm the task out to someone more experienced than me so I could focus on putting out the comic’s content. The net result has been a better comic with a better website.

    Commissioning someone to do your website may not be for everyone. It costs money, and if you’re strapped for cash, this may not be an option for you. For me, however, it was worth it to pay someone else to take care of the heavy lifting. I believe in putting a price tag on my sanity.

  4. I don’t have much time at the moment, but I just wanted to thank everyone who added some tips (the webcomic plugin, Frumph, Comic Easel, mogki.com) I forgot to list… or didn’t even know about!
    That’s exactly the type of community we want to encourage around here!

    I kinda wanna see for myself how webcomic compares to comicpress now…..

    • I have my comic Tripp on Smackjeeves at the moment but now that I have done a year’s worth of strips I am dipping my toe in the waters of hosting my own site. I wanted to make sure I’d stick with it. πŸ™‚ While I’m still in the building process I’m using WordPress with Webcomic and really like it so far. It has been a very straightforward and easy plugin to use.

  5. Pingback: Webcomic Alliance - 10 Questions for Creators to Consider

  6. I’m just wondering. You mention 3 or 4 sites where creators can publish their webcomics for free. Is there any obligation to post on only one?? Is it possible to post on each of the sites, or is there some rule against it? Or is it just common courtesy to post on only one, be loyal to that one as it were?

    I’ll take your reply off the air.
    πŸ˜‰

    • It’s totally up to you. I’d try them all out and see which one works for you best. Taptastic seems to be the latest “fad” in Webcomics. And it does seem like a decent site. But, like any site, free or not, it takes interaction and promotion for folks to find your comic.

    • It also depends on the site. I have heard of some free sites having restrictions where, if you’d like to be hosted with them, you can’t host anywhere else.

      That, and it’s always good to keep in mind that if you’re posting on more than one place, your work for every update increases. I co-post on DA, with announcements on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, for every update. It can be a lot of work!

  7. Me and my colleague Leroy Douresseau followed a completely different route for launching our Web comics six-months ago. We adapted an existing site with built in traffic instead. We each were long time contributors to ComicBookBin, a news and reviews Web site (okay, I’m the founder of the Bin). ComicBookBin has been writing about comics since 2002 so we had a built -in audience and traffic. Now, it may not be the right targeted comic reading audience for our respective comics (Grumble and Johnny Bullet) but it was better than starting from scratch.

    Because we have traffic that flows to our other articles, and wide network of people exchanging with us on a daily basis, I guess it was a no-brainer. It took me an afternoon to add Web comic capabilities to the site and we were in business.

    Leroy prefers to keep Grumble exclusively at the Bin. I host Johnny Bullet on many regular Web comic sites. I still consider the ComicBookBin the main host for Johnny Bullet as I post larger versions of the comic there and also post the most recent updates there.

    I find that there is more engagement on existing Web comic platforms than back at “home” but the traffic is quite good. We had to build our traffic like everybody anyway. It took a while before readers trust that we would be regulars. To help each other, Leroy and I both post our comics on the same day at the Bin.

  8. Thank you for your time,expertise and knowledge.I really appreciate it.And depending on the cost I think I will dive in head first to no return except…up.

    Sincerely,James@ASC.

  9. While ComicPress theme is probably the way to go if you just want to get your comic on the web – I don’t think it’s really an option if you want to build an organic reader base. I’d recommend doing a bit more work up front to get the results later on.

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