Yes, I’ve got a lot of junk in my trunk. Now that THAT joke is out of the way, I want to share with you some of the essential goodies I have come across in my travels as a cartoonist on the interwebs. If you’re only just stepping into the webcomics world, you should probably dive into industry staples like WordPress/Comicpress, Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, and buy the “How to Make Webcomics” book by the HalfPixel Crew. However, once you’ve “leveled up”, tracking down the other details that fit your needs.. like plugins, widgets, video software, even iPhone apps… becomes important. I find myself asking (on twitter of course) what others use, and answering a ton of the same type of questions myself. So, here I’d like to open my junk drawer for you to peek inside. (no jokes!) What I have may not be the best on the market, but it works for me.. so maybe it’ll work for you.
WebcamMax Video Software
For a quick $25, this video software allowed me to record my computer screen to show my drawing/inking/coloring process. The Digital Techniques series here at the Alliance was recorded with this software and my Ustream Show (now on hiatus) was also done the same way. The handy little application also offers the ability to insert text, pictures, or even flash animations.
As a sidenote, I also use (free) Windows Live Movie Maker to further edit my videos… add music, adjust the speed, and add transition effects.
WP Survey And Quiz Tool
Once in a while, it’s good to get feedback from your readers. After all, for a lot of us, they are what keep us inspired to stick to a deadline, post on time, and whose comments make those long nights worthwhile. Heck, they may even pay you for a book! A good way to collect feedback is to set up an easy survey, and I used the WP Survey and Quiz plugin tool. The interface is self-explanatory, and after a simple code entry to a page or blog post, you’re survey is up and ready to go! The results are collected within wordpress, and you can review the single or the total results at any time. As Antoine noted in his first “Learning From Experience” post, it’s good to have a strong archive of material before you start asking for feedback, keep this mind. It’s awfully hard to critique 3 comics… that’s when YOU need to make some decisions and map out what your comic is all about, before asking the world to do so.
Putting your twitter feed on your website is a gold standard nowadays.. but which of the 25,304 widgets/plugins do you use? (okay, exaggerating, but there’s a TON of ’em). This plugin was introduced to me by Comicpress Guru “Frumph”, so I know it’s pure gold. Tweet Blender is a streamlined, pretty, easy to use, customizable plugin for wordpress.. and you can just toss it right in your sidebar. And there’s SO much you can include, or not include, you virtually design it yourself. Perfecto.
More for Twitter… Tweet Old Post Plugin
This is a pretty neat little plugin, provided you don’t abuse it. Anything automated in twitter is a slippery slope. I learned my lesson with automated DM’s upon new follows. No one likes that… and it’s hard to disguise the fact that it’s automated. So, keeping that in mind, Tweet Old Post is a plugin that will randomly tweet a post from your archive, with its title. This is great for gag-a-day comics with BIG archives, where the title of the comic could grab someone’s eye and BAM- you lock in a new reader. You can add in a phrase to use along with your archive link, even tack on hashtags that apply to your comic! The trick is nailing down how many hours in between tweets works… because people will start unfollowing you like mad if that number is too low. I’m doing okay with “8 hour intervals”.
Square: Awesomeness for your iPhone
I have to credit this find to Brad Guigar of Evil Inc., as he was the one who introduced me to it at the last Philly Comic Con. Props to Brad. Square is an app, that goes along with a tiny device which plugs into the headset jack, which allows you to take credit cards.. at, say.. conventions! The app is free. The credit card reader is free. The SHIPPING is even free. The “catch” even though it’s not much in my opinion, is that they take 2.75% per swipe. Heck, I’ll take 2.75% less, if I still make a book sale I may not otherwise been able to! Wouldn’t you?
RSS Footer: Pretty-ify your RSS Feed.
If you have a decent knowledge of html coding, or have software that can hold your hand along the way, you can add extra goodies to the bottom of your RSS feed to help direct readers to your website with this plugin. It’s a simple plugin that gives you a text box for any code, images, or plain text, you wish to enter. Also great for an extra Project Wonderful ad. I had some issues with tables, so a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple.
Also, I use the “AddToAny” plugin for the sharing options in my feed, as well as at the bottom of my posts.
Both of these also show up in Feedburner emails to subscribers.
Yoono – Social Networks all in One Place.
Yay! This is one of my ultimate FAVORITE finds! I have babbled about it on the Workshop Podcast here, and I’m happy to share it again. Let me preface this by saying I DO like TweetDeck. It is the best and most in-depth twitter application out there. But I found switching from Firefox to Tweetdeck annoying. For a while I was using an igoogle widget for twitter, but it lacked in many areas and was finicky. What I needed was an in-depth twitter app, that allowed me to easily switch between 4 different twitter accounts, see my lists, and didn’t make me jump to the main twitter site constantly.
Then, I found Yoono, and my life changed forever. Okay, not really, but I was happy. Not only did it give me all this for twitter, but I could also jump between facebook, linkedin, google buzz, AIM, GTalk, and more. And it’s all in a collapsible sidebar in Firefox. Something really efficient about Yoono, is that you can update multiple statuses at once.. by checking off networks from one status update text box. I used to sync my facebook and twitter statuses, but I found there’s a lot that I tweet that my FB friends couldn’t care less about, so I killed the the sync. I use it at home (PC and Mac) and at work as well.
I do have some minor complaints… as I do with anything I’m passionate about. First, the iPhone app seriously lags, so I stick to Echofon and the regular Facebook apps on my iPhone. Next, there’s no way to delete your tweet from Yoono… that’d be nice to fix. Very petty, you also can’t undo a retweet. Finally, and this is more about twitter itself than Yoono, but, the lack of ability to easily see the NATIVE retweets you receive is frustrating as hell for me. I want to thank everyone, but only the “with added comment” retweets show up unless I go digging on twitter’s main site. Just sayin’. That bugs me.
All in all I highly recommend Yoono, if TweetDeck seems like too much to handle. I find Yoono is an in-between for TweetDeck and a super-striped-down widget.
Listal – Collect Your Favs!
Now this one is just for fun. I’m often curious about my fellow cartoonists’ OTHER interests: what movies do they like? Music? What video games do they play, or what books are on their nightstand? Okay, that sounds stalker-ish, but the point is- I’m curious about them as PEOPLE. I stumbled on Listal, a database of books, TV shows, movies, video games and more, where the users can collect their favorites… and then make a neat little flash display box for their websites. Me and my love of organization and collecting, I was hooked. You can view my collections on my “Stuff I Like” page! Now, show me yours! (just setting myself up for more jokes, I know)
Since we’re all in this sharing mood, how about you list a favorite “find” that’s helped you in your webcomic travels in a comment below! I’d love to hear about it!