You’ve been working hard on your webcomic for a while now – weeks, months, years! And all along the way, making mistakes and learning hard lessons from them. Have you ever stopped to wonder what you’d do differently, if you had the chance to go back? Chris and Dawn recently were in a panel at a comic convention on this very subject, so they turned the question to the rest of the WA gang! Here’s our lists of 5 hard-earned lessons…what are yours?
5 things I would have done differently are...
2. Never have gone with the “stoner” angle for the comic as the primary branding of the characters. The rock and roll branding was so much more broad and easily acceptable, thus more marketable to a larger audience.
3. Never become known as the “guy who draws boobs.” I do way more than that, but because I drew my female characters with their “headlights on” all the time, that overshadowed anything else in the comic. Even though every girl in rock bands during that time period had the same… um, issues.
4. Never started up the Member’s Area without a clear concept of what it would do and produce.
5. Tested the waters more carefully before investing a ton of effort into producing books that my readers did NOT want. As Dawn stated, I followed the “conventional” webcomic model and it did not apply to my readers.
1. It would have been helpful if I had started a HUGE buffer before posting anything. Buffers can be useful for when “life happens”, and sneak peeks to stir up some hype on social media. It would have lessened the pressure of deadlines, much of which are self-imposed anyway.
2. I should have attended & networked at conventions WAY sooner, exhibited as soon as I had something to sell! I waited too long, being under the impression that all-ages comic strips wouldn’t sell at a comic con. In conjunction with this, I also think I should have branched out sooner with craft fairs, book fairs, and art festivals, and really connected with my community. In fact, I probably should have started out that way.
3. I wish I had ignored the standardized “webcomic business model” and found my own path. For Z&F specifically, I wish I never promoted it as a webcomic. It’s better pitched as an indie comic strip series in book form, with it’s own website and online samples.
4. Before I even started posting comics, I should have gotten involved in online and local art communities, and done work to get my name/brand/illustration style out there. Maybe I could have found a fun gimmick or theme that would drum up some attention (such as avatar designs) on social media… further hyping up the debut of my comic– online and in book form. I actually think a book release coupled with the website launch would have been so much more beneficial for my type of comic.
5. I wasted a ton of money on online banner advertising for a comic that’s not geared towards the typical webcomic reader. I kept so few of those readers, who found Z&F through a Project Wonderful ad. Ah, hindsight.
1. I should have cleared my plate of all excess projects before trying to tackle a webcomic schedule. I ended up having to rob time from all my projects in order to try and get ahead with the webcomic – and failed miserably.
2. I should have started with a story that was more palatable to readers’ tastes. An R-rated violent comic has a very limited draw.
3. I should have created more of a business plan and got serious instead of winging it, sitting on the sidelines and watching others attend cons and network.
4. I should have tried to retain a physical hand-drawn segment in the comic instead of going all digital. You lose your skills very quickly.
5. I should have focused on honing ‘my’ specific style instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades.
1. I wish I would have started WAY earlier – not just with Capes & Babes but with all of my online cartooning. I wish I would have started a blog earlier where I could post my cartoons and tried to build up some kind of fan base – no matter how small – before I started the strip and exhibited at conventions.
2. I wish I would have gone down to the local 7-Eleven and bought a six pack of Confidence Juice so I could have gotten over my “star struck” attitude with other creators for so long. It took me a long time to just jump in the river and try to figure out how to swim in this webcomic/convention world.
3. I wish I would have networked a lot more before starting out – either online or in person.
With my previous strip, “CMX Suite”, I realized pretty late in the game what a mistake it was putting real people in the strip. It limited my creative freedom by doing that.
4. Don’t play “follow-the-leader” or emulate everything another bigger, more popular creator might do or say you should do. I tried that and realized everyone needs to find their own path.
5. Just because something worked for an artist with a huge fanbase doesn’t mean the same advice will work for some with a much, much smaller fan base.
1. Reached out to readers as a person sooner. With my first project, I didn’t think anybody would care about anything other than my comic, and I made no effort to engage my readership. I tried to hide or obscure everything I could about my own identity, thinking that people would be bothered by information about the creator. As a result, I had a very quiet and disconnected readership that I’m only now, 10 years later, starting to meet!
2. Connected with other creators sooner. Similarly to #1, I didn’t reach out to other creators. I didn’t use social media, follow blogs, or email people. As a result, all of my decisions had to be made in a vacuum, which created a massive burden of anxiety and isolation. I always felt like the issues I was facing “only happened to me,” and never had anyone “in the business” to brainstorm with. One of the things I’m the most grateful for, having found the Webcomic Alliance, is that I have people I trust to talk to that understand what I’m going through. *GROUP HUG GUYZ!*
3. Embrace and commit to the business side sooner. My entire approach to my creative life changed when I accepted that the only person that could bring me success was me. Not some mysterious benefactor that would “recognize my talents” and make my dreams come true.
4. Value myself as an artist. I’ve wasted so many years telling myself “I’m no good,” or “Nobody likes my art,” that I neglected that aspect of my work. I didn’t invest in education, tools, or resources that could help me push my skills farther, relying mostly on practice and personal challenges. While those are both great, sometimes a great teacher can unlock knowledge that would take years of independent toil to discover.
5. Investigate and trust my own strengths. There are so many things I’ve done because I saw somebody else doing it, and it’s always the wrong thing to try. I’d think “If I do that, then I’ll be successful,” completely ignoring whether or not it matched what I was good at, or enjoyed, or was able to sell with confidence. Nobody knows my audience and my work better than me.
What about you?
If you could go back in time, what are five things you’d do differently for your webcomic?