5 Things I’d Do Differently…

5things

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...

Byron

bw-6001. To establish myself as an artist first and thus branded myself as that artist instead of being branded as guy who does a stoner comic.

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.

Dawn

Creator_Bios_Dawn1. 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.

Drezz

drezz_horns1. 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.

Chris

Chris1. 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.

Robin

about_self_large1. 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?

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68 Comments

  1. 1) I would have started sharing my cartoons online sooner, I started a news blog in 2005 that took off right away and made me famous in that arena, I regret that I didn’t think of publishing my comics instead or at the same time.

    2) I would have stuck with King Features when they were publishing me in a featured called, “The New Bread” in the 1990s. My business took off and I went in that direction and stopped contributing to King Features, when in hindsite, I realize they were grooming me for daily syndication.

    3) Not network enough at conventions. I don’t approach the cartoonists enough or engage with them.

    4) Not engage enough online, I find it a chore to comment or network on other comic sites, although I am leaving this comment here.

    5) Not submitting my work consistently to syndicates. I would enjoy drawing the comics and working on them, but I never took the time to actually submit them when they were ready to go. But I do love what Robin said about “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 β€œrecognize my talents” and make my dreams come true.” I still am in that syndication frame of mind when in reality, the internet, smart phone and tablet apps and so much more have opened up the arena and leveled the playing field that we don’t need anyone else to make us successful. We have only ourselves to depend on and can make it happen without a benefactor (or boss).

    • Tom, I have your comic bookmarked and read it often. Your self-promotion is doing more than King Features could have ever done for you. They may have been “grooming” you for syndication, or not. Who can say? Likely not, given the arbitrary and capricious nature of syndicates………Tom, the syndicates are dying because newspapers are dying. And the syndicates never really understood the internet, or the labor involved in exploiting its potential. They lazily assumed they could have major websites pay them for comics, just like the newspapers did for 150 years. Wrong answer………..You’re on the right track and I applaud you.

      • Thanks. I did have this idea of websites paying the syndicates for content. Not so much newspapers, but any website, so it has daily content. Glad you read me and enjoy the work.

  2. 1: started In 1997 instead of 2010
    2: market my comic like it was someone else’s
    3: focus on digital products and formatting for tablets
    4: invest In website development.
    5: make the creation of guest strips and guest content a part of my weekly schedule

    Please note there is nothing stopping me from doing all but number one (that depends on finding a TARDIS).

    Thank you so much for sharing your own top fives!

    • Yeah but Michael, here’s the thing about your number one that’s the same for all of us: Where ever and whenever we decide to start, that’s still way ahead of NEVER starting in the first place. Right?

      That’s the thing I keep reminding myself. Yeah, I could have had X number of Capes & Babes strips done had I started at X year or whatever, but heck, I started it in 2007 and that’s way better than starting it in 2012, 2015 or even 2020. πŸ™‚

      • You are so right, Chris. I think of all the excuses I came up with NOT to start in 2010 and I should be proud I started anyway instead of whining I didn’t do it the first time I ever thought of it. I could easily be sitting at my desk now thinking, “Just one more art book. Then I’ll be ready… maybe…”

  3. Lordy, in my past ten years of doing this (eep…) I’ve learned so many lessons the hard way. Some of these are a mix of some of the creators above.

    1. Definitely agree with Drezz that starting my Webcomic career with a violent, sweary comic was not the best way to go. Better to reach broad audiences first. And an addendum: just because you make comics without explicit language or violence doesn’t mean you have to make things boring. I’m finding I can get away with a lot of intensity and mature content without being bloody or profane.

    2. Would’ve done more social networking. More than just Twitter or Facebook or whatever, I would’ve tried to connect with other creators. I would’ve found out a lot sooner that I wasn’t alone in this creators gig.

    3. Definitely would’ve reworked the marketing of my current comic Valkyrie Squadron. The Webcomic model doesn’t seem to work all that well for it, but at conventions it does fine. So “Indy comic with web content” would’ve been a much better idea.

    4. Started a production blog for Valkyrie. I did that with Misfortune High, and now I’ve gotten people interested in the piece before it even releases. I think I can start a production blog for VS’ re-release anyway. Nobody’s stopping me.

    5. Built a huge buffer before I ever start updating. “Life” getting in the way is for real. Better to have 5-6 months worth of buffer pages ready to go before you ever launch.

    • Oh man… I could so see Dawn adopting and modifying your number 3 to suit her own purposes, Jules…

      Yeah, Zorphbert and Fred is an all ages comic with additional web content”. Wow! You know, on second thought, this is a great idea for a lot of other comics too, not just Dawn’s!

      • indeed, many of us are finding this out. It could be due to the all-ages aspect or simply that the business is over-saturated and it takes shock-factor to get people’s attention now.

        • Here’s my experience. I started StaleBacon in 2009, and went with Adult Humor and with some occasional shocking content. It’s still fairly popular, but at conventions, it wasn’t adults coming to my table, it was kids.

          I started my all ages comic Dylan McVillain late last year, and just came out with my book. I’ve already sold more Dylan McVillain books, than I ever sold of StaleBacon, and I haven’t even taken Dylan McVillain to it’s first convention yet.

          I think adult humor and shock value is over played at this point. All Ages can be, and will be successful, we just need to change the game, by changing our frame of mind.

    • Waaah! Valkyrie Squadron! πŸ˜€ Just wanted to let you know that while I have never commented on your site, I do love your comic and read it. I don’t remember how I found your site but when I did I tried reading it but it was really hard for me to read a comic with that much dialogue on the computer so I bought the first 2 books and read them that way (which is why I never commented on the site, sorry!). Honestly I do think your comic is better in book form. I hope you don’t take that in a negative way but I really enjoyed it much better as a book. I was very happy so see bad ass female protagonists in a sci-fi setting. So yeah, when you do your revision I will definitely pick up a copy! πŸ˜€ Also P.S. I really liked the packing slips and extras you sent with the logo on it, looked cool.

      • Thanks for dropping a line! Actually, you’re not the first person to tell me that VS works better as a book. Everyone says that, and I’m inclined to agree. Seeing everything in one, big bundle of pages is a way cooler experience than “Blargh! blinding computation screen!” Then again, it does look really wicked on my iPad. Either way, the web format isn’t the greatest, but there’s time to tweak the model for the future.

  4. I started my webcomic back in 2008 and it ran until 2011. My biggest mistake, and why I canceled it, was basing it on real people. Oh, but not just ANY real people….my family! (I even used our real names, our house in the comic looked like our house, etc) The thing was, my family LOVED it. My friends loved it. The comic’s FB page was filled with people I didn’t know who loved it. But I didn’t. Like Chris said, it limited me creatively. I didn’t feel like I could bring in new elements. For example, I did a story arch that involved us getting a dog. We automatically had people calling us asking if we liked our new dog. I didn’t feel like I could have my kids behave in a bratty manner with out people thinking ill of them. I briefly turned it into a journal comic but I couldn’t tell the stories or jokes I wanted to tell.

    With a job change and relocation this past year and a half, I’m ready to dive back in. HOWEVER, I’m doing things differently.

    1. I’ve spent the past year working on a new concept and characters.
    2. I’ve drawn about 20 strips and shown them to past readers who I knew would be honest, if not brutally so!
    3. Like Dawn said I’m working on a HUGE buffer to launch with.
    4. Summer is my busy season at work. I started my last comic in the spring with no buffer. That summer was brutal. I palm to launch my comic in August when school starts back and life calms down.
    5. I plan on using this summer to think about model and marketing. What’s my model?! Typical webcomic model, Dawn’s indie comic model or something else?

    Thanks for a great article!

  5. Great article!

    1) I should have been honest with myself at the very start of the comic instead of trying to make it edgy and uber-angsty in the beginning.

    2) I should have put more thought (instead of the 0% effort I actually exerted) into the title of my comic. The current title says nothing about the comic at all. Thus, I have to do a lengthy explanation to everyone during conventions.

    3) I wish I hadn’t thought of the comic world as a closed circle that I had to be invited into. It took me a looong time to realize that was not the case at all.

    4) I wish I developed myself a little bit more as a comic strip artist, especially the digital side, before I made my big push into bringing my work to the public.

    5) I wish I had a fifth answer. Because all the hardship was worth it. No regrets.

  6. 1. Nothing.

    Life is a journey. The bad often tempered me to handle the good in ways that were impossible before the bad ever happened. I am grateful for all of it. You can’t go back. You can either learn and change using the new knowledge as a tool or fuel, or you can look back and be regretful, which is a total waste of time.

    Let’s say it’s 2018 and you’re still wishing you had done X or didn’t do Y….. well guess what, I’ve given you a time machine to go to 2013 and re-do everything the way you want!

    Stop wishing. Start doing.

    • Thanks Dan, you said it more succinctly than I could. As I learn new things about how I work and what I’ve done, I make adjustments and try to incorporate them into my habits as well as I can. That’s all anyone can do, in art or otherwise.

    • Yeah, coming from a baseball background, I get what you’re saying, Dan. The worst thing you can do in baseball is think too much about that last strike-out or that last error you committed. At the same time though, you don’t want to completely ignore everything you did wrong or else you wind up repeating them and going into a deeper slump or committing more errors. Yet, you also don;t want to harp on your mistakes too much either for the same reasons.

      It’s a delicate balance but I think it can sometimes be fruitful to acknowledge or analyze your mistakes (like reviewing film of a sporting event), figuring out something you could have done differently and then go out and apply those things.

      I’ve heard pro athletes say they have a “24 hour rule” after a loss. You can analyze, pout, and be angry for 24 hours, then after that, it’s time to move on and tackle the next challenge. That’s how I viewed this little exercise. Actually, that was the only way I could view this challenge because so much of what you said is exactly how I feel 90% of the time. πŸ™‚

      Everything I have done in the past – from T-shirt design, newspaper design, web work, college cartoon strip, going to conventions as a fan, comic book reading – ALL of those things (plus so much more) went into creating Capes & Babes and going to conventions. I couldn’t have created Capes without any of those experiences – good and bad. And it’s because all of those experiences that I can put all that knowledge into setting up my table, creating promotional postcards and designing the website.

  7. It depends which day you ask me. On some days, I would say I should have made a fantasy comic rather than a superhero one. On other days I would say that I should have stuck with freelance work and never gotten into self-publishing. On still other days, I would say I should have avoided art all-together, taken up some career that makes good money, and lived a simple anonymous life.

    Today, however, at least at 2:00 pm, I am glad I did the story I wanted to write and draw, and I’m happy for it. No changes needed.

    Let’s see how I feel at 3:00 pm. Artists are moody, after all.

  8. Let’s see, what would do differently..?

    1. I would not name all of my characters with Japanese names when they are not Japanese. (I used to be such an anime nerd. lol)

    2. I would have started with a much shorter comic than starting off with a super long one that was supposed to go on forever.

    3. I would have written out and thumbnailed entire chapters before even starting the chapter.

    4. Like Byron said, I would market myself instead of the comic firstly.

    5. I would have been much more strict about my update schedule. My first and last year I updated on time but in between then… oops!

    Luckily for me I finished my last comic and I can put all of these lessons towards my next comic!

  9. Great article. It shows that you’re introspective enough to recognize what you would’ve done differently, learn from it, and then share it with slobs like me. I’ve always liked this site because there’s no singular promotion of a “Webcomics Model”. I never understood it or thought it was much of a model.

    And I want to know where I can pick up a 6-pack of Chris’ Confidence Juice. We don’t have 7-11. Whiskey makes me moody.

    • Stephen…
      A six Pack of Confidence Juice can only be found in 7-Eleven stores – and the occasional Wawa convenience stores located in that magical realm known as Bufferland.

      πŸ™‚

  10. Great article!

    I think my last comic suffered from being too tame, or maybe in other words, not bold enough.

    1. My URL. Way in the distant past, long before I owned it, the URL was hijacked by pron pirates, and got on several “naughty lists.” Every now and then, I’d have someone tell me the site was blocked by their school or workplace IPs, even though I was making A G-rated newspaper-style comic.

    2. Dropped a lot of $$$ on advertising starting out. Even though I tried to determine the most common sense places to advertise, that still pretty much lead nowhere.

    3. Probably spent $$$ on other things I didn’t need to and never would up using.

    4. Checking stats every day. That can be discouraging. And depressing.

    5. Obsessing over the “right” way to do things, like adhering to a regular schedule whether I had a good strip ready that day or not. The result was a lot of ho-hum half-baked strips.

    My new project is way, way different. I decided to go with a long form story instead of gag-a-day, with a new stylistic approach. It’s also more mature (and more sweary), but aimed indirectly at a pre-existing audience, and maybe easier to make print collections out of.

    Mark

  11. Although my comic is new – or new-ish – I certainly have my own set of regrets to bring to the table (well, we’re all creators here, right? It shouldn’t hurt to show some weakness here, right?)

    1. Have a buffer. This is something I planned for but failed to achieve. The closest I have to a buffer is a comic file in Manga Studio with rough outlines for the first 30-page chapter. However committing to drawing the comic pages themselves proved… daunting. Partly because:

    2. I failed to perform a proper test of my drawing process. When I took to relaunching Icefall, I considered a number of ways to try and improve my drawing process. I eventually settled on drawing the pages on 8.5×11 sheets (so that the pencils and the final comic would be the same size) mostly for psychological benefit – a smaller blank page seems less daunting than a larger one. I also switched to Google (now Trimble) Sketchup for perspective references for scenes. The new process would be outline digitally, print out the outline in blue-line format, pencil traditionally, scan, ink and tone digitally. In theory the process seemed sound. In practice, I’m finding a large number of holes, and am attempting to “fix-on-fail”. This was compounded by my third regret which was:

    3. I tried to do too much at once. I’ve seen a lot of people here say they wish they got into the business end sooner, approached things more professionally, promoted themselves more. I suppose mileage on this bit of advice can vary from person to person, because I tried to do all of those things on top of building the comic. The end result was my attention was pulled in too many directions at once, and with only so much time left over in the day after a gruelling day job, that resulted in little or no progress being made. I’d planned to have the first chapter ready for print by the beginning of April. Now it’s a question of IF the comic will be printed, rather than WHEN. I tried to get into conventions, only with no book to sell (not that it mattered – local conventions either were not comic-oriented and so were no real point to enter, or were so competitive with their Artist Alleys that some were sold out mere HOURS after opening for reservations. I didn’t stand a chance to get in).

    4. I would not have launched Icefall as early as I had. The current story is Icefall’s THIRD iteration. The first two, launched first in mid-2011 and a relaunch in early 2012, were too badly-written to survive, and died quick, messy deaths. In one way the fast demise was a blessing: not enough time to get the word of the comic out there so – please God let it be so – the failures were not high-visibility. Story-wise, I think I’m on more solid ground now, but given my track record, my doubts are legion.

    All of these mistakes have had a near-crippling toll on my confidence this time around, which leads to my fifth (though not necessarily final) regret:

    5. I wish I’d built up a proper support network. I’ve discovered the hard way that my real-life friends are not good in this regard. They’re supportive enough, but they have helped to reinforce the mental trap of “comic = hobby” which has been a problem given my long term plans for comic making. Internet communities are, I’m sorry to report, not much better. Those that have forums (like Smackjeeves and The Webcomic List) tend to be clannish, and for an introvert like myself, that makes entering them nearly-impossible. Others, like Paper Wings or here, were not set up in a fashion where I could connect with people properly. This is again a “your mileage may vary” issue, but I’ve found it scary to approach creators, especially high profile ones like those who appear on these sites, on a one-on-one basis. The article-plus-comment system doesn’t help much either: I can find an article months in the past that’s relevant to a (to me) current problem, post a question in the article’s comment thread – and have nobody see the question for months, if ever. It’s led me to not commenting, period, because what’s the point?

    I suppose that last is not particularly fair, but I feel very much like the deck is stacked against me when it comes to being part of the larger community for a variety of reasons. I know it’s not personal, but that doesn’t lessen the obstacles one bit.

    So there you have it: my five big regrets. I apologize if this more emotional than I’d planned; right now I’m faced not just with regret but fear. I earnestly pray my sixth regret won’t be “I wish I never entered comics”.

    • Hey Andrew, I relate to the place you find yourself in right now. As I mentioned in my #2, I had no peer group for the first 10 years or so of creating webcomics. I had very little support, almost everyone in my life treated art/writing as “just a hobby” that would never be as important as “real work.” It’s very demoralizing, and it also can lead to bad decisions, as there’s nobody to offer council, warnings, or encouragement.

      However, in the past two years I have slowly built up a support network, both online and offline. This was very, very, very, very, VERY frightening to me. I was worried people wouldn’t like me, would attack me for reaching out, would betray my trust…the list goes on. And you know what? Sometimes those things happened. I tested the waters on a lot of different forum communities, social media, podcasts, and other online sites. I also did lots of research into local artists and formed a small group in Denver for support. I evaluated which groups/people were good for me and which ones were harmful.

      It’s a long process, still in progress, and it’s a lot of work. And even with all that, I didn’t really “get” having a social network until I found one that clicked fully with me – which was the Webcomic Alliance. That only came about because I made an effort to be consistently involved and commenting on this site for at least a year before they invited me in. My point in all this is that I too felt the deck was stacked against me – I was the weirdo Engineering kid that never went to art school and wrote strange ultra-psychological obscure stories nobody seemed to understand or care about. Why would anyone ever want to talk with me?? But I forced myself to reach out anyway, and I got better at it, and I found people that I could connect with. You can too!!

      I know it can be discouraging to reach out and get no reply. Sometimes it’s a matter of the person doesn’t like interaction, and sometimes it’s a matter of a poor system (I know on WA, not everyone gets notified that a comment’s been made, so sometimes they get missed – if a comment gets overlooked, don’t be afraid to ping the Twitter account!). Don’t give up on the first try! It’s going to take time to find the right people.

      We’ve got to remember to nurture our projects and relationships, rather than rush them. These are seedlings, not colts. They’re not born to bear the weight of an adult. The ground must be properly prepared for the seed, and once planted they have to be sheltered, fertilized, watered, and observed for a loooooooong growing season. In the end, we may have a tree, and it may even bear fruit. In the meantime, we have to accept that a seedling will not yield a peach right away, and trying to force it will only kill the project.

      But gosh darn it, it’s hard to wait when I REALLY WOULD LIKE A PEACH RIGHT NOW! πŸ™‚

      • Oh yes, I know that feeling. If only there was some way to convert thoughts directly into action, to go straight from idea to finished product… except I imagine such a system would work like what happened to the Krell in Forbidden Planet. Monsters from the Id!

        That said, the seedling analogy is a good one. I’ll try to see if it has an effect on my thinking.

        (Gah, lunch hour is at an end. Gotta get back to work!)

        • Robin put anything I was going to say about as good if not better than I would have. Kudos to you for posting your trials & tribulations and refocusing on what can be done going forward and what is in your rear-view mirror.
          Finding your support group is helpful and most times necessary. I got a quick dose of that when I was on drunkduck.com at the very start of the “webcomic” off-shoot of my career. The people I met there, and then on twitter or at the WA and so-on, made me realize what kind of support I was missing. Friends and family think I’m talented, but comics are only a hobby bordering on selfishness (due to the time it takes). When my kids books were taken on by a small publisher, I saw the difference between “hobby support” and “career support”. People UNDERSTOOD the kids book series, but comics were just some weird doodles that had no purpose. Ironically, our publisher is so small, she put out our books the same way I do my comics– print on demand. The kids book series has essentially gone nowhere, I might even say my comic is more known than the kids books. But that makes no difference.. friends/family think of my kids books first. That’s more “serious”.
          Anyway, rambling aside…you are your own boss Andrew. You have full control, don’t take that for granted. If comics aren’t fun anymore, find a way that will make it fun again. I know some books and some sites and some more-famous people have their rules, but we are truly at another crossroads again… where there ARE no rules. Find your own path & make up the rules as you go, experiment. That’s part of being an artist anyway.

          In regards to reaching out to someone else in the community, I always built up my nerve by putting myself in their shoes. Would I want someone to stop by my table at a con, or email me, saying they liked my work or that they had some questions for me since they respected my work? Well, YEAH! duh. I love to help others, and if my advice resonates or work out for them, it just makes my day. I think many of us creators feel the same way. I found that to be true after going to my first few comic cons and networking– instant friendships were made. I found “my people”. Now, of course, there will be some bad eggs and trolls and people who just too busy to really help… but if you let them close to the doors on everyone else in the community, then you are missing out. Not saying it isn’t hard, but that it’s worth it.
          Best wishes to you Andrew!

    • For your 2. That’s a big one, its so important for a creator to iron out their page making process before they commit to launch dates and stuff. It’s important that the process of constructing a comic page isn’t so long, and inefficient that it makes the whole thing a drudgery. Definitely test the waters first. I don’t know oe many creators know this, but it’s something I live and die by whenever I start up a new comic.

      As for your 5. I remember seeing you on Paper Wings a couple times but didnt hear much from you in regards to your comic. Paper Wings is a place where I’ve connected with several creators, but it goes a little beyond the PW site. I’ve found other creators like Robin by looking up her site and following her on Twitter. That’s where I’ve gotten a lot of one-on-one interaction with a lot of creators and I’m grateful for it.

      I’m always on the look out for more sci-fi comickers (as we are a rare breed on th web), so you can feel free to drop me a line and ask whatever. Here it works like this:

      You: Hey, Jules, what’s up?
      JR: Nuttin’ much, bruh. What’s up with you?
      You: I got a question, you got a minute?
      JR: Okay, man, shoot.

      It works just like that. Not everyone’s this accessible, but I’m chatty. Also, sci fi bros have to stick together.

      • Yeah, I’m gonna repeat a lot of what Jules just said regarding your Number 5. I know I try to always check the “Notify me” comment check box so i get notifications when someone has followed up on a comment I left here.

        Same thing over at my Capes & Babes site. I’m pretty hungry for any nibbling of attention I get so I’m notorious for responding to almost every single comment someone leaves at my site – even if it’s just a “Today’s strip was really funny” comment. Almost always, that’s followed up by a thanks or some kind of acknowledgement.

        And remember, this also works the same way for those of us that write articles and wonder where the heck the comments are too. πŸ™‚

        Believe me, I know how hard it is to reach out and introduce yourself to someone you perceive as being above you (in whatever fashion that might be – more strips, bigger following, whatever) but just remember, we ALL sit on the john and poop the same way. πŸ™‚

        Once you have that thought in your head, it brings EVERYONE down to pretty much the same level. πŸ˜‰

        • Thank you for that image, Chris πŸ™‚ though I think the Bard put it best: “Tickle us, do we not laugh? Prick us, do we not bleed?”

          I’m going to try to make it a policy going forward of being more involved here on the Alliance. I suspect my storytelling goals may be different from the creators here, so I may have some potentially-stupid questions in my future as I try to adapt what’s said here to my own work.

          • LOL! But you have to admit, you’ll never forget about THAT image now, will you? πŸ˜‰

            I think the best thing about all the creators here at the Alliance have a wide assortment of experiences and we all do different kinds of webcomics. Sure, some of us may have similarities between us, but not so much that we’re exactly alike.

            For example, I think – from a creative stand-point – I fit very comfortably right between Dawn and Byron. Capes & Babes can sometimes touch up on the naughty nature that Byron sometimes explores yet my style looks like it could be more kid friendly and might be in tune with Dawn’s strip (but isn’t really).

            Added to that, dawn and I both come from a graphic design background so there’s a similarity there but for the last 8 years or so, my concentration has been more along web design than graphic design. And then Dawn & I are both heavily involved in going to comic book conventions yet Drezz works with conventions on a professional, day job level.

            Speaking of which, Drezz and Robin each have long form experiences to fall back yet both of their projects are very, very different from one another.

            So, to me, The Webcomic Alliance is more like a buffet of webcomic creators… you can take your plate up to our table and take a little of whatever you want from each of us and be completely satisfied afterwards. πŸ™‚

          • poop makes everything better, does it not?

            …erm, maybe I shouldn’t have brought up poop after we switched metaphors to eating a buffet lunch.

          • Dawn, some people might say buffets and poop are an appropriate matching metaphors – especially if you ever get to Vegas and see THEIR buffets! πŸ˜€

      • Yeah, Regrets 1 and 2 have insured my first months are going to be extremely rocky. (I’m personally thinking of going back to the 11×14 sheets as I was doing before – that system was smoother in retrospect, but for the nightmare of perspective. Manually setting up vanishing points, wielding a big ruler to get the lines right, etc… agh!)

        I get what you’re saying about science fiction comic creators being a rare breed, and thank you for the invitation to talk. If I’m going to come in from the cold, now is as good a time as any.

        • If setting up perspective lines on a page is a pain for you (as it is for all of us), you might want to try two things:

          1. Invest in a wide format printer and pencil digitally – I’ve been doing this since the start of Valkyrie, more or less and it works like gangbusters for all the elaborate drawings of the ships and especially the Valkyrie raven cockpit. I set up my blue pencils in PS and I splice in whatever 3D models I need to complete the page. Then, I print the final pencils in blue on a 11 x 17 board and ink from there (I invested in a large format printer: http://www.amazon.com/HP-Officejet-Printer-C9299A-B1H/dp/B002E1RITO). It works like butter.

          2. Invest in a light box and print out your 3D stuff to help your pencilling underneath. Sketch Up allows you to render your 3D work in sheer black and white lines, so you can export a 2D snapshot, set it to print at whatever size you need on the page and use that as your guides. If you’re sticking to your 8.5 x 11 technique, you can get a pretty decent old school lightbox for under $100 (http://www.dickblick.com/products/artograph-lightracer-light-box/). Personally, I got a really sweet, smaller LED light box for under $100 because I got one of Blick art’s 40% off discount cards: http://www.dickblick.com/products/artograph-led-lightpad-series/. It helps to be a bargain hunter!

          Both solutions require a little extra cash spent, but think of it as an investment into your small business and your career. If a little investment can help you improve and streamline your comic making process, I say it’s worth it. Hope this helps!

  12. Hey guys! I am a huge fan of the podcasts, (and of Lightbox) and I just went to my first Con (the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo) over the weekend in Artist Alley, and had a blast! I didn’t make back the money from my table, but all the mistakes are correctable, and in line with this article, here they are.

    One) I didn’t plan well on getting my prints done on time, and to settle for cheap laser copies when everyone else around me had nice glossy full stock prints. Lesson learned print earlier to avoid being WITHOUT prints for the show..

    Two) Spend some money on merchandising, which is a step up from the none I spent for this show. My display looked cheap, unprofessional, and poorly thought out, all of which was 100% true. I had no vertical displays, which meant people had to walk over and look at the art, which can be intimidating for some con goers.

    Three) Not having a helper/minion/partner. Which meant I had to stay there through out all three days of the show, and only got to quickly see the show when a buddy of mine agreed to watch my booth in exchange for free admission. Bummer! I’m still a fan as well! (But he did sell two prints, which was cool)

    Four) Poor research into the buying habits of attendees. I brought a lot of prints, but only two really sold: A picture of Black Cat and Catwoman in a UFC style promotional poster, and a sexy woman wearing a Calgary Flames Jersey. Lesson learned. If you’re a relatively new artist (like me) and you don’t have a book to promote, and your goal is to make money, concentrate on well known properties that you can draw well, and have an interest in. A friend of mine sold out of his Daryl Dixon prints (Norman Reedus was at the show) People will be able to tell if you don’t have an interest in the subject matter.

    Five) This didn’t really apply to me, but I thought I would mention it, because I saw a friend of mine doing this: DO NOT sit with (as Robin put it) the sad artist alley puppy dog eyes, engage yourself and other attendees. Draw! Smile! Comment on great costumes or T-Shirts! If you’re drawing people will love to come up and see what you’re creating, or will feel less intimidated to peruse your art.

    Although I didn’t make enough money to cover my table, I still consider this convention to be a success. I had a great support group (Calgary Drink and Draw) who helped considerably, and the reaction to my art was very positive, even among people who didn’t buy. Yeah I have regrets, but they were all correctable mistakes and I think the next one will be great!

    P.S. Keep up the great work! I look forward to every podcast and chat!

  13. 1. I wish I hadn’t gone down the R-rated path for so long. I alienated people with that approach and created an image of myself and my brand that was unappealing at best.
    2. The strip was created as a little scribble exercise, but I should have “rebooted” when I started my ComicPress site so that all the characters didn’t have this complicated history that the readers were expected to catch up on or somehow know.
    3. I was a latecomer to Twitter. I should have figured it out earlier. Wonderful way to meet and interact with people!
    4. Should have set up a proper comics website as soon as I figured out I had characters that worked instead of gamely slugging away on blogs.
    5. Wish I’d listened to the right people when they were saying the right things. (Basically about the previous 4)

    • Listened to your TTR podast and this comment coincides well with that discussion. I still find it funny that R-rated comics have a hard time just like all-ages comics do. Is there a happy medium we’re both missing, or is it just the over-saturation of the market?

      • I believe that there is a happy medium, but I don’t have the energy to chase that audience, and right now, I’m not interested in chasing that audience because I’m not entirely sure they want to read an online comic. The folks who like Classic strips like Peanuts, Pogo, Popeye would most likely enjoy my drawing style and the story/gag style humor of my strip, so I’m going after those people. They just don’t seem to like swearing and off-color jokes. So, eh. I’m leaning more on character stuff and silliness. The problem now? Getting people to the sight, and that is an issue now that there are SO many webcomics. My aim is to just try to do a fun strip, and hopefully, that will be distinguishing enough to draw readers.

  14. 1. Get better as an artist before I even thought about starting, but I guess it is nice to watch myself progress from depressingly-awful to slightly-less-depressingly-awful

    2. Plan out characters and settings sooner, I really regret not having a clear picture of what I was doing for months when I first started

    3. get a buffer, as a student every few months I run out of any spare time for drawing and I regret not being able to post things for weeks at a time

    4. search out other creators (in the UK specifically, but applies to everywhere) just like Robin said, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in anything but my comic

    5. Improve my writing before I started, when I first started my comic it was a series of in-jokes and madness and it just didn’t work, now I think I’m getting there, but there’s still a way to go, I just wish I’d have tried harder on it sooner

  15. Just wanted to say how awesome it is that we can look at our paths and give ourselves healthy criticism. Good for you, guys! Now, it takes courage to tackle these bullet points, one by one. For me, that’s going to be hardest with doing assemblies and public speaking. But I gotta get over that if I want to succeed! This is no longer the era of cartoonists who could hide behind their syndicate or representative. Gotta go it alone, or go home!

  16. 1. I would have started earlier. The fact that it took me 18 months just to get back to the ability I had as a 21 year old (ability that faded with neglect) was infuriating and I almost quit half a dozen times because of it.

    2. I wouldn’t have started with a superhero book. I don’t even like Marvel and DC much anymore. I have no idea what I was thinking, even though I still believe the idea is a good one.

    3. Control. I began my first (real attempt at a) comic as a partnership. This was a mistake. As a creator, it’s best if I retain complete control over the project from start to finish (though my fiancee is a fantastic resource to help things along when I get in a bind).

    4. Advertising. I wish I had never done it with Variables and I’m keeping my new comic, Aurorae, very low profile until I build up enough content to warrant such exposure.

    5. I wish I had started a less ambitious project the first time around. Very few people create their magnum opus in their first rodeo. For a multitude of reasons, a small, manageable project is the way to go to get your feet wet. It builds readership, confidence, and hones ability and then you can move on to something bigger and better.

  17. I learned all my five the hard way with my first web comic. So, when I started my second, this is what I had learned.

    1. Don’t start a comic when you know you’ve got huge life changes ahead of you. I started my first comic, Reclamation, three months before I was going to move from Japan, spend some time in the states, then go to grad school in England. That completely broke the rhythm of the first couple of years.

    2. At least have an outline planned for a long form story. I wrote about 5 chapters, knew what the end was going to be, but was hazy on what I was doing in the middle. No problem, thought I. It’ll be a couple of years before I get to that point. I’ll have it all figured out by then. Wrong. I didn’t.

    3. Have a buffer. I hated scrambling through a page just to get it up that day and feeling the work was sub-par. I also hated getting sick or worried about going on vacation. Buffers are my bestest best friend.

    4. Get distracted by trying to make income. My first comic was a fantasy, which isn’t high in demand. I had lots of trouble trying to sell merch from it. Since I was having so much trouble making money, I tried to create other prints or fanart just to make money. The fanart kept taking my energy away from my comic, and I often felt like a chicken with its head cut off with all the other work I was trying to do. I learned eventually that focusing on one thing was better for me.

    5. It’s ok to stop. I was having a huge life crisis, dealing with severe anxiety attacks in the third or fourth year of the comic and had to stop doing it. I agonized for days and days because I felt I was letting myself down not finishing this project. But I had to be selfish, or ruin my health, so I made the hard decision to stop. I don’t regret it now, because it was the right thing to do at the time, and eventually I’ll tell that story better.

    So there’s all my mistakes! I made them so ya’ll don’t have to. And I learned from them too, and I think my current comic, LaSalle’s Legacy, is better for it.

  18. FOR MIDTOON,

    1) Start online first and don’t waste time trying to become “good enough” for a syndicate. I started to draw Midtoon in 1998, which would have given me a much earlier and market-friendly start date rather than 2009.

    2) Practice, practice, practice. Draw Every day, and learn to draw with the pad earlier.

    3) Generate a good buffer, like others have said.

    4) Keep at it even on hard times. Midtoon has been interrupted several times when I lost my drive, was sick or both.

    5) Work on side stories to publish as books while the online storyline is in progress and maintain the focus of the strip on a group of characters longer. Earlier chapters were too short and kept the reader jumping between storylines.

    It would be interesting to see how I feel after a while. These are not things I have ‘learned’ but things I think.

  19. 1) I would have spent more time on developing the characters (background and design)

    2) I would have developed the story more.

    3) I would have held off on advertising.

    4) Spent more time social networking at the start (better then spending money on advertising).

    5) I would have managed time better so I could practice more (as opposed to spending on my time on one thing, the comic)

    I’m taking all these lessons (and more) and using them as I work on starting a new webcomic.

  20. 1. I would have started sooner, like five years sooner.

    2. (or maybe 1B) I would have kept up my comic I had five years ago, instead of stopping after a couple months.

    3. I would have built up more of a buffer.

    4. Reached out to local comic artists sooner.

    5. Tried a multi-part story sooner.

  21. I would say:
    1. Started sooner (like a lot of others mentioned) Now Thom did do a few comic projects earlier and that did help. We had some readers coming into this because of that.

    Several years sooner was doable, but I had to talk Thom into it.

    2. More of a buffer. It would be nice. Especially now that we are gearing up to do two stories at once.

    3. Done cons sooner. We only did our first one because we were guests. I wish we had started sooner and did more of them. I love doing them and we have several ones around her. We are ramping that up now.

    4. Maybe not have done the beginning of the story the way we did it. It will all come full circle next chapter, but this is almost 3 years later. I might have done that differently. Hindsight is 20/20.

    5. I wish we had used a different platform. Right now it eats up resources like crazy!!

    I will say that I have learned more about the internet and marketing in the last three years than I ever thought I could learn. It is fun trying to find new ways and be inventive (as inventive as you can be when everything has been done.)

    It has not always been easy and we have given up a LOT to do this (our kids too and I DO feel badly about that) but it is worth it when people know who you are or get excited to see you. Or when people comment and it is obvious they thought about something a lot. That, to me, is what makes it worth it.

  22. Also — I originally read the headline as ‘5 Things I Do Differently’ πŸ™‚ Took me a couple of paragraphs before I realized I had it backwards (ha).

    That also might be an interesting conversation, since we all approach our comics in different ways.

  23. I’m having trouble thinking of 5 things I’ve done wrong. My constant, biggest problem is just how long it takes me to draw a page. That leads me to most of the other problems I have.

    1) I wish I had been doing this for 20 years. Why didn’t I think to start doing a comic strip back when BBSs were around?

    2) No merch. I’ve been doing the comic for 3 years now, and I have more than enough readers to start making merch for, but I’ve never had the time to design anything, much less spend weekends stuffing envelopes. In fact, except for advertising, I haven’t made any money on the comic.

    3) My art hasn’t improved as much as I’d like, partially because I never have time to sit down and study art I like and understand what I like about it. I’d love to have a day where I do nothing but re-read Scott McCloud’s books on comics, study Burne Hogarth’s anatomy books, or browse DeviantArt to find excellent pieces to learn from.

    4) Poor marketing. I’ve advertised a little, but I don’t have any press kits or anything, and haven’t done any interviews beyond two podcasts, much less a local paper.

    I can’t think of anything else I’m doing wrong that isn’t just an extension of “I need more time” so I will instead list some things I feel I did right.

    1) Got my own domain instead of starting off on some site like drunkduck and then having to move it later. I also bought the most common misspelling of my domain and have it forward to the comic (girlpowercomic as opposed to grrlpowercomic) Minor points in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes little things add up.

    2) Went in with realistic expectations. Before I stated the comic, I listened to every episode of the short lived Penny Arcade podcast, and Webcomics Weekly. The PA Podcast helped with my writing and taught me that no idea is so precious that it can’t be scrapped if a better one comes along, and the WW podcast said repeatedly to only do it if you love doing it, you won’t get rich on it, and if you ever make money at it, it will be years before you start seeing more than a few cents profit. The other important thing I learned (which should be obvious but sometimes that stuff needs to be said aloud) is if you want more readers, make a better product. Quality trumps all. Begging for RT’s is fine, posting your comic on facebook is nice, advertising is nice, but all that stuff just brings readers in, it doesn’t keep them.

    In a way, low expectations is a double edged sword, I’ve been quite surprised by the success of the comic so far, but I could also be pushing myself harder in areas like merch. Expecting that little will come of it has probably prevented me from being more aggressive in certain areas.

    3) Engage with the readers. I get a lot of comments on my comics (a surprising amount honestly) but out of ~300 comments on a single post, 10-15 of them are mine saying thanks or answering questions and whatever. Now the comments section has turned into its own little community. On the comic I have up now, there are people (one of whom insists he has a PhD in genetics) discussing how super powers could be accounted for in the human genetic code, they’re talking about control and architect genes, recessive traits, junk DNA, it’s great.

    4) Built a huge buffer before I started. Not so much to have a buffer, but just to develop my start to finish process of making an actual comic, and to make sure I could keep to my schedule before I actually started publishing. The buffer has almost totally eroded now, but it was definitely the right thing to do.

    I’m sure I’ll think of more as soon as I post but that’s all that comes to mind for now.

  24. Pingback: Tomversation &raquo Five things I’d do differently

  25. 1) Allowing myself to get lost in all the noise of how to produce an independently published comic. What started out as a love for the medium, ended in frustration. I can’t speak for others, but for me, I need my work to grow organically towards the mold, not try to fit the project into the mold. Square peg, round hole equates to an epic fail!

    2) There is a fine line between engaging your readers and attempting to please them at the expense of your own creativity. Once you know where you want to go with your work, use your readers feedback as a suggestion and not the rule. I allowed it to steer me into a brick wall. Man those things hurt when you hit them! [blinks]

    3) I dismissed the educational value of going to conventions. To me, thats where you go once you have a product, a marketing plan and an established following. Now, flip that upside down and then you have it the right way. These cons will teach you what to bring to the playground simply by absorbing what you see around you.

    4) I still don’t believe in buffers. However, I do believe that if you are going to put work for readers to sample, whatever schedule you offer them while you are in production mode should be adhered to. People don’t like investing in something and then watching skid to a stop. I’ve learned that my position on buffers has been misguided. I’m still fighting this epiphany though!

    5) In the future, I will use social media for the purpose of exposure for my work, not the inner ramblings of the voices in my head! There needs to be a separation between what one uses for personal and creative.

  26. Thanks to everyone who shared their mistakes (or maybe what they got right!)
    sorry we are so busy and cannot reply to each on of you individually. We hope it’s been beneficial to reflect!

  27. Okay… I kinda like the idea of following the five things we regret with five things we did right. Maybe we should have a follow-up article that counter-balances the “negative” aspects of regret with the positive things we HAVE done right.

    What do YOU guys think? And that goes to everyone reading this right not – not just WA members. πŸ˜‰

    • I’m all for it. You can learn from your own mistakes and those of others, but obviously if someone did something right, learn from that too. It’s like double fisting the learning!

  28. Pingback: Webcomic Alliance - 5 Things I Got Right

  29. 1. I really should have taken the time to learn Photoshop or illustrator properly before I started my comic. It would have saved me a lot of time and energy.
    2. If was really on top of things I would have planned a head for putting my stuff into print. If I had, then I might have been able to put a book out sooner.
    3. I wish I had incorporated more female characters. I’ve been out visiting schools lately and the girls always seem most excited to read my work, but they are not very excited to read about three brothers.
    4. I should have, if I was thinking about it, come up with a color pallet. Coloring is always one of my biggest time sucks and if I had a pool of a few specific colors I think it would make my strip more cohesive and easier to color.
    5. I should have advertized more. Even though advertizing doesn’t always bring in long-term reader, it does however create a certain awareness of your work. An awareness that might pay off once I had a book to sell.

  30. 1. Took art classes
    2. Took design classes
    3. Took web programming classes
    4. Took classes in maximizing Google adwords
    5. Created cartoons that were more marketable to an audience buying books/swag

  31. I just started my comic on July 31st, so I’m still really new to all of this. However this article was a real help and encouragement. I keep thinking that I need to finish one or two complete issues before I start a social media page, or reach out to other creators, or invest money into my website. But I guess that I shouldn’t wait. I’ve only published a dozen pages right now, and the most I do is share them on my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. Alright then, I am going to try harder. Thank you!

    • It’s never too early to start connecting with people. Especially since having a circle of people that “get it” can be a huge source of support, strength, and sanity! It may take a while for you to fund your tribe, but once you do, it makes a world of difference.

  32. Byron, Dawn, Drezz, Chris, Robin: What are your full names and what comics do you produce? I’d love to check them out.

  33. TBH, as far as my comics work on the web goes, it’s hard to think of anything I would do differently… maybe spend a little more time on the designing during the planning stages. But for the most part, what I’ve got is what I asked for.

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