News Blog Archives

March 12, 2010

New Pinup!

Over the last couple of months, I've been doing some pinups for folks. I don't want to share them all quite yet because I want the giftees to have the right of first post. Ironically, the last one gifted is the first one to make it out on the intertubes, so I finally get to post it!

Guy Davis is hard at work on the third graphic novel of his creator-owned series The Marquis, so I made him a pinup to celebrate.

(click to embiggen)

I can hardly wait to see what fresh new horrors crawl out of his wonderfully twisted brain. If you're not familiar with Guy's personal work, you may know him from his long run on Mike Mignola's BPRD from Dark Horse. A whole bunch of other folks are doing really gorgeous Marquis pinups, and Guy's collecting them on a special blog. Go have a look!

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Self-Publishing "Secrets" Revealed, Part Three: Webcomics

These days, web presence is everything, and while I've maintained my own site for over ten years now, webcomics were never my primary focus. New advertising and promotional systems are appearing (and disappearing!) at a bewildering rate, not to mention all the different hosting options. In this week's edition of Comics are Open Source, we ask Iron Circus' Charlie "Spike" Trotman to share her webcomic knowledge and experience.

THE PULSE: You're currently making the transition from web to print -- did you always see Templar finishing as a graphic novel? What benefits do webcomics have that print editions do not? What shortfalls?

I started Templar as a webcomic with the intention of eventually publishing it on on paper, yeah. That's always been the plan. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but in ten years (or whenever), I want to be able to look up at a shelf and see Templar's full run sitting there.

I still see print as a milestone, in a way. It's proof of the comic's worth, that I believe in it. I'm willing to organize a big pre-order drive and go through all the trouble printing implies for it, because it's that important to me. SO GIVE IT A CHANCE, YOU.

THE PULSE: Templar has thousands of daily readers -- what methods are you using to drive traffic to your site? In addition to paid advertising, which sites and messageboards are good for increasing reader awareness of a new webcomic?

Oh, man. You asked for it.

The forums over at are worth a look, especially if you can be an active participant and post several times a day. And really, I know some eyes are going to roll, but the Something Awful forums are great. They have a sub-forum called "Batman's Shameful Secret" that's comics-exclusive, and it hosts multiple webcomic threads. The creators of a lot of popular comics (Dr. McNinja, Gunnerkrigg Court, Girly, Achewood) post there, and the environment is savagely, unmercifully honest. If your comic is crap, they'll tell you so. If your comic is awesome, they'll tell you that, too. If it's coming from the BSS guys, you can be sure it's not sugar-coated. That's pretty refreshing, considering the state of most online art communities. They can swarm like sharks on terrible comics, though, so they get a reputation for being cruel. It's... well, not totally unfair. But you'll definitely learn something, whatever they say.

I drop in on a few other boards, too. Hyatt Art is small, friendly, and also pretty honest. And I should post more on The Engine, but y'know, only so many hours in the day.

And while they're not really messageboards, I always get a good bump in traffic after a post on Livejournals various webcomic communities. I'm in cartoonists, comic_creators, comixgrrls, onlinecomic, webcomiccenter, and webcomics. I try to be strategic about how I post there, though. I don't tell people every single time I update, for example; I pick an interesting panel from a recent page (Scipio in the shower, for instance, or Reagan waving around a dildo) and try to draw people in once every few weeks. I also don't cross-post. A lot of people are subscribed to multiple communities, and there's nothing more irritating than seeing a copy-pasted message filling up your friends list.

And ComicSpace is awesome. If you have a webcomic that regularly updates and you don't use ComicSpace, you're ignoring a great opportunity. Get an account, fancy it up a bit with pictures and a biography, and befriend other artists and comic readers you like. It's viral! And it's worth a decent amount of hits, too. Just don't be one-a those people who attempt to friend every single soul on the site and spam them daily. People can probably assume you're not very interested in them as an e-friend when your Friends List hits 5,000, and that makes them genuinely less likely to listen to you. The same goes for MySpace, by the way.

That's the most important thing about self-promo in communities, really. DON'T BE ANNOYING. Don't spam LJ communities. Don't post once on a messageboard just to start a LOOKIT MY COMIC thread and never return. Post regularly like a normal person, and you'll get ten times the traffic a drive-by thread will get. A banner in your sig linking to your comic is more than enough.

Don't be tacky. It's so, so easy to be tacky.

And link exchanges! Do some link exchanges! Y'know that one comic you really like? Email the author and ask to swap links! Even the guys running the biggest webcomics ever are normal human beings, they're not scary. Not really, anyway. The worst that can happen is the person will say "No." And even then, it'll probably be a "Sorry, no." Is that so bad? Seriously?

Any hey, don't ignore meatspace, IRL advertising! Print up a bunch of shiny, eye-catching postcards ( has great prices) And place 'em strategically. Next to computers at the library, the internet cafe, or in the computer lab. Ask if you can leave a handful next the register at a comic shop. Dump a few at the free/schwag table at anime and comic cons, or hand them to other creators as a calling card (Handing a Templar postcard to Tycho at SDCC resulted in a link to Templar from Penny Arcade, which subsequently trashed the WCN servers. I was WANGED. We should all be so lucky).

I have a number of other self-promo plans in the works, too. But I'll stay quiet about those until I'm sure they're worth the trouble.

Wow, this answer is longer than I thought it would be. But I'm trying to be comprehensive. There are just so many ways you can go about it! And these are just MY techniques. I haven't even touched ranking and comic-listing sites, which other people use with great success all the time.

And hey before I let you go, quicktip: Sitting on your ass and complaining in your private, friends-locked LJ about how your comic never gets any traffic won't actually result in any. DO SOMETHING about it, WHINER. Nobody owes you a click, get out there and EARN 'EM.

THE PULSE: What do you use to track your visitors, and how do you use that information to fine-tune your advertising? Does tracking data have any other uses besides advertising?

I have Google Analytics. It runs behind the site, records the stats for everyone with Javascript switched on, and doesn't require a big, ugly button on the frontpage. Its primary function is reporting back how effective my promotional campaigns are. (Project Wonderful buttons on Girl Genius are a great deal, by the way. Best bang for your buck I've found so far.) When I'm trying out something new, posting on a new messageboard for example, I keep an eye on my referrers for the next couple of days to see what kind of attention I'm getting. GA saves me time by letting me know what's worth the effort and what isn't.

THE PULSE: You've tried a few different subscription models for your individual webcomics; which ones did you like best and why? Other than offering subscriptions, what are some ways you've earned money directly from the web versions of your comics?

I've had my stuff behind a subscription wall, and I've posted it for free. Far and away, the free comic has been more successful in every aspect. Financially, popularity-wise, notoriety-wise, every way. It makes no sense, but there you have it. Naturally, this means I like the free model of comicking best.

I've earned money from Templar in a few different ways. From least-profitable to most, they go like this: Google Ads, Tip Jar, T-Shirt Sales, and the Pre-Order Project. Least profitable has earned about $740.00 since Templar began two years ago, most profitable a little over $4,000.00 since January of this year. I know I sometimes wish people would tell me all the grisly details of what THEIR comics pull down, so I'll share mine. Enjoy!

The money's not net profits, or course. It's not in a big pile in the living room for me to roll around in. $3100.00 of that Pre-Order Project wad was sunk directly into printing the first Templar collection, yesterday, and a lot of what's left is going for postage when I mail the orders out. I'm going to siphon off most of the t-shirt money into printing t-shirts for con sales, soon, instead of selling through Spreadshirt (Which is a great outfit, by the way! Why are you still using Cafe Press?! Use Spreadshirt!). And a good chunk goes towards Project Wonderful advertising, which doesn't manage to pay for itself. After that, there's art supplies, a never-to-be-touched emergency fund for the day my Wacom finally dies, that sort of thing.

All that money goes back into the comic, ultimately, because I see it as a business. I take it pretty seriously. I'll be registering as an actual business and opening a business account fairly soon, too, because I'm getting into foggy financial territory and I want everything as neat and tidy as possible. Oh God don't audit me.

THE PULSE: About how much can a creator expect to spend on a year's worth of webcomic hosting? What hosting options exist? Are there any other startup costs besides hosting that a new creator should expect?

Haw! I'm the wrong person to ask, my hosting's all free. (Thanks, Joey!) All Modern Tales contributors got free WCN accounts at launch. Joey Manley says Templar was the first comic actually uploaded to the server, too. I was eager.

As for hosting options.. wow. Tons. All over. WCN, of course, is what I'd recommend. Not just out of loyalty, but because I honestly find it the easiest to deal with. The "Popular & New Today" page makes finding what updated that day easy, the peer reviews are fun to read and fun to do, and the genre categories just make navigation simple. The behind-the-scenes interface isn't too intimidating, and actually comes in Standard and Advanced versions. You don't have to iframe your blog onto the page under your comic, but if you WANT to, the option's there.

And hey, WCN's lowest-tier accounts are free! Can't beat that price, and there's always the option to upgrade to an ad-free, paying account for $9.95 a month.

Spike writes and draws Templar, Arizona on
Webcomics Nation. Her past projects have included Lucas and Odessa for and Abraham Todd for Tastes Like Chicken Magazine, both of which are currently being re-run on her ComicSpace, Sparkneedle, also on WCN, and Blikada, on Serializer.

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The JanerBlog is my personal blog, and unlike this newsblog, which I keep PG-13, is intended for readers aged sixteen and older.

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