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But the critics love us!

So you've posted your webcomic for all the world to see and waited patiently for thousands of adoring fans to show up on your virtual doorstep and bury you in flowers and accolades. Then you've waited...and waited. After a few months you begin to wonder, ok am I completely wrong about this work? I mean sure I love it, and all my friends and family tell me it's brilliant, so where the heck is everybody? You begin to doubt, and who could blame you? You don't throw your lot into publishing something if you think it's going to languish in the back recesses of the internet for all eternity, ingenious but utterly ignored by the public at large. Whether you want to be the next big thing, taking the webcomic world by storm, or you'd happily settle for lurking on an open fan forum while your readers discussed and bitched about your latest plot; you need some kind of affirmation, some reason to keep publishing. Then you get your first big review. My own appeared on ComixTalk  shortly after the Paranormals went live and my team was ecstatic. I mean, finally real proof that someone had read and enjoyed our baby. I mean how can you be anything but overjoyed when your review begins thusly: "When the call went out for reviews of all-ages comics for this month's Comixpedia, I jumped at the chance to discuss The Paranormals, a comic I first discovered in a blog post here and have grown to love."Sure Ms. Howard had some quibbles, but all of us were too blown away by all the positive words to be caught up too much in the criticisms.  And heck, those criticisms she did have were fair and didn't present us with any horrifying surprises.   It's also really hard to be upset when a reviewer starts off using the "L" word.  Of course you then move into the honeymoon stage, and all your previous doubts and fears get swept away as you read and re-read your review over and over again.  Surely, you think, this will be it.  Someone out there who isn't related to you loves your work, and this is someone in the business, someone who lives comics like you do.  This is an opinion that really counts.And sure your hit count goes up briefly as folks click through to give your comic a read.  Some come back, some don't, and after a week or two the traffic trickles back down again.  The honeymoon is abruptly over, you're left feeling like your new spouse just made off with everything in your bank account and swiped your new car to boot.  What happened?  Why did it all go wrong?  Why aren't thousands of people beating down your virtual door to bask in the glow of your genius?So you start planning your next move.  If one reviewer loved your work why not see if you can get another to look it over?  You start hitting the review blogs, politely, of course, and wait for one of them to deign to notice you.  If you're lucky you'll pester hundreds and gain the actual attention of one or two.  At least that was my experience, and after several long months we scored our second review at Casual Notice (http://www.casualnotice.com/blog/reviews/070824para.html), which was even more glowingly positive than the first.Ok it's not just a fluke, critics really do like your work.  So where's the traffic?  Again you get a little bump as the curious and those who rely on the opinions of the critics come to take a look.  But they don't seem to stay, and what's worse, they don't seem to be telling anybody else to come and take a look either.  So what gives?The problem is that critical accliam is all well and good but it doesn't send hordes of people to your site.  Just as some of the most acclaimed books and films won't draw in huge numbers, neither, necessarily, will your comic.  As great as reviews are, and believe me they are, they're not the same as word of mouth and they may do a great deal less for you in the long run than a fluke like a link on "I Am Bored" or "Metafilter".  Reviews can really do a few things for you well:

  1. boost your morale and let you know you're on the right track 
  2. give you serious standing amongst other comic professionals and journalists
  3. point out your works' weaknesses and flaws so that you can work on them

If you expect a review to bring you the kind of traffic that a front page listing on BoingBoing will, you're in for a very big let down.  Use reviews as a method to keep yourself motivated and your work of the highest quality and you really will make the most of them without any of the post-honeymoon depression.Ellie Deyneka is the co-creator, producer and editor of The Paranormals ( http://www.TheParanormals.com ) a webcomic on Bonus.com.