Webcomics 101 - The Machiavellian Way
I often get mails regarding web comic and how to start it and how to make it in this business.. and to be honest, I'm not the right person to ask - I haven't made it in this business (or any business).
So I took it upon me to write a little guide on how to do it... and yes, it's really very easy, just 4 steps. (Before you read on, look up 'sarcastic', 'ironic' and 'humor' in a dictonary.. and look up the reciepe for swedish meatballs, they're tasty!).
So, how to make it big with a comic. Obviously you have to be more or less talented and/or original (note the OR). You must have an "update" schedule that you never ever break. A reliable server is also pretty important and you must take care of your readers and have a somewhat "personal level" of communication with them all. Having your own domain-name (not being keenspot.com) and no ads/popups helps too.
When starting, you should link to the comics and other sites that give you inspiration and, if you're lucky/pick the smaller comics, you'll get a link back to your site and thus the growth begins. Just like with your readers, you should always keep an open and somewhat honest dialogue with your fellow comic-artists, because you know what they say, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer". Even if they are not your enemies, they will be someday, but more on that later.
A few years ago you could do small "cameo's" with a comic that was bigger than you in hopes of a link and some boost in traffic. But nowadays the gap between the big ones and the small ones are huge, and the chances of a big comic mentioning your cameo-effort is less than slim since you have about 20 comics per day cameo'ing a bigger comic, so the bigger ones simply ignore you or play the "If I link you, I must link all the others" card.
Nowadays the cameo-scene has been replaced with so-called "webcomics-lists" (also known as penis-enhancers) which you can bug your readers into voting for you at. These lists are mostly only used by webcomics-people in the sense that they're the only ones visiting it. Try it, and if you like the ego-boost you get when you climb one step up the ladder from #2498 to #2487 then you're in the right business.
Always remember to be friends with all of the webcomics press so that they don't give you bad press and diss your comic. Do so by linking to their site and now and then link to their columns and reviews and praise it. One example would be "Hey, have you read John Doe's 'PRE-views Four New Blood Webcomics', it is so good that I could die." even if you think he's a worthless piece of strawberry daiquiri. If they do give you bad press, you'll just have to sit there and take it, at least until you get to step 2.
When you have a few comics drawn and something that can actually be called an "archive" you are allowed to put up the "Please donate - serverspace isn't cheap" button and start to make a few bucks so that you can get at least one new game/pr0n-DVD every month. Since you don't pay for hosting when you run the site on your 4/86 dedicated server-computer at home that means you get it all in your own pocket to spend. But be careful so that you don't beg for money, you should save and burn that bridge later when that new xbox game comes out.. or that ps2.. or whatever.. you wanna get laid.
It's also time to put up a forum now to "organize your troops", and remember, don't let anyone but yourself be administrator - you don't want to share the power, not just yet anyway. These are the troops that you send out to flame people/forums/emails/guestbooks of choice since you're now on your way to becoming "the man" and better give the forum-people something to put their teeth in so they don't grow wary.
Comic-wise you should stick to the original concept but you're now allowed to make fun of your readers slightly - but only if your comic gets more than 50 hits when google'ing it.
Start designing shirts is also a good thing now if you can ignore buying a game/DVD one month, you'll have a starting budget, otherwise just finance it with pre-orders (or use the begging-card you saved). When designing shirts, narrow it down to 2 or 3 different designs you like, then ask the readers what they'd buy. When they've had their say, just ignore those stupid fucks, what do they know anyway? Just pick the one you like and go with that. This will make
the readers feel more involved with the comic and you might get a few more
LiveJournal-links from that.
When it comes to syndication, you should always say "No, HELL NO!" to that and make fun of others being syndicated if possible. If approached about syndication for a paper, say "yes", but make it all new comics and if someone discovers it just state that it's a friend of a friend you're just helped out. Cuz we all know syndication is wrong - at least for now.
More or less STFU about your work for the capitalistic syndication machine.
Now is the time to make the transition from medium size to big size. Your fanbase is pretty big now, and if you run anything on ebay that has to do with the comic you can make $80 easy for a drawing not even half done. You should quit your job, and flip off your boss just to burn that bridge so you 100% can't get a job ever again. On your way home from the last day as a honest worker, you should pick up a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince and Art of War by Sun Tzu since you can use a lot of what is written there in your quest for fame and glory.
About syndication, forget what I said about that, syndication is your friend now and it will help you make it big, and since you quit your job to make the comic full-time, you'll need any little dime you can get.
And if you can't (by some odd chance) get syndicated, do it yourself, print a book, and make sure you get a 2,000% profit, anything less would be a failure and you'd be forced to give up drinking on tuesdays and wednesdays, and we can't have that can we?
If you still have links to other people/comics on your index-page, get rid of them fast, you're your own man now, and people shouldn't be able to ride on the huge fame-wave you're about to mount. While you're doing some changes to the index-page, you should make sure to move the actually comic down onto a subpage, so people have to go via your rants and commercials (yes, it's ok to run ads now) before they see the comic. It's not about the comic anymore, it's about daddy now, and daddy needs some bread.
As you might have guessed, it's time to cut the ropes. No linking, no mentions of cameo's, no "w00ts", let someone else handle your forums and most important, only update 1-2 times/week. The change in updates will boost your traffic since people in general will forget what days you update and will go ever so more often. And this is good, since you'll make more money if you get more pageviews. Even if it's your job now and you only have free time, you shouldn't update. Feel free to fuck your readers over with a filler now and then because you are "too busy" with, uhm, something.
Try with one big big bang to diss all the other big comics in their face so that everyone knows they can't fuck with you. This will boost your readership numbers a lot, the new readers will be from the comics you diss since they'll link to you and be mad (if they're not on step 3) and then you'll get some new ones cuz of your rebellion and foul language (yes, use foul language when doing it, we all like foul language). You won't lose any readers since most of them are already hooked and wouldn't leave even if you started doing kitty-porn on the site.
And for future storylines, internal fighting within the community is always fun, and if possible, take it to the streets and kick that motherfuckers ass for bad-mouthing you and your writing.
Now is also the time to make a deal with a huge chain to print and distribute your shirts and books so that you don't have to care about that, and the only thing you have to focus on is the writing of rants and making an actually comic.
Sell the rights to some newspaper/huge site and let them use the old comics as they want, how much they want.. like "Friends" on TV, until people start getting angst and killing them self cuz they've seen it so many times. URL-forward your site to www.tubgirl.com and move to Poland, cheap hookers and snow in the winters.
So, basically, 1) Get friends, love and linking 2) Be nice and loving and linking 3) fuck everyone over 4) ..royally.
That's the guide, now get started minions!
Ponteus Madsen is working on moving from Step 3 to Step 4, but for now updates Little Gamers on a secret and random update schedule.