The Importance of Being Timely
Not having grown up with comics, I still don’t see the magic in Wednesdays that some people do.
I like to think I can walk into a store and find what I need regardless of the day of the week, because the rest of the world works that way. Fresh produce appears daily in grocery stores, clothes are shipped to retailers just about whenever and usually in such a way that a new item appears one day and more of the same come in three days later. The concept of going into a store and missing an update because I’m a day late is a little staggering. But if not for this, the price, ads included, and throwaway size of serial comic books would have still turned me off. Alas, I’m a girl who has trouble keeping up with what time of the week ER comes on, despite it having been on the same day for years.
Webcomics, on the other hand, are sublime in the way they update. A good one updates on time, but I myself don’t have to be on time to read it. In fact, I willfully ignore certain comics for months at a time, only to return and read en masse the updates I’ve missed. This is the Internet equivalent of waiting for the trade paperback, something I do anyway. If it’s not coming out in a trade, why should I bother reading it anyway? If it’s going to disappear off the Net and I can’t read the entirety at once, again, why should I bother?
But just because I, as a reader, can ignore when a comic updates, the creator doesn’t have that luxury. This is the Internet, after all, and it’s a world of immediacy. I can remember spending a few late night in IRC chat and people complaining that Keenspot wasn’t updating right at midnight and they kept hitting refresh on whatever comic they needed. Not to mention the agony, even years ago, of waiting for an Avalon update, when there was no telling when â€“ or if â€“ it would come. The cynicism associated with that comic now is daunting to any author who considers going on hiatus: If you do, your fans may not come back. Even breaking an update schedule can have readers banging down your email door, even if your readership only numbers in the double digits*.
Updating factors into many other aspects of how a comic is received and thought of, not just whether it creates disgruntles fans. A comic that updates everyday tends to build readership more quickly, while a monthly approach means many people will stumble on a comic and forget about it promptly, making ti impossible for the author to tell how many people actually read it. Updating on weekends doesn’t work as well for readers who only have access to the Internet at a weekday job: forcing the reader to go back each Monday a couple of comics and possibly spoil a storyline by reading the current comic first are irritating.
You can even do a cheesy magazine-type chart of relating how a comics updates to the style of a comic, much like you can stereotype what kind of guy he is by the beer he drinks, or tell what kind of perfume to buy based on what movies you like.
Updating every day â€“ Your comic is probably gag-a-day, in a four-panel or just plain comic strip format. Even if it has a continuing story, someone can look at any strip and get the joke. Unless you’re not terribly funny to start with. Sorry. Your fans, no matter how few of them there are, are merciless if you miss an update and very demanding.
Updating weekdays â€“ You either are a slacker with a gag strip that someone else could do every day, or an overachiever with a comic regular folks do three times a week. Whoever you are, I’m sure you’re very very special and would make a terrific boyfriend or girlfriend, if your s.o. doesn’t mind you spending so much time on a comic. Your fans don’t have the Internet at home and only read you at work. Their managers are your worst enemy.
Updating MWF or three times a week â€“ Your comic is probably page format and an ongoing story, though each page may have a punch line or beat at the end of it. Your fans have good memories, or else your comic is so good, people don’t mind reading the same one twice each week.
Updating once a week â€“ Like a TV show, your comic probably has meaty installments, or else most of your fans donâ€™t tune in weekly and wait for the episodes to come out on DVD. You’re most likely to have a very well-drawn comic and a life.
Updating in installments weekly, biweekly, monthly â€“ Your comic is a lengthy one, with a fanbase that’s good at bookmarking. The story is bound to be lengthy and each page cannot stand alone, needing to be read with the ones surrounding it in order for it to make sense. Your art is probably very good, or else people wouldn’t be so patient for the updates.
While certainly some comics don’t fall into these guidelines (my husband never falls into the What kind of man is he? scenarios in Cosmo), they pretty much stand up in the face of reality.
That said, deviating from a set update schedule, updating randomly, or being overly fond of hiatuses will give you either sour readers or none at all. Heck, even I don’t read Framed!!! anymore**, thanks to the wackiest update schedule this side of Fox Sunday. The best thing to do is pick whatever updating schedule you can keep to happily and don’t worry too much about what it says about you as a person, or who your readers are, or what kind of comic it is.
Because we don’t take don’t take those silly columns in magazines seriously, do we?
(*I only kid because I CARE. ^__^ )
(** I care! Also, because I know he doesn’t have the GUTS to call me out on my own updating tendencies! No, seriously, Framed is updating again. Believe it or not. Maybe. Bookmark it.)