It was 1999 and I had just uploaded my first comic strip on the web. Before I had even put together a website layout, and well before I had purchased a domain name, I posted the strips on a message board I frequented to get a response from some friends. It was their enthusiasm that encouraged me to keep going, and not much later I was "officially" a webcomic-er. While the comic was little more than color pencil colored doodles of my friends and I celebrating our late night diner conquests and in-jokes, I still felt the need to share it with more than just my friends and fellow message board posters. After all, the Internet gave me the opportunity to show my comics to many more people than just those who would flip through my college newspaper.
Eight years have nearly passed, and the Internet is a totally different animal. Yet I still find myself running into the same problems that I did then. Promotional efforts seem like a lot of work, and often with little payoff. What have we as webcomic-ers learned in 8 (or more) years? What works and what is not worth the time?
Back at the turn of the century (boy, that sounds weird), webcomics were super new to the scene. Cross promoting on non-webcomic sites was difficult because, as silly as it sounds, the average web user didn’t know HOW to read a webcomic. That didn’t stop me from trading links with Denny’s and Dungeons & Dragons related sites back in the day. They were at least vaguely related to my comic. And while a few people undoubtedly clicked over from time to time, it’s unlikely that they stayed around.
Now, internet users are used to multimedia at every glance and much more familiar with webcomics (even if we still only make up a small part of the Internet black hole.) We simultaneously strive for free accessible content, but have learned to ignore at least some of the multimedia over-stimulation. Weâ€™ve surfed the last few years and made it through animated e-cards, hamsterdance, slow loading flash sites and smiley faces that yell at us.
Cross Promotion on non-webcomic sites is still difficult, but not impossible. The best model seems to be providing extra content for a related site. My current webcomic is an ongoing comedic drama. If I could get a gig doing a weekly webcomic for NBCâ€™s the Office, we would both benefit â€“ they would have extra content for their site, bringing more fans of the show to their site. The people who were looking for more of my work would come to my comic and find another comedic-drama they could enjoy. Thereâ€™s also a chance that this would help me meet John Krasinski, which is probably the most beneficial part of this whole idea. (NBC: Call me!)
Related content could be contributed on a smaller scale. If your artwork is striking, get your artwork onto a website or into magazine. Even if they donâ€™t provide a direct link to your webcomic, people who want to see more of what youâ€™ve done will find you when they google you. If youâ€™re a brilliant writer, guestblog or offer up your knowledge and wit that way. Even if it doesnâ€™t seem to be immediately working, if you provide the breadcrumbs, people will seek you out. Assuming they came from a related source, theyâ€™ll probably like what they see and stay.
Crossovers and Cross Promoting within Other Webcomics
If you were reading webcomics back in the day, you might remember all kinds of crazy characters from other strips showing up in the comics that you read. Crossovers were common and an excellent form of promotion. To keep up with the story, you had to read both comics for the whole week. If you enjoyed the new strip you read after the crossover, you most likely kept reading.
Itâ€™s not hard to see why CrossOvers are not as common now. They were often hard to coordinate, and stood out in re-reading through the archives. Guest strips still abound though, and they can be just as effective for gaining new audience members, especially when done between comics with similar audiences.
To promote ourselves well we should participate in any webcomics event offered to us, and always use it as an opportunity to gain new audience members. We should also keep a links list on our site (especially on our front page) of other webcomics. To better webcomics-kind, a links list along the lines of â€œif you like this comic, youâ€™ll also likeâ€¦â€ instead of (or in addition to) â€œthese are my webcomic friends.â€ Support the community whenever you can. Remember: Very few people read only one webcomic. Promotion of any other webcomic is promotion of webcomics in general.