Beginners Guide to Webcomicking

by Steve Napierski to Articles

I’ve been working regularly on webcomics since June of ’04. During which I have worked on almost seventeen hundred (1,700) different strips. That’s an average of five (5) comics a week for over six years. And in that time I have learned a few things about webcomics that might just help some of you who are just starting out.

If you wouldn’t read it, why the hell should I?

This is really common sense. If someone else had created a webcomic that looked and read like yours, would you still read it? If not, they why would you think someone else would. There’s a lot of competition out there and you are trying to convince someone else to give up some of their own valuable time to read your webcomic. If your comic is crap, don’t expect much in return.

Your friends and family don’t count!

If you want to get an honest opinion on whether or not your webcomic is good you need to expand beyond the opinions of your friends and family. Having your friends and family read your webcomic is fine, but they’re going to try to spare your feelings. They think that’s what you want to hear, when what you really need is an honest opinion.

Toughen the fuck up!

Not everyone is going to like your webcomic. In fact, the larger your audience becomes the more likely you are to come across people who vehemently despise your webcomic. If you can’t take criticism or your feelings get hurt easily, then just quit. I am serious. The internet is basically an anonymous, unfiltered, sounding board. There’s a good chance you might see or read something about your work that you don’t like. Get over it or get out!

Facebook is not the final step.

Posting a link to your webcomic for your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter won’t really help unless you’ve got friends like Jeph Jacques or Zach Weiner (famous webcomic people). Once again, these are your friends and family. Mentioning it on these sites doesn’t really expand your audience it just reminds them that you’re still putting stuff on the internet.

Get yourself some knee pads.

Unless you already have credentials from previous works or are friends with famous people (ie. Jeph Jacques or Zach Weiner) you, are going to have to whore yourself out. Regardless of your opinion, you are now at the bottom of a very large barrel of webcomics. If you want to move up you are going to have to work for it. That means self promotion, advertising, guest strips, etc… It’s how things work. Get used to it.

Size does matter!

At the end of the day, the size of your audience does matter. Having a strong core fanbase is good, but if your audience only totals a couple dozen it is not great. Until your readership base regular totals in the thousands, you are still just getting started.

Patience, my young Padawan…

It takes time. Success doesn’t come overnight. To be honest, it might never come. But, regardless if it does come, it’s going to be after a lot of time and hard work. So be patient… And I’m not talking about the kind of patiences that can be measured in weeks or months, but the kind that you measure in years.

Hopefully, I haven’t scared you guys away. The internet is vast and there’s more than enough potential readers for everyone. So best of luck on your webcomicking ventures, just try to keep a realistic perspective on your end goals.

Discussion (20)¬

  1. odderz
    odderz says:
    January 12, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    I want to make webcomics.

    But I don’t have a graphics tablet.

    Maybe one day…

    But may I ask, how much revenue do the ads on your site actually generate?

    • savagesparrow
      savagesparrow says:
      January 12, 2011 at 9:02 am #

      You don’t need a tablet to make a webcomic. I draw/ink all my comics by hand, and I like to think it looks pretty good. Adam Hughes–one of the best cover artists alive right now–colors his covers entirely with a mouse. Besides, a tablet won’t make you better at drawing, just a lil’ faster. And that’s only after years of practice anyways ;x

      Great post Steve!

      • Steve Napierski
        Steve Napierski says:
        January 12, 2011 at 9:14 am #

        Or you could be like Adam Warren and only need a pencil and paper to create magic. I honestly think that inking his work is completely unnecessary.

    • Steve Napierski
      Steve Napierski says:
      January 12, 2011 at 9:16 am #

      I’ll just say it’s a nice amount.

    • mycoffeeblack
      mycoffeeblack says:
      January 12, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      I totally agree with savagesparrow. I produce 90% of my pagework with traditional paper, pencil, and ink. At the end of the day I run a vector layer over the lineart to optimize it for online viewing or printing. The use or non-use of tablets really just depends on the style of what you’re looking to create.

      And yes, a magnificent post, Good Sir!

      • Jax
        Jax says:
        January 12, 2011 at 11:36 am #

        Who let you out!? Get back to drawing comics so we can sell out and get paid!1!!!!!1

    • Llance
      Llance says:
      January 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

      Grab a crayon. Borrow a scanner.

  2. PopeMichael
    PopeMichael says:
    January 12, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I have more than a few ideas. I can’t draw, though. Is there any way I can get around that?

    • Disposablepal
      Disposablepal says:
      January 12, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      there are ways around like collaborating with an artist. if your writing is good and you can find someone you can trust to put your words to pictures you can form a good partnership. Look at Hawk and Ananth from Applegeeks or Ananth and Yuko from Johnny Wander

      • Steve Napierski
        Steve Napierski says:
        January 12, 2011 at 9:31 am #

        There needs to be one more Ananth collaboration for the hat trick.

        • Rosscott
          Rosscott says:
          January 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

          Ananth by himself IS the hat-trick. The man is ALWAYS wearing a hat!

    • Steve Napierski
      Steve Napierski says:
      January 12, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      Well, I see three possible options.

      One is to find and artist to work with. Honestly, most webcomics are one man shows, but there are some with duos. Find someone you can work with and going down that route could be an option.

      Two, learn to draw. Necessity is the mother of invention. You might not been able to draw now, but everyone starts somewhere. You can learn to hone your skill over time.

      Three, draw stick figures or use sprites. I really don’t recommend this option. There are successful stick figure comics (ie. XKCD and Order of the Stick) and there are successful sprite based webcomics, as well (ie. Diesel Sweeties and 8-bit Theater), but these are the exception, not the rule. And these webcomics also have something extra that lets then transcend the limitations of the art. Most of the time, sprite and stick figure webcomics just scream, “lazy.”

      • PorkRoll
        PorkRoll says:
        January 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

        Or four, you could just skip the whole web-comic thing and jump straight to whoring yourself out.

    • Llance
      Llance says:
      January 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      If you can’t draw it shouldn’t be much of an impediment. XKCD anyone? The big problem is ideas. That’s why I don’t have a webcomic. No imagination :)

  3. Randomgamerdude
    Randomgamerdude says:
    January 12, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Didn’t you do a comic about this?

    • Steve Napierski
      Steve Napierski says:
      January 12, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      I did a joke about creating a gaming webcomic, but no nothing like this.

  4. Rosscott
    Rosscott says:
    January 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Completely agree with all this. Trust me, I’m an expert.

  5. Christiann
    Christiann says:
    January 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Awesome points. Totally agree with what you said about friends and family — you can’t trust their feedback. Actually, almost none of my friends and family knew about Sticky Comics until last year, which really helped me avoid overly positive feedback or the kind of self-censoring that can happen when you’re worried about what (for example) your mom is going to think. If you can get strangers to like your work, you might actually have something.

  6. govhunter
    govhunter says:
    January 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    What about the importance of knowing how to set up a site, or having oridganal ideas or (after you’re semi-established) going to cons and such?

    • Steve Napierski
      Steve Napierski says:
      January 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

      A lot of that is how to grow your site and webcomic. I was actually going to do some followup articles about similar subjects.