We all want people to read and love our comic.
Updating to only one or two comments week after week can suck the energy from your project faster than a bad review.
And most of the articles I see in response to this frustration are tips on marketing and advertising, and ways of getting your name known in new places.
I don’t doubt that these things will drive traffic to your site.
But how do you turn a casual click into a die hard fan? We’re all looking for an easy answer to this problem. A quick tip with instant results.
However, devoting a lot of energy to driving traffic to your site is like blowing air into a balloon that has a hole in it– it might look inflated, but the air keeps leaking out.
The moment you stop, it will deflate and you’ll wonder where on earth all that energy went.
The biggest “hole” in the webcomics industry is story.
You need to fix that hole if your balloon is going to retain any of the air you blow into it. If you don’t, people will come to your site, read a few pages, become disengaged, and never come back.
Have you noticed that a webcomic with a publisher behind them is usually worth reading?
Publishing has a screening process that does not exist on the web.
Isn’t it a bit telling that most of the really engaging stories on the web have also found homes with publishers?
It costs a lot of money to print a book, and publishers (especially in this economy!) don’t take that risk lightly.
Despite the rapid changes in the industry, most creators still want to be published.
But how do you attract a publisher? Great art, yes. But a lot of great art isn’t being published.
A large readership? Definitely. But how do you grow a large readership?
The answer is to tell a great story. Wisely, most writers do not assume they can draw just because they want to make comics.
Writers feel limited by and restricted to finding and working with artists.
It is a common complaint– either they cannot pay an artist, or they cannot find an artist willing to take on their project.
Some have solved this problem by making photo comics or working in simplistic “stick man” or pixel art styles.
But largely, writers know their limitations and don’t assume they should learn to draw in order to write comics. Unfortunately the reverse is not true.
Bad writing can hide behind good art a lot easier than bad art can hide behind good writing.
Most people, trained artists or not, can spot bad art.
They can tell when a figure looks awkward and unrealistic.
Being able to identify if or why a story is bad is far more difficult for the average reader.
As a result comics with dazzling visuals and poorly written stories can start out strong, generate buzz, but tend to fade quickly. Strangely, the reverse is true.
A great story temporarily obscured by bad art can emerge if given enough time.
Remember the first appearance of the Simpsons?
The animation was clunky and the characters awful. Based on art alone, it is a wonder it ever continued.
Garfield’s original character design is ugly, a bit frighting even and a far cry from the grumpy-but-loveable cat that he became.
Even Neil Gaiman’s early, acclaimed Sandman series is riddled with bad art, but the strength of his stories carried the title through.
If characters and stories connect to an audience, they are given the opportunity to grow in the visual department until the art matches the strength of the story.
No amount of marketing tricks will turn your comic into a success if the story is bad.
But if your story is strong, you can do a lot of things wrong and it will still succeed in the end.
Because of this, Chris and I want to focus the next few episodes of Paper Wings on learning to write better stories so your comic can excel.
We have a lot of great content planned. It’s good to be back!
We want to hear from you:
What is the most difficult part of writing that you have encountered?