So I invited people to ask questions about making comics last page and I got a couple questions, so here is the first installment of what I have decided to very creatively title “Comics Q&A #1″. If you have a question, post it in the comments, or email it to info(at)bearmageddon.com and put “comics Q&A” in the subject line so it’s easy for me to find when I need it.
First question is from Matthew:
what web hosting features are the most suitable for a webcomics series? Should I look for a hosting service that offers unlimited bandwidth, disc space, etc.? I also plan on linking my webcomics to my multimedia portfolio website (which I also need to find a host for) and vice versa, so do you have any pointers on how I should go about hosting both websites without incurring expensive hosting costs?
I actually feel pretty under qualified to answer this. I’ll tell you what little I know, but I am hoping some more internet-savvy readers can add to the advice in the comments. When we started Axe Cop (by we, I mean my friend Anthony who built the website around my design) we got one of those super cheap hosting plans where you spend something like $20/year and they claim you have unlimited this and unlimited that. All I know is everything was fine until I got a real audience, which happened overnight. When my traffic jumped to viral levels my site slowed WAY down and then just died. When we contacted the hosting company they literally said they were not set up to handle the kind of traffic we were getting, so we had to find a new host and pay for a dedicated server. At the time Axe Cop went viral I had been laid off from two jobs and was really struggling financially. I did not have money to spare, but in order to keep Axe Cop online I had to drop something like $300 to pay for a month of dedicated server. That is when you realize making web comics isn’t actually free, it’s just cheaper than printing… that is if you have people coming to your site. I think Anthony may have fronted the money, or I paid it and dealt with the hole in my bank account, but the host assured us that with the kind of traffic we were getting should be making a lot of money on ads if we put them up. Well, we did, and the ad revenue generally just paid off the server bill every month. Some months it was a little less, some months a little more. Web ads are something I have not really had the time to figure out.
Anyway, all that said… if you are starting a new web comic and don’t have a large audience showing up off the bat, I’d say just look for what is cheap. I’ll actually recommend Epic Digital Media to you right now because they are good friends of mine and they host this site. Epic is run by my old buddy Eric who I did that Jesus comic with. He is a web comic guy himself, so he knows how to speak your language and he can answer your questions well (or whoever he puts you in contact with). I worked for Epic back in the day and actually had a hand in designing a lot of stuff you see around their web site. They are good dudes and will give you a good deal. I’m not just saying that because they have an ad on my site, they really are good.
As for hosting multiple sites, I don’t even know, I never handled that end of things. It is an area I am pretty ignorant of… so far not a real impressive Q&A huh. Let’s try another one…
This one comes from Ben:
I am starting a webcomic very soon … However, I also find myself drawn to writing more and more. My feeling is while I like expressing certain stories through comics, I also like expressing story through just writing. I don’t necessarily want to do just comics for a living, because I enjoy writing just as much and, I’d like to reach a wider audience with my ideas, even though comics are a growing industry right now. I am having a lot of fun just working on the webcomic and preparing it, and figuring out all the stories, so I know its the right path for the character I created. I guess my question would be, do you think its possible for someone to have an established webcomic, but also be able to still keep that type of audience through writing books? I have ideas for both comics and novels, and I’d include drawings with the novels, but I wanted to see if you had any advice on how to get your audience to keep following you (when I’d maybe get one) when you move on to things that are different. Sorry if it doesn’t make sense, I tried to word it best I could. I basically want to do two mediums, and they are drawing comics and writing novels.
This one requires a series of answers. First… sure, anything is possible, but the wise path to take is to do what you are best at right now. How do people you know react to your comics vs. your writing? Which one comes more natural? Which one can you pump out like it’s your job.
This is not the same thing, but it compares… I used to be in a rock band and we worked very hard at what we did. We wanted to “make it” as a band and were willing to do the work it would take to get there. At the same time, I was working on comics. I wanted to both, and I fantasized about weaving the two together. But I began to realize that, while I had some talent and passion for writing music, I did not have the ability to do it like it was my job. It took me forever to come up with lyrics and songs. Comics I could pump out, I could draw and I could draw fast. When I finally chose one – comics obviously – I was freed up to pursue what I was not only good at, but efficient at.
So do the one you are good at for now, and maybe do the other one later if you need a break.
As for transferring audiences from one work to the next… I am new to actually having an audience. Chumble Spuzz, my pre-Axe Cop comic, had such a small audience it was hard to account for. I had a few fans but nothing like Axe Cop. I had no idea if Axe Cop fans would migrate over to Bearmageddon when I made it. I figured maybe some would, and some did, so I was lucky, I got a head start. But you can’t expect your audience to follow everything you make. The truth is, a lot of your fans like the project you did a lot more than they like you. They are not your fan, they are your project’s fan most of the time. If you bring on a new project, they may not bite… and they shouldn’t be expected to. I have always been the type of guy who, when I read a comic by someone and love it, I look up their other work, but not everyone does that. Yes, it helps, of course it does…. but I think it is wise to never expect it. Assume, with each new project you have to build a new audience.
I don’t know how many Bearmageddon fans are Axe Cop fans and vice versa, but I can say that my Bearmageddon audience does not equal my Axe Cop audience by any means. I got a nice head start, I can’t complain… without Axe Cop I would be starting at square one. But Bearmageddon’s returning readers right now are maybe a tenth of Axe Cop’s. That’s fine… it’s new, it’s growing, and I got lucky with Axe Cop. It happened over night… unexpected. It was a freebie. That doesn’t usually happen, and I can never ever expect it to happen unless I want to be extremely disappointed for 99.999% of my life.
If you don’t have an audience yet, they aren’t even a concern at this point. Just make something awesome and get it done. If it’s a novel, set a deadline and write it. If it’s a web comic, get it going. Set goals. Finish what you start, and never expect it to come out perfect… only know that your next one will be better so you have to finish this one to get to that one. Also, a novel with illustrations is not a bad compromise.
Well I hope that was somewhat helpful. HUGE thanks to everyone who responded to the needs I posted about last Friday. You guys are really a great group and I am impressed daily with the audience that shows up to read this comic. I haven’t replied to all the emails, but I will let you know I filled the “positions” and I apologize to those of you who were definitely qualified, it was just a matter of who offered first and had the best resume. I’m sure there will be more chances for me to exploit you in the future.
In other news… go to the comic shop and buy Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth today. It actually is out this time! Alright I am running on about two hours of sleep and I don’t think I have the stamina to proofread all that I just typed, so I hope I didn’t butcher it too bad. See you next page!