3 Easy Steps That Will Help You Promote Your Webcomic in Under 2 Hours

Website marketing
Photo by: "ZeroOne@Flickr"

So you’ve found a good host for your comics site, designed a neat layout for your site, uploaded some awesome comics and e-mailed them to your friends and family members. Congratulations, you now have a solid readership of ten readers. If you want more people to enjoy your comics, you will eventually have to use some marketing techniques in order to promote your site and draw more visitors. Website promotion is an art, and there are hundreds of books dedicated to that subject. The basics, though, are quite simple. As we’ll see in a minute, there are 3 easy steps you can take which will help your site gain that initial exposure. They take less than 2 hours combined, so free up some time in your calendar and let’s get to it!

Step 1: Submit Your Site to Search Engines

Let’s start with the basics. You want readers to find out your site when they’re using search engines like Google or Bing. The fastest way to ensure that these search engine index your pages is by submitting your site to those search engines. Use the following links:

Time spent: 15 minutes

Step 2: Submit Your Site to Web Directories

Directories (sometimes called Lists or Indexes) are categorized repositories of web site. Directories help you promote your site in two ways. First, being listed in a directory helps people browsing through the directory to discover your site. Second, getting linked on directories increases the number of inbound links to your site, which in turn helps your site to appear on a higher position on search engines such as Google.
There are two types of directories you should consider: Webcomic directories and General directories. Webcomic directories such as TheWebcomicList or Belfry Comics focus only on webcomics, and I strongly suggest you start with those. Submission is easy (may require free registration), and usually you get listed immediately. General directories such as DMOZ or the Yahoo directory are larger and much more popular than webcomic or blog directories, but most chances it’ll take months before you’ll get listed there, if at all. You can of course pay them to speed things up, but their prices are pretty high. I’d suggest you start with the webcomic directories, but give the general ones a shot – who knows, you might get lucky. One word of advice though – before submitting, especially to the webcomic directories, make sure you have a fully functioning site containing at least twenty to thirty pages or strips. Getting listed in a webcomic directory may result in an immediate flow of new visitors to your site, and you want them to enjoy great content that will make them want to come back.
Use the links below to submit your site to some popular directories. There are many more directories out there, so make sure to use Google for more suggestions for Webcomic directories.

Webcomic directories:

General directories:

Time spent: 1 hour

Step 3: Publish Your Site in Blogging Communities

Blogging communities are social networks that center themselves around blog creators and blog readers.  Blog creators publish their blogs on these sites, and can discuss and collaborate on various blogging related topics. Blog readers can find and rate interesting blogs, form a community around their blogs of interest, and communicate directly with the author.
We already mentioned in this blog how webcomics fully fit to the description of blogs – websites composed of entries which are displayed in reverse chronological order (in our case those entries are comic strips). As a cartoonist, the benefit you could gain by participating in a blogging community is threefold: First, it’s another place to publish your blog (most of these sites have their own blog directories), allowing you to build back-links to your site and even to individual posts (or comic strips, in our case).  Second, most of these communities offer free widgets to install on your site, which could help you track traffic from members of that particular community, but also increases the sense of belonging of those readers to your site. And third, it’s a chance to collaborate with fellow bloggers: You can exchange links (further increasing you site’s rank in search engines); you can do guest comics (Got a gaming related webcomic? Find a gaming blog and offer to do a guest comic); you can find blogs that belong to cartoonists and follow them – there's no limit on how much you can learn from your peers.
A word of warning – blogging communities tend to attract spammers, owners of blogs that give no real value and whose only purpose is to make money by attracting traffic from search engines. Beware of those people, don’t associate with them, and certainly do not associate your webcomic site with theirs.
Use the links below to register to MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog, two of the most popular blog directories. At this point, it’s enough you register and submit your site (and as mentioned before, do it only if your site has enough interesting content on it). Over time, try to build a community around your site and interact with fans and fellow bloggers.

Time spent: 30 minutes


That’s it - basic site promotion in 3 simple steps! Search engine submission ensures your site is indexed by the leading search engines. Web directory submission increases your exposure and helps you by building inbound links. Blogging communities help you cooperate with other bloggers and gain further readership. The steps you’ve just taken are the corner stone for marketing your newly created site.

Self Hosting Your Webcomic

Photo by: "Arthur40A @ Flickr"

Of all the options that exist for hosting your webcomics series , self hosting is the most professional way to go. When you self host, you have full control over your site. You have your own domain (using services such as GoDaddy or eNom)  you have your own host (or more likely, you buy a hosting deal from a known hosting vendor, such as HostGator or  GoDaddy), and you can achieve anything in terms of site design. Sounds great, right?

Well, great as it is, self hosting comes with its own set of challenges. First of all, it’s costly. Domains aren’t that expensive (about 10 USD per year for previously unused domains), but hosting can be expensive. The cheapest hosting plans start at $5 per month, and for that price you get a shared server, which means that response times in the site would be slow. Make sure you make a comparison between the different vendors (a simple Google query could provide you with good comparisons).

Another thing you now need to consider is site layout. Free Comics Hosting Services provide you with excellent design layouts (or templates) to start with, and those templates are well-suited for displaying online comics. If you’re self hosting, you’d think that you need to build a layout from scratch – meaning you must first have a design of a layout in mind, then you need to actually build it. This may not scare you if you’re an experienced site designer and have knowledge in HTML/CSS (or Flash), but what about the average comic artist who isn’t too tech savvy? He can maybe hire someone to design and build the site for him, but that can cost hundreds of dollars, at the least.

Well, luckily, there are pre-made solutions just for that. One, very popular, way to go is to install WordPress and ComicPress. WordPress is a free blogging platform that can be installed on any host. It provides you with everything you need in order to open a blog. ComicPress is a plug-in to WordPress, and it provides you with practically everything you need in order to open a Webcomic site. This includes such things as popular layouts, navigation buttons (to navigate between comics), and an archive page.

True, you can get all of these for free if you sign up in one of the free comics hosting services . But remember, we’re talking about self hosting, so the unlike a site which is hosted in a free comics hosting service, the site is entirely yours. You can do whatever you want with it. Do you want to monetize it by placing ads on your site? Go ahead! Do you want to add a cool rating system (such as Outbrain)? You go it! Do you want to add cool Facebook social plug-ins such as a “like” button or Facebook comments? You can.

Of course, you don’t have to use ComicPress. There are other WordPress plug-ins you can use, such as StripShow. And you don’t even have to use WordPress. You can choose to use other platforms, you can choose not to use a premade platform at all and just build a flashy site using Flash. It’s your site, you can do whatever you’d like with it. That’s the greatest advantage, and also the greatest disadvantage, of self hosting.

So should I Use This Option?

Self hosting is the professional way to go. The most famous webcomics, such as PVP, Penny Arcade and XKCD all self host. Some use ComicPress (such as PVP), some build an entire site on their own. A webcomicker choosing this path will need to have ready cash, willingness to learn and deal with technical issues, and most important of all, lots of patience.

Hosted Blogging Platforms

Photo by: "tarop@flickr"

Previously we discussed the three main options for hosting you webcomics series – (Free Comics Hosting Services, Hosted Blogging Services, and Self Hosting Platforms). In this post we’ll explore the option of using a Hosted Blogging Platform to host your webcomic.

A blog (short for weblog) is a website which consists of individual posts, usually appearing in reverse chronological order. It’s easy to make a parallelization between webcomics and blogs. Webcomics can be seen as nothing more than illustrated blogs. A comic strip would be in that sense a blog post. Therefore, it’s only natural to host your comics using one of the many platforms for hosting blogs.
Free comic hosting services were created for the sole purpose of providing comic artists an easy, free way of uploading their comics to the internet. As such, they provide an easy and free way for beginners to publish their comics. The main down side is that the artist has very limited control over his site, as we’ll detail below.

Popular Hosted Blogging Platforms
Blogger (formerly known as BlogSpot) and WordPress are probably the two most popular blogging platforms. Other popular platforms include TypePad, Tumblr, and LiveJournal, but there are many other options.

Comics Using Hosted Blogging Platforms

  • It’s low cost! Blogger and WordPress allow you to open a blog for free. TypePad requires a small monthly fee. The services provide you a free website address in their own domains, e.g. myownwebcomic.blogspot.com. You can of course choose to use your own custom domain instead, for example myownwebcomic.com, but then you have to buy a domain name (see below). So overall, depending on which service you choose, this alternative is either free or quite affordable.
  • Endless site design alternatives! Each service offers a limited amount of designs to choose from, but the community which evolved around these services can offer you much more. There are virtually thousands of premade designs (called templates in Blogger or themes in WordPress) that you can download and install on your blog. Adding the fact that many of these services allow you to customize the design using CSS, your design alternatives are endless.
  • You can monetize your comics! Unlike free comics hosting services, which don’t allow you to place ads on your site, platforms such as Blogger or WordPress give you no such restrictions. Not only that, Blogger even encourages you to monetize your blog. Blogger is owned by Google, and Google also owns AdSense (an advertising platform), so Google has an interest to make advertising in Blogger using AdSense an easy task. And indeed, Blogger has built-in integration for AdSense, allowing you to easily place ads eherever you want on your blog.
  • You can use your own custom domain. If you have a domain name that you bought for your comic (from eNom or GoDaddy, for example), you use that domain with your blog. Of course you have to buy a domain to begin with, but the cost for most domains range from $8 to $10.

  • Designed for blogs, not for webcomics. Blogging Platforms were designed for managing blogs, not for managing webcomics. And while there are many similarities between blogs and webcomic sites (e.g. both have posts that appear in reverse chronological order, both may allow comments), webcomics sites still have their own special common design, which is expected by the webcomic reader. For example, webcomics are expected to have the standard webcomic navigation interface, or the standard way to access the archive. Webcomic-tailored platforms (like free comics hosting services, or webcomic DMSs such as ComicPress or StripShow) provide those features out-of-the-box, but blogging services do not. The good news is that since most blogging platforms give you so much flexibility in terms of design (using CSS and custom code), you can achieve practically any design you have in mind. But it will require a lot of hard work from your side.
  • You are not in full control. Some hosted blogging platforms may restrict you with content they allow to host on their site. This shouldn’t affect you in most cases, but in case you’re going for a real graphic (as in pornographic) comic, I’d double-check the terms and conditions of the service before using it to host my webcomic. For example, Blogger does allow hosting any kind of material, including x-rated material, but you must specify this in the blog settings (in order for Blogger to display an “adult content warning” whenever someone enters the blog).
  • You may have to find a solution for hosting your comic images. Some blogging platforms, especially the free ones, might impose all sorts of restrictions on images uploaded to the blog. These could be restrictions on the total size of all images (e.g. 1GB hosting space for all images), or restrictions on the volume of dimensions of individual images (e.g. images should not be more than 2MB in size, and not higher or wider than 1000pixels). Let’s take Blogger again for example. If you open a Blogger account, it automatically connects it to your Picasa account. In a free Picasa account today, you cannot upload more than 2GB of images. Moreover, in case you are using a custom domain for your Blogger blog, you’re also restricted on the dimensions of the images that can be displayed using Picasa on your blog (it’s stupid, I know, but that’s the way it is). This may force you to use other image hosting services, especially if you comic images are very large. The good news is that there are so many image hosting services (both paid and free) that this issue becomes a non-issue, one you find the right service. I’ll have posts reviewing the various image hosting services later on.

So should I Use This Option?
Hosted Blogging Platforms can be an excellent alternative for comic creators who don’t want to invest a lot of money in publishing their comics, but do have the willingness, capability, and time to learn a thing or two about web design and HTML/CSS. I myself have been using Blogger for hosting some of my webcomics for years now, and in my opinion it’s one of the most professional platforms out there, better than some non-free alternatives out there.

Free Comics Hosting Services

Photo by: "Jack Hynes"

In a previous article we listed the three main options for hosting your webcomics series (Free Comics Hosting Services; Hosted Blogging Services; and Self Hosting Platforms). This article will focus on the various aspects of using a Free Comics Hosting Service to host your webcomic.


Free comic hosting services were created for the sole purpose of providing comic artists an easy, free way of uploading their comics to the internet. As such, they provide a quick, cost free option for beginners to publish their comics. The main down side is that the artist has very limited control over his site, as we’ll detail below.

Examples of Free Comics Hosting Services


Creating a Site
If you choose to use a Free Comics Hosting Services, you’ll find out that creating a webcomic site and publishing your comics there is simple, quick, and (surprise!) free. The design and layout of sites created via these services are tailored for webcomic needs. For example, you automatically get navigation buttons to navigate between chapters and strips, an archiving system to allow reader to browse through your comic archives, and a comment system allowing your readers to provide you with instant feedback.  

Most comics hosting services gather around them a strong community of fellow webcomic artists and fans, which could give great initial exposure for your comic. It’s also a great way to have your comics reviewed – always strive to learn from your fellow artist!


Site Design Possibilities
Free comics hosting services usually have limited site design possibilities. Often you can choose between several premade templates, do some customizations, but that’s basically it.

Ad Placement
Most (if not all) of these services make money by placing ads on your comic pages, which means for you that
(a) You have no control over which ads appear on your page, and
(b) You yourself cannot place any ads or earn any ads from your site, which can be a pain if you planned to earn a few bucks from ads.

Using Custom Domains
You cannot use a custom domain using these sites – the address of your comics would be a sub-domain of the service of your choice. For example, if you choose Drunkduck, your comic address would myowncomic.drunkduck.com , instead of www.myowncomic.com.

So should I Use This Option?

Using these services provides a low-effort, low-cost option for hosting comics. If you have some comics you want to upload to the internet here and now, if you don’t have a clue about maintaining a website or buying a host (and you don’t want to learn about those things either), if you don’t care about looking unprofessional, if you want to enjoy the benefits of a strong community, consider using free comics hosting service . However, in case you want to appear professional to your readers, if you want full control over your site (which you could potentially monetize via advertising), and if you’re not afraid of learning the technical aspect of maintaining a site, I’d suggest using one of the hosted blogging services, or even self hosting your comics. Future articles will explore those options.

Hosting Your Webcomic

Photo by: "William Hook"

So you’ve managed to come up with an idea for a comic, layout the main characters and plot, and draw a few chapters. Now it’s time to upload them to the internet so that others could gasp with awe at your creation!
In order to do that, you have to create a site for your webcomics, which means you need to find a host. For those of you who don’t have much experience with creating or owning websites, a host is simply a computer connected to the Internet. There are many hosting services out there, and guess what – some of them are even specifically targeted for hosting webcomics.
Let’s have a quick overview of what are hosting options you can choose, and what are the basic pros and cons of each option. Future articles will explore each of these options in more depth.

Free Comics Hosting Services
Free Comics Hosting Services are platform that were designed specifically for hosting online comics. Designing a site and uploading comics using these services is quick, easy, and cheap (well, free!). This option best serves the beginning webcomicker who doesn’t want to invest too much time or money in maintaining a website. Services such as Drunkduck, Smackjeeves, and Comicgenesis fall into this category.

Hosted Blogging Services
Many web cartoonists, including professional ones, choose blogging platforms such as Wordpress.com, Blogger.com or Typepad.com in order to host their comics. Why not? After all, webcomics can be seen as nothing more than illustrated blogs. Hosted Blogging Services are free (or relatively cheap) but usually give you more power and versatility compared to Comics Hosting Services. For example, you can choose from countless web designs for your site (and even use your own custom CSS code to alter them), you can use your own custom domain (e.g. www.myowncomic.com), and you can monetize your site by hosting ads there. But, quoting Spiderman Comics – “With great power comes great responsibility” – you will need to invest a lot of time until you learn how to leverage all the capabilities provided by these platform. Also, since you’re not hosting by yourself, you will have to comply with the basic rules of the hosting service you’re using – which can sometimes mean you cannot post nude art or material considered as offensive. And finally, you don’t get the benefits of a strong community, as you would if you had used Comics Hosting Services. This means, among other things, that you’ll need to work hard to gain those first few readers of yours.

Self Hosting Platform
This is probably the most professional, yet complex and expensive, way of hosting your comics. Going on this path, you buy a domain name (using services such as GoDaddy or eNom), buy a good hosting deal (examples being again GoDaddy or eNom), and then start building the site from scratch, taking care of all aspects such as site design, archiving scripts, etc. The good news are that since we’re not inventing the wheel here, you can install blogging platforms such as Wordpress (*) on your site, gaining all the functionality of the blogging platform. The GREAT news are that there are also lots of webcomic targeted plug-ins to those platforms that would give you the ultimate webcomic-site-design experience , examples being ComicPress.
The main advantage of self hosting is that you can do practically anything with your site. The main disadvantage is that it’s going to cost you, and you’ll pay, with both money and sweat, until you manage to design and maintain your dream site.

As you can see, there are numerous possibilities for hosting your webcomic site. Future articles would dive into each of the specific options (Comics Hosting Services, Hosted Blogging Services, Self Hosting), and I’ll also review some specific services such as Blogger and the powerful Wordpress + ComicPress combination. Stay tuned!

(*) Don’t confuse Wordpress.com with Wordpress.org. Wordpress.com is a free hosted blogging service. Wordpress.org is an open-source publishing platform that can be installed on self hosted sites.

The 5 Stages of Webcomic Development

Photo by: "torsteinsaltvedt"

If you’re serious about turning your webcomic into a business (even a side-business) you must treat your webcomic as a product. Consequently, the process of making (or developing) your comics should be similar to the process of developing any new product.
The life cycle of developing a new product roughly consists of five basic parts: Invention, Creation(*), Publication, Promotion, and Monetization. Let’s examine each of these stages in the context of creating a new webcomic.

This is the stage where you generate your ideas and thoughts for the new comic series. You come up with the plot, the main characters, and end with a draft of one or two pages/strips.

Having established the general plot and characters, you start creating comic pages (or strips, depending on your design). Each page undergoes a process of designing its layout (panel layout and texts), then sketching, lettering, penciling, inking, and coloring, where applicable.

In the traditional media, publishing meant that you had your comic printed and distributed. This could be as simple as you making some copies of the comic and handing them over to friends, or as complicated as signing a contract with a publisher and having your comic printed as a book. In the Web 2.0 age, this simply means airing your comic on a blog or web site. This includes tasks such as choosing a host for your site (paid or free), buying a domain (optional), designing the site’s layout, and finally uploading your comics to the site.

After airing a web site and uploading comics to it, your next task is to make the world aware of it. There are hundreds of millions of web sites out there (according to the Netcraft Web Server Survey), and you need to make your webcomic site stand out if you want anyone to visit it. Promoting includes such tasks as advertising and search engine optimization, or SEO (techniques that will help your site achieve a high rank in search engines such as Google).

Some comic artists draw and publish comics just for fun. Others want to make money out of it, and possibly, even a decent living. Monetization is all about turning your comic into a cash machine. Examples of ways to monetize your comics include selling comic books with your comics, fan merchandise (e.g. T-shirts with characters from your comics), or even ad space on your web site.

So there you have it: Invention, Creation, Publication, Promotion and Monetization. Future articles will delve deeper into each of these topics. In fact, almost any article that you’ll read in this blog will fall under one of these categories.

(*) In the industrial world the term “Production” is usually used instead of “Creation”. With regards to comics the term “Creation” seems more suitable, as creation has both an industrial and artistic meaning.

Introduction – How It All Started For Me

Photo by: "irene gr"

Exactly two years ago, I took the first steps towards becoming a web cartoonist.
My romance with comics started way before that. As a kid, I drew a lot. In fact, I have been drawing ever since I remember myself. I discovered the medium of comics when I was six (at about the same time I learned how to read), and immediately fell in love with it. At the age of eight, I drew my first comics (It was a very close imitation of Tarzan). It didn’t really have a plot, and the characters didn’t even have names. But what did I care? I was eight, and comics allowed me to realize on paper the stories that ran in my mind. It was all that I needed.
As the years went passing by, I continued drawing comics. But as a teenager, I became more discreet about my art. Back then, I didn’t feel secure enough to publish my comics. All of them ended up in my desk drawer.
When I turned 18, I entered into my “dark ages”, artistically speaking. I joined the navy and later on went to college. Then I got a 9 to 5 job at a software firm. Then I got married. During this time, I stopped drawing and cartooning almost completely. It’s not that I lost my desire to draw; I was just repressing that will to make way for different things in my life.
And as with all things repressed, the desire to draw would burst out of me a few years later. Ironically enough, during my artistic dark age, the world was undergoing a revolution that would have a great impact on my future cartooning aspirations.
 It was called “The Internet”
When I got back drawing, the Web 2.0 revolution was at its peak. Blogs were sprouting like mushroom after rain. I didn’t have any experience with blogging, so I started to read a bit about blogs and blogging, even opened a dummy blog at Blogger.com. I knew I wanted to open a personal blog about my work life, but wasn’t sure exactly in which format. Suddenly it hit me: instead of writing about my life, I’ll draw comics about it!
From that point things started to happen at a pretty rapid pace. I found a name for the comic series in 30 minutes. I rushed to my drawing desk, drew a sketch of the main characters (it was easy since they were based on real characters). I finished drawing the first episode an hour later. I created a blog, scanned the first page, and uploaded it. The whole process took me less than three hours (*). Little did I know at the time that I actually created my first webcomic.
All of that was two years ago. Since then, I managed to publish several webcomics series. When I entered this business, I knew nothing about it: nothing about blogging or web 2.0; nothing about website promotion or SEO. Even regarding the pure art of making comics, I didn’t know much about how to build a good comic. I learned everything along the way. I learned from reading books, I learned from web-sites and forums. Sometimes I learned the hard way – by making mistakes.
 What I hope to do in this blog is to share some of the knowledge I accumulated ever since I started web cartooning. I want to help you fulfill your dream of building a good, well publicized comic, and maybe even earn a few dollars along the way.
Stay with me, it’ll be a joyful ride!

(*)Now hold on, before you get excited and rush doing it yourself – that was the wrong way to do it (You’ll read the post explaining why in one of the future updates). The point of telling this story was to show you how simple it is to publish a comic, make it available to the world. All thanks to the Internet.