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. Traditional services such as Drunkduck, Smackjeeves, and Comicgenesis fall into this category. Newer services include Tapas (formerly Tapastic), Webtoons, and Becomics. Each of these platform has its own tweaks: Tapas for example is optimized for horizontal comics; Webtoons offers payment for artists publishing exclusively on their platforms; and BeComics has a cool editor that can add effects to the comic, turning it into an interactive experience (it's called a HyperComic - here's an example)

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.

Summary
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.

Invention
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.

Creation
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.

Publication
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.

Promotion
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).

Monetization
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.