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.

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