Promotional considerationson January 2, 2013 at 12:01 am
The mainÂ obstacle with webcomics isn’t getting them published. Even if you don’t have a lick of money to spare, you can score some free site space and start posting your creative output to the world.
No, the main obstacle is actually getting the world to notice you. If you care about that sort of thing. I’d say webcomicÂ creators do, at some level, care about that, or we wouldn’t be putting up our stuff for public viewing.
But this is where it starts taking some effort, and quite possibly money, to make things happen. Sure, you can just concentrate on creation and wait for Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis or some similar person of influence to happen across your comic and like it enough to introduce you to their audience, but that’s a bit like hoping to win the lottery. Actually, it might even be more like hoping to win the lottery with a random ticket you found in the gutter. You should probably at least be buying a few chances at the jackpot, right?
That’s a lot of what advertising your webcomic can feel like. You put out a ping on the Internet’s radar and get some curious souls wandering by, a few of whom might end up becoming readers. There’s some comics that come pre-equipped with some sort of professional marketing strategy attached, and that certainly helps, but even then the Web is littered with the bones of comics that made a big splash, only to fade away. In some cases it even feels like it was the actual event of being noticed on a large scale that caused the breakdown. They won the lottery but just didn’t know what to do with all the attention. I know at least one friend who pulled the plug on his comic precisely because he started getting a lot of interest and couldn’t reconcile that with his ultimately reclusive nature. I know another who has had to (at least temporarily) take his comic down because he got popular enough that a company sent him a cease & desist order over use of certain trademarks, and now he’s got a fair use case on his hands.
I don’t think we would necessarily suffer from those circumstances, but there’s another nagging feeling I wrestle with… what if we don’t actually deserve to win the lottery? If our current resolution is to err on the side of having fun with the comic rather than stressing over it, should we even be attempting to promote ourselves over those innumerable other struggling creators out there who update more often, most likely with much better story and art as well? Look at us right now, taking not one but two weeks off for the Holidays, when others out there are still powering through. For shame!
This is a reason I’ve (at least for now) abandoned any thought of bugging the bigger news/reviews sites with our existence. If they find us independently and think us worthy of attention, that’s one thing, but my past experiments with actively reaching out have not gotten much result, and at this point I’m back to where I feel bad trumpeting Zombie Ranch if we’re not being “serious” about it. Poking at them would probably just legitimately invoke the question, “Wouldn’t your time and energy be better served getting a buffer built up?”
Then there’s even the subject matter problem. At a “how to get noticed” panel at a big convention last year one of the panelists said he won’t look at any submission that has zombies. Period. Or there’s the time awhile back I had consideredÂ submitting us to The Webcomic Overlook, since even El Santo’s negative reviews tend to showÂ he’s put some time and care into them and usually have some constructive criticism to offer. IÂ shied off. Firstly because it was around when he said he was no longer going to take suggestions of what to check out, and secondly because in his review of Dead Winter, he flat out stated “When I want to read about zombies, I donâ€™t want anything more than over-the-top action and copious amounts of blood and guts.”
So, yeah, not a good sign for floating his boat, there. I admit, he’ll probably never find us on his own. Neither will Newsarama, or The Beat, or any of those juggernauts (or even semi-juggernauts) of geekdom– and if they do, they’ll probably click through a few pages at best before moving on to something more polished. But, that’s probably okay at this point. We have some people reading and enjoying, willing to follow along at the pace we’ve set. It’s like having a mom-and-pop store with some regular customers who are understanding when we want to close up early for Christmas, because they like our product and the atmosphere it’s delivered in. Spending time and effort on some massive promotional push doesn’t seem like the right thing to go for under those circumstances.
Mind you, it doesn’t mean I’ve completely stopped advertising and promoting… even mom and pop stores rely on more than just word of mouth… but sometime in the latter part of 2013 is when we’re planning to put together our first ever Kickstarter in hopes of being able to fund our first trade paperback collection. So as a New Year’s resolution, I reckon we’d best save some of our energy for that.