I have to admit I am still learning, but luckily I have learned from my mistakes with previous webcomics and I believe I am doing better this time around. It certainly feels more successful, and I’m a lot more enthusiastic about this comic after 250 strips than I was when I was doing Sexy Losers. But here are some things that I learned this time around that have helped me a lot.
1. One of the worst sins is a missed update.
When I first started doing Sexy Losers I aimed at doing a weekly strip. It certainly seemed manageable, and something I could do on top of a full time job. But after some time I had problems maintaining that pace. There were times when I felt the idea wasn’t good enough, that left hand didn’t look quite okay, or just something that stopped me from completing a strip. Sometimes I had the blank page in front of me and couldn’t think of anything that I thought was worthy enough to put on it.
When I let one update slide, it became easier to let the next one slide too. And the next. At that point the momentum was gone and the motivation necessary to restart my comicking engine just wasn’t there. And when I did start, it was a lot harder to do than when I was following a schedule. Soon the comic’s update pattern changed from “weekly” to “whenever a comic is finished”, a really bad sign.
But it just wasn’t from my viewpoint either. Readers would expect updates, but when none follow they get frustrated and stop checking. After a few cycles of the comic fluctuating from regular update to no update, they just gave up.
There aren’t any positives when it comes to a missed update. In the beginning with depression comix I missed a few updates, and even then I had problems getting back into the frame of mind necessary for it. For the past two years I have not missed a single update, even when I went to Canada for a month and didn’t have access to a scanner. I just prepared what I needed because I knew how important a regular schedule was. Because of that, it feels like I’m riding a wave of momentum which in turn makes it easy to motivate myself. And if that hand doesn’t look right, fukkit, I’ll just make sure to draw a better hand next time.
I always knew in my heart that the missed update was bad. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see how bad it was. I can say depression kind of derailed my ability to update a few times but even if I couldn’t post a strip I could have posted a sketch or something just to let the readers know I’m thinking of them. Anything. Just don’t miss that update.
2. Advertisements on your site is a Big Ugly.
Since the early days, I always thought that advertisements were a necessary evil. Especially when I was looking for free hosting, every place that would host me demanded ads on my site, and I would rarely, if ever, see a dime from that. Basically, in order to get my comic in viewable space I would have to let others put their ads in my site. J-List was the only one who ever paid me, and I am grateful for that (but I had to decline after a while because the income was messing with my taxes in Japan).
When depression comix started taking off I felt it was time to get it on its own site. Naturally I would have to pay for hosting, and to offset the costs of hosting I naturally thought of advertisements on the site first.
It took me a while to get Google AdSense going when they claimed depression comix was pornographic because of one image with nudity. I removed that, and soon I was swimming in AdSense bucks, or so I thought.
The advertisements were terrible and at times distateful considering the subject matter. When I saw a diet ad on the page of a comic concerning an eating disorder, I knew it was time to end it.
I also tried other advertising attempts like affiliate ads but they did not have any affect.
There are many problems with advertising. The ads are generally flashy and dynamic and do not go well with the layout of the site. And unfortunately you need to put them in prominent places or no one will click on them. So you spend time moving them around to figure out how to make people look at them instead of your comic. Then there are people with ad blockers so it’s a waste for them too. And to top off matters, occasionally an ad will have some kind of malicious code and Google blocks your site.
In my honest opinion, the best move is to move from advertisements to reader-supported. Making the decision to remove all advertising and ask for help from the readers was a much better idea. There are a number of ways of doing this and Patreon is probably the easiest and most sensible. I have never regretted doing this and it has made me appreciate readers even more. depressioncomix.com is a very simple and calm site without the ads, and nothing interferes with reading the strips. And the direct support I receive gives me lots of encouragement and motivation. I feel like I’m working directly for the readership now, and that’s exactly the place I should be.
3. Delete and forget what you don’t want to read.
This is a hard one to learn and I’m still learning it. There are people on the internet who are filled with toxic poison and will dump it all over you if they get a chance. I’ve always been a person who is too sensitive for their own good, and everything gets to me. This is motivation killer and it derailed me several times. Instead, nowadays I just ignore it or delete it. I know I have to take care of my mental health first, and I know that arguing with strangers is not the best way to do that.
4. Sharing is caring
Back in the olden days I tried so hard to stop people from copying my work. I messed with HTTP_REFERER, I cut the comics up into little jigsaw pieces to be reassembled online, sent messages, and did everything I could to keep the work on my site. It was a source of anger and frustration when I would have rather been making new comics.
I gave up on comics for a while, and that was one of the reasons. Why do something that someone will just steal?
But I remember someone linked me The Pirate Bay, and in it was a torrent of all my work. I should have been angry, but instead I was incredibly flattered. Wow. People want to share this? People care enough to continue reading it???
Since then I’ve had a completely different outlook on it. Now everyone shares, and one of the things I can do is make the work easier to share. By uploading depcom onto different networks, I increase its visibility and readership. One can read complete depcom strips and archives on Tumblr, Twitter, deviantART, Pinterest, WordPress.com, and Facebook, without needing to visit the depcom site even once. With Sexy Losers you had to visit the site but with depcom the comic comes to you. And that’s a better way to do it because you’re appealing to convenience – you become a part of people’s online routines automatically. And the comic is more likely to be read that way, and it’s more likely to be shared since it’s only a simple click away.
But the cool thing is, since I eliminated advertising on the site as a source of revenue, there is no reason for me to try to get people to come to the site anymore. If I had ads, I would need the readers to directly visit the site more and I would be hesitant to allow sharing on social sites. Some solutions to problems become solutions to other problems too.
5. Readers are wonderful.
It took me a long time to appreciate the readership because I didn’t know how to reach them properly. I couldn’t separate the rare troll from the vast majority of kind people and there was a price to be paid for it. I was too sensitive, too reactionary, too angry. I fucked up and alienated a lot of people. Now I’m supported by those readers. I’m not going to fuck it up again. You are incredible and it is my humble duty to do this for your smile.
Thank you everyone!