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J. Jacques

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Webcomics Etc. [Nov. 2nd, 2005|03:50 am]
J. Jacques
So I get a lot of email from aspiring webcomic authors asking what tips I can give them about starting out. I've probably covered stuff like this in the ol' LJ before (I am too lazy to go through the archives and check) but I just got done writing what I hope was a pretty informative email about this stuff, so I'll paraphrase it here for your (hopeful) edification and amusement. Now, this stuff is all just one man's opinion, so feel free to do with it what you wish. I am not trying to be pretentious or act like I know everything there is to know about webcomics (I most certainly do not). This is just what I think about things! OK GO:


1. Work ahead. Even being one comic strip ahead in your schedule will take 99% of the pressure out of the creative process, as long as you can maintain a buffer. I usually try to stay 2-3 strips ahead, but most of the time I only end up being 1 ahead. It's still a huge help though because I can take as long as I like on each comic. Tight deadlines can spur creativity, but if you fuck up you don't have a comic for that day, and that is pretty much the worst mistake you can make.

2. Find a reasonable update schedule and stick with it. Updating on time, every time is the single most important part of getting people to read your comic. Start out on a schedule that you know for 100% certain you can maintain with no problems. If it feels too "easy", try doing a few extra comics each update cycle for a couple weeks/months. I started out at 2x per week, then moved to 3x, and now that it's my full time job I have time to do 5 strips a week.

3. Always try to improve yourself. Writing and artwork can ALWAYS be improved, and the more talented you get the more people will enjoy your work. I try to do at least a little bit of drawing every single day- after 2 years of this you'll be amazed at how far you've come.

4. Promote yourself in a courteous manner. Emailing authors you admire and telling them about your comic is a good idea! Don't ask for links or anything, just ask them to check it out and tell you what they think. We like finding new comics to read! I don't recommend whoring out your comic in message boards, but if you're already part of any online communities, you'd be amazed how much difference a link to your strip in your forum signature will make. You can take out ads on other sites if you feel like it, but it's not mandatory. I've never paid for an ad in my life (although I'll never turn down free advertising) and I now get more traffic than probably 99% of all other webcomics out there.

5. Enjoy yourself! If you don't love what you do, you won't do the best you possibly can. This is a medium with tremendous potential for personal enjoyment provided you have the right mindset. It'll feel like work sometimes, but it should always feel like *fun* work.

6. Design a good website. Remember, content is king when it comes to webcomic site design. Ideally the comic should be the first thing people see when they go to your site. If they have to click more than once or spend more than 3 seconds figuring out WHAT to click to get to the comic, your site isn't well designed. A good archive system is essential- if you're not good with PHP or other archiving code, make friends with someone who is, or use one of the pre-coded packages out there (check out ComixPedia for more info on those). I always recommend getting your own domain name- it's easier for people to remember, it looks more professional, and it just *feels* better.

7. Don't go into it expecting popularity. Expecting recognition or fame or money or whatever will only lead to disappointment, no matter how successful or unsuccessful you end up being. Priority number one when you are doing a webcomic should always be to do the best comic you possibly can with your current abilities. Everything else is secondary to that, whether you have 10 readers or 10 million readers. I'm a firm believer that most of the time, good work will get the recognition it deserves sooner or later. This isn't a popular sentiment among the lesser-known comics out there, but the way I look at it is popular comics are popular because they appeal to a large audience (this appeal can be related to the comic's subject matter, its cultural niche, or just how many cute girls are in the comic). We're not like music or movies, where huge corporations spend millions of dollars to shove products down middle America's throat. We stand or fall on the appeal of our own work.

8. Don't be a jerk. You'd think this would be self-evident, but the webcomics community has its share of cranky, frustrated folks who take out their dissatisfaction on other authors or their fans. The nicer you are to people, the more friends you'll make, and the more friends you make, the more fun you'll have! Don't pick fights, don't talk shit, and always be thankful for the wonderful opportunity the magic of the robo-webs has presented you.

Doing webcomics is fucking awesome. I'd say probably 90% of them are utter garbage, but that remaining 10% contains some of the most amusing humor, breathtaking artwork, and edifying storytelling you'll find anywhere today. The only way to find out whether you're part of the 90 or part of the 10 is to give it a try and do the best you can! If you think your comic sucks, make it better. If you think your comic is the best thing to happen to the Internet since boobies, you're wrong (boobies are awesome). Just get out there and kick some ass!

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[User Picture]From: jman4442002
2005-11-02 09:16 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tips and keep up the good work.
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[User Picture]From: punkterrorist
2005-11-02 09:18 am (UTC)
Hey, this is awesome.

I've been reading webcomics for years, and ever since finding Questionable Content, yours has been my favourite.

I've been planning on starting my own webcomic for a while now - all I need if my own scanner and then I'm away!

Thanks for your advice, and keep up the awesome work!
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[User Picture]From: shinysilvercoin
2005-11-02 09:20 am (UTC)
:) Thanks for the fantastic tips! I hope to see sexy, sexy webcomics springing up all over the place as a result!
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[User Picture]From: adam_j_lupin
2005-11-05 01:46 am (UTC)
Your icon is about the truest thing ever. It makes me giggle.
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[User Picture]From: al_fuego
2005-11-02 09:21 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tips, Jeph. Luckily, I feel that I haven't gone against them, even without them being there for me to have knowledge of prior to now. Well, except the buffer thing, but at least my writer keeps a buffer.
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[User Picture]From: el_kevin
2005-11-02 09:34 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: leucocrystal
2005-11-02 09:23 am (UTC)
Great list, man. All excellent points.

Once I've revamped my own comic, I intend to start updating again. With much more improved art as compared to those several months since, of course, lol.

As always, you're a huge inspiration to all us little folk just trying to get by.
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[User Picture]From: poke__egg
2005-11-02 09:30 am (UTC)
"If you think your comic is the best thing to happen to the Internet since boobies, you're wrong (boobies are awesome)"

Don't you mean Tits?? :P
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[User Picture]From: qcjeph
2005-11-02 09:33 am (UTC)

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[User Picture]From: prodigal
2005-11-02 09:36 am (UTC)
oday's punchline? One of the best yet. Nice work, Jeph. :)
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[User Picture]From: randall_jhen
2005-11-02 09:59 am (UTC)
I appreciate the tips, Jeph. I'm looking to start my own Flash-based web comic around Thanksgiving, and these are some useful pointers.
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[User Picture]From: tragician
2005-11-02 11:11 am (UTC)
I remember when that Sean guy from Squidi.net threw a tantrum and started threatening everyone with a pixel in their webcomic. Those were the days...
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[User Picture]From: raspberryblue01
2005-11-02 11:45 am (UTC)
Jeph, I absolutely love the way you handle your popularity. You seem like such a nice, humble person, and yet you're not a pansy. Just thought I'd throw that in as an extra comment. :)

Thanks for teh tips! I almost wanna start a comic of my own now! ^_^

Take care!

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From: lexaeternacomic
2005-11-02 11:54 am (UTC)

cool tips!

Thx for the tips! My comic is rapidly going towards number 50 and i'm still not sure enough about it to actually, you know, TELL people about it, but hints like this strengthen my resolve!
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[User Picture]From: telerib
2005-11-02 12:22 pm (UTC)
Well, if prodigal can talk about today's comic here...

I just wanted to let you know that my fiance insisted on playing Sir Mix-a-Lot at our wedding reception (this Saturday) and was pleasantly surprised when I shrugged and said, "Sure."

Yes, the "Aerodynamically Curvaceous" shirt is on my list of things to buy. :)
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[User Picture]From: hobomaster
2005-11-02 08:16 pm (UTC)
I bought it for a friend of mine. She LOVES it.
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[User Picture]From: saturnine1979
2005-11-02 12:27 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: fenmere
2005-11-02 01:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jeph! I'm definitely linking to this somewhere, probably the bs_of_comics to begin with.
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[User Picture]From: paradisacorbasi
2005-11-02 02:03 pm (UTC)
You make me happy by posting this because it is a lot of the advice I was given when I started up Kismetropolis. And it's always the cool webcomic creators who give advice like this.

...not entirely off topic, but if I were to do fan art for QC, where do I send it? Or did I miss a place on the forum for it?
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[User Picture]From: goldfwinch
2005-11-03 06:43 pm (UTC)
There is a thread in the "Comic Discussion Forum" for posting fan art. :)
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[User Picture]From: meestahmahrv
2005-11-02 02:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the post. I'm doing a research paper on the advent of webcomics as a financially viable art-form and the similarity of the general webcomic business model to indie/punk rock; mind if I quote you?
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[User Picture]From: westly
2005-11-02 02:26 pm (UTC)
Wow, I totally agree.

I just got my comic back up and running...I update once a week, and like to have at least a month of buffer comics in case something happens and I'm not able to get the comic up. (Since I just updated, I need to do another one.

The real reason I'm doing my comic is to force myself to draw more often, both humans and anthros, and work on my storytelling skills. It's really for me, if other people enjoy it, well, damn, that's a bonus!
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[User Picture]From: ospreydreams
2005-11-02 02:42 pm (UTC)
*grin* Great pointers. I've been working on a comic of my own, working out a good starting plot and trying to nail down an art style that doesn't look like a rip-off of yours(I didn't learn off you, but looking at my art I think it looks like I did). It's always encouraging when veterans share some of their methods with newbies. :)
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From: pvenables
2005-11-02 03:41 pm (UTC)
That's great advice Jeph. It's always encourging to hear from people, like yourself, that are further along the path than I am. It gives hope.

Thanks for taking the time to do it.
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[User Picture]From: hyalin
2005-11-02 04:11 pm (UTC)
I have a question:

What if my comic contains boobies?
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[User Picture]From: kikithemale
2005-11-02 04:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for a realistic view on what it takes to run a successful webcomic. I recently delved into the field (it seems to be the trendy thing to do these days) but I won't whore out my comic until the webpage is more user friendly and the updates are on a set schedule.
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[User Picture]From: darktyrynt
2005-11-02 05:32 pm (UTC)
Since we're apparently commenting on today's comic here...

I just totally fell in love with Marten's eyes. <3
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[User Picture]From: asmonet
2005-11-02 10:14 pm (UTC)
You and every creature with girl parts.
And probably quite a few with manly bits as well.
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[User Picture]From: thegame2158
2005-11-02 05:55 pm (UTC)
thank you for the advice dude!
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[User Picture]From: rstevens
2005-11-02 06:23 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: qcjeph
2005-11-03 12:41 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: malonscronie
2005-11-02 07:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice, man! I read yours and 14 other comics on a regular basis, and your's is among my top 3. Also, thanks for introducing me to The Decemberists! Anyway, this advice came along at the right time, since me and a friend are going to start our own webcomic. I discovered that I'm great at writing, and he is great at drawing, so why the hell not, right?

Anyway, thanks for the great advice! I hope your comic never dies!
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