Starting a webcomic has never been easier, but it can still be a bit intimidating. Fortunately, if you're looking for advice, there are plenty of comics professionals who've shared their experience, in the form of books, sites, and webcomics. Here are all the resources that will help you get started.
Top image from C. Spike Trotman's This Is Everything I Know.
It's important to note that there's no one way to make a webcomic. But sometimes, a little advice can help give you the push — or the confidence — you need to get going. Plus, the wisdom and experience of these creators can be very helpful as you dive into the world of webcomics.
If You're Just Getting Started
First off, webcomics demand realistic expectations. If you think you're going to be the next Zach Weinersmith or Kate Beaton within the first year of launching your comic online, chances are that you'll become frustrated pretty quickly. When we spoke to creators about the biggest mistakes people make when they start a webcomic, their advice was almost universal: Focus on your comic first. Don't worry about merchandise, fame, or tinkering too much with your website at the expense of making your comic better.
C. Spike Trotman is one of my favorite people to follow in webcomics. In addition to creating her own webcomic, Templar, Arizona, Spike is the publisher of Iron Circus Comics, with a slate of titles that includes Poorcraft, Smut Peddler, and Sleep of Reason. Spike frequently offers clear-eyed advice to creators, including in her fantastic 24-Hour Comic This Is Everything I Know. What's great about Spike's short comic is that she doesn't just manage expectations (reminding us that life is not a meritocracy and neither is comics); she also points out that if your webcomic does become a business, then there are lots of non-art-related tasks to deal with. It's just a helpful reminder.
Once you've tempered your expectations, you're ready for some nittier, grittier advice. You can easily Google "webcomics advice" and come up with useful intel from folks like Jenny Romanchuk (The Zombie Hunters) and Kel McDonald (Sorcery 101). (I'm particularly fond of McDonald's advice, which includes "Firstly start the comic, don't wait to be good enough," and "Be nice to other comic artists.")
Of course, things on the Internet are always changing, and webcomics is no exception. Fortunately, Brad Guigar (Evil Inc.) just came out with The Webcomics Handbook just last year, the 2014 follow-up to the 2008 book How to Make Webcomics. The Webcomics Handbook covers the practical nuts and bolts of putting your comic online, promoting it, and even preparing it for print. If you want a clear, step-by-step guide all in one place, this is it.
And while it isn't geared exclusively toward webcomics, Unnatural Talent by Jason Brubaker (reMIND) contains some useful advice for self-publishing in the digital age, including why you might want to making your comic available for free online.
If You Want to Understand the Business
The thing about webcomics that can be easy to forget that, if you're lucky, your webcomic might become a full-fledged business. You may, at some point, need or want to make decisions about selling ebooks or print books, merchandise, and commissions.
Personally, I find that some of the most interesting and valuable discussions on this topic come from the creators themselves. You'll sometimes see folks like Jason Shiga (Demon), Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl), and Ryan Estrada (Lots of Stuff) talking about their earnings. So what to do if you aren't already following a few hundred webcomic creators? Well, I recommend following Gary Tyrrell's webcomics blog Fleen. Tyrrell is always highlighting interesting news and discussions happening in the world of webcomics.
But there are other resources that you can turn to as well. The book that is most explicitly geared toward the business of webcomics and other digital comics is Todd Allen's updated The Economics of Digital Comics. Don't be put off by the rather dense first chapter; the book becomes much more user friendly as it goes along. Allen isn't interested in telling you how to monetize your comic. Instead, he outlines different options for monetization and breaks down the costs and earnings.
Katie Lane's blog Work Made for Hire is also an extremely valuable resource, one with more of a legal bent. Lane is an attorney for creative professions, and it helps that she herself is married to a fabulous webcartoonist, Dylan Meconis (Family Man).
Oh, and if you happen to considering a crowdfunding campaign, that's another area where Spike Trotman has some advice. Her ebook Let's Kickstart a Comic (And Not Screw It Up) lays out the basics of a comic crowdfunding campaign — appropriately in comic form.
If You Want Ongoing Advice From Comics Creators
There are a lot of sites (including this one) that are geared primarily toward webcomics readers — letting readers know what webcomics are out there. But there are also sites geared specifically toward comics professionals, including those who work online. I mentioned Fleen before, and it's a little bit of both, highlighting interesting webcomics as well as news from the webcomics world.
But there are also sites that deal with the day-to-day practicalities of running a webcomic. Making Comics is a free resource aimed at newer creators, not just webcartoonists. Webcomic Alliance is, as the name suggests, specifically for cartoonists working online, providing advice, tips, and perspective pieces on various aspects of webcomics. And, if you're looking for the sort of advice you'll find in The Webcomics Handbook on a day-to-day basis, Brad Guigar also operates Webcomics.com, a subscription-based services offering news, tips, and tutorials for webcartoonists.
Know of other resources that are valuable for the webcomics creator? Share them in the comments.