Advertising Tips

When most webcomics start out, the advertising they look to will generally begin and end with Project Wonderful.  This site (problems with its hamfisted introduction of ‘regional’ advertising aside) is an excellent resource for creators of all kinds, both in terms of getting new readers and also in bringing in some revenue.

A collection of potential advertising websites

Advertising is not limited to Project Wonderful but can include many free alternatives, too.

However, it is not the only way to bring traffic to your site, nor should it be the only site you focus on when starting out.  Other advertisers, such as the much maligned Google Adwords, can bring in revenue if you’re wanting to monetise your comic (and if you want to make a living from webcomics, you should be looking at monetising as early as you can, or readers may come to expect your site to be ad- and merchandising-free).

Bringing in Readers Through Advertising

As for bringing in traffic, advertising on Google AdWords can work as well.  In fact, any advertising system where you can get a cheap deal and get your adverts onto sites where people are interested in the topics your comic covers will work pretty nicely.  Of course, with advertising comes expense and when you’re starting out (even when you’re established), expense can be off-putting.

The Advantage of Commenting

So let’s look at some cheap alternatives.  Most, if not all, webcomic creators are also webcomic fans (if you’re not, how are you comparing yourself to other artists and improving your work?), and most webcomics these days have a comments section on their sites.  Commenting on the comics you like is an excellent way of getting your name out there, and thus bringing attention to your own comic.

That’s not to say you should just go and post willy-nilly on other peoples’ comics – that’s a big no right off.  Comment only when you have something worthwhile to say, either about the comic in question or something the creator has said in their blog.  Think about what you’re adding before you press send and if you’re not adding anything to the conversation, don’t post.

The last thing you need is to come across as a spammer who’s only interest is in dragging people to their own site by any means possible.  In short: you’re selling yourself when you comment, and you need to make youself look good if you’re going to get people to visit your work.

TV Tropes and Why You Need to Use it

Something a lot of webcomic artists don’t do is get themselves a page on TV Tropes.  This site collects humorous analysis of all kinds of media, from The Iliad to Count Duckula and everything in between.  Well, almost everything.  What’s likely to be missing is a page about your comic – and you can remedy this oversight.

Most people I’ve spoken to about TV Tropes think they can’t make a page on it; that somehow it has to be ‘the fans’ that will make a page, and anyone who creates one for their own comic is just wasting their time because an editor will come along, decide it’s ‘vanity editing’ and remove it.  Not so!

TV Tropes is not Wikipedia.  In many ways, it’s what Wikipedia should be, if it stuck by its “anyone can edit” philosophy to the letter.  Moreover, Wikipedia has a nebulous idea of “notability”, which generally comes down to whatever the current baying mob decides they do and do not like.  TV Tropes avoids this problem with one clear policy:

“All works are notable.” – TV Tropes notability policy

What does this mean for you?  Exactly what it says on the tin.  You’ve got a webcomic? You can have an article about it on TV Tropes.  You’ve written a couple of short stories and stuck them on a website somewhere? You can have an article about that, too.  You’ve created ten webcomics and blew your nose on Jo Cooldude’s tablecloth at Suttonly-on-sea Comic Convention 1997?  You need a page on TV Tropes about you, as well as about your comics!

But who will write this stuff?  To start with, you will.  It’s easy, too.  Just go to the page about your favourite webcomic, click on ‘edit’ and see how their page was made, then copy it mercilessly.

This not only makes sure you know how the (minimal and easy to understand) coding conventions work on the site (which is a variant on the PmWiki engine) but it also makes sure your page will look like other webcomic pages, and thus make the reading process easier for everyone who comes to have a look at what you’ve done.

Once the page is there, maybe fans will add to it later if you tell them about it.  It’s great if they do, but most won’t (most people on the Internet are ‘read only’, so don’t expect miracles).  Right now, fan editing isn’t your main concern, however.  Getting people to see your comic is.  So how do you do that?

Linking Your Way to Success

The first thing people generally notice about TV Tropes is that each comic’s page has a list called something like “This comic provides examples of:”, followed by a long list of links and discussions about how the links are associated with the comic.  Those are the tropes the site is named after.  They are the building blocks of storytelling, and each of those pages contains masses of links to works who use that trope.

By compiling a list of tropes your comic uses, you now have a set of pages into which you can add a link to your comic’s entry on TV Tropes.  Readers interested in examples of how a certain trope is being used will then see your comic’s entry and if they like what you’ve said about how you used it (see the other examples in the list for a guide to how to create your entry), they will click on your link and read more about your comic.  If they like what they see, they may even visit your site.

If this sounds like a lot of work to you, bear this in mind: TV Tropes has a large daily readership and those readers are often interested in webcomics.  Chances are they’ll come and have a look at your site because they like what they’ve seen on that wiki.  It is a large source of free advertising, and even one entry can get a significant number of hits.

Still not convinced?  Remember this: I put up pages for The Life of Nob T. Mouse and All over the house, and now fully 30% of my new readership comes from examples on TV Tropes every week.  All it took was an hour’s work.

Advertising does not have to mean paying for a graphic on someone else’s website, in the hope that their readership will a) pay attention to it and b) think you’re worth a look at.  For the most part, it comes down to getting the word out through alternative means.

I’ve covered just a couple here, but I’ve no doubt there are many more you can find if you put your mind to it.  Just remember not to come over as a spammer, and to make your work as interesting as you can, then the fans will come.

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