Webcomics As Self-Publishing

Back in high school, I discovered the internet, and shortly thereafter I discovered my first webcomic: Ctrl+Alt+Del by Tim Buckley.

Having grown up in the middle of the woods, in a town with no comic shop, no game store, and no movie theater, in a home with no cable and maybe a dozen movies I’d watched hundreds of times, the idea of a regularly released story was a fantastic concept to my adolescent brain.

I initially thought this was a normal sort of publication, one that went through a publishing company, with a tech team to keep the website running. I also thought it was a fairly rare thing, and that there weren’t many webcomics out there.

As you can see from this list, however, I was more than a little wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_webcomics

This is also a far from complete listing, as there are new comics constantly starting, and dozens of less popular comics that never became popular enough to get listed.

Today, I read close to 35 webcomics, about half of which update daily, and the majority of the remainder update two or three times a week.

The most fascinating thing to me in watching webcomics evolve and grow has been the realization that 90% of them are privately owned and maintained, and the majority of them make such tiny profits that they are more like hobbies than anything else. I have watched many authors struggle to make time for their comics, their personal little pleas written in the comments under the comics. Others I have watched as their comics became more and more successful, and a couple I have seen make this their career. This is really inspiring to me, because the majority of their income, aside from the money they get from advertising, comes from private donations and merchandise purchases made by their fans who would like to see them succeed. This kind of community support for people who might never have been able to make a living doing this if not for the webcomic format gives me a little hope that I’ll be able to get my own support if I decide to pursue such a route in my own life.

Sadly, these artist/writers are in the minority, and for every webcomic I’ve seen successfully come into their own, I’ve seen five or six that just died off or disappeared because the founder couldn’t afford to pay for domain hosting. Yet day after day, and week after week, I see dozens of new comics written, and dozens continue on their storylines.

If you haven’t read any webcomics, I highly encourage you to do so, there are comics for just about everyone.

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One Response to Webcomics As Self-Publishing

  1. Nick says:

    I would say that I also discovered web comics in high school. Growing up in a boring part of Tucson, AZ, surfing the web is one way to escape the monotony. I remember I was intrigued by comics like explodingdog, and later Married to the Sea and toothpaste for dinner. I was interested in these comics relatively early on, so I watched as they became more and more commercial, selling t-shirts and publishing printed and signed editions. When I saw that these random cool people were building their own scene from scratch – and it’s nothing but simplistic drawings and a bit of intellectual elaboration and maybe a few swear words thrown in. But it’s brilliant.

    Looking at this wiki-list of web comics, and reading what Erin wrote, I can see that I am merely an amateur web comic reader, a fringe supporter, a peripheral fan. I don’t read web comics every day, and I don’t follow more than a few, including what people send me in emails. But I still am interested in the phenomena of web comics and how they are reshaping the underground industry of self-published comics, and ultimately bringing more of that underground scene to the surface.

    I can relate with Erin’s hopeful remarks about the prospects of self-publishing web comics. We writers can put our skills to use on the internet in a wide range of diverse outlets, which all contribute more to the possibilities of art and entertainment in our world. Even as some web comics fall, the opportunities for self-publishing rise. People are experimenting with new ways to get their ideas to make money on the internet, but in the meantime we all get to read their comics for free.

    Web comics are a fascinating model for self-publishing that create content, build a platform, and sell merchandise all from the same original element, and all on one web site. Genius. It will be interesting if today’s little known web comics become tomorrow’s world-renowned name brands. What do you think?

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