How to Promote Your Web Comic!
Hello! I'm DCS! A full time erotic comic artist and sometimes game dev and I'm here to talk to you about promoting your comic!
I've given advice on how to promote people's comics to a lot of folks and I thought it was about time that I wrote out a general guide for folks who I don't have time to consult with one-on-one and just to generally make sure this information is out there somewhere for folks to find. It seems harder and harder for beginning comic artists to find this info lately, so I want to help change that.
Disclaimer: while I've been living off my comics for over 10 years now, I don't know everything and I'm someone who has purposefully never been published by a traditional publisher. So, if you're looking for advice on getting an agent or publishing-- this article isn't going to help with that! This is intended to help creators find better ways to promote their comic, and ideally, make some cash while doing so!
Before starting, please read my article, "Where to Share Your Web Comic!" for a good overview of places to share your comic.
If you can't be bothered, here's the most important points from that article:
Prepare a PDF of your comic's chapters or complete story!
Prepare promotional images, banners, and thumbnails for your story.
Prepare a strong summary for your story!
Prepare social media accounts for your story.
So, promotion! It's a pretty general concept! And, I've found it can be really difficult for most people because advertising is a skill by itself. That's why we have folks who go to school for it and get paid to do just that. Don't feel discouraged if you're not amazing at it off the bat! Keep doing and learning and you will improve.
For comics, my rule of thumb is: the best type of comic promotions are ones where you're getting your work in front of audiences that already care about comics.
This is why guest comics, comic trades, connecting with fellow comic artists, comic conventions, and consistently posting to comic focused sites tend to still be the strongest way to get your comic in front of a lot of potential readers who actually care! So, let's talk about that stuff first.
Guest Comics and Art Trades
This method is absolutely extra work. I can't deny that! But, it can also be some of the most fun work you do, especially if you're reaching out about a comic you love. It can be a really rewarding and creative experience if you come in with an open mind and transparent expectations.
What is a Guest Comic?
A guest comic is where you draw characters from someone else's comic and they post it to their comic's own page! This gets your art in front of new readers with characters they already know! You usually attach a banner for your comic at the bottom of the page, which should include at least one url.
Example of a guest comic I made for the comic, Sparks:
Example of a banner I put at the bottom:
What is a trade comic?
A "trade comic" (which you can honestly just call a "guest comic") is the same thing as above but both artists make a short comic for each other to post! This cross-pollination method is one of the best ways to get readers going back and forth between both stories and tends to be the most fun for viewers too.
What is guest art? What is an art trade?
Same concepts as above but just for a single image! I've found that an illustration with at least a few text bubbles work best, as it keeps readers more engaged and interested; but images without text work fine to show off your style.
Example of guest art I made for the comic, Stick 'n Poke:
How do I contact someone about this?
First, find a comic you like or you think has a similar theme to yours! Don't be afraid if you think the artist is "bigger" than you, this uh, isn't really a thing most artists think about and I've found most people are just happy to be contacted and are excited to do something fun with another artist. Never pick a comic based on it's "popularity"! Pick a comic you feel passionately about or you think is a good match to yours! Guest comics are for fun and the good of both artists, NOT JUST YOU.
Now, look for the artist's contact info on their social media or send a DM or make a comment asking to do a comic trade, guest comic, or just some art for them. Something simple like, "Hi! I like your comic and was wondering if you were up for doing guest comics or art trades? I'd love to do some cross promotion with you and/or make something fun for your comic. If not, no worries and thanks for your time!"
ALWAYS be polite and NEVER take anything personal. This is key. People are busy so don't take a "no" as any kind of personal rejection, just move on and find someone else to ask. I've been told "no" plenty of times and it's never a big deal. There's plenty more people out there who do wanna do creative stuff with you, so just focus your energy on finding them.
If the artist replies with a yes, you should then talk about a deadline for when both of you should have the art done by, and talk about approximately when you wanna post the art. I've found that guest art works best when between chapters or scenes in a story, and can often give you time to work on a buffer.
Your deadline can be vague at first and then as you're closer to finishing it, hammer out the exact time you wanna post the piece(s). When the time comes, you both post the guest comics to your comic's respective sites (Tapas, Webtoons, etc) and then (ideally) on all your social media as well. You can post your own art to your social media accounts and then link to your traders comic. And that's it!
This is a tried and true method and used to be *the* way comic artists promoted themselves before social media was as it was now. It's a really fantastic way to find new readers and a great way to meet some new people and make connections. It can be very lonely making a web comic, so it's really nice to reach out to people like this.
As last note, guest comics are only a page long because you don't wanna overload either artist with too much work. But, longer guest comics are always acceptable as long as deadlines and expectations are spoken about beforehand.
It's difficult for me to recommend conventions as a type of promotion to anyone (even though I know they work great) because of how difficult it is for artists who have never done conventions to get into conventions. Lots of artists do cons full time now and it's pushing out a lot of newer folks from giving it a try, but don't lose hope! Conventions are still a thing you can do!
How do I get into a convention?
I'd recommend looking up a guide on convention selling outside of this article, but the general idea is: you find conventions in your area, you apply for the conventions, if you get in, you go and then you sell and promote!
This is simplifying it to an extreme degree, but I (unfortunately) don't think a whole convention guide fits into this guide. Conventions are their own can of worms, but if you can get into them or you already do them, they are a great way to reach new readers!
How do I promote at a convention?
Freebies like bookmarks or flyers with interesting art and the url to your comic printed on them are the go-to! Make sure you have clear signage that says "FREE" and then prepare to give people your comic pitch when they ask about the item.
Better yet, have print copies of your book at your table! Advertise that it's *your* comic and put a summary of it up. Even staple bound books or zines are better than not having your work displayed: so don't be afraid to start small! Web comics have always been grass roots, embrace that. You don't need to be professional right off the bat. All that matters is that you have SOMETHING to give or show people.
It can be daunting to try and tell people about your work in person: but it's good practice for finding out what the pitch of your comic really is! Again, don't worry if you're not amazing at first or if your first convention with your work at the table isn't amazing. I honestly think that's normal! It takes time to get good at stuff and it takes time for people to care about things.
I often do better my second year at any convention because people take home the promotional bookmark of my series, read it, and come back the next year to buy the books. Be kind and genuine with people if they show interest in your comic! Thank them! People are out there who wanna support you and finding a local group of folks is more obtainable than you might think.
Example bookmark I hand out for free at conventions:
How my table at conventions typically looks:
To put it plainly, social media right now is a mess. It's sort of always been a mess, but me and many others remember when a lot of sites were more in favor of artists than they are now. There's a ton of factors working against you as a visual artist on these sites and it can be daunting to try and remember which site works best for what. It can also be daunting to keep up with a bunch of accounts and to keep trying new stuff to find an audience. But, unfortunately, this is what social media tends to require.
A few things to keep in mind about posting art on social media:
Different sites are going to do better or worse depending on the type of comic you have and how you're presenting it.
All social media will "punish" you for having links or trying to get someone to click off the site. (Except for MAYBE Youtube.)
You HAVE to try using more than one site because different user bases react to different things. Sorry, it's true.
Social media companies are not your friend and you should expect to need to jump ship at any moment. (Especially if you make any kind of adult or mature content.) That's why investing in making your comic as good as you can make it will always be more worth while than investing all your time into socials.
Social media is no longer a chronological feed as it once was. Because of that, making posts that are "one-offs" tend to do better than stuff that needs to be read in order. Which is difficult for comics, but it also just means you should post comic pages by themselves a lot.
I'll expand upon these ideas as I talk about my experience with each site.
What does it mean when I say "reward" or "punish"? Many social media sites run off an algorithm, which chooses based of user date what to show users and what not to show them. Algorithms are not neutral. They are influenced by advertisers and their exact behavior is a highly guarded secret by most social media sites. Because of this, we can only guess what the algorithms do and don't like, but it is clear there are things it will boost or not boost your account for. For example, you may be a boost for using a popular hashtag, for commenting a lot of other's posts, or for using one of the newest features of the site. You may also have your post punished for having an external link on it (some users tend to hate this too?) or for talking about or posting a topic the site deems unfriendly to advertisers. (Sex, blood, or sometimes just anything gay. Yeesh.)
That said, it's still debated among some folks whether or not the "reward" and "punishment" system even exists in regards to algorithms or whether these up's and down's is just based on the quality of posts. For me, I feel like I've experienced both so I'm gonna just say, it's complicated.
Twitter Twitter is tough right now for many, many reasons and I think it's great a lot of folks are jumping to sites like Blue Sky or Mastadon. Keep doing that. But, for folks still stuck on Twitter, here's some things. Twitter tends to ONLY "reward" posts that have very little to no promotion at ALL and only rewards accounts that have FOCUS. You'll need a comic or art specific Twitter to get it really working for you, or you'll need to get in touch with some promotional Twitters, which can be tough. Try full comic pages or full panels on Twitter, or try meme-ish or "easy to consume" stuff. "Relatable" content is still the most powerful on the platform, or "easy to digest" stuff too. Single images that still contain a story. Also, don't forget that interacting with other users usually means the site is going to "reward" you, so try and do that. Plus, commenting on other artists just helps them out too and it takes very little time. Be careful not to spend too much time on Twitter though, as it can easily lead you into madness. (No, really.)
Alternatively, try Bluesky.
Youtube/Tiktok These can be SO powerful if you've got the time for them. Sitting down and working on a comic page and then talking about the process is still a very popular thing and a lot of artists find new readers this way. Comic dubs are also popular and comic "trailers" are becoming a thing too. (I paid to get one made and I love it!) Goofy little Tiktoks about your comic also help-- but this is all a lot of extra effort.
If videos interest you: try it out-- if they don't, you could ask someone to make Youtube short or Tiktoks FOR you, but you will need some budget for that. You could also go into a voice acting subreddit or other places voice actors gather and see if anyone is interested in dubbing the comic for a price you can afford or for free to add to their portfolio. Always credit your voice actors, especially those who are kind enough to work with you for free.
I haven't gone the SFW route with this, but working with NSFW voice actors and audio dramas in general has been fruitful for my work and for others.
These platforms have some of the LARGEST USERBASES ON THE PLANET so if you can find a way to harness that, try to!
Tumblr Tumblr is also going through a weird time right now but if you know how to use it, it could be fruitful? Maybe? Tumblr is best used for fandom work and your posts MUST NOT HAVE any hyperlinks in them or else they will not show up in tags. People do check tags on Tumblr but you need to NEVER BE PROMOTING TO SHOW UP this is why having your profiles set up with links is useful. More and more social media will genuinely punish your posts for having outside links because they want to make the money and they don't want you benefiting at all. They just want you to be on the sites, scrolling forever. Oof!
Try the "webcomic" "comic" "fantasy comic" tags on Tumblr, or really anything that fits your comic. The first tags you put on are the most important.
Folks on Tumblr are still hungry for home grown queer romance and the like, so if your comic fits that, go wild!
Deviantart Yes, DA is still around and weirdly has a popping community in some niches. If you have an old account, why not keep using it? Find some groups and submit comic pages to them-- doesn't hurt if you're desperate! Plus, unlike most sites, DA actually allows nudity!
Reddit Aaah, the dreaded Reddit. It has been surprisingly fruitful for my career and readerbase this year. I was very surprised! (So much so, I even wrote a guide on posting there. It's 18+ ONLY.)
There are plenty of subs for comic artists (specifically Webtoons) and you can post about updates and comic pages there. You might even be able to use it to promote under a specific genre sub, depending on what your comic is about.
Reddit tends to work best if you're posting in good faith and not being overly promote-y in the title. Posting nice, engaging art with a comment on where to read the rest is usually enough to get some folks interested. But, always read a sub's rules and never check your comments unless you're ready for a potentially mean one. But, usually folks who are mean on Reddit for no reason get downvoted to shit by the communities anyways. It's one of the few ways that Reddit kind of rules? If someone is an asshole to you in a generally positive sub, it's very likely the community members there will make sure that comment is never seen again. I appreciate that about the nice subs I'm in.
I think gag or meme comics will do the best on Reddit, as well as furry and adult stuff generally. Stuff that's short and easy to pick up works best, similar to how it is on Twitter.
I don't recommend it to anyone and I won't recommend it here. If someone wants to post a guide to using Instagram in the comments, I'll gladly link to it or quote it here, but I don't be singing any praises. Tags don't work so you can't get followers. So much content is not allowed. The only folks thriving there are people who have traffic from other sites (it's the only way I get followers) and people who were before the tag changes. Or, it's people who are reposters. DON'T EVEN BOTHER IF YOU'RE NOT ALREADY POSTING THERE!
Cohost or Pillowfort Up and coming blogging sites that are worth investing in! (In this case, literally. As of writing this post, both sites are struggling to stay up to financial issues.) Pillowfort has groups where you can promote your work and people actively check tags on both sites. Get one and start posting! POST FULL COMIC PAGES! Just post your whole dang comic if you have to. It's a great place to meet other artists.
Lastly, let's talk about SEO. It's short for search engine optimization!
In simple terms, ask yourself, how can you word something so that when someone Googles something, your comic pops up?
There's a few ways to do this. Sometimes it's in your comic summary or a review about your comic or the tags, but a lot of the times, it's about how you name your image files. So, naming a comic page like "comic about satyr and witch" is something someone might search for, so having an image related to that out floating in the wild is good.
However, places like Twitter or Instagram DON'T let Google catalog them (which is a whole issue in itself) but lots of other places like Reddit, Tapas, Comicfury, Deviantart, etc , do get caught up in search engines. If you can be descriptive in your filename or alt text, it can help random people searching for stuff find your work.
It's an old school tactic, but one worth considering here and there. Don't think of it as an end all be all, just something to do now and again so people randomly Googling stuff might find you.
Hey, are you part of the Cartoonist Co-op? It's a collective of comic creators who are all there to help each other! You can post promotional links and generally ask for help on your work. It's worth becoming a member if you're serious about comics.
Things that helped me find more success with my comic...
This part of the article isn't specifically about promoting but I still think it's worth while to share the stuff that's helped me the most and see if it's useful to you.
Letting go of "staying in the lines" and perfectionism in general. I see this plague a lot of comic artists! Unfortunately or fortunately, people don't look at panels that long so one day, I just stop worrying about if my shades went out of the lines a bit or if a background looked a little wonky. Did I finish the comic? Did it look clear and understandable? Did I have fun making it? If yes, that's all I think I need.
Shrinking the page will always smooth out mistakes, so go ahead and shrink down your pages to 800 pixels wide or less. This helps people read your comic on desktop and won't affect mobile readers at all, and will keep you from needing to resize as often since sites like Webtoons already has an 800 pixel width maximum. I keep two folders in my comic folders: full sized pages and then web sized ones. Anytime I need a page for web, I just pull one out of that folder and I know it'll fit any websites requirements and look fine on most devices. (And to clarify, I keep the bigger images so I can use them for promotional stuff and just for my own personal preference. I think you could just keep the smaller size and be fine, as long as you're keeping your original working file somewhere safe.)
Not zooming in past a certain % when drawing. I used to zoom in to every little detail to make sure it was right and make sure all my lines looked good and-- NO!!! AAAH!! I can't go back to those times times! I dread even thinking about it. I saw this advice from an artist and, depending on the canvas, I pick a % for regular sized lines and then a % for "details". (And I allow myself to zoom in a bit more every once and a while if I'm really needing detail, but otherwise... I RESIST. ) This was a game changer for me. For reference, I ink at 25% zoom and 33% zoom. I also color this way.
If you aren't using clipping masks / layers to color, learn about them and start using them for whatever program you're using! It'll save you lots of time in the long run!
I would also suggest considering simplifying your coloring and shading for pages, if you're someone who does that. Or, maybe hire a colorist or consider going grayscale!
Keeping thumbnails very simple and sketches more complex. I see a lot of folks overdue their thumbnails! And hey, if that's what you wanna do, go for it! But, when your thumbnails and sketches look almost exactly the same, I can't help but think you could have saved some time on the thumbs...
If you aren't using a planner, try it! Setting goals for your work and blocking out time to actually work on stuff can be super helpful.
Posting more full comic pages to all socials. Folks don't wanna click out of social apps, so a single panel promotional post usually isn't that effective. Take the work out of it! Put your page right in front of their eyes! They are way more likely to read it that way!
Most people DO NOT find comics through social media. A lot of folks find stories through Youtube, Tapas, Webtoons, Steam, etc-- places where the "search" function hasn't been nearly as fucked up as places like Twitter, Tumblr, etc. These places still have an idea of "organic" findings and thus, have a lot more power to put stories in front of folks who wanna read them. Social media is just a secondary thing for me and I only find success on these sites when I try to play by their rules, which isn't very fun! Focus on making your comic, focus on enjoying it, and know that your hard work is good forever. Websites are fleeting, but the cool page you made is forever. You can always post it again somewhere new.
And that's all I have for you! If you have links to other advice on promoting comics, please leave them in the comment section so other people can reference them! Or, if you're interested in adding advice about any specific site, please share it below.