Release Day Checklist: Things To Consider Before Launching Your Comic
- What do you think the most memorable part of the story was?
- Was there a character you really connected with?
- Was there a character you didn’t really care about?
- Did you find the conversations / dialogue easy to follow, or was there anything that tripped you up?
- Where do you think the story will go from here?
- Check your lettering to make sure your dialogue is easy to read.
- Keep your pages (and issues) a consistent size, even if your panel layout changes from page to page.
- Be sure to include the names of all your comic’s contributing artists/writers/letterers in a credits page either at the start or end of the issue. This is also a great place for social media links!
- Make sure to feature preview pages when selling your comic via a digital vendor, so that digital readers can have an idea of what they’re getting into.
- Include a product description for your work that gives a good summary of what your core story is – even if this isn’t the first issue in the series!
- Pages created in advance, giving you lots of time to work on future pages / issues.
- Short stories, dossier, journal entries, or other prose designed to flesh out your characters and world in place of a normal update.
- Concept art or ‘what if’ illustrations.
- Alt-cover art.
- Fan art from a contributing artist (that you’ve hopefully compensated with either money or via an agreed upon art trade).
- Special announcements, such as Work-In-Progress shots or official release updates.
- Creating banners for social media (Twitter, Facebook, web pages, mirror sites, etc) that have a unified look and feel to help cultivate an image for your brand.
- Planning at least one social media post a week that’s related to your comic. This can be anything from WIP illustrations to reminders that your comic is for sale. As long as it helps your audience know what you’re up to, it’ll do the trick!
- Joining creator communities to chat with other creators. Few support artists as well as a fellow artist! It’s ok to ask for help on any subject you’re unsure of — even if that means occasionally asking for retweets to help boost a new project. Just remember be polite, friendly, and considerate when making a request.
So, you’ve decided to create your own comic. You have a story you’re excited to tell, and spent months pulling it all together. Whether you have a team assembled, or you’re a one-person writer/illustrator diving right into the work, you’ve already started banging out that first issue and it’s almost time to share it with the world.
The great news is, you’re on the right track. If you’ve made it this far then you’ve got a solid foundation to work with. But if this is your first time releasing a comic then you may want to hold off on pulling the trigger for just a tiny bit longer. First impressions make a large impact on your future readers, and your story deserves to set off on the right foot.
From small edits to your layout, to marketing plans, there are some things you should definitely pause to consider before your big release day. Before you get the ball rolling, pause for a second and ask yourself…
Could Your Comic Use Some Extra Polish?
There are two major points you should consider before releasing your comic: Content and Formatting.
When it comes to content, it’s hard not to take criticism personally. We’ve all been there. Having your work criticised for any reason can hurt, especially when it’s regarding a story you’ve worked on for years up to this point. But the truth is, if you haven’t already had your comic extensively peer reviewed, you’re doing yourself (and your work) an incredible disservice.
As creators we spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours laboring in the tiny details that make a difference to us — but at the end of the day if you’re looking to create a successful story it needs to make sense to more than just its creator. Sharing your work with readers you trust to give you honest feedback will likely reveal a few weaknesses in your creation. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to. No work of art is perfect.
If this is your first time creating a comic, you should ask probing questions to see exactly what your comic’s weaknesses may be. This doesn’t need to be anything as direct as ‘what didn’t you like about my work?’ — some people may just have trouble providing criticism, and need to be lead given a helpful prompt. Try leading questions that are designed to start a conversation, rather than earn a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Often times these questions will lead into bigger discussions about your content that can reveal problematic elements. You may feel the urge to gently push to find out what changes you can make, and that’s great! Now’s the time to do so! There’s no shame in going back and making revisions if it helps improve the quality of your story.
When it comes to formatting, things get a little easier. There are no hard rules on how a comic should look, but there are small details you’ll want to adhere to in your comic to make reading more enjoyable. Some of them are related to your comic’s design and layout, but you’ll also want to make sure you’re well prepared for the future marketing of your comic in a way that will stand out and help draw in readers.
How Will You Build Your Audience?
Most creators have an idea in mind when they picture their comic’s release. Your entire work plan is generally built around how you want to structure your narrative; whether it’s in the form of more traditional smaller issues or a more comprehensive large volume. But before you go any further, it’s worth considering the various ways you can release your comic (or webcomic) out into the world to help build awareness for your work.
If you haven’t already considered releasing your work as a webcomic, you definitely should. Since the term ‘webcomic’ tends to evoke a particular kind of content, lets define ‘webcomic’ as any comic that updates on a website or mirror, typically for free, and typically on a weekly schedule. Both single issue releases and webcomics have their strengths and weaknesses, and you should consider what kind of format is best for your creative plan — especially if you can manage an update schedule that can handle more than one kind of release platform!
Webcomics can be a little easier to build an audience with since you provide a platform for your work via a website. Even if all you’re doing is releasing one page of your comic a week, regular content updates help build an interest in your comic over time. It’s extremely helpful for marketing in the long run, and can even be done alongside an official release of a print issue.
If you don’t feel comfortable with handling regular updates the good news is that just as many readers prefer to enjoy a story in larger narrative blocks. There’s a reason books, especially compiled volumes, do so well at conventions. If you’re just planning on releasing a webcomic you should always keep in mind story arcs that would make a good bookend for a volume release. Always give your readers a satisfying story arc to purchase. This is the kind of long-term planning that many comic artists falter in, which brings us to our next point…
Do Your Have a Buffer and/or Release Schedule?
Many comic creators have a general idea of how they want their story to go, and as a result don’t take the time to write down an actual plot outline. Don’t make this mistake! Planning your comic’s story in detail gives you a clear plan for how you’ll develop your content in advance, and no resource is more important to a comic creator than having a buffer.
A ‘buffer’ is essentially work you have available to use that will keep your comic looking active while you work on newer material. If you’re a webcomic, this means making sure you have enough material to keep your website regularly updated while you work on new content. As a single-release comic, this means planning out content to share with your readers as you work toward releasing a new issue.
Without a buffer, it can be difficult to engage and interact with your audience regularly. Buffer helps you always have something new to deliver, and isn’t limited to any one type of content release. For example, a buffer can be:
Remember that just because you’ve created an outline or one-sheet, doesn’t mean you can’t change things along the way. The beauty of being an independent creator is that you’re free to make changes if you suddenly have an idea for a more compelling narrative. But by having a clear vision of the future in place you can better prepare yourself to make those changes, as well as planning your release schedule accordingly.
What’s Your Plan For Growth?
When it comes to self promotion there’s a common claim among artists that they’re ‘just not good at social media’. Self promotion can be difficult if you’re trying to tackle things one day at a time, but the good news is that doing so isn’t nearly as tough as it seems!
One of the biggest parts of promoting your comic is giving readers a sample to enjoy — a point we kind of touched on earlier. This can be something small, like including a page or two of your work as a preview. Alternatively, you can go the extra step and use a mirror site (such as Tapas or Webtoons) to promote your work on active comic communities.
Depending on the kind of release you have planned for your comic you may also want to consider:
Creating a comic is hard work, and can be a daunting experience if this is your first time sharing your story with the world. The advice here is by no means comprehensive, and may not completely help with meeting the goals you have for your work. But these are lessons learned from artists who have been through these early growing pains before, and we’re certain this advice will help catch at least one thing you may have missed when planning your big debut!
Remember, if you ever need any help there are always artists (and resources) willing to share their knowledge and lend a helping hand. If you find yourself still in need of advice, you can always join our own community on our official Discord server.
Be patient, be persistent, and don’t forget to have fun along the way. There are few things more enjoyable than being immersed in a story told by a passionate creator, and we’re excited to see what you have to share with the world.
-Adam Ma, Writer/Creator of Folklore (https://twitter.com/34thGingerbread)
-Colin Tan, Illustrator/Creator of Folklore (https://twitter.com/unartifex)
-Jay, Creator of The Pale (https://twitter.com/wootjay)
– ComixCentral team