•  
Home    Archive

News: Webcomics beget Webcomics!

00:00:30UncleRobotI know CPR...
18:39:34Chadm1nSpammers must die. Now.
16:56:16Chadm1nAs promised a few weeks ago, Webcomics Community has been upgraded!

Author Topic: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses  (Read 12719 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Rob

  • Resident Dick!
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1324
  • Easily Confused, Feeble Minded Founder
    • Remedial Comics
Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« on: June 21, 2010, 04:19:12 AM »

Almost all of us do it. I literally just did it. For whatever reason our comic doesn't update on time. We go to our blog, our Twitter, our forum or comments section and we make excuses.

Some people will take issue with this. Some folks are more comfortable saying that they are explaining the "reasons" for the delay or hiatus or whatever to their readers. But that's just mincing words. To me, a reason is a detailed explanation for the occurrence or absence of an event devoid of any emotional context. A reason is an explanation of why something is. Nothing more, nothing less.

The moment you interject a request for understanding or empathy, commiseration or forgiveness your reason has become an excuse.

And there can be no doubt that when we fail to update on time, we break that promise to our readers, we want them to understand. We want them to feel sorry for us because our computer broke or our dog died. We want them to forgive us for breaking our promise and understand that it isn't really our fault; the server in Maryland crashed and our hosting service isn't answering the phone or e-mails. We want their empathy because we are sick and feeling too bad to draw, write or otherwise update the site.

But the vast majority of readers don't care.

Stop and think about it for a moment. You go to one of your favorite webcomic sites. Because while all of us are creators I assume most of us are also readers. And the site is down. Or it hasn't been updated for a week. Or the images are broken. So maybe you scroll down to the blog or comments and there you see it.

The excuse.

My car broke down and I need money so I'm concentrating on commissions. My sister's, boyfriends, uncle died and left him a big inheritance but we all had to spend the night in a haunted mansion and now I'm cursed. And so on.

Did you care?

I know there are some readers who commiserate. And those are great readers. "You take care of your business dude. We'll be here when the insurance company rebuilds your burned down house, you are no longer in rehab, have been raised from the dead, whatever." Chances are they are your biggest supporters. But have you ever seen more than handful of those comments? Even on the biggest of comics; I haven't.

My comic was lucky enough to be promoted by doing a guest comic on a much larger site. The traffic was a server melting 90k unique users in three days. We managed to retain enough of those readers that for the next month or so we were averaging between 5-8 thousand uniques a day. Then things started falling apart.

My artist had "issues." Our buffer was quickly depleted and updates became haphazard and soon I had to put the whole site on hiatus.

And yes, I did get a few of those comments. Those wonderful, supportive, almost make you feel worse because it reminds you you are letting down people who care, comments. They told me they would be here when things got going again.

And in the space of three weeks into my hiatus the traffic was down to less than 50 people a day.

Now, I was continuing to blog. And I occasionally added reviews and news items to the site. I even started another comic made entirely by me (an affront to humanity if there ever was one). But I never approached anything resembling respectable numbers again. The damage was done. The covenant broken and until I was ready to update regularly with that compelling content, and prove to anyone coming to the site that we can earn that trust back, it was pretty obvious to me that I wasn't going to get anywhere.

Readers are some of the most unforgiving bosses there are. If you abuse their trust and constantly make excuses they will simply not patronize your site.

But it is a catch 22. You can't simply not update and pretend that nothing happened. You have to say something. But I honestly don't believe that what you say matters very much. It is what it is; simply one of the worst things that can happen to a webcomic. And the only thing I think you can do is try and mitigate it by not spreading blame, not whining, explaining the issue concisely (or perhaps humorously) and assuring the readers that it is a temporary condition that will be resolved quickly.

Unless it isn't.

I know of several webcomics who have done just this. Explained the hiatus with hints of exciting projects to come and promises of long stretches of uninterrupted updates only to come back with more and more excuses.

One of my favorite blogs was where a creator, after months of haphazard updates defiantly announced he (or she, not looking to out anyone) wasn't going to make any more excuses and was just going to say that the comic will be done when it's done. And then proceeded to tease about exciting upcoming projects that would blow my mind.

My personal feeling is that one of the worst things you can do is jerk your readers around. I'm guilty of it myself but I feel like I've gained some perspective on the issue. If I ever find myself in a situation where I'm going to break a promise to a reader by not updating or worse, not updating for a long period of time, sure I'm going to tell them why. But if you're life has gotten complicated and it's looking like you will have sporadic updates for the future it's best to just explain the situation and pull the plug until you get your proverbial shit together.

Readers can develop an active dislike for creators who treat them this way. I recently had to have a little talk with myself regarding a creator I'm going to see soon at a convention. I've been going to his/her site for years and the update schedule has always been sketchy but lately it's been total crap. Not only have I seriously considered removing the comic from my bookmarks but as each visit to the site results in no new content (except for new excuses), week after week, month after month, I've found myself to be actually angry with this creator over my wasted time. Hope turns to bitter ash I suppose. And I needed to remind myself that being snarky with that creator when I see him/her isn't going to get me an update. Might make me an enemy. So I need to squash it. But the sentiment remains.

I should say that this is my perspective as a reader. As a creator I understand life gets in the way. And so I'm here to tell you that as creators I think we should all endeavor to handle these situations better. Most of us will never be as prolific and stable as Howard Taylor. Things do happen. But I think we need to take ownership of them. Do a little less whining and be straight with our readers. If what we tell them when the bad things happen is what actually comes to pass, maybe we'll be able to preserve a little bit of that trust lost when we break our promise to update. That's me theory anyway.

Offline GaNda

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 35
    • Gandacomics
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2010, 04:31:48 PM »
I am currently not updating my webcomic for some time now mostly because I want to make my website much better and all of a sudden things bother me that I didn't notice before...I got to get those things sorted out first before I continue.
I didn't blog any excuses nor do I feel I have to do so.I have artist issues, I love my work but I put them out there mostly for me I am still hoping that I will break a thirty thousand Page impression :) one day and maybe that day if I need I will give excuses out if readers would actually make me feel that they want to read my stuff..personally feel obligated to readers if they make you feel wanted....I think....

Offline Gibson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 328
    • Pictures of You
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2010, 10:39:05 PM »
While I do agree that jerking your readers around or not updating regularly or taking lightly the need for a hiatus, there are a lot of thing that mitigate whether an audience will stick with you and how much they will care. One, of course, is the quality of your comic. Another is how compelling your comic is. Another is the size of your audience. Another is the frequency of your breaks and another still is the length of the hiatus. And despite what you've said here, Rob, I do think the reasons for the break make a difference.

Pictures of You has gone on unscheduled breaks three times since it began in 2007, twice were due to computer malfunctions and the third was due to, I hate to say, being busy. I was square and upfront with my readers each time, and I did get a fair amount of supportive comments. None of those times did I see a significant drop in readership...none at all, really. Granted, they were short breaks, the longest being two weeks (missing 7 updates, however) during which time I was posting filler every day, but the fact remains that I wasn't posting comics and the fans were with me.

In fact, to the point that only a handful will ever care about your reason, the last time I went on break and posted a page saying so, it was one of my three or four most commented pages up to that point. Almost all of the comments were of the "Of course we'll wait, this comic is awesome!" variety, and a few even told me, I shit you not, to take a longer break.

Now, Pictures of You has a loyal following, made up mostly of people who are methodical about checking for updates. There are more than a few folks who visit several times a day, even when the comic isn't updating. Not every comic will have that, but every comic can, and that goes to the point that there are always going to be mitigating circumstances to decide whether your comic will or won't survive a break. There's also the fact that people will get more invested in a well-told story comic than they will in a gag-a-day, and folks are more likely to forget about a gag-a-day during a short hiatus. It's the other edge of the sword that story comics have a harder time drawing an audience than gag-a-days, they have an easier time keeping them.

I will say that there's a point at which no comic's readership will survive a delay. If you're going to be offline more than a month, it will always hurt you. If you're going to be offline more than two, chances are you should just stop or be prepared to build your audience again from scratch.

Offline Alectric

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
    • Estrangel
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2010, 12:08:05 AM »
Funny you should say that...I just ended a two-month hiatus and for some reason I still got plenty of hits on my site (plenty for me, at least) every day, even though I gave my readers no reason to expect any new content in that time.  It's a bit less than before, but not as dramatic as having to rebuild my readership again from scratch.

I hated having to take a break and was simply honest about the situation and what my reasons were.  The break served its purpose and now my usual commentors are coming back saying how happy they are to see my comic updating again (which is so wonderful to see).  The thing is, since my comic is pure hobby, readers who don't comment or vote in the poll, who are just a statistic, really don't matter to me that much, and if I lose them, I'm not going to miss them much.  The ones that care and participate are the ones that stick around.  I can certainly see why losing readers is so concerning to you, Rob, but keep in mind that for hobbyists who mostly do it for their own enjoyment, it's not quite the same.

Also, you're comment on wasting your time checking for a certain comic's updates made my kind of upset, because that is what feeds are for.  Either the author didn't have one set up or you didn't subscribe and yet complained, so either way it's a disappointment.

Offline ran

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
  • Oh so tired.
    • brainspill
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2010, 01:53:20 AM »
I've been sick for like three weeks, and despite the fact that I was feverish and hallucinating, I tried my hardest not to miss an update. I know how crucial it is, especially when your comic is young, but it got to a point where several other cartoonists were pretty certain that I was going to burn myself out if I didn't at least take a couple days to let myself rest and recoup--I explained to them that I didn't want to be late, because again, consistency is crucial, but eventually I kind of got what they were saying and agreed.

Still though, I felt terrible about not being able to post anything, and my cartoonist friends came through. I had a really nice guest comic in my inbox by the time I work up the day that I was supposed to update, from a great friend.

If you can't give them the comic, give them something--ask someone to do a guest comic, or release that fancy, free wallpaper for everyone a week earlier than you planned. Make sure your content is offering something new, even if you have to shuffle everything around later.

Offline JGray

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 188
    • Mysteries of the Arcana
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2010, 08:12:16 AM »
Keep in mind feeds can and do break (and, in fact, mine did).

My readership was actually slightly up during the break between chapter #1 and chapter #2. This is probably because we offered content every day in the form of webcomic trailers.

Thanks, guys! Couldn't have done it without you.

Offline Gibson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 328
    • Pictures of You
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2010, 10:30:19 AM »
Randi, if you ever need a guest comic again, let me know.

Offline ran

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
  • Oh so tired.
    • brainspill
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2010, 12:16:50 PM »
Randi, if you ever need a guest comic again, let me know.

I shall! And if you ever need another artist for your intermission comics, I swear I will make time for it if you give me a couple months beforehand to get it done.  =)

Offline Gibson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 328
    • Pictures of You
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2010, 12:20:36 PM »
And if you ever need another artist for your intermission comics, I swear I will make time for it if you give me a couple months beforehand to get it done.  =)

You've always had a standing invitation to do a Snapshot. I'm already compiling the list for next summer, so if you're up for it, I'll put your name down and give you assloads of months!

Offline ran

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 151
  • Oh so tired.
    • brainspill
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2010, 02:53:52 PM »
Seriously, add me. The more months the better. And if you ever decide you're writing a snapshot that features Kara for any reason, please find it in your black, awesome heart to toss that one my way. =D

Offline Dragon Powered

  • Senior Web Correspondent
  • Administrator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 120
  • Fractured
    • Dragon Powered
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2010, 02:59:52 PM »
Well, here's an excuse!  I was called to work unexpectedly yesterday, so I didn't get an article up.

Should have one shortly.  I know, excuses excuses...

Offline Gar

  • Global Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 408
  • Really quite hairy.
    • Neko the Kitty
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2010, 04:05:01 PM »
Well, here's an excuse!  I was called to work unexpectedly yesterday, so I didn't get an article up.

Should have one shortly.  I know, excuses excuses...

Leeway Granted, huzzah!

Offline GroundChux

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 16
    • Brightest
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2010, 05:46:14 PM »
This is something that's really been on my mind as of late.

I've been running 5 days a week without missing a beat (I was 3 days for the first couple months this year, then 5 from there on), and it's steadily grown an audience for me. I started with a 2 month buffer, and as I come to the end of Part One, my buffer is down to about 5 weeks (as of this writing). I'm wanting to spend the time to get the buffer back up to two months' worth before starting Part Two, which might take as little as 2 weeks, or might take up to a month (depending on my flow). Or might take nothing depending on how these next two weeks go for me.

Point being, I'm really worried about even setting up a timed hiatus. Even 2 weeks between 'seasons' would mean a drop in audience. I have no idea how much, but there WILL be a drop. Or I guess my question is, will there be?

Does anyone have any anecdotes or their own experience with a planned hiatus and how that went over? If you set yourself a date, and even spend some cash on advertising for the return date, would the audience not miss a beat? Or is any extended time off beyond a couple days destined for a loss of audience?

Offline Rob

  • Resident Dick!
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1324
  • Easily Confused, Feeble Minded Founder
    • Remedial Comics
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2010, 08:56:57 PM »
Gar from Neko the Kitty just did this. Maybe he can stop by and comment on how things went.

Offline Alectric

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 166
    • Estrangel
Re: Webcomics 2.0 - Excuses Excuses
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2010, 12:46:14 AM »
Well, better spend the time now then run out of buffer later.  Or do you have some alternative in mind?

Besides, are the readers that would leave because you took two weeks off really all that important to you?