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Author Topic: No Pinups, Please!  (Read 4605 times)

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TakaComics

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No Pinups, Please!
« on: January 13, 2010, 12:18:58 AM »
From Ran Brown:

The pinup. Pretty, interesting, usually higher quality than your actual comic and one of the first things that gets teasingly tossed around when discussing bad webcomics. Pinups have a time and a place–bonus art, gift art, your personal gallery, and even your professional portfolio, provided that your portfolio does not consist entirely of them.

    "It’s been a month since you started your comic, and your front page boasts that you update twice a week. Your story is long format,  so that’s a slightly taller order than one page a week. However, the 31st rolls around and all you have to show for your ’schedule’ is two character profiles, a cover, two actual pages, a fanart, a pinup and yet another pinup thanking your darling fans for a hundred page views. Something is wrong here."

If this scenario is at all familiar to you as a webcomic artist, especially in relation to your own works, then you may just have a problem. Here is a list of commonly seen variants of pinups, the places that you will commonly see them, and whether or not they are appropriate:

The Character Profile:You’re new to the webcomic scene, an you’ve just signed up on a free host. You decided to sign up before you had any pages because you didn’t want someone else to steal your comicname.freehost.com, and also you wanted to build up a little hype and get your site design done.

You don’t have any real pages that are done because designing an appropriate web page is hard, but you do want your potential readers to know that you are hard at work, and give them a little preview of what that work includes. So, you post up a few pages, with a picture of each of your main characters as well as information that you think your readers might be interested to know about them, like their favourite food and blood type.

How to Use: I am a firm believer in the idea that all character information should be presented on one page, set aside specifically to showcase your characters. A page that is separate from the rest of your comic. If you make changes to that page and add new characters, let your readers know in your author comments or RSS feed.

However, if you absolutely must, use them before you start your actual pages and the second that you have a real comic up there, relocate that information to a ‘characters‘ page.

How Not to Use: Do not post a new profile instead of a comic page, even if you’ve just introduced a brand new character. If you really feel you need to post a character page up with the rest of your comic instead of on your characters page, do so only between chapters or story arcs, so as not to disrupt the flow of your story. Disrupting your story is a no–it will annoy readers, especially during tense or cliffhanger scenes, and more fickle readers may just stop reading.

The Splash Page: You didn’t have time to draw a comic this week, but you don’t want to not post. Instead, you decide that your readers will be pleased of you toss up a pretty splash art instead, whilst apologizing and making excuses in your author comment.

How to Use: Again, I’d say never, but since there will always be exceptions, I personally believe that splash pages are acceptable on major holidays (Christmas, Hallowe’en, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.), but only if they are not replacing a regular update. Only post them as extras, and if you can help it, keep them separate from your comic–let people know about them in your news or author’s comics.

How Not to Use: While some readers might say ‘awww, how cute, you made a pretty piece of art,’ a lot of them are going to be wondering why you had time to make a ‘pretty art’ and not an actual comic page. Make pages your priority. If you know you need to update Friday, make sure your page is the first piece of art you finish, and don’t sit down to do a full page, full colour picture until that promised page is done, scanned, uploaded and ready to go.

The Fan Art/Gift Art/Guest Comic: A fan sends you a neat piece of art and you decide that you’re feeling lazy this week and throw it up there instead of a regular update. You sweeten the deal by plugging their comic in the authors comments.

How to Use: Fan art and gift art shouldn’t be posted with your regular pages. Put them on their own sub-pages and show them off in your updates and authors notes. Again, anything that disrupts the flow of the comic could potentially lose you readers. Guest comics, on the other hand, are fine if you use them correctly. If you do a strip comic, inserting them into your updates is easy and not jarring, especially if you write a gag-a-day; nothing is being interrupted, and it isn’t as jarring for your audience. Guest comics are much harder to pull off with long format comics, because serial comics are often telling a story from update to update. Adding a guest comic disrupts the flow completely.

     "Example: A great example on how to properly use guest comics is Sinister Squid’s Gibson Twist. Every time he finishes a graphic novel’s worth of pages (about 200 pages of dedicated, on time comic pages) for his comic, Pictures of You, he writes a bunch of neat side stories and has other artists draw them. He plans far in advance to the point where he can tell readers who might not be interested when the regular pages will be updating again, so that they can skip them if they want to. This gives him a chance to work on the next book and take a rest."

How Not to Use: Art–sparingly. Or never. Guest comic–don’t use these too often, and if you do use them, warn your readers in advance and let them know when regular comics will resume.

The News Item: You just hit a thousand page views and want the world to know! You make a a pinup with some of your characters and a bit block-letter ‘Thank you!’ message and post in in place of a comic. Or, you just put up a cool ‘donate’ button, and want people to notice it, so you draw a pinup with info on how your audience can help you and post it in place of a comic.

How to Use: Even if you don’t post these in place of a comic and treat them as extra, off schedule information, they look really tacky. Do not post up a splash page for anything that can be conveyed in a news post or author’s note. Use these only in times of emergency.

    Example:I used to work on a comic called RAnSOM. I posted twice a week, and in November, a week from my 21st birthday, I got a call at work from my mother telling me that, that afternoon, I was getting my wisdom teeth out and that I’d got a last minute appointment before her insurance stopped covering me on my birthday. I had exactly one comic in my buffer, and ended up making a crude announcement image that everyone would see to let them know that I would be pumped full of Tylenol 3 and in no state to make a comic for the next little while.

How Not to Use: Do not use this to announce benchmarks like page views, donations, your position on top lists, new t-shirts in your store, etc.–again, it disrupts the flow of your comic and makes your readers annoyed and/or unhappy. It can also end up looking like you’re pandering. If it can be conveyed in your news posts and author’s notes, leave it alone.

Offline Pete

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2010, 10:58:02 AM »
Quote
The Character Profile:You’re new to the webcomic scene, an you’ve just signed up on a free host. You decided to sign up before you had any pages because you didn’t want someone else to steal your comicname.freehost.com, and also you wanted to build up a little hype and get your site design done.

You don’t have any real pages that are done because designing an appropriate web page is hard, but you do want your potential readers to know that you are hard at work, and give them a little preview of what that work includes. So, you post up a few pages, with a picture of each of your main characters as well as information that you think your readers might be interested to know about them, like their favourite food and blood type.

...

However, if you absolutely must, use them before you start your actual pages and the second that you have a real comic up there, relocate that information to a ‘characters‘ page.

I'm going to be a total curmudgeon here, but please don't take personal offense to anything I say; these are my opinions based on experiences and advice I've picked up over the years.  You can completely ignore me if you want to.

That being said, I would advise never to promote your webcomic's site until you have a good handful of comics up there.  I know the excitement is overwhelming, and you want to create hype, but you know what?  Honestly, most people won't give two hoots if you don't have something substantial up there (unless it's family and friends who, let's face it, are probably the only ones that would be coming to your unfinished site anyway), and character profiles are not substantial.  And to get ever more nitpicky, I've seen the kinds of character profiles that list things like "favourite food and blood type", and it doesn't mean anything to me.  Spending time on creating things like that is, in my opinion, a waste of time that could be used for making your comic.  Stick to doing very brief and general character profiles.  Hook your potential readers with them, and let them discover the character as they read the comic.

Quote
How Not to Use: Do not post a new profile instead of a comic page, even if you’ve just introduced a brand new character. If you really feel you need to post a character page up with the rest of your comic instead of on your characters page, do so only between chapters or story arcs, so as not to disrupt the flow of your story. Disrupting your story is a no–it will annoy readers, especially during tense or cliffhanger scenes, and more fickle readers may just stop reading.

This I will whole-heartedly agree with.  Any disruption to a story is bad, and unless it's a scenario that you can't do much about (such as moving across the country, which I had to do this past summer), just don't do it.  Find another way to present that character to your readers.  Use Facebook.  Use a combination of Twitter and Twitpic.  Use it as a vote incentive on Topwebcomics.  But don't take up the spot reserved for your comic.

There are some other things I want to comment on, but I'm at work, so I'll have to come back to this.  :-)

Offline ran

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2010, 01:27:14 PM »
Quote
That being said, I would advise never to promote your webcomic's site until you have a good handful of comics up there.  I know the excitement is overwhelming, and you want to create hype, but you know what?  Honestly, most people won't give two hoots if you don't have something substantial up there (unless it's family and friends who, let's face it, are probably the only ones that would be coming to your unfinished site anyway), and character profiles are not substantial.

Oh no, I absolutely agree. That doesn't mean that people won't do it regardless, though, so again, if they absolutely must, for whatever strange rationalization  that compels them to even after I've warned against it, they may, at the very least, decide to put them somewhere else once they have real pages.

Quote
And to get ever more nitpicky, I've seen the kinds of character profiles that list things like "favourite food and blood type", and it doesn't mean anything to me.  Spending time on creating things like that is, in my opinion, a waste of time that could be used for making your comic.  Stick to doing very brief and general character profiles.  Hook your potential readers with them, and let them discover the character as they read the comic.

Again, no disagreements there. I think letting people know what your character's favourite colour and blood type are are absolutely pointless. But again, people can and DO make those, so I mentioned them.


Offline Alectric

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2010, 01:51:36 PM »
I recently reduced my update schedule from twice a week to once a week, but I felt so bad about it that I promised to post something on the former update days anyway.  But now I see what a mistake that is.  I've only done it once so far, but I see how it interrupts the story and I need to do something about it.  I thought I'd be able to somehow remove it from the regular continuity navigation, but I tried that and it...didn't work.  Maybe I just don't understand Wordpress/Comicpress enough to do it.

So now I have to decide between keeping it in and simply not doing it again, or removing the post entirely, along with the comments on it, which I fear would be disrespectful to those who did comment (albeit it was only two, and the comments weren't that special, but still...).  And it is a part of my site's history and progression, so I don't really want to remove it entirely.

I could maybe try to remove it and add it again as a blog post, but then I'd still lose the comments.  Plus, removing it from continuity would take it out of context, so...I don't really know what I should do about it.

Oh, and the page in question is here.  Keep in mind that if I do remove it, that link will no longer work.

Any suggestions? :(

Edit: Oh, and another possibility I think is to switch the order of that post and the previous post, so that it at least doesn't interrupt to story arc, with a note saying when it was originally posted.  Would that work?
« Last Edit: January 13, 2010, 02:07:52 PM by Alectric »

Offline Pete

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2010, 03:44:55 PM »
ran, I apologize - I went back and reread your article, and i think that in my haste today I misread it.  Some of the points that I made in my post where based on what I THOUGHT I read and not necessarily what you put down.  I will take the time to read it more closely before opening my mouth again.

Plus, I have coffee on my side now.  ;-)

TakaComics

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2010, 04:07:16 PM »
I have done splash pages and guest comics, usually when I'm sick or out of town. However, all my readers know a day or two in advance (on an update day) or I explain why I missed an update in the blog post.

Offline Rob

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2010, 08:31:18 PM »
I think that what Ran is describing here is the difference between a professional webcomicker and a hobbyist. No matter how serious you think you are about your comic if you aren't following guidelines like this then you aren't a pro. If you are a hobbyist and your intent is not to become successful and make money from your comic then all bets are off and you can do whatever you want... and you may still become successful. (and i should say this is my opinion... yours, and Ran's may differ)

Two examples.

I had a long talk about a similar topic with Ryan Sohmer of Blind Ferret (Least I Could Do and Looking For Group). Ryan is known (amongst other things) for occasionally offending other webcomickers by suggesting they are not really professionals because they accept guest comics, miss updates generally do things that he considers not within keeping of someone looking hard at the businessof webcomics.

Now I don't think that anyone can argue with Blind Ferret's success. They deliver nine comics a week of within two story lines in three different art styles. They also do animation for PvP, Ctrl+Alt+Del and their own comic. The sell truckloads of T-Shirts and pallet after pallet of books. They are one of the biggest draws at every convention they attend and their antics entertain their fans to no end.

So what I think Ryan is saying when he says these things, is that someone who doesn't follow his example is not serious about wringing absolutely everything they can out of the business of webcomics. They they aren't doing everything that they can or should to maximize the return on their efforts and they therefore are not on his level. They are not pro's.

Now I personally was not offended. I think Ryan is honest, friendly and a straight shooter. He calls them like he sees them and considering his success; even if you disagree with him it is hard to argue with his results.

On the Flipside, it would be hard to get more laid back than Jeph Jacques. Jeph is hugely popular. His comic (and he) was profiled in the Boston Globe. I've seen the kind of T-Shirt sales he's involved in (I use the same printer and when I went to pick up my little order of twelve I was shocked to see just one of his many T-shirt designs stacked floor to ceiling and filling the printers work area... what was more shocking was that these were for orders Jeph had already received and he had none to go to NYCC with so he did not attend).

Jeph puts up fan art. He also takes guest comics. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that he takes guest comics. Remedial Comics sent him one and he used it almost immediately. The traffic to our site nearly crippled our server and in the three days the comic was up we had to hire on two more servers to handle the load.

Jeph has also never published a Questionable Content book (although he is supposedly having one come out soon) and from what Ryan has told me the profit margin on books, if you can order and sell enough of them, almost makes selling t-shirts a waste of time.

So one could argue that Jeph is not doing absolutely everything he can to maximize his return on the work he invests into the business.

But I'm not going to tell him he's not a pro. He just bought a house for Pete's sake.

But when I read articles like Ran's and remember the stuff Ryan said I am struck by the belief that I have a much better chance at reaching that pro level, that maximization of my investment, if I follow the pro rules. And I think that's the lesson.  ;)

Offline zieglarf

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2010, 09:20:50 PM »
I recently reduced my update schedule from twice a week to once a week, but I felt so bad about it that I promised to post something on the former update days anyway.  But now I see what a mistake that is.  I've only done it once so far, but I see how it interrupts the story and I need to do something about it.  I thought I'd be able to somehow remove it from the regular continuity navigation, but I tried that and it...didn't work.  Maybe I just don't understand Wordpress/Comicpress enough to do it.

So now I have to decide between keeping it in and simply not doing it again, or removing the post entirely, along with the comments on it, which I fear would be disrespectful to those who did comment (albeit it was only two, and the comments weren't that special, but still...).  And it is a part of my site's history and progression, so I don't really want to remove it entirely.

I could maybe try to remove it and add it again as a blog post, but then I'd still lose the comments.  Plus, removing it from continuity would take it out of context, so...I don't really know what I should do about it.

Oh, and the page in question is here.  Keep in mind that if I do remove it, that link will no longer work.

Any suggestions? :(

Edit: Oh, and another possibility I think is to switch the order of that post and the previous post, so that it at least doesn't interrupt to story arc, with a note saying when it was originally posted.  Would that work?

There are only two comments on that page - if you delete it and repost it as blog, then it's not really a major loss. However, you might not need to do that.

You could try changing the category of that post from comic to blog. I don't know if this will work or cause any other problems. It might be worth checking out. I would ask at the ComicPress forums.

Offline Alectric

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2010, 02:37:59 PM »
I already tried that, but the post was still in the same place in navigation...only without its image.  So, fail.

I think I'll just switch it with the previous post like I mentioned.  Hopefully that won't cause any problems.

Offline zieglarf

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Re: No Pinups, Please!
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2010, 06:40:20 PM »
You could leave it there and chalk it up to 'learning experience'. The only problem would be the reading flow.