“how did you get your comics seen? it’s one thing to make them and a whole other thing to get people to lay eyes on them and read them and I have no idea how to do the second part”
I think you’ll have to at least make friends with some of your peer group (artists who are at the same stage in their career as you) so you can both share your audiences and if nothing else, have each other as readers. If you’re really new, it’s kinda a fact that your work will be tiny for a few years: there’s a lot of stuff online.
I am not a spring chicken anymore so all my current advice for promotion wouldn’t apply as the majority of it required years of presence and establishment with the comics industry… now that my peer group has matured and become successful creators (I know that my peers are casually aware of what I put out, they may or may not read it or even comment). Additionally, my way of promoting is as avoidant of playing the algorithm and virality and tailoring to the most amount of possible audience. If you want the opposite of that, you can ask @secondlina – who has done a lot of experimentation with social media and gaming the internet attention economy.
I’m not all that interest in gaming anything: I only want to serve the audience I have and always had – thoughtful, chill readers who are ok with slow reading, in the sense they don’t ask me for constant content since they get what my vibe is. They are here for my lush visuals, original material and approach to topics/characters. It’s this audience, and the academics + people who tend to be older and are equivalent/less levels of “online” to me. I personally find that gaming for views on purpose steals time and energy away, since a lot of the tactics tend to ask you to behave or post or draw a certain way that might feel unnatural with no guarantee whether the effort is worth it. For example, making memes of your characters, doing funny reels with music. If you are cool with doing all that though, again, @secondlina is your expert. I can see why those tactics are popular: that’s how Big Tech dictates you get access to their “discovery” algorithm.
For me, in the early days what got new eyes onto my narrative work was making one-off illustrations (not necessarily of the comic – just some original character concepts) that somehow got popular. This was during the peak eras of Twitter and Tumblr though. The other thing was mostly talking about my comics: I document so much of my process. People love this apparently. It’s the only guaranteed way for myself that gets people hype and aware of the comic’s existence – though this might partly be caused by the aforementioned audience I always had. It’s very low effort cos I mostly post screenshots of WIPs or developmental sketches and include a comment.
But like, with webcomics, I always operated on the assumption that people don’t read my work. I am just here vibing. If there are readers (and I know who you are because of comments made across social media / my websites over the years) I appreciate them, but I don’t want to ask much of them either. I put out the work I like, and whoever comes across it and likes it can stay, maybe comment, maybe get the print edition.
Yeah, this is not such a satisfactory answer for marketing if you’re not subscribed to my brand of being an online artist: which is slow-growth, sustained working. My established methods now are: talking about my work, documenting it, connecting with peer group + older generations of professionals (established critics, journalists, editors), running a newsletter, going on interviews/podcasts, submitting my art to whatever I think would help promote it – pitch to Shortbox Fair, apply to Knife Beetle or the Cartoonist Cooperative, join a Discord.
And advanced methods, like applying for artist residencies.
In the end I cannot emphasise enough to get to know your peers who are at the same level of career as you are. Find creators who started at the same time you did and read their work (your choice); talk to them directly if the style/vibe matches. This is long-term mutual commitment – you won’t see the effects until years later when you each find success in the paths you chose. And just to give you an idea of who my original peer group is – choo, Ariel Ries, Kay O’Neill, Bree Paulsen, Toril/Eden Orlensky, Kaeti V, Kevin Jay Stanton, Victoria Grace Elliot, Britt Sabo – we were all obscure mutuals/friends at more or less the same time. Then we each found our own way. Over time the circle grew to include other peer groups – ones that started slightly earlier or later, and new contacts of the same level. And that’s how one gets established. As this is happening you will get eyes to your work naturally.
Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.
She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.
Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.
Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur
French Book Tour, January 2024