Friends With Boys - Page 75

Daniel’s dialogue here kind of kills me: it’s obvious he hates Alistair, but he’s going to be all well-spoken and witty about it, so maybe Maggie won’t notice he’s bashing her new friend.

So blogging time! A couple people asked about marketing for webcomics, and how you go about finding an audience for your webcomic. Since I’ve been doing webcomics for a very long time, I thought I could address that question, but the problem is, I’ve never actually set out to market a webcomic, or find an audience (well, except for this comic, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish).

I feel like marketing, or getting your work under the nose of people who will promote it, is more of a personality thing: if you have the social ability to approach people at conventions to promote your work, to wriggle your way into webcomic social circles, to say the right thing at the right time so that others remember you … well, you are one of the gifted few, and I’m sure your name will be in lights soon enough. Also, as a very shy person who finds it very hard to promote her own work, I am very jealous of you. I would like to be good at promoting my comics too! Teach me.

I have a few insights to offer for finding an audience online, even if they are unfortunately of the hard work variety. When I first started doing comics online, I really wanted to just do them to have the experience. I didn’t think anything would come of my comics, nor did I ever think I’d be good enough to be published or make my living from comics. I simply wanted to learn how to draw, and comics seemed like a good way to do that. And ohhhh, my early comics suuuucked. Here’s a page I drew back in 1999. It is the OLDEST comic page I have a record of.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THE UGLY IT BUUUURRRRNS!!!

Well, how did I go from that horrifying page to Friends With Boys? I worked. A LOT. I mean, my experience with creating comics that people want to read is pretty simple. I sat at my drawing desk and drew a ton of comic pages, and over the course of drawing those pages, I learned a lot about making comics. And then I put those pages on the internet, and paid attention to what people enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about reading them. I hear this question of “how do you find an audience for your work?” asked a lot at conventions, and I wish there was a better answer than ” put your work online, people will find you,” but since that was my experience, I can’t say I have much to offer beyond that.

There are some webcomic basics that help you gain an advantage in finding your audience, though, so here they are:
1) Update regularly: this cannot be stressed enough! Pick an update schedule and stick with it. Everyone loves a regularly updated webcomic. It makes my day so much nicer to check comics in the morning, before I have to go jogging. It bugs me when the comics I read don’t update when they say they will.
1)b. Pick an update schedule that works for the type of comic you’re doing. Okay, this is just my preference, and since I know most people do webcomics on the side (as I did for many years), but story-based comics that update weekly are death to read. They just move sooooo slowly. So maybe updating twice a month with multiple pages would work better. I’d rather wait longer for updates and have a chunk of pages (maybe a scene of the story) to read rather than reading a single page at a time. But that’s my preference.

2) Do the social media thing. Twitter is pretty fun! So is Deviantart and Tumblr. They’re also great places to meet like-minded artists and swap art tips. As shy as I am, I enjoy the social media thing. It’s also great fun to post artwork on Deviantart or other art communities, and see how people respond to it. Bonus: you grow a thick skin pretty damn quickly, because the internet is very good about pointing out how much you suck.

3) Have a professional, easy to navigate website with your contact info prominently displayed, because you never know who’s looking at your website. I’d been doing comics for years, and had just had my first book published (Zombies Calling) when First Second came along and asked me if I’d try out for drawing Brain Camp. A few weeks ago I finished pencilling the first comic in a young readers graphic novel series, a job I got because the writer found me on twitter. The internet is weird like that! You sometimes have impressive people looking at what you do online, and if they like it, and are looking for someone with your particular talents, they will hire you. But they have to be able to find your work and get in touch with you easily, so make sure you have that website/contact info.

4) Strive to make what you put online good, then make it better. It’s easier to stand out from the rest of the webcomic pack if your work is exceptional. Some webcomic artists are constantly striving to improve, and their work grows impressively over time. Others are content to sit back and not work so hard. Since webcomics are free (most of the time) and are often done by those who don’t draw comics full-time, it’s very easy to get complacent in your work, to think that what you do is good enough. But if you fight hard to make your comics truly exceptional … you really stand out. It’s so awesome when you find a comic online where the author is really trying his or her hardest to create the best comic he or she can possibly create. That’s a comic I want to read, and down the road, if there’s a hard copy, I want to buy that comic and put it on my bookshelf.

Sometimes I’m asked to give talks on comics at schools to burgoning professionals eager to break into the creative industries. There’s a statistic I like to give at the start of each talk:

“I started drawing comics and putting them online in 1999. Since 1999 I have drawn over 1800 pages of comics. Of those comics, I have been paid for 550 pages. I have been paid a living wage for 350 pages.”

Do comics because you love them. Improve your work. With time, the right people will notice. Even if you are a super-shy turtle artist with nary a self-promotional bone in your body.

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17 Responses

  1. snapdragon76 says:

    Heeeeeee!!! I had a feeling something like that happened!!

    And your first comic isn’t as bad as you think it is. But you have definitely improved!

  2. Lemon says:

    Thanks for the advice! That was a really quick response. My comics are more of the one-liner variety, but hopefully there is an audience somewhere for me. Honestly, I just enjoy making myself giggle.

    This works better with my ADD…I have never been able to stick with one storyline for very long. Also, I work full-time, so getting out two cartoons a week with one or two panels is the most I can handle for now.

    I really admire your work and dedication.

    Thanks again!

  3. I really like all your advice here, partially because I’m a reader who believes in the power of regular updates and some webcomic artists, well, they don’t quite seem to get that.
    And we now know one more thing about Alistair, he must have a killer serve.

  4. Arabia says:

    I am really enjoying following this story!

    To answer a question you posed in the previous blog: Like pohjoiseen, I love hearing about the actual places that you’re using for your setting. And because I’m a bit of a history nerd, I would love hearing more about that graveyard or any other old things. :-)

    I visited Halifax when I was about 13, but it was a very brief visit and I didn’t get a chance to really see anything. But at around that same age, I read L. M. Montgomery’s “Anne of the Island” which takes her heroine to college at the fictional “Kingston” in N.S. I always assumed that this wasn’t the real Kingston, which as far as I can see is a rather small town, but that it was based on Halifax, since that’s where the author attended college, and since she mentions the battle between the Shannon and the Chesapeake. In that book, she gives a good emphasis to the history of the city, and it really made me want to go back and visit it again!

    I also love hearing about the whole process of creation and publication — so far outside my non-arty world and so fascinating to me. Did you start drawing as a very young child? I think you mentioned before that, as a homeschooled child who was sometimes bored (e.g. when the library was closed), you made up stories — when did you start illustrating them?

  5. Vanessa says:

    Inspiring words! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always respected how frank you are about your hard work. A lot of people shrug off questions about how they got good, but working hard is the only sure way there in my mind. If you have two artists, one that has a fair share of natural talent and one that doesn’t but the second works harder, the second one will surpass the first eventually.

    This is something I learned personally recently. I’ve been working my butt off making my art better and listening to what people like (turns out it meant a completely different drawing style, but hey, that’s cool, and this new one’s easier!). I’ve been putting my work online for a while with little luck until I started listening to what was popular and pushing harder at it. I work at it constantly now, and you know what? You’re right. It does work. My first book comes out in spring. :) But I’m not stopping there. I want to get better, always. :)

  6. Mandie says:

    Eek! The story’s getting so good! I should just check back every week so I can read a chunk at a time :) I’m thrilled this updates week-daily, though, not weekly. That would be so sad for my little comic-loving heart!

    It’s really lovely to hear that promotion isn’t a must. I knew whenever I started making comics, I would be far too terrified to promote myself.
    “What if I say my comic is good, tell people to read it, and it turns out they hate it! They’ll hate me!” *panic spiral*

    I wanted to ask, since you started doing comics for fun around my age, if you have any advice for me. I hope you don’t mind the super long comment. Sorry!
    My ultimate goal is to make comics eventually. However, I want to get settled in a career first. I’m just a person who needs the security of a steady income, and I’d rather do things I love on the side so I don’t feel pressured to make money. The thing that sucks about that is how time consuming training for a career is, and how little time there is to consider creating art, reading graphic novels, or doing anything I really love while training for a totally non-art career.
    It looks like I’ll be done training in about four years, and as a person who would love to start focusing my skill-building interests on art RIGHT NOW, that blows. I’m wondering if you have any tips for making time for comics, or just art practice in general. (The pages I draw now are truly much worse than your 1999 page o.o) And, I suppose, how I could make the four years feel like they haven’t been wasted, in terms of art. I’ve worked hard on developing art skill in the past, but when I’ve run out of time to practice, those skills start to…go away. I would really like to at least be a bit better of an artist in four years than I am now o.o

    • Angela says:

      I don’t know if you want to hear from someone who is not yet a professional artist, but I have a full time job as a technical writer so I think I know what you are talking about. I did bad and stopped drawing while in university, but I started up again three years ago and have made great strides in improving since then. My advice is to always carry a drawing pad with you so you can doodle whatever when you are waiting anywhere any time – drawing your surroundings, too.

      And try to draw at least a little thing every day. This month is INKtober, so I have done a small ink drawing every night and I think since hte beginning of the month I have gotten better at the ink brush of choice for the month. I can usually do them in half an hour. Posting it on a blog the next day is how I make myself remember to do it.

  7. Warren says:

    ‘I have been paid a living wage for 350 pages.’

    That’s one in five or so, which (I suspect) puts you ahead of the curve!

  8. Laur says:

    Really enjoying the comic so far! The panel compositions are just beautiful and I definitely think they show your Urasawa and manga influences (I could be totally wrong but this is one aspect of manga I want to incorporate in my work and I couldn’t help but notice them immediately!)

    Gotta work on that number four! I always feel I don’t show enough polished, professional quality work when I know I’m capable of it. Thanks for sharing your insight on this. :D

  9. Anii says:

    That is beyond cool of you to share this. Thanks so much!!

  10. Emily says:

    Wanna know the funny thing? You’re going to be saying the exact same thing about Friends with Boys as you did about that page about 10 years from now.

    • Emily says:

      *not that you’re bad. Just that you’ll improve to a point where your skills surpass your present skills.

      • Faith Erin Hicks says:

        I hope so! I really do. I’m proud how I’ve improved over the last 10 years, and I hope I haven’t reached the pinnacle of that improvement. Hope it continues for many more years.

        • Emily says:

          It will! Seeing your work then, and seeing your work now shows that you clearly have the drive, so I don’t doubt it! I’m excited for 10 years from now XD

  11. Molly says:

    Aaah very interesting! Something I’ve always wondered is your planning, writing, drawing etc process. How you go from that initial idea to what we see in front of us. It would be really cool to hear about that sort of thing too. x

  12. [...] to impress, even with only 75 or so pages published online so far. What did surprise me, was her recent commentary on how to have success in the online comic [...]

  13. [...] Erin Hicks  gave some much needed (for me) advice + pep talk about finding an audience for your webcomic.  Be sure to head over to her page to get [...]

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Friends With Boys, webcomic edition!

Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.


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