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I’m currently having my best day for traffic on this blog ever. In an attempt to keep folks coming back for more, I wanted to encourage visitors to subscribe to this blog.

A lot of people don’t know what it means to subscribe to a blog or rss feed. It basically makes it so, rather than having to visit a website to get new content, the new content is delivered to you via a newsreader. I recommend doing so highly… it will save you a lot of time if you visit a lot of websites and blogs with rss feeds, and it costs nothing. For a newsreader, I highly recommend the free, powerful, and easy to use web application Google Reader.




My friend Ken Avidor sent me this hilarious Disney transportation vision of the future from the 1958 Disneyland TV Show episode entitled “Magic Highway USA”. It looks like it was animated by Bruce McCall. Somehow they missed the brilliant modern innovations of talking on the phone and watching movies as you drive, which seem like such obvious good ideas!

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART FOUR: Publishing and Promoting Your Work on the Web

This is the fourth and final part of a series of articles on getting your comics online. Here are the previous parts:

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART TWO: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART THREE: Getting your Images Ready For the Web

Before I begin, I discussed briefly in chapter two some notes on building your website. I mentioned that I use Dreamweaver (and the other Adobe web applications), which costs money, and I directed you to a free option (called Seamonkey) made by the Mozilla foundation, the makers of the Firefox browser. Here is another free option I heard of recently that sounds pretty promising called NVU.


Publishing files to the web is easy. Once you have your domain set up, you will just put the url along with your username and address into your FTP program, and then you can treat the folder that contains your website pretty much like any other folder on your computer.

For an FTP program (file transfer protocol… a program to upload your files to your webserver), I use and recommend the freeware program Filezilla. Dreamweaver and some other webpage editors have the ability to ftp built into them (as do many recent operating systems, for that matter).

The main file people see when they go to your site, located on the top level of your site, should be called index, as in index.htm or index.html. The index file is the first file browsers will look for. Once you put an index file on the top level of your domain, that is what people will first see when they go to your url.

You’ll also want to create some subfolders to keep things organized. You’ll definitely want a folder called images to keep your images in. You’ll probably want subfolders in the images folder like my_comic and my_other_comic. If you don’t organize your files in folders, and by sensible names, things will quickly get out of hand, and it will be hard to find what you’re looking for.

Some good rules for naming files:

1) Avoid most special characters.
2) Use all lower case. The web is case sensitive, and if you use multi-case, you will regret it, I assure you.
3) Don’t use spaces in file names. Use underscores ("_") instead.
4) When numbering files, use 0’s. This will also make your life easier. If you think there will be 1-99 images in a series, name them image01, image02, image03, etc. If you thing there will be 100-999 images in a series, name them image001, image002, image003, etc.
5) Use long descriptive names when necessary. This will make your files easier to find. I like to break up my files by large categories to small categories. Here’s an example of a good long file name:


You refer to files on the web by their location. If you put the above example image in your images folder, you would be able to reference it at:

That is what you would use to reference the image in image tags (which would make the image show on an html page):

<img src="">

Or if you wanted to link to them:

<a href="">My image</a>

Again, the purpose of this series of articles is not to be an html tutorial (there are plenty of those out there). Hopefully, these examples get the general idea across, but if you want to learn more about html tags, you should find plenty of information elsewhere.


Well this is something I certainly don’t excel at myself, but I’ll share with you the promotional options I know of anyhow (in no particular order).

A) The Cartoonist Collective

One excellent way to promote your work is to post your work with other cartoonists, so you can share readers and promotion. You can share a website with your cartooning friends. Group blogs work great for this. Both Blogger and WordPress can be used as group blogs just as easily as solo blogs… you just add users in the admin. This seems like a great option to me, and would potentially be a load of collaborative fun.

B) Ranking Sites

There are a number of ranking sites around the web. Getting ranked on these sites will get you some traffic, but I wouldn’t recommend spending much time trying to improve your ranking on them… I don’t think any of them are very effective ways to promote your work. Here are the ranking sites I know of:

C) Getting on Search Engines

There are some things you will want to do to make your website search engine friendly… there are a lot of things you can do, but I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time on this either, since trying to second guess search engines is probably more of a headache than it is worth.

You will want to do is put metatags on your home page. These are just some tags you add to the top of your page code. Here’s an example of some metatags put into the head of an html page:

<title>My Website</title>
<meta name="Description" content="My Website is a site where My Comics by Me, a comic strip about my life, appears on a daily basis.">
<meta name="Keywords" content="my first name, my last name, comic strips, comics, webcomics, cartoons">

This is very easy, so you really shouldn’t get intimidated by it… just paste the above code into your html page in the appropriate place and change it in the appropriate places to reflect the contents of your site, and that is all there is to it.

Note that there is no limit to the number of keywords or other information you can put in your metatags, but you don’t want to go overboard with it… by all accounts I’ve seen, it doesn’t help to do so, and it may even hurt. Your best bet is to try and describe your content accurately and concisely.

Using descriptive titles on your pages and providing alternate text for your images will also probably help with your search engine rankings… I usually don’t bother with this, but it is a good idea.

Many search engines will encourage you to send links to your site with descriptions. Again, I don’t think this is worth spending a lot of time on, but every bit helps. If you’re going to do this, hit google, yahoo and msn first (especially google), since those are the biggest ones. If you have a blog, you’ll probably want to register it at Technorati, which is probably the biggest blog searching site around. You may want to look for comics specific search engines like this one. There are some sites out there that will submit your site to multiple search engines at once, but I don’t have one to recommend, and a search for one leads to some pretty sleazy looking sites, so be careful where you enter your information, as always.

If you want to explore this stuff more, google offers a service for helping you to improve your ranking on their search engine, which may be useful.

D) Getting on Link Lists, Blogrolls, and Web Rings

Getting links to your site from other places will help your search engine rankings… it is one key for getting a good rank on Google.

Unfortunately, there is no real formula for this… some sites out there encourage you to send them links for them to add, but mostly they get put up by folks who find your work and like it.

Trading links with other cartoonists is an accepted practice… the term "blogroll" for the list of links on the side of a blog comes from the book publishing term "logrolling" which refers to the industry practice of authors trading blurbs for the covers of each others’ books.

I tend to think Web rings don’t work very well for getting new readers, but I may be wrong… I don’t think most users will follow links unless they have a compelling reason to do so. However, any links will help your search engine rankings.

E) Commenting and Participating on Blogs, Message Boards and Other Forums

Commenting on other peoples’ sites is a good way to drive traffic to your site. Most message boards will let you add a signature to your posts, which you can use to provide links to your site or sites.

Don’t comment just for the sake of commenting though… you won’t make any friends contributing to all the spamblabber out there on the web. Comment only if you have something to say… being an active participant on the web with worthwhile contributions will build your reputation and your web traffic.

F) Reviews

Getting reviews is among the best way to find new readers. Even bad reviews probably help somewhat, although you certainly don’t want to seek those out… send your work to appropriate places to get read and reviewed. If you’re doing a comic about superheroes, don’t send it to get reviewed by furries, and versa-vica.

Where are these places to get reviewed? Really, I don’t have a lot of resources for this. You would think there would be a ton of comics review blogs out there, but honestly, I haven’t seen all that many. There is the Comics Journal, but that focuses mostly on print comics. There is the Webcomics Examiner, but they don’t provide any obvious way to submit your work for consideration, which seems like a pretty serious oversight. Here’s what a search for webcomics reviews on google gets you. Do you know of more good comics review sites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

G) Subscriptions and Email Subscriptions

As I mentioned previously, having an rss feed for your comics is the best way to build a readership. If people subscribe to your feed, they will receive all your updates when you make them without having to visit your site to find the updates. This will build your fan base, and having fans that are vocal advocates of your work is the best way to find more readers. For more information about rss feeds, I refer you to previous chapters of this article.

H) Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites like myspace are a pretty good way to help build an audience if you use them actively, or so I hear. I have two I’m maintaining on the biggest social networking site for cartoonists and comic geeks, comicspace. I have one for me, and one for the Cartoonist Conspiracy. I also have one on myspace for Soapy the Chicken that I haven’t logged into for months.

I don’t have time to be active with these in addition to my own sites, so I just use them to rather pathetically "add friends." I really don’t think this is doing me much good at all.

However, if I was active with these, posting comics, newsreleases, etc. on them, I would guess it would pay off… I’d rather spend my time working on my own comics and sites, though, and these social networking sites can clearly be a big time hole. It may hurt you if you are like me, and you don’t properly maintain them, so I wouldn’t suggest building them unless you intend to spend the time checking and updating them regularly.

I) Paid Advertising

Some comics sites offer paid advertising. I played around with some cheap ones on a fairly popular webcomic site and on one of the ranking sites to see if they would increase the traffic on my Soapy the Chicken site. My traffic did go up a bit. I REALLY don’t recommend it, though, since it costs money, and I don’t think it will generally help your traffic that much. How many times have you clicked on a banner ad? I’ve been surfing the web since the early nineties and I don’t remember ever clicking on an ad that I didn’t make.

J) User-Driven Recommendation Sites

There are some sites out there specifically designed for recommending links. Digg is one of the most popular examples of this. Users submit a site, and the more it gets viewed and recommended by users of that site, the better its ranking gets on the site. You can encourage users to digg your content by adding a button for digg on the bottom of your posts, if you have a blog.

There are a lot of other sites out there that do this sort of thing… I’d only focus on ones that are well used if you are going to pursue encouraging this sort of thing. If you join and explore feedburner, it will point you to a number of them, and will make it easy to add them to your rss feed.

K) Monitoring Your Traffic

There are many online applications that will let you see where your website traffic is coming from.

This knowledge can help you see where you are most benefiting from various promotional attempts, and help you know the best things to focus your energy on.

The excellent resource feedburner is a good thing to use (for monitoring traffic and a number of other reasons) if you are maintaining a blog site. There are a multitude of other options… any halfway decent webhost will provide you with a way to monitor this stuff on some level. Most of these will probably involve some level of setup, but it usually isn’t too complicated.

L) Word of Mouth

Good word of mouth comes from doing good work, getting it read, and getting people who are passionate enough about your work to want to tell others about it.
I think this is the single most effective way to promote your work, and it is also possibly the hardest to acquire. I don’t think there is a formula for getting good word of mouth, necessarily… the best you can probably do is keep at it, publish frequently (ideally on a schedule), encourage everyone you encounter to read your work, and encourage those who read your work to spread the word. Your devoted readers are your best allies for getting you more devoted readers.

M) Go to Comic Conventions

Besides making great comics, there is probably no better way to get devoted readers than meeting your readers in person. Comic conventions are the easiest way to do this. Usually it will cost some money to get a table, so sharing a table can help. There are some wonderful, rare conventions out there that offer free space to creators as well… the excellent Twin Cities conventions FallCon and MicroCon both do. If you know of other free conventions, or conventions you recommend for other reasons, please let us know in the comments.

N) Have a Signing, Reading, Art Show or Other Event

If you’ve published something, having an event to promote it at your local comic shop may get you some new readers. Talk to your favorite comic retailer and see if they are open to it. You could even tour with your comic to comic shops around the country, although clearly, this is a lot of work, expense, and risk.

Don’t limit yourself to comic shops, necessarily either. Bookstores, coffee shops, bars, and galleries may be open to an event as well, if you pitch it right… and finding audiences that don’t usually read comics can sometimes provide you with some of the most enthusiastic fans.

O) Meet Other Cartoonists

Meeting other cartoonists to collaborate, share advice, and cross-promote with is pretty essential… and awfully rewarding. The act of cartooning is a very isolated endeavor… it is awfully nice to have friends who can relate to it.

Besides going to conventions, the best way I know of to meet cartoonists is to attend or start a cartooning group locally.

I like to think the best resource for meeting cartoonists is to join The International Cartoonist Conspiracy, a group which I am the webmaster for. Any cartoonist anywhere can start a cell of the Conspiracy. Membership is open to all cartoonists regardless of gender, race, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, attractiveness, wit, or talent. Only the desire to produce comics is necessary.

Besides social interaction on our website, we have cells around North America (and soon, the world!) that meet regularly in the flesh to draw comics. We’ve been conspiring since December 2002, and currently have cartoonist cells of varying levels of activity in Minneapolis MN, San Francisco CA, Calgary/Edmonton, Chicago IL, Lancaster PA, Milwaukee WI, Montreal, Rice MN, Sacramento CA, Sioux Falls SD, Springfield IL, Kansas City MO, Santa Fe/Albuquerque NM, Springfield, MO, North Carolina and Albert Lea, MN.

If you join the Conspiracy your local group will be part of a bigger group of collaborators as well, and will be able to post to our group blog, add events to our calendar, and have a section of our message board. Go here for more information about joining the Conspiracy, and contact me directly if you want me to get you set up.

Know of other ways that work for promoting your comics? Have questions about what I’ve posted? Please let us hear about them in the comments!

More About RSS Feeds From Popular Webcomics Hosting Sites

In the comments to my second installment of my How to Get Your Comics Online series of articles, there have been some responses about the rss options for some of the popular webcomics hosting providers, so I thought I would note them here:

1) In addition to, DrunkDuck and Comic Genesis both offer rss feeds.

2) Joey Manley of comics hosting provider (and the excellent Talk About Comics blog) notes that does indeed offer the ability for cartoonists to publish their full rss feeds, it just has to be turned on (partial feeds are the default option). He encourages folks to let cartoonists who don’t offer full feeds know that you want them. Sam Henderson and Roger Langridge, I hope you are reading!

The ProBlogger blog just did a survey of their readers to see what reasons people had for unsubscribing from blogs, which you can see here. Note that the third highest reason is incomplete or partial feeds. If you are a web cartoonist who is not offering your comics in your feeds, you are really shooting yourself in the foot… if you aren’t making it easy for your users to view the content in the way they want to view it, they more than likely will not bother to see your content at all.

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART THREE: Getting your Images Ready For the Web

You see a lot of poor quality images on various comics sites (including some of the ones on this one!) Here are some things to think about when getting your art ready to present on the web.


A lot of people don’t know the difference between bitmap and vector image files.

Bitmap files contain color information about every single pixel in an image. Popular bitmap formats are .jpg, .gif, and .png. Adobe Photoshop is a program that primarily works with bitmap art (although they are combining it more with vector art in the newer versions). These images can be scaled downwards.

Vector files contain mathematical coordinates for the points and lines and other information that an image is made out of. The only really popular vector format I know of is .swf (shockwave flash). Adobe Illustrator is a program that works primarily in vector art. Vector art can be scaled upwards or downwards without losing quality.



These are bitmap files… they have all of the information about every pixel of your image uncompressed. These make good, high quality source files, but you will never want to publish them to the web, as they are large files, and will take too long to download.


Probably the most widely used format is the .jpg (it is the format most digital cameras take pictures in). It is good for some things, but not for others. It is a lossy format, and most bitmap editing programs will ask you how high of quality you want to save it as when you save it.

Being a lossy format, the lower the setting you choose on this, the more information you lose… you sacrifice image quality for small image sizes. You lose information in an image even saving a jpg at 100 quality, so never use jpgs for your source files.

Why would you want a lower quality image? File size. If you want an image to download quickly, the .jpg does a nice job of compressing the information. At low settings, though, your images will look muddier and muddier.

The .jpg file tends to work well for gradiated color, photographic, and greyscale images.


.Gif files are also a lossy format, so again, never use these for your source files. However rather than controlling the range of quality from 1-100 to compress, with gif files you manipulate the color palette embedded in an image. The more you limit the number of colors used in a gif image, the smaller the file gets.

The .gif format works well for black and white and flat color images with a limited color range. Also, gif files can handle alpha transparencies, which jpg files can not.

You can have animated .gif files, but these are very limited. If these are not kept very brief they can get very large very fast.


There are three major web compatible formats for presenting bitmap graphics, .gif, .jpg and .png. Of those, .png is rarely used.

Why is this? I believe mostly because the format was developed later than the other two formats. PNG’s actually use most of the advantages of both .jpgs and .gifs, and improve and expand on them vastly.

I think they are compatible with all browsers too.

That said, I almost never use them except for source files (they are a lossless format)… this is probably more a force of habit on my part than anything else. Since they are a lossless format, they don’t “approximate information” of the source for the sake of compression, as jpgs and gifs do.

You can read more about the advantages of png files here, if you’re interested.

Note that the .png format was adopted as the source file format for Adobe Fireworks, which is an excellent program for preparing bitmap images for the web. It also does a very nice job of integrating vector art, bitmap art and fonts… I’m not sure if it is a default of the file format to handle vector as well as bitmap art or not, but you can do so very well with Fireworks. However, Fireworks is not the robust image editing solution something like Photoshop is (and it isn’t intended to be), but a lot of web-related stuff it handles much better than Photoshop does.


The .swf is the format popularized by the Adobe Flash Player. Swf files can do a lot of things, including complex full animation and multimedia. It is the only popular vector format used on the web that I’m aware of, although there may be others. There is a little more involved in posting these files online than there is with the other formats. However, since it is vector, you can have totally clean artwork at any dimensions, usually at very small file sizes.


I’m not going to say too much about scanning or image editing in this post… you can read some good information about scanning, among other things, here:

RE: A Guide to Reproduction: A Primer on Xeorgraphy, Silkscreening

I generally scan stuff at 800 DPI as a black and white bitmap for my source copy of a black and white image (if I color, it is generally done on the computer). Save this initial scan as a source file, and make alterations to it as a different file… that way you can always go back to the source if you need to.

Before altering a black and white image in scale or dimension, you’ll want to switch it to greyscale, or you’ll get some ugly, chunky pixels you don’t want.


Put copyright information, your name and your website url in all of your images (again, this is something I have neglected on my own website, although I’ve done it a lot in my Soapy the Chicken strip… I should always do this, though!). If you put a circle c © with a date and your name, you should be somewhat legally protected from copyright infringement. Obviously, you want copyright information on your website in general, but you should have it on each individual image you want to own the copyright of as well, because your images may not be viewed only on your website.

Anyone can grab your images for free on the web, and put the images on their website. While ideally they should at least give you credit for an image, frequently they won’t. If this makes you uncomfortable, you should very carefully in considering what you make available on the web. Having your copyright on all of your images will make it so anyone using the image will have to take the significant extra step of editing the image if they want to display your image without you getting copyright credit for it.

While I’m mentioning copyright, you may also want to consider offering some of your work under a creative commons license. These give you more flexibility in defining what can be done with your copyrighted images. The Cartoonist Conspiracy publishes all of the jam comics we produce online using a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license that allows people to reuse the content from them in certain situations. Read more about creative commons licenses on the creative commons site.


When deciding what size and dimensions to make your images for the web, consider the nature of the computer monitor. Some people still view the web on computers that only display 800×600 pixels. I tend to think anyone viewing the web at this size is pretty used to scrolling around to find the information they want. However, you may want to generally try to keep your web-posted images under 750 or so pixels wide anyhow to be accommodating… it will keep your file sizes down as well.

If you are making artwork specifically for the web, you may want to consider formatting it horizontally (like a comic strip) rather than vertically (like the traditional vertical comic book page). That way people will be more likely to be able to see the whole strip on their computer monitor at once.

That said, you do have an “infinite canvas,” if you want it… just keep in mind some users may not have patience for a lot of scrolling, if you care. I tend to think most people prefer the traditional & more passive “clicking to the next page” rather than “scrolling to the next part” (which can also take a lot longer to download, since you are loading more images on to a single page).

If you aren’t one of the majority of web users cursed with short attention spans, there have been some wonderful comics done exploring the infinite canvas concept, and it is definitely an area ripe for more exploration.


I mention above how some of the formats do a good job of compressing images down to a reasonable file size. File size of your images and all of your files online is an important consideration when you consider both how long it will take your users to download an image and how much of your bandwidth allowance you are going to use up.

That said, small files are somewhat less relevant than they used to be… more and more people have fast connections, and most cartoonists won’t dent their bandwidth allowance if they have a good hosting provider like Dreamhost (although really popular cartoonists might if they have heavily trafficked websites).

I believe having high quality images is more important than having small file sizes… although you don’t want enormous file sizes either. I wouldn’t generally go much below 80% on a jpg you’re publishing, and you probably won’t be happy with most .gif without at least 32 colors in your palette… the amounts on these things will vary with different images depending on how much information they contain, though. Try exporting versions of a graphic at different sizes and compare them… gradually you’ll get a feeling for the quality levels you want to shoot for.

If you’re posting a really large image, just save a small preview “thumbnail” version that links to your main image, or state the file size on the link that leads to the image.


Consider how you name your files carefully before uploading them. First of all, NEVER use uppercase characters, spaces or special characters… these will give you all sorts of headaches. If you feel like you need a space, use an underline _ instead.

I’d recommend trying to use a consistent naming structure for your files so they will be easy to find and know what they are… don’t be afraid of long names! Here’s an example of a good naming structure…


This structure breaks down four different components of an image in the name. Comics can be the main subject, funnycomics could be the name of a project, episode01 could indicate that it is the first episode of the comic, and p001 indicates the page number of the image.

Numbering with zeroes at the start of your numbering, as with 001, 002, 003 makes it so you have a consistent number of characters in your names up to page 999. I’ve found this useful in some situations where I know how many digits are going to be in the highest number page or item. It works for me, anyhow.

Use whatever structure works for you and makes sense for the image.


I use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Flash for various image editing tasks. These all cost money, unfortunately, and cartoonists don’t generally work with a big budget.

Fortunately, you can probably find free software out there if you look for it. One well-known, widely used free image editing program is GIMP. I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard good things about it.


OK… you have your images ready to post. What now?

There are a huge number of free image hosting solutions, as I mentioned in the previous chapters of this article… Flickr is a well-known and flexible one, although they require you to have more “photographic” images than drawings or other art (don’t ask me why they have this brain-dead policy, I have no idea). Posting a question about this on the Cartoonist Conspiracy or Comics Journal message boards will probably get you a lot of advice. If you are going to use an image hosting site, MAKE SURE TO READ THEIR LEGALESE before posting anything to confirm that you will retain all rights to your artwork.

Ideally, you have your own web space somewhere you can upload (FTP) files to (FTP stands for “file transfer protocol”). If you have a modern version of windows, you can type the name of the ftp site (like into the “address” box of any window and it should bring up a login for the ftp site for you to put your user name and password in. This is nice, because you can then treat the folders on your site pretty much like any other folders on your machine.

If this doesn’t work for you, there are a lot of free FTP programs out there. Filezilla is an excellent one.

Put all of the images on your site in a folder called images. You can add sub-folders with images by project or subject in your images folder as well (which I also recommend). Putting all images in your images folder will go a long way towards keeping your website files neat and orderly.


HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART TWO: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions

Next: Presenting Yourself Online

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART TWO: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions

This is the second part of a series on publishing your comics online… the first part can be found here.

The first thing you most likely will want to consider once you’ve decided to put some of your work online is how you want to get it there. There are a number of options for doing so, which I will discuss in this installment.


Some of the options cost money, some of them don’t. There are five major free comics hosting sites that I have heard of:

Webcomics Nation
Comic Genesis
Drunk Duck
Smack Jeeves

(Comicspace also serves as a “social networking” site for cartoonists, and is very widely used, and possibly worth having an account at for reasons other than just posting your comics … you can see my page on it here. I don’t host comics there, or really update it, however… I’m just using it to attempt to drive traffic here).

Other options will certainly appear, so if you’re interested in doing this, you may want to try putting “free comic hosting” into your search engine of choice as well.

I have no experience with any of these free hosting options… I guess I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Some of them offer expanded options for paid accounts as well, and I’m not sure what additional control that would get you. Thus, I am not qualified to discuss the nuances of each option here… if you are interested in them, you will have to explore them yourself. However, I will list briefly here some advantages and disadvantages that I see of using the free comics hosting services.


1) They’re free.

2) I believe all of the options above add you in their comics listings and promotions, which is most likely quite advantageous for building an audience.

3) I would guess they are all pretty easy for a beginner to use… presumably you just start an account and start posting.

4) It is a lot easier and quicker to use a templated site like these all provide than to build a unique site yourself.

5) You will have an automated archive of your previous strips, so people can easily start at the beginning.


1) “You get what you pay for.” Your options are limited to what your host provides.

2) You won’t get a particularly intuitive URL for your site for free (like or

3) You are most likely limited to the design, functionality, and the template or templates provided. A templated site may not be particularly attractive, and the limitations in functionality may frustrate you. A templated site is unlikely to present your unique character and creativity as well as one you have designed yourself.

4) I don’t believe most of the free options offer rss feeds, which are key to building your audience (Web Comics Nation does offer them). All free blog systems will offer this, however, which is a good reason to use a blog for posting your comics.

The advantages and disadvantages are pretty equally weighted on this one… it really depends on what you want to pursue. Free comic hosting is probably the easiest option for getting your work online, though.


One thing I would consider carefully in choosing your free host, if you decide to use one, is whether or not they offer RSS feeds. The only one I know of that does this currently is Webcomics Nation, although some of the others may as well. I would strongly advise you not to use any service that does not provide an rss feed of what you post.

Unfortunately, in the rss feeds I have subscribed to from Webcomics Nation, the rss feeds do not display the comics, but rather just let you know when a comic has been updated and lets you know to visit the site. I don’t know if it is optional or a requirement to not include the comics in the feeds, but I see this as a serious tactical error.

You want your readers to be able to access your work wherever they want to access it… forcing people to visit your site to see your content defeats the point of having an rss feed. That point is making your content easily available to anyone who wants to see it, however they want to see it… rss separates the content of a site from the presentation of the site, so that content can be viewed anywhere. If subscribers have to visit your site every time you post something rather than just viewing it in their newsreader of choice, I guarantee you will only have a fraction of the readers you would otherwise.

RSS stands for “really simple syndication.” It is the standard for syndicating your content around the web… you can read more about it here.

The concept of syndicating on the web is much different than the traditional concepts you may have with syndication. As with the traditional syndication of newspaper comics, for example, offering your content for syndication does indeed make it so others can repurpose all or part of your feed on their websites. Unlike newspaper syndication, if someone did use your feed, you would not get paid for it. Indeed, if you have a feed of your comics, someone can easily display your feed on their website without your permission, so if this loss of control bugs you, you may not want to offer a feed. It is a VERY good idea (and one that I have widely neglected myself) to put your domain name and copyright information inside of all images you publish, so wherever someone sees the image they will know where it came from.

The primary use of an rss feed, at least for a cartoonist, is to build a subscriber base. Your feed makes it so anyone using a newsreader on the web can subscribe to your comics and other postings in your rss feed and receive it automatically every time you post. Before feeds, if a user wanted to find the latest work by a cartoonist, they had to check their website regularly and dig around for any new material. With feeds, the subscriber recieves the information directly in his newsreader when it is updated without having to visit your website at all.

If you are unfamiliar with newsreaders, I HIGHLY recommend you acquaint yourself with one. I’ve used a few different ones, and there are a ton of them out there. I currently use Google Reader, which works extremely well. I’m currently subscribing to over 250 different rss feeds with it, and I can view the contents of all of those feeds in one place. If I checked all of the websites whose feeds I subscribe to every day, it would probably take all day. Instead I read them all in one place and can browse them quickly. Additionally, Google Reader makes it easy to organize and share feeds you are subscribing to. You can also access your Google Reader account from any computer with and internet connection… this is not the case with a newsreader that you run off of your desktop.

If you use the web regularly, using a newsreader will save you a tremendous amount of time, and beyond that it changes the usefulness of the web utterly. It makes it so all the content you are interested in comes to you, rather than you having to hunt it down. Some other popular newsreaders include MyYahoo, Newsgator, Bloglines… there are probably hundreds of them out there. I recommend Google Reader. Once you get set up with one, start subscribing to some sites to try it out… here are links to all my current feeds, which I’m sure you’ll want to subscribe to!

Stwallskull Feed
Stwallskull’s Interesting Links
Soapy the Chicken Feed
Conspire! The Cartoonist Conspiracy Group Blog Feed
Conspire! Conspiracy News Feed
Conspire! Conspirators Feed
Conspire! Cartooning Lessons Feed
Conspire! Comic News Feed


One other potentially free option you may want to consider would be posting your comics as a blog. I publish my comic, Soapy the Chicken, as a blog, and it works pretty well for the most part. There are a number of free blogging options out there… Blogger (which is owned by Google and integrates somewhat with Google Reader) and WordPress are probably the best known. I’m currently using blogger for the Soapy site (and the Cartoonist Conspiracy group blog), and it works very well. Recently I started using WordPress for this blog on my stwallskull site, and it works even better than Blogger, it is much more flexible and powerful. However, if you are a beginner, Blogger may be a better option, as it is extremely simple to figure out. This brings us to another of my handy lists of advantages and disadvantages…


1) It will have an easy to use rss feed, so you can easily have people subscribe.

2) The templates tend to be very flexible, and with a little bit of work you can alter them fairly easily to have the features and look that you want for your site.

3) Blogs are pretty intuitive to use, and easy to update.


1) If you are not hosting it yourself, you may want to find a separate place to host your images. Most blog accounts provide some image hosting space, but it may not be enough for your purposes. There are a number of free image hosting places out there on the web… far too many to list. Here are a few… again there are a lot of them out there… (note that while flickr works slick has a lot of advantages, they inanely require you to post more photos than printed stuff or they may freeze your account)

Asking for some good suggestions on the Cartoonist Conspiracy or Comics Journal message boards should get you a number of opinions about the best ones to use.

2) You’ll have to build an archive separately if you want a way for people to go through your comics from the first one to the last, and keep it updated… same deal with a gallery or other additional pages you may want. I’m currently managing the Soapy the Chicken archive with a flash movie that I built. My friend Sean Tenhoff archives his strip, The Bean Men, with a huge page of thumbnails of previous strips. Unfortunately, I don’t have a particularly easy solution to suggest for doing this… the automated archive is one of the big advantages of using the free comic hosting services.

3) There is probably a bit more of a learning curve than the comics hosting solutions… nothing worth getting intimidated about though.


Once you have your feed set up, I also recommend registering it at, which is a useful website for optimizing and adding to your rss feed. Using it, you can make it easier to subscribe and add subscriptions via email, and it generally gives you more control over how your content gets syndicated, along with many other useful things.

You’ll want to make sure that your link to your feed is prominently displayed all over your site. With web design, redundancy of important information is a GOOD THING. You want people to find your subscribe link! Don’t just hide it at the bottom of the page! Make sure people know you are offering a subscription and have some prominent links that lead to your feed.

All links to your feed should lead to the same place… having multiple feed locations linked to can cause you headaches down the road. Again, if you set up your feed with feedburner, this provides a very friendly link that should work in any newsreader.


If you want the maximum amount of control over the presentation of your work and how it is displayed, you’ll probably want to host a site yourself.

There are a ton of web hosting options out there, so you may want to research it more yourself… I think it would be pretty hard to find a better deal out there than Dreamhost, though. Dreamhost offers a vastly better deal than any other hosting provider I’ve ever seen, has a very intuitive backend to manage your website or websites with. Here is an overview of some of the things that make Dreamhost a great deal:

  • You can host as many domains as you want there for no additional cost (other than the cost of domain registration).
  • They offer the ability to easily add a WordPress blog, PHPBB message board, or a number of other complex applications to your website with basically the click of a button. Message boards can be huge community building tools for cartoonists, so that is a big perk.
  • They give you more hosting space all the time, without raising your rates.
  • You can set up email accounts at your domain. You get a free domain registration with membership.
  • The cheapest hosting account is $7.95 a month, and has everything most people would ever need.

Note: One of the nuttier things Dreamhost does is offer an affiliate program where you get generously paid for each person you refer to their service that signs up. I’m not writing this hype for them for the referral, but because I genuinely believe they are offering an great service… however, I’d love to get your referral if you’re inclined to give me one. If so, please use the button below to sign up for their services, which has a link on it to let them know I sent you.



A lot of cartoonists are intimidated by the prospect of making their own websites. Discussing how to make webpages is out of the scope of this article, but I will note that it is no more difficult to make a webpage than it is to use a word processor (in fact, most modern word processors will export html pages if you want… which I do not recommend doing, as they usually do a very poor job of it).

The easiest way to make a html page is to use a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get). I use Dreamweaver, which is excellent, but it isn’t free. There is a free one from the Mozilla (makers of the excellent Firefox web browser), and you can find a list of other ones here. Again, I can’t really recommend a free one since I have no experience with them. I encourage people to suggest some good ones in the comments to this post.

You can find some good articles on web development at

As far as designing your site goes, I do have some advice.

1) While it can be fun to go crazy with the navigation for the site and have it integrated into a drawing of a character with each of his limbs pointing to different sections of your site or something, don’t let this sort of thing be the only way to navigate your website. Be artistic with your site, but keep it intuitive. If you want to go crazy with the navigation, that’s fine… just make sure you provide a more obvious redundant navigation system as well. An unintuitive website will lose you viewers who may love your work if they could only find it. Again, to repeat: REDUNDANCY IS GOOD. Am I being redundant?

2) If you are using a blog on your site, they make excellent home pages. A blog can highlight all your most current content, and updated content is what people keep coming back for.

3) As I mentioned, you will definitely want to offer rss subscriptions. And you will want to make sure people know that you offer rss subscriptions in many places all over your site.

4) Keep the names of your navigation simple. HOME, GALLERY, LINKS, and CONTACT may not be the most exciting words, but they make a hell of a lot more sense to your users than MY PAD, THE HALL OF MYSTIC AMUSEMENTS, THE SPIDER LAIR and BUZZ ME.


If you’re pretty serious about your presence on the web, you’ll definitely want your own domain for people to find you at (like or Registering a domain is easy… as I said, you get one for free with an account at Dreamhost and most other web hosting providers.

I keep my domain registrations separate from my hosting provider to make it easier if I ever decide to change hosting providers… A good place for finding what domains are available and register them is

When choosing your domain, I’d recommend generally staying away from anything that isn’t .com, .net or .org, as it will most likely cut down on your traffic… people will assume you are at .com. Registration for any of these domain extensions runs $14.95 a year on dotster… they often have sales on them too.

Dotster also offers hosting, but I’ve never used it… but like I said, it can be nice to have your domain registration separate from your web hosting, if you ever change hosting providers.

Next: Getting your Images Ready For the Web


HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

HOW TO GET YOUR COMICS ONLINE PART ONE: Advantages and Disadvantages of Putting Your Comics Online

A lot of cartoonists are really intimidated by the prospect of what it takes to get their comics online. I thought it would be worthwhile to write up some tutorials on the subject, in an attempt to show what an easy thing getting your work on the internet can be.

I’ve been putting my comics online since 2000, and, frankly, in a lot of ways I’m probably not a great example of how to do things… I’m not particularly successful or well-known, and most of my comics on my main site were put on here years ago, many of them poorly scanned (I’ll get around to fixing this eventually).

Nevertheless, I do have some knowledge about this stuff, and I thought I’d share it. My main comics website can be found at, and I do a regularly updated webcomic (currently on hiatus as I work on a children’s book) at Additionally, I’m the webmaster for The International Cartoonist Conspiracy, a cartooning group with cells all over North America (and soon… the world!) that includes both amateur and professional cartoonists, which all cartoonists are encouraged to join… more information on that can be found here. I actually make a living doing web development and flash animation, so I’m not totally unqualified to write this thing. And just because I may not take my own advice on this stuff doesn’t necessarily make it lousy advice.

There are advantages and disadvantages to putting your work online…


1) People can access your work online for free.
2) At this time, it is very difficult to make money with online comics, although some people do.
3) Any image you put online can easily be used and altered by individuals without your consent. Depending on how they do this, and how you present it, this may or may not be legal… however, it is certainly easy enough for someone to do if they want to.
4) What works for comics on the printed page can be very different from what works for comics on the screen. You may not like some of these differences. You may want to take these differences into consideration when designing comics for online viewing. For example, horizontal comics pages will probably fit better on most screens than traditional vertical pages. Although you have an “infinite canvas,” as Scott McCloud has pointed out, many people will only have the patience for what they see immediately… the internet is the land of the short attention span… this is likely the reason that most webcomics are presented in the traditional strip to strip format.


1) People can access your work online for free.
2) By putting your work online you have increased your potential audience exponentially.
3) Putting your work online is free, if you want it to be. If you can afford to put some money into it, you have more options.
4) Your artistic options are not affected by printing cost limitations… your work can be full color, or even animated, if you’re inclined.
5) The desire to please an audience actively interested in your work can be a good motivator to produce more work on a regular schedule.
6) It is an inexpensive way to display your portfolio, which can save you a lot of money when trying to find cartooning, illustration or animation gigs.
7) There are a lot of opportunities for innovation of the comics form in online comics.
8) It is relatively easy to offer online RSS subscriptions which make it so people who subscribe will see whenever you post something new… unfortunately I don’t think a lot of the free comics services offer this, and this part is really key to building an audience.

Personally, I think the advantages greatly outweigh the disadvantages. The internet gives you access to a potentially enormous audience for your work that you can not find anywhere else.

If you’re concerned about putting stuff online because you are giving it away for free, there are a number of things to consider.

First of all, you don’t have to put ALL of your work online. If you are working on a graphic novel, for example, it may be worth considering putting a “first chapter” online for free to generate interest in the larger work. Even a sketchbook could go a long way towards generating interest in the rest of your work… check out Sam Hiti’s great sketchblog for a good example of this.

Most webcomics don’t make any money. There are notable exceptions, like PVP and Penny Arcade. Of the comics that are making money, most are doing so through advertising and merchandising. There are people offering paid subscriptions and exclusive content of their work as well, with greatly varying degrees of success. I suspect that it is pretty hard to establish a large audience for your work using paid subscriptions unless you have a large following going into it. Once you have built a fan base, it may be something to consider, but I doubt it is a beneficial option for the majority of cartoonists.

The bottom line, though, is that there is no more effective way to generate interest in your work, build an audience, and inexpensively distribute your work than the internet.

Next: Publishing Options, and the Necessity of RSS Subscriptions