An article written for StArt Faire, a free online magazine for the indie comic industry. The article focuses on commenting on the works of others as a marketing technique.
Originally written in 2016.
One common problem I see discussed amongst indie comic creators stems from one truth: marketing can be very difficult. While there are outliers to this sentiment, a plethora of creators do indeed struggle with this, even when they know some marketing tricks. There’s a bunch of nuisances to marketing, but it’s not strictly what I want to speak of. Rather, I want to open a discussion about a different, but related topic: commenting and community engagement. I can already hear the skepticism and lists of reasons for not commenting coming, but I ask you put doubts aside in favor of an open mind. Not only will I explain why commenting is important for promoting your own work, but I will also give you some brainstorming tips for forming worthwhile comments quickly. So please, stick around while I delve into this important topic.
Why You Should Comment for both Community and Promotion:
Take a break and go watch some successful channels on YouTube, regardless of topic. Do you notice any similarities between them all? No, for our purposes, it’s not anything about how the videos are constructed. Rather, take note how, in most cases, the successful channels interact with not only their channel’s community, but the community of YouTubers at large. Now I know, YouTube and indie comics are entirely different mediums with entirely different platforms. However, these successful YouTubers are excellent examples of two key marketing tactics: networking and community engagement. Of course, indie comics face entirely different obstacles as a whole. Nevertheless, we can still use Youtube as a model for creating tight knit communities that want to engage with your work.
That being said, I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with commenting. While other tactics are important, it’s equally important to simply get your name around. What’s one way to do that on comic sites? Commenting! Commenting is essential, especially on other people’s comics. For one, this makes another creator know you exist, and that is a step towards networking; people have to know you to network with you. Moreover, it does make them more likely to comment on your work so you can start building your own community of fans. It’s not a guarantee, but a chance is better than none. Further, other people do read other people’s comments, so by commenting on someone else’s work, you make others see your name as well.
Some people at this point may say this sounds like a nefarious reason to comment. Let me be frank, I am not advocating making insincere comments. Yet, another major complaint I see from creators is that nobody comments on their work. To be blunt, regardless of your reasons, if you are a creator and choose not to comment, you are part of that problem. Most creators appreciate getting comments, since it’s encouraging and helps them build their own community. If you benefit from the commenting, that merely makes the system symbiotic. The cooperation of indie comic creators with each other is something greatly needed to push the industry into a more stable place. So, irrespective of your reasons for commenting, the networking portion of commenting is beneficial to both parties. At the end, even if partially to help yourself, it’s important for industry community building as a whole. As long as you don’t make rude comments, there should be no harm done.
Easy Comment Brainstorming Tips:
“I don’t know what to say.” This is one of the reasons I see frequently when someone explains why they didn’t comment. I figured if I’m encouraging people to comment, I should enlist some tips people can use to give themselves ideas for what to write. They may come off as common sense to some, but sometimes seeing a written list of brainstorming questions can help others. To note, the scope of these tips is limited to commenting on other people’s works; replying to people’s comments on your works is up to you, but equally important when starting out.
1. Talk about a character in the scene. Did a character you like make a decision that surprised you? Made you mad? Did a character you hate do something that made you change your opinion? Do you not know a character’s name but really liked their reaction to something? As long as you avoid saying, “I hate this character,” a creator is usually more than happy to hear something about their precious babies.
2. Mention something you liked about the art. Was there a background that impressed you? Did a character have a really great expression? Did you appreciate how they experimented with their paneling/text/etc.? Particularly for artists, noticing aesthetics should be fairly par for the course. Mentioning something you liked about the art on a specific page(s) is always a good route to go.
3. Create a theory. Did two characters have a connecting factor you noticed? Was there something mentioned in the story lore that reminded you of something else? Do two characters seem like a good pairing? Tell the artist your theory about it! As long as you aren’t aggressively asserting your headcanons, it can be fascinating to see others’ interpretations.
4. Ask a question. Do you not understand why a character did something? Do you want to know how an artist did a specific effect? Do you wonder what inspired the creator to make a certain species in their lore? Questions are not only one of the easiest things to comment since you don’t know everything, but also one of the easiest for creators to reply to.
5. Express admiration. If you are truly exasperated for ideas, just tell a creator what a fantastic job you think they’re doing or how they inspired you. This is something you should do in moderation so you don’t come off as insincere. Done properly though, it will still encourage the creator and maybe even turn a bad day for them into something nice.
6. Reply to someone else. Did someone notice something you didn’t? Did they something you found funny? Do you have a different idea from theirs? Politely reply to that person. While it’s hit or mess whether the creator sees it, this helps build a sense of community since fans are interacting with each other, and it also still helps networking.
I hope some people have come away with a better sense of why commenting is important, and how they might do so easier. Of course, creators are often strapped for time, and others are very shy. While sympathetic reasons, one should still try. As the saying goes, something is better than nothing. If you can only comment once a month, or can only make a Twitter length comment, that will go a longer way than if you never attempted at all. Additionally so, there is a degree that you have to treat your comics like a business, thus rendering marketing very important to success. Regardless of this, commenting is a tool that is essential to building a community, whether it helps with networking or just builds a rapport with your own readers and the community of indie creators at large. If you are a creator who wants to build a true community that has a chance to grow, I feel you are missing a great opportunity if you’re choosing not to comment. In essence, I think this article can be summed up in one sentence:
If you want to receive comments and attention, you must be willing to give the same.