Using Tumblr for Webcomics
So as many of you probably know, I’m getting ready to start making a new Front comic. The thumbnails are finished. Now it’s just a matter of making time to build a buffer, then get to posting the pages online until the book is complete and I can sell the print and PDF editions.
I already announced that this new and even more kid-friendly version of The Front will run as a feature on my Sugary Serials anthology site. But I’m also looking at Tumblr and Google Plus as places to create unique presences for the comic and reach out to more potential readers.
Some of you are already saying no duh, jrz–Tumblr’s been great since forever welcome to club johnny-come-never population: you fail. And you would be right (though not very nice) to mock me, for I’m only now just getting under the hood of how Tumblr could work for my specific use case. Image sharing is a huge part of Tumblr, so it only makes sense that we’d want to post our comics there. But up until now, I was merely posting images out of context that pointed back to my own website. Following on something Ryan Estrada mentioned in a past episode of the Comics Are Great web show, part of getting noticed on a social web service is to “swim with the natives”. So rather than try to get people to visit my proper site via Tumblr, why not just create an entire presence there and not even try to get people to go to my main sites?
Disclosure here: I don’t make any money off of advertisements on any of my websites, but if you do, that might be one reason to not create an alternate presence on another site like Tumblr.
I’m also hearing some imagined readers saying oh, great, maintaining a whole ‘nother site and updating it as if I don’t have enough problems. And yeah, as a guy who is constantly strapped for time, this was on my mind. But aside from some work on the front end customizing my Front Tumblr presence (more on that in a sec), posting images there is crazy easy. It’s maybe 30 extra seconds added to the workflow.
It’s also not that difficult to customize Tumblr. I loaded up one of their free templates, changed whatever I could via the control panel, and added my own CSS tweaks via the HTML editor. If you get bristly when thinking about editing or creating custom CSS, I highly recommend Rob Stenzinger’s fantastic walkthrough of CSS on the Lean Into Art Cast:
I referred to this quite a bit when customizing my new Front Tumblr site.
So the pros:
- Free hosting
- Simple customization
- Access to an enthusiastic image-sharing user base
- Great mirror site in case my own hosting is down
- Another site to manage
- Might be cannibalizing traffic to your own site
But we’re talking about reaching new audiences who wouldn’t be visiting your site anyway. As long as you have clear links to action items for this new community to support you, doesn’t seem like competition to me at all.
Tumblr doesn’t hold your content captive. I also owe Rob for teaching me how to use Feedburner on my Tumblr site, in the event anyone still subscribes to RSS feeds. I purchased my own URL for the site, and Tumblr makes it very simple to incorporate it into your site without having to resort to a forward. This way I can take my Front.me URL and its corresponding feed URL to any other CMS I might decide to use later.
I mentioned Google Plus as a destination for the comic earlier, and for my reasons behind that I’d point you at Ken Drab’s interesting post on G+ about how webcomics might work there. Some great food for thought on how a social network with rich media sharing changes the dynamic of audience building. The thinking he put out there also informed my decision to make a Tumblr site.
Thought I’m sharing last because I don’t know if I’m right on this one or not yet: I’m intentionally keeping the Front’s Tumblr site simple for now. If image sharing is a big part of Tumblr, then it stands to reason that I should keep the focus on the images I want to have people share. No sidebars, no banner ads (yet), just the comic and some handy links to other stuff way down in the footer for those who may be interested. This is me saying hey Tumblr I make some neat images, you want to pass them around?
And I may open up the “ask me anything” box on the site. From what I’ve seen, it’s a widely-used feature of Tumblr. Haven’t settled on this one yet, as that would add a new level of attention to the site maintenance required on my part.