“Help! My archive is too big!”
While I was hosting my webinar* on webcomics for the Graphic Artists Guild, a comment came in from one of the attendees. This person said, “I think people avoid reading my comic because the archive is so big.”
I disagree. I’ll talk about why, and then discuss some strategies for creators with large archive.
*If you missed it, you can still see it if you’re a member of the Graphic Artists Guild.
If you’ve convinced yourself that readers avoid your comic because your comic is too big, I want you to consider something.
When is the last time you were reading a book and said…
“I love this book! This is a tremendous book! The characters! The plot! I’ve never enjoyed the simple act of reading so much. There’s only one thing…
“I wish there wasn’t so MUCH of it!”
You’ve never said that. No one in their right mind has ever said that. It’s nonsense. Conversely, have you ever said something like this…
“I love this book! This is a tremendous book! When I got to the last page, I go depressed because I knew it was coming to an end.”
See my point? If your comic is good — if it connects with its audience — that archive can never be large enough! If it has 4,000 comics, your audience will scream for 8,000.
But if it’s not good, your archive can never be small enough.
That’s not to say that handling a big archive doesn’t come with some challenges. So, let’s talk about some smart archive strategies.
If you’re like most of us, your archive is organized by whatever default system is in place. More than likely, it’s assembled by date. The problem is… nobody has ever said, “Y’know… I’m really in the mood to read a comic from May 2014.”
Your archive should be organized by content. If you’re doing a storyline-based comic, this is easy. The archive should be divided into those individual story arcs. And you should be identifying good places for a newcomer to jump in. You should have story synopses placed in strategic locations to facilitate these jumping-in spots.
If your comic isn’t storyline-based, you should be grouping your comics by topic. For example, a comic about cats could have the following categories…
- comics about scratching posts
- comics about knocking things off the table
- comics about trips to the vet
- comics about being finicky about food
- comics about emotional aloofness
You can take that strategy one step further and assemble those archive breakdowns into eBooks. Let’s face it. Your website offers a good reading experience, but an eBook is faster and cleaner. And, if you’re on a mobile device or a handheld tablet, an eBook is probably preferential.
Take the advice from the preceding section and build eBooks to sell on your site.
In the early days of webcomics, a large archive was beneficial. More comics meant more web pages, and more web pages meant more ads. With a large archive (and a little savvy SEO) you could generate a significant amount of ad revenue through people just bumping into random comics on the Web.
Well, the ad market has evaporated, and people are finding their new content on social media. And your large archive is mostly an added expense (in terms of bandwidth and hosting).
So you should be using the Patreon WordPress plug-in to put a large portion of your archive behind a paywall. This is an excellent reward to offer people at the lowest ($2) tier of your Patreon — unlimited access to the archive. And it’s the only way you’re going to benefit financially from that collection of work besides eBooks and printed books.
A large archive is not a barrier to success. If your work is good, it’s a tremendous advantage. And using some very straightforward, common-sense thinking you can use that advantage to its full potential.