For those of you who don’t know, Canny Valley is my (Anthony) web comic project. Today marks the six month anniversary since launch and I thought I’d share some of my lessons learned.
Not surprisingly, creating comics is much like any other creative endeavor. I’ll be posting an article soon detailing the basic work flow I use so I won’t go into that here. But suffice it to say that I frequently face some of the same challenges I face with my writing. A blank comic template is just as imposing as a blank page.
I launched the comic with a good friend of mine, Scott Wolf. Scott and I had very a similar sense of humor as well as almost parallel interests. The comic was going to be about gaming and internet culture which was something we both know a lot about. But even as wide a net as those two generic subjects cast, we soon found that our audience was too small. Early comics would reel in only a handful of visitors.
As an artist, I create art for personal enjoyment but like most creators I really wanted other people to enjoy it as well. What fun is it to work so hard on something and no one see it? So I set about learning how to market the site. I wasn’t completely ignorant about this but even with the knowledge I had, I learned a lot from the process.
Initially I posted the comic to the major content driven sites like Reddit and 9gag. We immediately saw a bump in traffic. At the low low price of free, you just could beat this form of advertising. This also allowed me to specifically target groups of people who had interest in the topic of the comic. Still, this method didn’t produce the sort of numbers I wanted and I began to look at other options.
I joined the Project Wonderful network after we published our 30th comic. They require a lively stream of content to participate in their network which really keeps the quality of publishers high. I recommend it to anyone who wants to drive traffic to their site.
At this point I began to see that not all visitors are created equally. When the comic first launched we really had very little archived content so a visitor typically meant only a handful of pageviews if not just one. However, as we built up more and more content I began to see an interesting trend. Visitors from websites like Reddit or 9gag came to view the specific comic they were linked to and then left. On the other hand, visitors that came from other comic sites by clicking an ad would stick around. Often viewing the entire catalog!
This pattern has persisted today. The quality of visitors (measured by pageviews per visit) is much higher with these targeted ads. Advertising on other comics reaps visitors who are interested in consuming comics and that is very valuable.
The comic is averaging about a thousand pageviews a day with some days spiking into the tens of thousands. I think I’m making progress on that front.
As mentioned in Monday’s blog post on the comic site, Scott has departed from Canny Valley. This was a result of the unflinching challenge to constantly create content. This comic, or rather comic creation in general, is my passion. I’m enjoying it more than any creative endeavor I’ve ever been a part of. For Scott, the comic was a fun thing to do and the need for constant creation was eating him alive. My point here is that taking on a task that is simply one deadline after another is not for the faint of heart.
I have yet to miss a comic deadline; though a couple have pushed late into the night. I have to credit Scott’s early involvement for that but the reason that success has persisted is because I was able to internalize the creative process into my daily life.
I’m constantly aware of the need for comics ideas so they frequently come to me when I’m not really trying to think of one at all. In fact, the best ideas typically are inspired this way. Additionally, the actual drawing of the comic is built into my schedule in such a way that it’s automatic. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve gotten to the point where I can knock out a comic in two hours if I stay focused.
I think this internalization is key to keeping something like this going. It’s the same for writers. If writing is part of who you are then you’ll never suffer from lack of writing time. It becomes what you do when you are idle.
That is half the key to success in my mind. Do this, and you’re half-way there.
As I mentioned above. A post specifically about the creative process I use is in the works. So keep your eye out for that and thanks for reading.