The Internet is full of comics. Seriously. Just lousy with them. I’m a big supporter of the Twitter/tumblr rabbit hole, where finding one creator can lead you to about eight million more.
But it can lead to a weird relationship with that creator’s work. There are a lot of people who still treat the internet like a machine that magically generates content, and that’s not the case. The comics that you see online take time and energy from the people who create them. They also have a literal cost – people lay out their own money for things like art supplies, marketing materials, web hosting, and travel. And many of them do so while also having a day job. It’s easy to know how to give your money to comics released by a major publisher – you preorders issues via your comic shop, and hopefully that helps the book stay popular enough to keep being released. So how do you support the people who make your favorite webcomics? You already keep your eyes open for cool Kickstarters to back, but what other options are there for supporting awesome creators?
Well, it can vary pretty widely. But I got some ideas.
Cons provide you the opportunity to buy a creator’s work directly from them, get it signed, and maybe buy a commission. I’ve talked a bit about that whole process before. What I didn’t mention then is that you can also message the people running the con in advance. If there’s someone you REALLY wish was on the guest list, tell the con. If enough people do that, the con may invite that creator to come as a guest. Being invited can mean things like their travel and table cost being covered. Costs like that add up, and knowing it’s covered makes going to a show much more feasible for a creator.
Patreon seems…weirdly misunderstood sometimes. So let’s talk about it. Patreon allows you to pledge a monthly amount, as low as $1, to whomever you’re backing. Their Patreon page will generally tell you what rewards they have available at any given level and what they’re going to do with the money. One comic that I back emails concept art at the $1 level, and is using their monthly Patreon earnings to pay for a colorist. The comic itself? Still free. Patreon rewards are bonus things. And yes, it may be a bummer to not get a free digital copy or an artist’s new sketchbook, but it doesn’t impact your access to their other work. People sometimes talk about Patreon rewards as if this is product that is being withheld from other people. It’s not. It’s an extra thing being given as a “thank you” to supporters. To sidle around this is to say that you value someone’s work enough to want it, but not enough to feel they should benefit from it.
These are sites like Gumroad and Sellfy. There may be other sites that belong in this category, too – these are just the ones I’m familiar with. Creators can set up personal stores to sell you digital copies of their work. On Gumroad (I don’t have experience with Sellfy) your purchases are stored so that you can download them again later if you need to. Creators can also set “pay what you want” pricing, either with or without a minimum. So you might be able to get some things for free, and you can also decide that you feel it’s worth more than they’re changing.
Sites that ship!
Again, there are probably loads options, but Big Cartel, Storenvy, Etsy, and Society 6 are some examples. These sites let creators sell physical product directly to you. For Society 6, an artist provides the images and selects the products they’d like to have available. The site handles the printing and shipping. The other three are sites where the creator runs their own shop – the site just handles the financial processing. That means the variety of types of product is much wider, because it’s whatever they can make or have made. It also means that sometimes the shop will be temporarily closed – life stuff can occasionally make that sort of commitment untenable.
If you’re following an artist online, they may periodically open up commissions. This may just be because they have the time, or it may be emergency commissions to bridge a sudden financial gap. These can be just about anything, but artists will generally explain what the situation is. They might give pricing breakdowns, or provide instructions for getting a quote. It may be a pretty open field, or they might lay out specific rules. Check with them if something seems unclear but be sure to respect what they’ve said. If someone is offering custom Twitter avatars, it’s not respectful of their work to demand they do a digital painting of your OC macking on Ned Stark for the same price.
These are all well and good and lovely. “But what if”, you’re asking, “I don’t have the scratch?!”
Well, firstly I respect your old-school slang game.
Secondly, you can still be in your favorite comikers’ corners when your account balance is unyielding!
There are sites that aggregate creative works on the internet, sometimes even stripping comics/art of signature, and put it on a page with ads. Don’t go to those places. If you want to read a bunch of webcomics in one place, do it through sites/apps that benefit the people who made the comic. Tapastic and Comic Chameleon are two examples. The comics available on these sites are there by the creators’ choice, and the creators can profit. Or, just go to the person’s website! Going to there site means you may see other works of theirs, find out about upcoming conventions, or get other information you might have otherwise missed.
If you follow someone on Twitter or Tumblr, do not underestimate the value of an RT or a reblog. Even people who are established benefit from the chance to get their work in front of more people, and for people just starting out it can make a HUGE difference. Just make sure you’re sharing something that was posted by the person who made it – if the artist’s signature/watermark has been stripped away, don’t share that version. The goal is to shine a light on the person who created the content you’re excited about. Likewise, when you see something cool pop up on your dashboard, click through to their site and check out their other stuff. It gives you the chance to find new creators whose work you might fall in love with.
The goal of all of this is to find more art and more stories, and to make it possible for the people making those things to make more.
Okay, now go share the comics love!