Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: How to Make Webcomics

My quest to change the format of my webcomic, Breakout from Bongolaan has begun.

A couple months ago, I attended the How To Be A Nerd For A Living panel discussion at Geek Girl Con.  Afterwards, I had a nice and informative chat with Rebecca Hicks (author of Little Vampires) about formatting webcomics.

She recommended the book How to Make Webcomics.

I took her up on her advice, ordered the book and have finally finished it.

How to Make Webcomics is a collaborative how-to manual written by four webcartoonists--

--Brad Guigar, author of Evil Inc. and editor-in-chief of;

--Dave Kellett, author of Sheldon;

--Scott Kurtz, author of pVp; and

--Kris Straub, author of Starslip.

I found How to Make Webcomics informative and entertaining, which made it enjoyable to read.  Especially since the term "enjoyable" is something I normally don't associate with how-to manuals.

The book is divided into 13 chapters covering:  Your webcomic, your characters, formatting, image preparation, writing, website design, branding & building, interacting with audiences, monetizing your webcomic, books (print versions of your webcomic), conventions, next steps (once your webcomic is up & running), and final thoughts (on making your webcomic work).

Past the final chapter is a section on Scott Kurtz's studio, to illustrate what a successful webcartoonist's work area looks like.  The Additional Resources section contains two pages of reference material listed under the sub-categories of:  Cartooning, artistic inspiration, web design and maintenance, and small business.

Even though I've been writing Breakout from Bongolaan, at glacial speed, since 2008, I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to webcomics.  Probably because Breakout's blog-style format isn't like typical webcomics.

So reading How to Make Webcomics was fun and new to me, and therefore easy for me to give it a 5-star rating.  The book has earned a 4.4 out of 5-star rating on Amazon.  An overwhelming number of reviewers loved the book (39 x 5-stars, 9 x 4-stars).

Five raters, some claiming to be experienced in business or art, thought How to Make Webcomics was okay (3-star ratings), but consider various aspects of the book to be vague.  Another feels this was too focused on 4-panel humor strips.

The 2-star rater doesn't think webcomics to be true art forms and being self published means one isn't a serious writer.

Of the 2 x 1-star ratings, one can be considered a throw-away.  Mr. Throw-away claims he can't rate the book because he gave it to his brother.  This begs the question:  Why post anything at all?

There are some who try to torpedo a book's rating with a bad review.  The lower a book's rating becomes, the less visibility it gets, based on Amazon's algorithms.  (And thereby maybe elevating their own book?).

I certainly don't know what the motivation behind this low rating is, but no other reason makes sense to me.

The second 1-star rating is more extensive and generated four comments, along with 28 out of 47 browsers who found his (her?) review helpful.  In a nutshell he considers the authors' business model to be "...unprofessional and unreliable...," backed up by "...shaky, or non-existent "...key data."  Apparently, this person has also has exchanged some virtual volleys with the authors, and consider them the "...most pugnacious authors since Norman Mailer was throwing punches at cocktail parties."

Now, I'm no sketch artist, and my business acumen equals the square root of zero.  But I love comics, both print and web variety, so I don't care whether they're "true art" or not.

I'm sticking with my 5-star rating. 

I enjoyed the book and didn't think their business advice to be pie-in-the-sky.  Not even a slice.  In fact, the authors warn that if you want to get rich, then find something else to do.  I've heard similar recommendations in all the writing workshops I've attended.  Basically:  Don't quit your day job, until the income from your writing meets, or better yet, exceeds that of your current salary.

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about webcomics, be sure to save $14.99 (currently $11.18 on Amazon) for a copy of How to Make Webcomics.

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