How to Make Money from Online Comics
Turn your artistic skill into a lucrative side hustle
Making your own comic is cool. This is a fact. There is something unique and special about comic books that makes it an enduring and timeless art form. The first comic book arrived on the scene way back in 1934, and once the ball got rolling it never stopped. It’s hard to overstate just how much cultural impact comic books have had. Think about it—without the work of Marvel and DC Comics, there would be no Spiderman, no Batman, no Black Panther, no superhero movies or TV series, no action figures… you get the idea.
Beyond the mainstream, comic books have explored every subject under the sun. There are children’s comics and adult comics. There are silly, funny comics and dark, serious comics. Whatever you are into, there is almost certainly a comic to suit your predilection. The simplicity and versatility of the format is what has made it so popular and so enduring.
It’s no surprise then that becoming a comic book artist is a dream of many illustrators and creative people. In our modern technological times, the barrier to producing your own comic as a comic book artist is lower than ever. Graphic design software makes it a cinch to create a comic, and there are plenty of ways to reach an audience with your work. These days, you don’t need to print and physically distribute your comic book in order to sell it or reach people. Instead, you can publish and sell your comic online. Praise be!
If you’re a comic artist who has created your own masterpiece, or if you are a keen illustrator who has an idea for a comic that you know people will JUST LOVE, you might well be wondering what the best way of publishing your comic online is. Well, let us guide you through your options and give you some tips on how to succeed.
Option One: Publishing platforms
This is probably the largest digital distribution platform for comics that is out there. It’s owned by online marketplace and many tentacled beast Amazon though, so the size should come as no surprise. ComiXology started back in 2007 as an online community for comic book lovers, and it developed a comic book reader and store in 2009. It was acquired by Amazon in 2014, and since then it has ballooned in scope.
As a reader, you can access a wide variety of hundreds of thousands of comic books and graphic novels through the ComiXology/Amazon store, and you can read them through the ComiXology app or through a device like an Amazon Kindle. As a comic book producer, you can submit your own comics via Kindle Direct Publishing and have them available to millions of potential customers after that. You’ll need to set up a KDP account in order to submit. A percentage of each sale you make will go to the platform.
The good thing about ComiXology is the access to your target audience of comic book readers that you can reach through the platform. Unfortunately, you’ll also be competing with thousands upon thousands of other comic books, so it will be hard to stand out and gain traction. You’ll need to make sure you have a solid promotion and marketing plan for your comic to reach potential buyers for your comic. You can also implement a UCAAS System to ensure seamless communication with your customers in all your communication channels.
With over 23k comics and graphic novels in its library, GlobalComix is smaller than ComiXology yet still sizable, and with 1.2 million unique visitors it offers a good opportunity to get your comic in front of the right audience. As a creator, it’s very simple to use—you just create a profile on the site, brand it as you see fit, and then upload your comic books. You can upload in PDF and other image formats, and they will be resized and optimized automatically.
The way you earn is twofold. Firstly, readers on the site pay a subscription fee to read all the comics on the site and app. These membership fees are then shared among the comic book creators (which includes you when you upload your comics). The second way to earn money is through direct payments and donations for early access to your comics. This rewards your most ardent fans with a first look at your comics, and starts at a minimum of $3.
What’s cool about GlobalComix in comparison to ComiXology is that GlobalComix is pretty much solely inhabited by independent artists and publishers—you won’t find anything from the gigantic publishers like DC Comics, Marvel or Vertigo. This means that you don’t have to compete with the blockbuster titles, and also that you will be sharing space with like minded comic producers and art lovers.
After Amazon, Apple is the second largest of the e-commerce platforms for online books, and it has a strong selection of comics. The biggest downside of Apple Books is that the quality of the comics isn’t as high as with ComiXology and Amazon, so if you are very concerned about the reading experience and final quality of your artwork, then you might want to give this option a miss. However, as an aspiring professional artist, we think it’s best to grab that bread everywhere you can, and you should always be gunning for a larger audience.
The good thing about Apple Books is that they give authors and publishers 70% of the royalties on the books sold, regardless of the price. You’re also able to offer free books to customers, so if you have published a series of comics, you could offer the first edition as a way to hook people into your story and then offer subsequent editions at a sales price.
Apple also has a nice resources section for aspiring authors and publishers, so you can mine that for additional advice and guidance.
We love how much passion is clearly behind Tapas. It’s the home of a huge variety of thousands of comics and graphic novels, and it has more than 76,000 creators registered to the platform. All of the comics are free to read, and as a comic book creator it is free to upload your own comics. With all this freeness flying around, you might be asking yourself how on earth you’re expected to make any money by putting your comics on Tapas.
Well, there are two main ways of turning some coins through this online platform. When you are a creator on the site, people can subscribe to you and follow your comics. And when you reach 100 subscribers, you are rewarded a share of the advertising revenue generated by Tapas. Around 70% of the ad revenue from the site is shared with creators, which is pretty good.
The second way of generating revenue through Tapas happens when you reach 250 subscribers. At this point you are eligible for the support program. This will enable readers to tip you directly, allowing you to bring in even more money.
Option Two: Other Online Platforms
Publishing your comic through an online distributor isn’t the only option, and perhaps you would like to do something that is a little more flexible and direct. Here are some options in that direction.
Creators of all types absolutely love Patreon. YouTubers, podcasters, writers, musicians, EVERYONE. It’s easy to understand why—Patreon offers both a way to directly connect with fans, and also to create a recurring revenue stream. Your Patreons can sign up to a plan that you create, and in return you can give them exclusive content and benefits.
Can you see where we are going with this? As a comic book artist, you can start a Patreon account, and then make new episodes of the comic exclusive to your subscribers. Not only is this an excellent way to generate revenue, but it also forces you to keep producing content. We all know that nothing gets done without a deadline, and if you need to finish a comic in order to keep your Patreons happy and for the money to keep flowing, then you’re sure as anything gonna meet it.
This platform is similar to Patreon, but offers an even easier way for fans to give you some support. Rather than taking a regular subscription, fans have the ability to just send you a donation, as if they were buying you a coffee! All you need to do is sign up to the platform and add it to your own site or even just link to your own Buy Me a Coffee page via your social media platforms.
Using this platform, you can just publish your comics via Instagram or your own website, and then ask people to buy you a coffee to support you. The platform also has the option of monthly or annual subscriptions too, so it can still have the same regular subscription option as Patreon.
Now Don’t Forget to Promote Your Work…
So, let’s say that by now you’ve done the hard work and actually produced your own comic and decided which method you want to generate money with. In fact, you could use every single method above at the same time if you like. This is a massive step. Go you! But the reality is that you can’t stop there. Being present on these platforms is sort of the bare minimum. In order to generate online sales and subscribers, you’re going to need to promote your work, and promote it hard.
There are many different marketing tools that you can use to get yourself out there, and it makes most sense to start with the lowest hanging fruit. Your own social media accounts are an excellent avenue for promotion. Instagram in particular is well suited to promoting comic book art, and for many creators this is how they generate the bulk of their business. You can also use Instagram to network with other comic artists and to find communities.
Reddit is also an excellent place to promote your work. There are fervent communities of comic fans online, and this forum can be surprisingly supportive and encouraging for new artists.
And finally, this might sound counterintuitive, but getting offline and meeting people at relevant places in real life is actually a very effective method of promoting digital comics. Comic and art fairs are commonplace in most cities, and you can take your own marketing materials along to these events and share with them any connections that you make.
We hope this article has inspired you to get your own comic out into the world. If you’re still in the ideas stage, we recommend you check out our tutorial on ‘how to design a character’, this will help you to develop your own characters in the best way possible. You might also benefit from learning about other illustration styles and see what you can incorporate from there. And if you’re serious about improving your skills in illustration and graphic design, make sure to enroll in the Vectornator Academy.
Download Vectornator to Get Started
Take your designs to the next level.