Demon of the Underground

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Webcomic Listings, Services, and Resources

I've only been publishing my webcomic for about three months, and before this comic, I never had any luck getting viewers to whatever my current art project was. DOTU is a very different project for me, because I was somehow able to find more readers than I ever expected in a very short amount of time. DOTU has a long way to go in order to become an "established" webcomic, but I'm happy with the luck I've had so far. I figured it would be a good idea to share the resources and sites I've used during the past months with any of you who are also new to the webcomics world.

In this post, I'm focusing on venues that allow you to publicize your website. I've listed the pros and cons of each site based on *my* experience with them. If you've had a different experience, feel free to comment! I'm not going to change my post (like I said, it's meant to be based on my experience and what's worked for me), but if you disagree about the value of a particular site, your comment will let readers see a different perspective other than mine. I've summed up each mini-review by simply deciding whether or not it was worth my time to use the site.

Also, I'm writing this entry based on my experience as a comic creator, not a comic reader. Some of the sites I list as not being helpful to me might be great for someone who is only looking to read comics, not to gain exposure for their own.

At the end of this entry, I also have some additional resources such as hosting options, advertising, and webcomic management.

I understand that it takes time to maintain all the sites listed below, and I appreciate that effort, so I apologize in advance if any of my reviews seem harsh. I just want to help fellow creators use their time in the most efficient way possible. But I'm long-winded as it is, and honesty takes fewer words than sugar-coating.

I hope you all will find this listing somewhat helpful!


These sites are comic directories, but there is a competitive focus. Comics are listed based on popularity, votes, visits, ratings, or other similar factors.

All my investigations have told me that this is the most popular comic ranking/voting site on the web. It also offers several promotional tools for creators. In addition to listing your comic, you can put out an avatar that will show up when guests come to vote on other comics (for free), you can post sample comic pages (for free), you can put out an article about your comic (for free, and in my opinion under-utilized), and you can buy ad space. You can also track how many votes you're getting and when you're getting them.

--Offers creators plenty of opportunities for self promotion - vote incentives, avatars, articles, ad space
--The voting and incentives process gives a way for readers and creators to interact
--This site is run at what I would call a professional level. Turnaround time for approvals is quick, and inquiries are taken care of right away. I had a glitch with a banner ad and contacted the admin, who took care of the problem within a day.

--It may be difficult for new comics to gain visibility through the ranking. The top spots seem to always be occupied by the same comics, and for whatever reason the votes seem to favor Smackjeeves comics.
--(This could be a pro or a con) - the ranking really doesn't have much to do with the actual popularity of the comics. The highest ranked comics here are not necessarily the comics that get the most pageviews or have the most readers. (If you advertise on Project Wonderful, you can see how many daily views many of these comics actually get.) I'd assume that the top comics are creative with incentives and probably offer a lot of them. The plus side of this is that it gives you a way to be noticed even if you're *not* already a popular comic. (And my goal with this article is to help people gain popularity for their comics, not to help already popular comics stay popular.)
--Because displays are based solely on votes, there's not much you can do to help your *target* reader find your comic. It's difficult to sort based on genre, style, etc.
--The queue for purchased skyscraper banner ads is loooong. I think my ad has been in the queue for well over a month. The wait for other sizes of ads doesn't seem to be as bad, though.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? YES. This is an interactive site. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. I've gotten a good share of readers through TopWebComics. I consistently get a decent number of referrals through the site, and I plan to continue using it.

Comic Hovel
This is like a "lite" version of TopWebComics, combined with a "lite" version of Project Wonderful. It ranks comics based on votes, but also allows sorting through ratings based on art, story, and website quality. It also offers a banner exchange program and an opportunity to make money by displaying ads for other comics on your site.

-It's a great idea! If I were to read the above description, I'd say "sign me up right away!" (but alas...)
-I think the site design is excellent. It's very clean and easy to navigate.
-The listings seem more favorable toward story-based comics rather than gag-a-day strips, which is obviously a plus to me because that's what I do.
-It's easier to sort based on genre than TopWebComics
-You're automatically given credits to advertise your comic through banner ads on other comic sites. You can also buy additional credits.
-I like that the ranking system acknowledges the importance of good art, good story, AND good website design.

-Voting is inaccurate/unresponsive. I say this based on the fact that the votes did not get reset at the end of the past month. Having joined the site near the end of September, September was obviously already lost to me. I was hoping to have a fresh start in October. But since the votes were not reset, I consider this site to be useless to me at least until November. We'll see if the votes get reset then, or if this site turns out to be dead.
-One of the most promising features of the site to me was the opportunity to place ads on my site to earn money. However, I've found this system to be completely unresponsive. While the site claims that the wait time for site approval is 24 hours, I've been waiting approximately a month.
-Unlike Project Wonderful, you can't target your advertising. You can't pick and choose where your ads will appear, so you're likely to get a very low percentage of clicks unless your comic has universal appeal. That's bad news for people with more of a niche audience.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? NO. There's not much of a point in updating incentives and asking readers to vote if the votes don't ever get reset. Thus I get *very* few referrals through Comic Hovel - and the point of listing my comic on all these sites is obviously to gain exposure. Also, due to the unresponsive nature of the site, I'm very leery of the idea of buying ad credits from this site, or the prospect of earning money through displaying ads and then having to request a payout. My belief is that if a site handles the exchange of money, it must be run and maintained at a professional, reliable level. Considering the unresponsiveness, I just can't trust this site with my money.

This is a comic "competition" site in which you try to earn points in order to win a "prize." The site claims to "bring you access to hundreds of free online comics." You score points by getting people to visit Comicracy through your site or to have them leave the site by clicking onto yours.

-This might be fun for people who are into that sort of competition

-I was personally turned off by the overall idea of the site, as in being a contest based on scoring and getting points and collecting trophies. It's just not my taste.
-For whatever reason, thhere is an emphasis within the top listed comics on typical sexist/misogynistic themes, suggesting that the readership skews in that direction. That doesn't do me much good, and as I said, I'm writing about what *I* found helpful.
-Despite the site's claim to bring readers access to hundreds of comics, very few comics are shown on the main page. There does not seem to be an easy way to display many comics at once.
-Even the "top-rated" comics are only rated at 3.8 or so, which suggests to me that people maliciously vote each other down. Bad energy. I prefer positivity.
-To me, this has an unappealing site design, reminiscent of superhero comics (again, not my taste)

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? N/A. I decided not to sign up for this site, because it didn't appeal to me.

Comic Rank
This site is a straightforward ranking that lists comics based on how many readers they have.

-It's a great source for information on your comic. In addition to tracking the number of readers for your comic, it also tracks your conversion rate, so you can tell if people are actually reading more than just one or two pages.
-The concept is simple and straightforward. Just put a few tracking buttons on your site, and you don't have to do anything else. You don't have to "work" for your place on the site.

-If you're already popular, this site will help you be more popular. If you're not already popular, chances are you won't be seen. I'd say that this site does more to help readers find popular comics; it's not really geared toward helping new comics gain exposure.
-This site is unresponsive. I've been waiting two months and counting to get my leaderboard approved to even appear on the site. I still have access to my ranking information, but that does nothing to help me gain exposure for my comic because the banner isn't displayed on the site until it's approved.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? KIND OF... I really do like the ranking/readership information that the site provides. But in 2 months, I've gained 0 readers through this site because I'm still awaiting approval. I can't necessarily *fault* the website for being unresponsive; after all it's a free service and there's no exchange of money, etc. But it's still frustrating to me as a site user. Based on my number of readers (currently 1222), my leaderboard would be listed on the second page - which to me is great at this point in my comic's "life." I'm just sad that I don't actually get to benefit from it.

This is a ranking site where the results are based on exits to the comic sites and the number members favoriting the webcomic on the site.

-Easy submission process. It only took a moment. But I just joined today, so I'll have to wait and see how long it takes to get the comic approved and actually listed on the site.
-I'm amused by the fact that my profile says, "You currently has no friends." ^_^

-Site is difficult to navigate. It's difficult to find information on what the site is for. It seems to be geared more toward readers than creators. You can have "friends" and an inbox for messages, but I can't tell for sure what types of interaction actually happen on the site.
-They have a ridiculous avatar system. You can't easily upload your own. You have to choose one that's pre-existing from their collection. When you submit your comic, you can submit an avatar for the comic (which will then appear in the collection for you to choose), but it has to be approved. That's a lot of effort for just an avatar!
-I'm not a fan of the website design. Again, it feels very "superhero."

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? TBD. I just joined today. This doesn't look to be a particularly popular site, so I'm not expecting a ton of referrals. But it also doesn't ask for a whole lot of effort or interaction, so that's fine.

These are sites that have a heavier focus on being comprehensive than on competition.

The Webcomic List
This is primarily a basic comic listing, but it does also have a ranking system in there based on "number of visits per update."

-It's an easy, straightforward listing, with plenty of sorting options
-It lists newly updated comics, so active comics can be displayed more prominently than dead comics.

-Not an appealing site design.
-Slow turnaround time for site approval and to check if it's updated
-It's primarily text-based, which to me is not very helpful when it comes to webcomics. All you get is an 80x80 image.
-I mentioned that it lists newly updated comics. I should have prefaced that with the phrase, "in an ideal world..." The site doesn't pick up my updates, but it also doesn't let me update manually or force update. According to the site, you have to be "special" in order to be able to update manually.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? TBD. If you're going to fail to pick up my updates, at least give me the option of updating manually! I get a ridiculously low number of referrals from here. (i.e. a grand total of 1 this month.) I've reported my site as not picking up updates and am waiting to see if the issue will be fixed. If it gets fixed, and in a timely fashion, I will update these comments to reflect that. (It took me a couple months to realize you can report the problem of not picking up updates! oops...) This is one of those sites that's free and doesn't ask for much of your time, so *if* the update issue gets resolved, the "TBD" will probably become a "yes."
UPDATE: The problem was fixed very quickly, and the site admin is incredibly friendly and responsive. Major plus! And since the problem's been resolved, I've already noticed a few more hits from here. So I'm gonna say that YES, this was worth my time.

Comic Listing
This site claims to be "the largest comic listing and directory, with over 18,000 and growing."

-This site does exactly what it claims to do - list comics.
-It's very easy to add a comic to the list. The approval process is quick.
-There are various ways of sorting comics so the same ones aren't always displayed at the top, as is usually the case with voting and ranking sites.
-The site design is pretty clean and not an eyesore.

-Anyone can change the info of your comic or even flag it as trash
-There seem to be a lot of duplicate listings
-This is primarily text-based, although you get a *slightly* larger image than you do on the Webcomic List.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? YES. To be fair, I just put up a listing the other day. But I'm still saying yes. The site didn't ask for a lot of my time and didn't make any big promises, so even if I get nothing out of it, it's not like I sacrificed much.

The site describes itself as a "webcomic tracking and bookmarking service." You can sort by name, popularity, last added, and last updated.

-It's easy to add comics. At least I assume it is, because my comic just magically appeared on the list without me submitting it. I didn't know this site existed until I checked Google Analytics and noticed a bunch of referrals through here. (but for the record, you can manually submit your site too)
-I love that it sorts based on the last update. How else do you know what comics are actually active?

-The listing is entirely text-based. Only the title is listed.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? YES. Er, especially considering it didn't actually take any of my time yet still gives me plenty of referrals. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but whatever. Thanks, Piperka!

Ink Outbreak
This site is like a cross between a comic directory and an RSS reader, but it shows the comic on its actual website, unlike an RSS reader that strips it down to almost nothing.

-It's innovative! This is a great way for readers to follow more than one comic, and thus a great way for creators to gain more readers.
-It's not text-based like most other directories. Comics are listed on the main page entirely through generously-sized images, so you have full control over how you choose to promote your comic.
-The listing is based primarily on when your comic last updated, so new comics don't have the insurmountable task of competing for visibility with already established comics
-This is a sure way to introduce your comic to new readers, as readers jump from one comic directly into the next, and yours will likely be in the queue of readers who are into the style and genre you write for.
-Readers have the option of selecting all their favorite genres and subject matter, so your comic is automatically targeted to the type of reader who's most likely to become a fan
-Although it functions kind of like an RSS reader, it preserves the full website so you still get your ad revenue and the aesthetic impact of your site.
-The owner of the site is very responsive and quickly addresses technical issues through the forum
-I like the forum. :)
-The site also bookmarks the most recently read page, so a reader can pick up where they left off in your comic even if they missed an update or two

-The listing isn't as comprehensive as many other sites - YET. It's a new site, so I'm hoping more comics will be added.
-The current collection of comics seems to lean more toward cartoony and gag-a-day stuff, which isn't my personal preference.
-Due to the way the site works, it's a little bit of a hurdle for sites that have landing pages. Some readers seem to get frustrated having to click a button to get to the latest page.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? YES. Definitely yes. This is one of my favorite "discoveries" in terms of webcomic listing services. It's just *cool.* And I've also met a lot of awesome artists through the forum!
I'm not going to go into a full review of this site, because for my purposes I consider it to be a DEAD SITE. I submitted my comic, and it sat a month waiting for approval. When I wrote to inquire, I got no response. Even the other sites that I noted as unresponsive at least gave me some sort of excuse when I sent an inquiry. This site didn't. So I'm basically just acknowledging that it exists, but definitely not giving it any sort of thumbs up.

WAS IT WORTH MY TIME? NO, for the reason mentioned above.



This seems to be the most popular way to publish webcomics, but I hate it. I gave it a shot, but I found it to be too bulky for my tastes. Customizing it took way too much time, effort, and knowledge. On the bright side, it does offer a lot of features, and since it's the most popular, all the comic listing sites seem to be configured to pick up its updates. Knowledge of HTML / CSS / basic PHP highly recommended! I didn't know enough PHP to make Comicpress work the way I wanted it to work. If you're not picky and are satisfied with the standard settings, it probably won't be such a big deal to you. But I wanted my site to look and act in a very specific way, and Comicpress made that difficult.

This is what I use, and I highly recommend it. There's not as many features as Comicpress, but I found it more user-friendly and easier to customize. It also runs quicker and lighter. Knowledge of HTML / CSS is a plus. You'll need it in order to "pretty up" your page. I don't know PHP, but I managed just fine. One negative is that I didn't like its built in commenting system. It doesn't let you reply to comments.

This quick and easy commenting system will let you interact with your readers better. It's very handy. Basic knowledge of HTML required.

Another commenting system. It seems to be more popular than Intense Debate, so I'm listing it here. But I don't use it. I like Intense Debate's interface better.

I don't use any of these. I pay for my own hosting because I prefer full autonomy. But if you need something free or if you want some automatic publicity, these might be an option for you. To be honest, they kind of remind me of cults, the way the some readers only frequent, say, comics hosted on Smackjeeves, and some creators only link to other comics hosted on the same site, and they're all blind to the outside world. Lol. But hey, whatever works for you.

Comic Fury
Rampage Network

Project Wonderful
This is a professional advertising tool that's focused more closely on webcomics and similar venues than, say, Google Adsense. You can use it to advertise your comic at any time, or once you've established yourself as a steady, active webcomic, you can earn money by displaying ads. The site lets you track the effectiveness of your advertising, see the best places to advertise, etc. You have full control over where you advertise. And if you're a publisher, you have full control over who advertises on your site. But advertising costs money. And you can't submit your site as a publisher until you have at least 30 pages under your belt. Once I get to that point, I'll post about the process and how helpful it is. P.S. No porn/adult content allowed, though some sites (ahem... *cough *oglaf *cough) seem to find loopholes. (I love Oglaf, by the way. ^_^)

Google Adwords
This is a professional tool for advertising your comic (or pretty much any non-adult website). Sometimes they have promotions and give you free money to advertise. There's no harm in using free money! Just be very vigilant and make sure you notice when the free money runs out! I wasted my free money on promoting my Etsy shop, stopped paying attention, and overspent - and it didn't get me any sales. I haven't tried it with my webcomic. Eh, no more free money, and I don't feel like paying...

Google Adsense
This is a professional tool for making money by running ads on your comic. I'm halfway through the approval process, but I haven't yet committed to running ads on my site. I really prefer to run ads for other webcomics, not random junk. But you can display ads through Google much sooner than you can through Project Wonderful.

Comic Hovel
I already discussed this in the "ranking" section, but I'm listing it here because it also gives the option of buying banner impressions or selling ad space. Unlike the three sites mentioned above, I consider this to be more of an amateur tool, because it's not run with the same diligence and responsiveness as the sites above. I would say that one of the pluses is that you don't have to wait until you have 30 pages under your belt in order to make money displaying ads. But like I mentioned, my approval is more than a month overdue, so I *can't* actually say that the wait time for Comic Hovel is shorter than the wait time for Project Wonderful.

Google Analytics
This is a great free service for analyzing your site's traffic.

WHEW! That took waaaay longer to write than I planned... But I hope someone out there finds it helpful!


  1. I agree about TopWebComics; it's hard for fish down the stream to get noticed. =\ I used to follow Phoenix Requiem, which I think was always in the number 1 position before it ended. She had a landing page like you, because she posted two or three pages each update. So you'd read the first, advance to the second, and advance to... a page that says "sorry, that's the last page this week, but hey, if you liked what you read and want to support me, here's a nice piece of art I've been working on." You were already in the mood to see more, so you clicked on it. It doesn't hurt that Sarah Ellerton's an amazing artist, but the setup really got me to vote every time she updated, more than any other comic I've read.

    I follow a few of the comics in the top 10 right now. One of the artists (Modest Medusa) is actually very active drive for votes to try to get in the top 5 right now, and says that if he can do so by the end of October, he'll update 7 strips the first week of November instead of the typical 3. But he's not doing any vote incentive graphics at all, which I thought was interesting. (I'd never heard of this comic until I met the creator at a gaming convention over the summer, and I think most of his readership comes from his success as a publisher of indy RP games online.)

    Evil Diva is similarly incenting their readers, having over the summer that they need $200 per page if they're going to update anymore. I have -erm!- opinions about how they executed that, but the result has seemed to be a galvanization of the "diehard" fans and massive site-wide arguments about "How dare you criticize these people who make no money and put their webcomic up for free for three years?!". Good or bad, it's traffic, which is what pays the bills in the end, I suppose. -shrug!- They also have a very active rotation of cute art for vote incentives, so I suspect that helps. I've heard other comics do Q&A sessions as vote incentives or bonus sidestory comics.

    Me, I'm just barely finding the time to do my two comics most weeks, so I let it fall behind sometimes. Maybe I'll try the avatar/banner options one day, though.

    I also noticed I got auto-added to Piperka when I launched Sombulus, and I get a small stream of folks from there. Crazy! (Though I got flagged for violence? I didn't think my comic was all that graphic about it, but I guess the first few scenes with the french ninjas might have been PG-13...)

    I'm excited to try InkOutbreak, and I just signed up with Comic Listing because hey, why not. I'll let you know how it goes for me!

    As for CMS, I really didn't like any of the CMS options I found because they didn't seem to support multi-page queueing so that you're not reading the very last page of an update first and "blog post" updates that were independent from pages (which I'd still like to do sometime in the future.) So I bothered my programmer friends until my buddy Kemayo made Simplecomic. He built it pretty darn barebones, but it allows you to have different directories of "templates", so if it got more popular, folks could potentially build some out-of-the-box interfaces to tweak beyond his very basic model. I much prefer a blank slate as opposed to tweaking someone else's HTML/CSS, so if you're that kind of designer, you should give it a go. Kem's also very responsive about most add-ons and stuff he builds, but that might be because I know where he lives. :P

  2. Cool links! Thanks for sharing all this research. :)

  3. @Delphina I've had better luck than I expected with TWC, but I doubt I'd ever make it into the top 100. I figured that a lot of the top 10 had some sort of strong incentive program, but I didn't know what. Thanks for the info; it's always interesting to hear what's working for other people!

    I do have a voting promo planned for November that doesn't involve image incentives. I'm curious to see how it'll work out. Hmm, I should probably announce it, shouldn't I? ^_^

    As for keeping up with incentives, I know what you mean! I don't usually have time to do new art as an incentive, hence I do a lot of WIP shots and photos and stuff. I have no idea how you manage to do 2 colored pages per week to begin with! Adding a frequently-changing incentive to the mix would be insane.

    Your blog post about Evil Diva is also really interesting! I'm all for artists having a "donate" button or even having paid subscriptions, but this is like holding your webcomic pages for ransom. It's a hard situation because maintaining a webcomic (as you know!) is a TON of work for little or no pay. There are ways to earn money from it, but it has to be done in a way that won't piss off your audience.

    While I didn't agree with many of the marketing practices of my previous company, at least they knew that if you offer a product for X amount, you can't just up the price out of nowhere and expect people to still pay. And the worst/most difficult thing is to try to get people to pay for something that used to be given away for free.

  4. @Emma No problem! :) Btw, are you doing anything for Nanomango next month???

  5. A new webcomics listing that you should be aware of is Webcomics Hub. If you are looking for cool webcomics, check out They provide a very easy to use listing of webcomics and also have a cool webcomics discovery tool.

  6. Thanks for a great post! :) Just started posting my comic & this is super helpful!