A couple of days ago Banes gave us a wonderful article on the issue of who to please- yourself or the audience, and how that can go very right or very wrong.
So that got me thinking that we should also talk about the dreaded silence. You update a page, and wait with bated breath to see what your readers have to say, how it impacts them, how the development in the story makes them think or react.
And you get nothing.
The comments simply don't come.
This can potentially be very demoralizing for a creator, especially if update after update, there are no comments to look forward to. That's when the backup you got regarding being your own number 1 fan comes in. That's when the importance of creating a story because you need it to be told, rather than as an easy grab for popularity and traffic, comes into play.
But that may not be enough if your reassurance that you are doing things right hinges on how much of active feedback you are receiving. You may love what you do, and love your own story, but be very anxious that you're dropping the ball and not doing it credit. How can you possibly continue then, if you feel that you're doing a disservice to the very thing you love enough to invest all this time and energy in?
The truth is that a great many more reasons exist for not getting comments under your pages than your webcomic's quality or appeal:
1. Your comic might not yet be discovered enough
Let's face it- there are a ton of webcomics out there, and more are created every day. It's very hard for your audience to find you. A big element of not getting the comments you're hoping for is that the people who would leave them haven't found you yet. But the good thing in this is that when they do, they'll binge read you and leave you a pile of comments on several pages!
The thing to remedy this is to simply BE DISCOVERED. You can advertise your comic, make attractive banners and get your webcomic reviewed and showcased. Here in DD we are all about helping you be discovered, so make use of our forums, and the instruments we give you to be showcased, such as making FYC pages for the DD awards, using the new #twitter_feature (PQ me to get yourself a slot!) and get yourself featured in our front page. You can also participate in group activities and projects or make fanart of characters from webcomics similar to yours, and thus get yourself noticed by similar audiences.
2. Your audience might be following and reading your comic, and just lurk
I generally tend to comment on people's new updates, but there are a lot of webcomics where unfortunately, I am a regular reader who also lurks, and very rarely, or never, comments. Which is terrible of me, but not a unique behavior. The reason a reader who likes your comic enough to regularly come back for updates and read, might simply be they are too tired to comment. They just want to get the next installment of the story, and move on, and are simply too tapped out from their own day and their own concerned to stop and give you feedback. That doesn't mean they won't faithfully come back again and again to see where you take them with your story, that they won't recommend it to others or even help promote it. They are your silent force, the ones who support your webcomic by their traffic and their recommendations, even if they never show themselves.
3. The update might be such that the readers don't know what to say.
I remember a few times when I updated with a very impactful scene, turn of events or element in Without Moonlight, I waited hungrily for comments on it to see how my audience took it, but… I got nothing. Or I got comments that weren't focusing on that or where too short and unsatisfactory in communicating to me what the reader felt or thought about it. That can be so immensely frustrating- but it's a good sign actually. Usually it means that the reader has so many emotions, or feels something so profound they don't feel able or ready to express anything about it. I realised that when I sought out one of the most faithful and enthusiastic fans of Without Moonlight and asked him why he had only written an exclamation point under the particular page where something pretty violent and unexpected was taking place. He replied that it felt like such a punch in the gut and such an overwhelming rush of emotions and thoughts he didn't know what else to say on the fly.
And that is a very valid reason. The nature of the internet is such that we don't linger around at a page like we would in an art gallery, swirling our wine and waiting to be approached so we can discuss what we're seeing. It's a very quick, hit-and-run affair and often thoughts about what we have seen articulate themselves when we have long since left the webcomic's page, or even the computer itself! So when we have the opportunity to write a comment as a reader, we just don't, because nothing comes to mind, exactly because the update was so good.
As creators we need to consider this as a possibility before we self-flagellate.
4. The update might be pedestrian, and not much can be said about it.
There are some updates that are simply transitional, absolutely necessary, but really only serving to get the story to go from one scene to the next. They may not have much for a reader to comment on, or much food for thought on their own. This might mean that you should consider embellishing them with other elements beyond the story, such as lush backgrounds or interesting layouts. It might still not bring forth the comments, though for sure it will bring your readers back for the next page, and the next.
What should we take from all this?
That you should power through the lack of comments, and trust that they will come. And if you absolutely need to, ask for them actively, in private, from people you know will be truthful to you and supportive, even if they tell you that you need to add things to your mix to make it spicy enough to elicit reactions- or truthful enough to tell you it's so spicy that words are hard to come by.
And remember- nobody can talk about something they don't know about. So make sure people find you. Use what you can- like the Duck's tools to get people to see you and enjoy your work.
Get your twitter feature, be active in the forums, participate in community events, and get the interaction you need.
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 7, 2018
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