Friday, March 30, 2012
It occurs to me that the Internet is like a giant city.
Most people in a city don't visit all the places or the rooms in a city. There are literally hundreds of thousands (and possibly millions) of rooms I haven't visited in my own city. And yet, they're all there. They exist. People don't often wander around just for the fun of it, but it happens, and sometimes they stumble into rooms that they grow to love. Of course, you're more likely to try different things if they're in your way or have a sign that shows that they have something you want.
The places you go may be a crossroads of a bunch of businesses or a hub of activity--plazas like Madison Square Garden equate to places like tumblr or 4chan. Of course, those places have a lot to offer, but you may find yourself better satisfied by poking around in some of the less-used sections of the city. On great days, you find neat, well-kept, sunny little places, where people tend to be happy and civil and good. On not-so-good days, you find yourself in the "bad section" of town, and you're heart's beating kind of fast, and you lock your car doors and hope you make it home alive. Or rather, lock your screen and try to go clear the smog and grossness out of your head.
At any rate, this creates a problem for a person like me: I want you to see something. Something I made.
How do I do it, when the chances are you've never heard of me and won't pass through my part of town?
There are a few options.
The first is the really obvious one. I can go to a busy place and put out my wares. However, there's also the obvious downside: with so much hustle and bustle and extra noise, how can I get any attention? It's especially tricky to get any if I'm, say, comparing myself to some of the more established people in the same space. It can get discouraging. Statistically, over time more people will see my stuff, but my chances are still very low.
The second thing I can do is put out my stuff in my very own spaces. They won't be as close the the hubs of things, but there are people I know who will come and see me and my things. Also, it can be a nice quiet place to refer to if any members of the larger communities want a better look at what I have.
And...that's really all I've got.
The rest is things that are sort of beyond my control. It turns out that, even though computers are all connected these days, the best way to grab people is still to be connected by a person. Of course, this contact can mean more than just one reader at a time. For example, Mary Cagle, of Kiwi Blitz, used to work with an established webcomic artist and was referenced. I would guess that most of her readership stems from that one link. Not to say she hasn't earned her readers or anything! She has, and I am one of them! But the fact still remains that that one ref allowed her to grab enough people to spread the word about her product. Enough people (nerdy people) now read her comic for it to have its very own TV Tropes page.
I know that I, personally, only read half the webcomics I do because some artist or friend I trust pointed me there. Just as it's too hard (and unproductive) (and possibly dangerous) to search every room of a city, it's too difficult to try and find webcomics or other media that I will like simply by trying every single letter and character in a random order in my address bar. Or even barring that (yuk), just trying to go through all the comics on a comics-hosting site would be just too dumb for words. It wouldn't be worth the time for how many stupid or possibly harmful things I'd be put through. I think there may be one comic I read now that I found through an ad. I can't think of what it is, but there might be one. On the other hand, I can actually tell you who recommended or how I found many of my other webcomics. To get back to the city metaphor, the only way I really know how to get around in the metrop is by following the directions given to me. Occasionally the computer can help me, if I know the exact address I want, but if I just need to know "where's a place where I might be able to get this," a human is the only practical answer.
However, I think there are a couple of things I can do (besides actually make or be trying to make a great product, I guess in my mind that's gotta be a given):
Be nice. Being polite and respectful on the Internet will get you (me) places, believe it or not. If I met someone in a city and was polite--held a door, helped them find a good hotel, or gave them directions to some place, they'd be more likely to look at something I wanted to show them later. Of course you shouldn't be pushy or salesman-y (unless someone's just asked for your pitch), but you'd be surprised what just plain good manners get you. Madeline Rupert (SAKANA), one of my favorite artists, has a great relationship with her fans. It's one of the solid reasons they keep coming back. I know it's a reason I respect her, even though I tend to stay in the background. Her interactions are sincere and always civil, and that, on top of the quality of her product, allows people to feel close to her. She's got a devoted fanbase because she's super-great to them.
It's like they say when you're looking to get married: you have to be the kind of person you want to marry. Otherwise, why would they hang out with you?
Make friends. This is probably the thing I'm worst at. I get shy about talking to or about "famous" people--they're people too, and I wouldn't want to intrude. But working with a mentor or something would be just about the coolest. And, as stated in the Kiwi Blitz example, it can help you out not just with making your stuff better, but with making it more visible/available. I-I guess I don't really know how I'd go about doing this, but trying to meet them at a con or something might be a start? In any case, I'm pretty sure it boils down to: Talk to people. Don't be scared. Just try.
Be patient. Time is the great equalizer. Just statistically, at a certain point, more than 100 people will have seen my stuff simply because it exists and is linked to something. (I am living proof of that, because my current count of distinct visitors is 124.) And hopefully over that course of time, I'll meet people who are more popular at the crossroads and they'll point customers my way. Things will take their course, and I have to work hard to make my thing as good as it can be, and I have to try to get it into more rooms in the city, but it's okay to just do what I can do right now and leave tomorrow and fame and popularity to take care of themselves. (I hope.)
At any rate, that was long and convoluted, but it was fun to think about.
So, I hope in terms of putting my work in yet another room, you won't mind if I start putting links to my new pages as I complete them here, too.