Pretty much all of the webcomics you and I know are at least moderately successful. They might not be bringing in enough money for the creator to live off, but they bring in at least enough attention and positive recognition for the creator to continue working on it, even if is technically running a financial loss. But frequently, “success” is simply being able to create art and have people respond to it. Many people, after all, take up webcomics simply because they have a story that they feel the need to tell, and the internet is the best venue for sharing it.
Unless a creator has already built up a decent following somehow, it’s not unusual for traffic and feedback to the comic to be slow at the start. Obviously, without that existing group of fans, it takes time and effort to build a regular reader base. I think most new creators expect this at least at some level, even if the specific timeline they envision is unrealistic.
But what if, after years of toiling away on the comic, and doing everything “right”—regular updates, alerting everyone on all the social media channels, continued improvement on writing and illustration, etc.—there remains essentially no reaction? Not only are fans not always clamoring for the next installment, but haters and trolls don’t bother showing up either. People come to the comic, read perhaps a few pages, shrug, and move on. No comments, no likes, no shares, zip. From the creator’s perspective, they’re not reaching anyone in any capacity.
This can, of course, be frustrating. As I said, many creators create in order to somehow connect with other people. To make something that touches someone else in some way, whether that’s some deep philosophical revelation that can change a person’s life or just a poop joke they laugh at.
Traditionally, creators were somewhat isolated from their audiences, but they still at least had contact with their editors and publishers to get some broad reader feedback. Webcomics, while they have the advantage of not having any gatekeepers, are also self-reliant when it comes to setting up means for readers to provide feedback. And even then, there’s no guarantee people will respond in any way. Maybe the comic isn’t bad, but it’s just not very good either.
So what then? Should the creator give up and try something else? Should they stick it out for one more year? Should they keep at it, but change some of the structure?
It should come as no surprise that this would have to be a decision each creator has to make for him/herself. Is the creation process itself sufficiently satisfying to continue? Or is financial reward still a goal, even if it is secondary?
This can be a difficult thing to think through as a creator. Often it means having to step away from the comic a bit to reflect on it, without the concern of the next deadline. But this is where creators can work just as hard as if they were still doing the strip—really digging deep to see what they truly want out of it, and whether it’s worth continuing despite a lack of audience interest.
So the next time you see a strip go on hiatus, it might not actually be because they have other, better-paying work to do; it might just be because they’re debating whether continuing the strip is worth their time.