Back in the 1960s, Jack Kirby was pretty synonymous with Marvel Comics. He created much of what became the foundation of the Marvel Universe: the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men… And that’s after he spent a good chunk of the ’50s doing Westerns and monster tales and whatever else was popular for the same company. So when he left Marvel for DC in 1970 to develop entirely new characters, it was pretty newsworthy in comics circles.
Throughout DC’s existing line, readers could find house ads proclaiming “Kirby is Coming!” If you were at all familiar with his work at the time, whether you were a fan or not, you knew that Kirby was working on new titles that would ultimately bear little resemblence to the ones he had left at Marvel. If you were a fan of Kirby’s, you may or may not have dropped Fantastic Four, but you certainly jumped on New Gods!
Of course, not many creators have the prestige that Kirby did, and those in webcomics specifically don’t have nearly the advertising and marketing resources of a major publisher to announce a change when they shift from one work to another. Like nearly everything else in webcomics, it’s up to the creators themselves to generate anything and everything relating to their webcomic, including marketing and cross-promotion.
For whatever reason, in the last few months, I’ve seen several creators wrap up long-running comics to shift over to something else. By and large, this seems to be a creative decision; they’ve finished the story they were trying to tell, and are choosing to move on to something else, rather than stretch out a narrative longer than they think is necessary. Off the top of my head, I noticed: Christopher Baldwin recently launched Anna Galactic after several other successful webcomics, Courtney Huddleston and James Taylor are silencing The Bully’s Bully, Danielle Corsetto is in the process of ending Girls with Slingshots, Rob Humphrey and Jeff Manley recently fired Punching the Clock, Jules Rivera is in the process of starting Valkyrie Squadron over from scratch… And I’m sure there are plenty of other examples that don’t spring to mind offhand.
While fans of these comics are often as much fans of the creators as the comics they’re reading, creators do need to keep in mind that they won’t necessarily follow them on all platforms. Or with religious regularity. A single announcement on the creator’s Tumblr won’t cut it because any number of fans could easily miss that. Even with a solid fanbase to start with, creating a new webcomic requires a similar dedciation to marketing that the previous one did. That means repeated announcements across multiple platforms over the course of months. And of course, putting an obvious ad on the old site as a permanent addition is needed to direct late-comers.
The specifics will naturally vary depending on the existing platform(s) being used and the individual style of the creator, but the key thing to remember is that whatever venues are being used (RSS, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, etc.) every one of them needs to have multiple announcements about the new work. Some fans might only follow the Google+ account (even if it is only just an automated feed from somewhere else) and completely miss the Twitter announcement for example. Every venue needs to be catered to, regardless of how far away it is from the webcomics’ “primary” outlet.
Granted, it’s some extra effort, but it would still be less than trying to gain the followers lost from entirely new sources! Creators need to take advantage of the platforms they already have!