How do you start building an audience? This question has been asked so many times by indie creators, and the answers are the usual: build a website, add content, promote on social media, build a mailing list. But this doesn't directly answer the question.
How do you start building an audience?
One of the basic principles to bear in mind is: people are attracted to what interests them.
The reason why you subscribed to that blog, or followed that Twitter account, or liked that Facebook page, is most probably because these channels promised and delivered something you've been looking for, anywhere from specific information to images of cute cats.
The same principle applies to you, the indie comics creator.
But, with so many comics creators out there trying to capture an audience, how do you stand out?
Here's one way. It's not the only way. But it's a place to start.
1) Choose a real-world subject you're genuinely interested in, apart from comics. It can be anything--cars, alternative medicine, sports, fitness, entrepreneurship etc. A topic you'd have some knowledge in, or have taken the time to research about. The more general, the better.
2) Find a podcast that talks about your subject of interest, particularly a podcast that's focused on service. That is, the podcast helps people by giving expert advice. If you're a subscriber to a podcast that does this, then great! The more popular the podcast, the better. (If you're not a podcast subscriber, go to Stitcher or iTunes and get into the habit.)
3) Make a two- to four-page comic based on the most recent podcast episode. Your comics should be either a) helpful, b) entertaining, or c) both to the podcast audience. Post in on your blog or website.
4) With every (or every other) new podcast episode, make a comic. This will be a great exercise for you as a comics creator, and it might even challenge you creatively, but it will help you develop and/or improve your working methods.
5) Go for five or six comics stories.
6) Send a friendly fan email to the producers of the podcast, along with a link to your comics. Or, tag them in a social media post. You can even ask other fans of the podcast to check out your work through a comment in the producers' blog. Important: don't do this all at the same time. You're not promoting, but simply sharing your appreciation for the podcast.
7) Whether or not you get a response, continue making comics. If the producers don't notice you, the other podcast fans might.
When the other podcast fans visit your website, they should be able to see links to your creator-owned comics.
Okay, you could say that this method is riding on the success of other people, which can be icky. But here's the thing: don't do this if you're not a fan of the podcast. You have to be a fan. The key is sincerity and genuine appreciation. It's no different from creating fan art of your favorite superhero and sending it to the comics publisher.
Plus, making comics on a topic you're not really interested in will definitely burn you out.
You might ask if I've tried this. Honestly, no. But here's what I've learned from listening to numerous podcasts--they need constant promotion. They need to know that people appreciate what they do. Moreover, they will appreciate those who go out of their way help them spread the word about the podcast.
So there's a good chance that they'll notice you. If you play your cards right, there's a good chance they'll tell their audience to check out your website. Who knows? Maybe in that new influx of visits, you might just get some new fans.