Publicizing your own comic is hard. In my experience as well as my own personal studies watching others try, getting people to actually look at your work is more than half the problem; with so much out there and a seemingly infinite amount of styles, genre combinations and stories, even those with a mind set on exploring independant works are easily overwhelmed by the choices. The very same thing that made self-publishing easy and accessible has now served to make getting noticed nearly impossible. Watching other groups and individuals attempt to get noticed, advertise and monetize in all one step showed me a tragic, repeating problem with this process; without the ability to judge your work before buying, no one has a reason to buy. There’s hundreds upon hundreds of unfunded Patreon projects, failed Kickstarters and unbought digital comics littering the net, and I don’t know if there’s anything more sad than the thought that there’s art out there that someone took the time to create that no one will ever see because no one knew what to value it. In the past it would be unread novels and screenplays sitting on hard drives, but now we sit in a time where the content IS live! Sitting on digital store shelves and behind paywalls no one will ever click, or WORSE! Posted free on their own websites for all to see, but poorly (or rather incorrectly) promoted, and eventually abandoned due to lack of interest. I didn’t want that. Even if I was universally pandered and booed off the stage, I wanted people to see it. There had to be a way to put it out into the aether and gain some attention. There had to be a way to allow people to take notice, people who actually might be interested in what I was putting out. That’s when I had an idea, that seemed stupid, but worth the risk if it paid off.
MangaStream, MangaFox, MangaPanda, KissManga. If you’re a manga fanatic, odds are you use at least one of these sites, even if you DO pay for each release. Manga streaming sites provide translations to popular series faster, more frequently, and more conveniently than their DRM-riddled official counterparts. It’s a legal grey area and a morally dark area; uploaders are breaking laws by giving access to copyrighted work, while streamers are committing no legal wrongdoing but are failing to support the original artist, contributing traffic (money) to site operators instead. My idea was, what if I used one of these unofficial, shady outlets to my advantage? Newly uploaded chapters gain frontpage placement until bumped by other series, and are subject to thousands of views. I decided to begin uploading to Bato.to, a manga site and forum, because of the ease of their uploading process. I was able to upload that first day, and had views and critiques within 24 hours. The feeling was incredible; even the few negative comments were meaningless in the presence of true admiration and corrective criticism. When we uploaded the 2nd chapter, we had a comment that said he was reading it on MangaFox and was glad he found the next chapter somewhere. MangaFox? I hadn’t uploaded it there. I didn’t realize it, but uploading to Bato set forward a chain of events I hadn’t foreseen.
A quick Googling of my own property showed me that PageTurner Chapter 1 had in fact been uploaded to around 20 different manga streaming sites. Anywhere manga could be found, PageTurner had been posted. Some sites had more views than Bato, where I originally had posted it, but most had none. It was a bit exciting, though; even if not through merit, I was instantly given much more exposure and a much larger test group. None of the other sites, however, linked back to our website or our Patreon account as Bato was set up to, so Jeff made us a nice advertisement that gave information on where to find us. I made sure to add it at the end of every completed chapter, and we crossed our fingers that it would garner a bit of interest. I continued to upload chapters and monitor the sites I had bookmarked each week.
Yesterday, I uploaded our first entry to Amazon’s Kindle Store, mainly to see how it worked. Once I was given the notice it was uploaded, I decided to give it a Googling to see if it would come up in my search (I keep reading that you need to do this to know what’s going on with your property, but I keep getting scared I’ll die and only have a ton of self-googling on my browser history, so I only do it when necessary). Unsurprising to me, my Amazon listing didn’t come up yet, but I was surprised to see a new gaggle of manga sites had begun uploading my series. One of them, KissManga, had the most story pageviews (12,000+!) and comments of any of the other pages I was monitoring. I was excited to interact with my followers, so I began reading the comments. There was a resounding discord through all of the posts, even the most supportive; they were extremely confused. It was weird because previously, anytime someone was confused there was usually someone who explained what happened, but not here. I scrolled up to see how much of the story had been put up. Perhaps the story was incomplete? Maybe they skipped a chapter? The chapters were entirely out of order; first was chapter 3, last was chapter 2, with no semblance of order in between. I clicked Chapter 1 to confirm they were indeed out of order, and noticed an entirely new group of Disqus comments. Most said “Oh! So THIS is Chapter 1!” and the like. I decided, since this was our most popular outlet, to try to fix it. I posted a comment on the frontpage of our comic stating I was the author, that the chapters were out of order, and a link to our web page where they could access the chapters in order. I also said I’d message someone to get the chapters put up in the proper order. I clicked their Contact Us link, and was linked to their FaceBook page. I messaged, stating I was the author and that it wasn’t a takedown notice but I’d like the chapters to be in the proper order, and that I’d be happy to provide the chapters from here out to ensure they’re right. I went back to the site to notice my comment had been taken down. I read the rules and realized it was because I linked my site and attempted to post a correction and explanation, minus the link, stating it’d get fixed ASAP. Imagine my surprise when I learned I had been blocked from commenting on KissManga. On my OWN manga! I went back to FaceBook to apologize for my silly mistake and ask for reinstatement, but I was shocked to find they had blocked me on there, too! I had no way to influence the way our own work was being viewed. Today, I returned to see that the chapters were still out of order, and the entire series page conversation thread had been deleted.
It’s easy for analysts and shop owners to say that comic streaming is bad for creators because it hurts sales, but my new problem revealed me to another, unforeseen problem. I never imagined that such a large section of my audience could see my work completely the wrong way, though. Do you stream manga? How do you think of it morally? Please discuss in the comments below.
First post on our official blog! Lot going on, lots of moves and accounts being made, lots of site building. I know things are a bit of a mess right now (and kind of have been since the start) but I assure you that I'm finally making strides in getting this site set up. Please visit our Patreon account to pick up our new wallpaper by artist Jeff Santos, comment where you will and check back often for news and updates!