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Webcomics have some definite advantages over print comics. Webcomics allow the cartoonist great freedom and leeway regarding creativity and subject matter, and anyone who can afford a Web site can publish his own cartoons.

The creator of a webcomic has more control over his feature than a traditional cartoonist does, but he also must bear more responsibility. Webcomic creators are like small businessmen. They're responsible for not only writing and drawing the comic feature — just as if they partnered with a syndicate — but also the Web site design, advertising, marketing, and sales of related merchandise. The upside is the webcomic creator keeps 100 percent of the revenues instead of giving half to the syndicate.

The Internet has a vast sea of popular webcomics. They're done by amateurs and professionals alike, who take advantage of the ability to publish anything on the Internet. The more advanced webcomic creators display their features in full color and even use some animation. Two big aspects of creating a webcomic that can generate revenue are as follows:

✓ Merchandise and books sold on the Web site: Many online print-on-demand (POD) companies cater to Web sites that can offer books for sale as well as other merchandise such as T-shirts.

✓ Advertising: The more people come to read the comic, the more traffic the Web site gets and the more likely it is to pick up a small amount of revenue from advertising. You can also list your webcomic in search engines, like Google and Yahoo!, so that when people are searching for cartoons or other artwork, your site pops up. In order to list your site in a search engine, you may consider a search engine optimization service. These services can help you list your site with multiple search engines so you don't have to list on each one individually. These services can also provide you with assistance on how to best list your site to maximize its place on a search list.

If you don't already have a Web site, I suggest you get one started. Beginners can purchase great simple programs at any software store and use them to set up a Web site. You also have the option of hiring someone to do it for you. Check out Building a Web Site For Dummies by David Crowder and Rhonda Crowder (published by Wiley) for a book full of info on starting, maintaining, and promoting your Web site.

Dilbert's creator: Changing with the times

Typically, syndicated cartoonists have looked to the Internet with a mix of confusion and mistrust. After all, these are people whose professional income is based largely on syndication to newspapers, and the Web is steadily eroding the newspaper's ability to land daily readers. But Scott Adams has embraced the new medium with gusto.

His Web site, www.dilbert.com, features the daily comic, of course, along with a blog updated by Adams himself, animations, and other regular features. More important, Adams is embracing the Web's ability to help him connect with his readers on a deeper level. Readers can respond to Adams' blog posts and even rewrite previous Diibert comics using their own punch lines.

And of course, as they're interacting with the site, they're allowed plenty of opportunities to become aware of the many other ways to participate in all that is Diibert — with their credit cards. Ever the shrewd businessperson, Adams is poised to make a seamless transition from a newspaper-based business to a Web-based one. One can only imagine Dogbert's tail wagging in approval.

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