Crazy Sunshine was first created over five years ago during my time at university. But only after I came to Japan did it become a fully-fledged webcomic.

Since then, I’ve signed up to Twitter, started a Facebook page and even tested out Google+, as well as streaming live art via Livestream and discussing random junk on the Forum.

Sadly, Crazy Sunshine has lost a large chunk of its readers. Popularity has dramatically decreased during the ORIGINS story arc, despite that a look into each character’s past is exactly what readers wanted. Update days have decreased by over 10,000 unique visitors, which is a giant kick in the nuts for my confidence and morale.

However, the feeling of reading just one positive or excited comment and talking to fans of the comic on the forums hasn’t changed since day 1. It always brightens up my day and fills me with a small sense of accomplishment, and that’s what keeps me going.

With Facebook’s new rules on “pay to promote” and Twitter followers dropping my account like flies, I often wonder why it’s so hard to build up an audience, or keep readers interested in my work.

“Ah, it must be because I am in Japan!” I thought. So I made a small list of pros and cons to see if that really was the case.

Pros:

A doorway – I’m not very secretive with my Japanese experiences. I always post silly photos on Facebook and Twitter or have lengthy rants about the many annoying or funny things Japan gets up to, allowing people to have a peek at the life of a foreigner in Japan. It’s a great way to start conversations and I love answering questions anyone has on the subject of living here.

Influences – Japan, the home of anime, manga and videogames. Everywhere I go, everything I see influences me and improves my ability to draw or have something in common with people here or overseas. I have watched and played things I would never have known about if I stayed in the UK, and wouldn’t have the same relationships that I do now.

Room for expansion – Calm down, hentais, I am not talking about breast expansion. Over here, printed comics are king. Kindle books, digital ebooks, and webcomics are nowhere near as popular – and possibly never will be – as weekly manga releases or physical printed material. If I keep studying Japanese I might even make my own manga, or heck, even get around to translating Crazy Sunshine.

Cons:

Conventions – Part of making a popular webcomic is getting your name out. There is no better way to promoting your comic than attending conventions and being there in person. Sadly, these webcomic conventions only exist in the west, and cost way to much to go out there every time one occurs. If I were to attend Japanese comic conventions, I would need to start working on gateway comics like doujinshi (fan art of other popular works), then work my way up to being original. Oh, and also studying a lot of Japanese.

Time Zones – I update my comic at very strange and inconvenient times. This is because the majority of English speaking readers are awake at that time, despite me being in bed or at work. Japanese time zones are so extreme that it is impossible to build an audience for Livestream, as the times I am awake and not at work, everyone in the west is in bed. Seeing absolutely nobody come into a 5 hour long Livestream session destroys morale, but because of time zones, it cannot be helped.

Expansion or GTFO – As mentioned in the pros list, expansion is also a con. Unless I make printed material, or translate the comic to Japanese, Crazy Sunshine will never have a Japanese following. The majority of Japan cannot speak English, obviously, but there is also some sort of cultural “style barrier” that artists have to deal with over here, too. A western guy drawing anime-like art can be seen as offensive and “fake”, despite the amount of manga and anime that are influenced by western art and cartoons. I have heard many hurtful criticism regarding my art from Japanese friends, and have even been told to “go die u fake sumbitch 外人 basterd” from one individual during a Livestream session.

Delivery – If you are in Japan, chances are you are here for business, work, or university. I highly doubt western artists come to Japan looking for a career in webcomics. If you are, and you succeeded, please let me know how! Anyway, because everything is ten times more expensive than the west, and you need at least a part time job to survive, chances are you won’t have as much free time as the folk back home who can draw for a living, or update 3~5 times a week. Ah, I miss the days living at my parent’s house while looking for a job and pumping out 15 strips a week as much as the next artist, but sadly, those days were gone as soon as I set foot on Japanese soil!

Of course, being in Japan is just one reason why it’s so hard to build an audience. I rarely draw fan art, I only update once a week, my interests are not that exciting and to be honest, I never really get on board with anything that has an insane amount of hype encompassing it, which I guess is why I never sell out, I mean, draw or engage in things that are currently trending for a quick “fan grab”. I just want to be original, but I guess being too original comes at a price.

Once the ORIGINS story arc is over and I return to making gag strips, I would love to hear of methods to getting my name out there and showing more and more people my work!

Thanks for reading – as always, leave some feedback in the comment section below!