Happy Wednesday! This week we chat with Erin Mehlos from Next Town Over, a steampunk wild west comic!

You've been doing Next Town Over for a long time, with three book products available in your store. What do you tell new readers Next Town Over is about?
Next Town Over’s basically a weird western with two characters: seeming bounty hunter Vane Black and wanted magician John Henry Hunter. Their basic conflict amounts for pretty much all the action (of which there’s a lot) as Vane chases Hunter from small town to small town, oblivious to the collateral damage they’re causing (of which there’s also a lot). The particulars of why they’re fighting is kind of the central mystery of the series and I guess the incentive to keep reading more gunfights, horse chases, etc..

What is your current advertising strategy? Your comic has steampunk and western themes, where do you find those audiences?
I’m lucky I guess in that there’s kind of a steampunk renaissance right now. There’s a lot of sites devoted to, say, steampunk costuming and crafts I can potentially advertise with and pull in a few new readers rather than being strictly reliant on other webcomics. I think there’s a lot of reader pool share between some comics and you’re not always necessarily getting as many fresh eyes on what you’re selling by advertising exclusively with them. Like, if I run ads strictly on other webcomics I don’t see as much new traffic as if I try to target the steampunk outfitters, or the cowboy action shooters, or the Deadlands players, or whoever else might also dig my setting but isn’t necessarily looking at a bunch of comics every day.

As your comic has matured, how as your advertising changed?
It’s probably changed less as a result of the comic growing and more because I myself have gotten better at targeting/budgeting with my advertising.  What I said about advertising with other webcomics is a two-edged sword; it’s great if you can broaden who’s seeing your ads but on the other hand you also have to recognize who’s going to be receptive to them. Early on I did more forking out for (or trying to fork out for!) ad space on extremely high traffic sites (like Hark! A Vagrant or MSPA) and while that certainly gets you tons of impressions it doesn’t necessarily snare readers, because while I’ve got a longform serial those people are, by and large, looking for something funnier and a little more digestible when they’re reading those sites. I do better spending less on a bunch of ads on less-trafficked sites that better match my tone.

I see that right now you're running a contest, which is a great way to attract traffic. What other methods outside of buying advertising have you used to build your audience?
Participating in communities is key, I think: engaging readers through comments (even though there have been moments I’ve been sorely tempted to disable them on the NTO site!) and on Twitter, sure, but also getting involved with other creators doing similar things and being active in forum communities and that kind of thing. I’m not advocating sitewhoring, mind you! I mean actually engaging in discussion of your craft and whatnot – it pays way better dividends than just straight up plugging your stuff.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about Next Town over or Project Wonderful?
Yeah – thanks Project Wonderful for actually being pretty wonderful: it’s been the most painless advertising solution I’ve used and it’s gotten me probably the lion’s share of the comic’s revenue so far, too. I’ve got a Kickstarter project coming up to finance printing Next Town Over’s collected first four chapters and I plan on using PW to get the word out about that, too.

Thanks, Erin!
Check out Next Town Over: http://www.nexttownover.net/

If you'd like to be interviewed about your work, email lyndsay@projectwonderful.com! Subject line: Project Interview!
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