Most webcomics creators figure that once they have put up their comic in a free format that is accessible to everybody, they have done their bit. Jim Zubkavich is taking it another step: He just posted a PDF/CBZ version of the first chapter of his webcomic Makeshift Miracle, and he is inviting readers to spread it far and wide:
Download the torrent file, pass it around, re-seed as much as possible and convince your online friends to try it out, absolutely free. Once they’ve read chapter 1, they can come back here to continue the story with chapter 2.
While webcomics creators often promote their work on Twitter and in online forums, Zubkavich is taking it to another channel altogether. Torrenters have their own community, and getting noticed there will bring him new readers; he’s already getting some love on Scans Daily, which is probably not his usual audience. Beyond that, reading an entire issue of a comic at once is a different experience from reading an online comic that updates a couple of times a week. A lot of readers want to sit down and read a whole chapter at a time, and Jim is giving them that option. And if they like it, they can share it with their friends.
Piracy is a double-edged sword; it reduces sales of the comics that are passed around via BitTorrent, but it also brings in new readers. Balancing one effect against the other is a lot easier when you are giving the comic away for free to begin with. Obviously, Jim wants to drive traffic to his site, and ultimately he will be publishing a print edition of Makeshift Miracle that won’t be given away for free. And that will be the results phase of the experiment, when we see if his generosity now pays off in strong sales when the book is published.