That's a great topic ! I'd like to add my input even though I haven't experienced the 7-months slump you talk about. To be honest, I often refrain from commenting on that type of thread because my comic is doing really well and I'm afraid people will think I'm bragging if I begin talking numbers. But I feel like it could still be useful here, where we're trying to get every type of profile to give their opinion. Now beware, BIG WALL OF TEXT :
My personal experience and what I've noticed from it
Personally, I've been publishing since July 2015, quickly gained around 800 subs every month and it hasn't changed since then so my readership is steadily growing. (I have no idea how many have unsubbed already). As a result, I often get to the popular and trending sections but I'm not sure what it means on the app.
I don't advertise at all (I recently got a twitter account but I almost never use it) but one of my resolutions is to try to get an Instagram to kinda unite my readers from Tapastic and Webtoon (I started to update there almost a year ago). I'm also planning on trying myself on society6, try to sell at a convention, and maybe make a kickstarter for the first volume but that's scaring me to death so I'm still thinking about it. Apart from all that, I don't have a patreon (yet ?) and I have a picarto channel but I'm not very active because of computer issues. Oh, and I used to post thank you drawings on people's walls at the beginning, then stopped when it became too much work... I'm also pretty active on the comment sections (being my own or the comics' I read)
As it's a long-form story, people don't share at all (from what I can see on my dashboard... there used to be shares but since facebook changed some stuff, it's a solid zero)
I update weekly, and I have a second comic just for the gallery so that those really invested can get a little more, send fanarts that I publish there monthly (it gives them a bit of exposure) and it's where I make Q&A and contests. It makes me notice those who really are into it and contributes a lot to that community feeling.
I made a more mobile friendly version but I think it's pretty invisible on the app and doesn't have a lot of readers as a result (compared to the original serie). It might also be because it only updates once a month (with more content to scroll)
What could maybe work better
I've read everything on this post and I agree with many ideas (some unfortunately depends solely on the staff)
1. Having a way to filter and browse through completed series
It really is unfair that completing your comic means it's gonna be buried and virtually impossible for people to find if you don't begin another one. As for burying dead stories, I guess that's what the algorithm is supposed to do... though when you browse series by their number of subs, you're bound to fall on the old popular ones, nothing much we can do about that...
2. Having subcategories
I know the staff seems dead set on this but there are way too many comics now for us (talking as a reader here) to be satisfied with the current system.
3. Making a reader's guide to tapastic
I've never thought about this but it makes a lot of sense actually (thanks to @lizm for suggesting it). It could be a collab where we would choose one particular point to explain (like the tagging system for example, it actually works - not for multiple tags or episodes tags though - but as no one knows about it, it's useless). And maybe if the staff finds it good enough, they could give it to every new member, like they do with the creator's guide...
4. Finding new ways to promote other comics
There's already an experiment about that to which I'm definitely gonna participate as soon as I have time. As for what I found, promoting others fanarts seems like a good idea and I sometime direct people to stories with some similarities they might like in the comment section. I also like to include other comic's characters as background cameos with a link to their comic in the description. The only drawback to this is that you often get more comments about the cameos than your actual page but I don't really mind.
- a "quick" point about reviews : The problem for me is that there are two types of reviews : the ones on request like Wintrekitty's and the ones where people promote and discuss comics they like without taking request (like what my friend @Blop and I do on our youtube channel - granted, it's been months since our last review but it takes a lot of time to make and the priority goes to our comics so yeah... we're super slow.) The first category is meant for the creators that request it more than the readers. It's great if you want honest feedback and are ready to receive it but not so great if you're looking for comics someone would truly recommend (and say why). Unfortunately I don't see much of the second category... But I don't think it's useless because webcomics are free and we don't need someone to help us choose where to put our money. I think they're useful because they are free and we don't have a publisher to filter anything (which is a good thing but it also means some will get discouraged to try and find something to their liking among all this). That's were a good reviewer could come into play, explaining why they like this or that comic, pointing towards similar series etc. And it would be our job to promote such reviewers.
5. Having a way to bundle our pages into chapters
I think it would go a long way to prevent the fear of reading stories with too many episodes. For example I'm not far from 100 episodes which will soon be scary for a new reader and I think it would be a lot more approachable if they only saw "6 chapters" instead of "100 episodes". Even though it would be the same in the end, when they "open" a chap, they'd see the number of pages it contains but not all the pages of all the chapters at once. Makes sense ?
Also I'm thinking of making a new comic for volume 2 (about 10 chap per volume). That way the number of episodes would stay reasonable. Granted, I'd have to start from 0 sub again but only those who are still really reading would follow me on the 2nd volume which isn't a bad thing. What do you think ?
Things I think won't work
Adapting the pace of your long form story to your update schedule (to have cliff hangers at the end of an update or the most interesting arc at the 7th month or something).
People get on board all the time. Which means that a lot of people will begin the story from page one and appreciate the real rhythm of your story. If it doesn't make sense and feels all over the place just because you want your readers to come back the next week, then don't bother making a long form story only to butcher it. It will be the very reason people won't come back or won't bother reading more than ten pages before feeling that something is wrong (rule number one of comic making, the reader KNOWS.) Also, a lot of us long-form story makers want to make a printed version someday... So we have to think of the overall pace rather than something that would suit your update schedule. It doesn't even matter if the update stops right in the middle of a sentence ! Most of the time your readers will try to guess the end in the comments and will just have to read the previous page again if needed when they get the following update. Seriously it's no big deal.
Having a mailing list to send newsletters to
I get why it's useful for a kickstarter project but here ? Won't people feel overwhelmed and spammed ? They already get your notifications and if they want more, they can follow you on twitter or tumblr right ? What you plan on sending isn't a bad idea but wouldn't it be better on a blog or somewhere people could answer and comment ? Well, I guess if they give you their mail address, it means they're ok with it ! Please tell us how it goes @dojo !
Making longer updates
Not sure it's gonna serve you in the long run. No more than 5 pages anyway or people get scared (and it's too slow to load on a phone). Not only do you loose ad rev but you loose exposure too (which can be critical at the beginning.. I know fantastic stories that are almost invisible because they only update 3 times a year, even though there's a lot of content). Something else I noticed : the more pages there are, the less inclined people are to comment. It's easier to comment on little content because you have one precise thing to talk about. (I may be wrong though, but it's a trend I noticed).
Personally, as a reader who gets notifications everyday, I'd rather read one page a week, when I clearly remember the previous update and feel "in the loop" without it eating too much of my time than reading a twenty page update once every 3 months (I'll often put it off for later, when I have time to re-read the previous one, remember the characters' names etc.)
I can't argue this is a good solution for the number of episodes though !
Anyway, that's all I've got for now (and it was already way too long)...
Sorry, hope it was useful !