In this case, I don't think the answer is "Courage!" But I don't blame you for thinking that. ;)
Unfortunately, as I discuss the matter with various folks, the answer I keep getting back is often a matter of yiffiness. Eric Schwartz, Terrie Smith, soappuppy and others are widely known for the, um, desirability of their characters and the explicit nature of their work. That's not all they do, but in my inquiries, that's what a lot of people say off the bat.
That doesn't apply to Bill Holbrook, of course, nor David Simpson. They're almost on the far other end of the spectrum, in adorable cuteness land, even if it's bitter and sarcastic adorable cuteness from time to time. ;P However, they both crank artwork out at a sheer volume that makes me go slack-jawed in astonishment. It taxes me to the limit to do the M-W-F+S schedule I'm running now! Seven strips a week? You gotta be kidding me!
Dave at Plan 9 subscribes to the "you need to put up a new strip every day" school of comic success, and I would love to oblige him, but if that's required, I'm doomed to always be a second-stringer, I'm afraid. I am just not physically capable of doing that. I draw too slowly, and I'm not likely to speed up any time soon.
Having mammallamadevil doing merchandise will be a help, I suspect, and anything I can do to improve my artwork can only be good. But short of producing erotica, which I'm not inclined to do at this time, or cranking out more artwork, which I'm not able to do at this time, I am at a loss as to how to get more fandom mindshare. I sure as heck don't have the time to hang out on MU*s or IRC these days!