Tips on publishing your own comic book or getting your work published by others.
“I would love for you to give me ideas about how to get my comic book published because I have a pretty good idea going.”
I published five issues of a comic myself about 5 years ago (called “Waste LA”), so I can tell you from experience it’s a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process. And in the current comic book market, your chances of success (or even breaking even) are pretty slim. If I was to do it again, I would publish on a website — there’s no printing costs, and the best ways of promoting it (registering with search engines, trading links, etc.) cost only your time.
But I understand the appeal of a printed comic– there’s nothing like holding your “actual” comic in your hands. So if you’re absolutely determined to publish in print, here’s a couple of tips to get you started.
Diamond Comics is the main distributor of comics to comic specialty stores in the US. The process goes something like this:
- You submit “solicitation info” (cover art, a description of the title and price terms) to them.
- They put it in “Previews”, their catalog that goes out to store owners.
- About a month and 1/2 later you receive order totals and shipping directions from them.
- About a month and 1/2 after that your comic is in the stores and you start bugging them for payment.
Contact them and they will send you a “new publishers” kit with all the details. I believe they will require you to show a completed first issue before they solicit it, so be prepared when you talk to them.
There are also several smaller distributors, all of which are worth approaching — selling a few dozen extra copies can make the difference between breaking even and not. Plus they will be much more likely to make your book prominent — and keep your stuff available — than Diamond, who have all the large companies to deal with. Some of these are Cold Cut, SyCo, Last Gasp and Mile High.
The way the comic distribution system works, you’re actually selling your comic to the store owners as much or more than to the reader. They’re the ones who order it, and are stuck with copies if it doesn’t sell, thus they rarely take chances on unknown and unproven material. You’ll want to mail samples (or even entire photocopied issues) to as many stores as you can, right before they get the Previews catalog. Anything you can do to show your commitment to the retailers, particularly to publishing your comics on time and as promised, will give them the confidence to take a chance on you. Visit The Master List for an up-to-date list of comic book and trading card stores. Also visit the stores closest to you and show the owner your book face-to-face. If they agree to carry it, ask if they’ll hold an in-store signing the week of your book’s release.
To promote your comic to the readers, it’s a good idea to get a booth at whatever comic conventions are near to you. Also consider going to the San Diego Comic Con, the USA’s largest (late July/early August), and one of the conventions specially geared towards the small press such as APE in San Francisco and SPX Small Press Expo in Maryland. For a list of all yearly conventions, visit Convention Scene.
Also, be sure to send samples and a press release to comics industry magazines and websites.
Think outside of comics as well. Go to the magazine section of your local bookstore — there’s lots of “culture” magazines that often cover the comics scene. Additionally, if you think your comic might appeal to a group of people outside of comics — such as musicians, pet owners, skateboarders, cigar smokers or whatever — send a press release and sample art to those types of magazines and websites as well. Often times you’ll get more interest and coverage from them, since you’ll be something of a novelty within their world.
Most American comics are printed at Quebecor (in Canada), Brenner (in Texas) and Morgan (in North Dakota). Since they print lots comics, one of them will probably have the best rate for you. But also open the phone book and get quotes from a couple of local printers — if you’re inexperienced with the process, you may benefit from the face-to-face contact.
There are also several small press groups that can get you good rates on printing short run black & white comics, though some have requirements you must meet to use their services. Check out PrintNinja and Kablam.
If you’d rather have someone else handle the publishing duties, there are a number of companies out there that consider outside submissions. You’ll trade off a percentage of the profits, but it will probably be made up for by higher sales, and they take care of many of the headaches of publishing. The largest is Image Comics, and other well-known ones are Caliber, Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, and Antarctic. Be sure to make sure they accept submissions, and find out exactly who to submit it to. A good tip I heard is to send two copies — that way if someone likes it, they have another copy to pass around.
“I am 19 years of age and I have been a keen artist since I was very young. Since I was 14 I have been plotting storylines and have tried drawing my own comics; my characters are totally original and have in-depth backgrounds to make for a good storyline. The reason behind this email is to ask people in the business some advice, I have an idea with such potential, but I have no idea how to go around getting it published. I think it would be sad to see such a long lasting epic go to waste.”
Thanks for your letter.
If you want your work to be published, the first thing you’ll have to do is expose it! If you have pages of story continuity then scan 5 or 6 pages as examples of your storytelling skills and forward them (by mail or email) with a cover letter to the publishers you’re interested in working with. Be prepared to hear little or nothing, and if you do hear from a publisher, be prepared for some feedback. The best feedback you’ll get will be constructive criticism; all comic book publishers are eagerly looking out for new talent — to exploit! — and they actually want you to realize your potential!
As an independent/self publisher myself, I’d strongly suggest that your best route is to publish your work yourself, thereby retaining 100% of the rights and copyright to your work. Search the web for tips on self-publishing — in addition to Balloon Tales, check out ComicBookResources.com. You’re young and should be able to afford to invest in yourself for a while — take a job at a copyshop/printers or comic store to bring some money in (and one that allows you to learn about comics and/or printing) and draw at night. Draw, draw, draw and never give up.