3: How do I get my comic published?
... y'know, that's one of those questions you can't really answer.
"Publishing" isn't actually just one process: it really refers to a whole
slew of interconnected processes, starting with printing and
getting into distribution, advertising, etc.
3.1: Okay, smarty, how do I get it printed, then?
Most small pressers go to copy shops [e.g.,
Kinko's or some
place like that] to get their comics printed, but sometimes there are alternatives.
I'm fortunate enough to live in a university town, and universities often
have their own printing departments. And those printers are often allowed and
willing to do work that isn't for the university. Others besides myself have
found that university printers are cheaper than their more commercial counterparts,
they do excellent work, and they seem to welcome printing the occasional
comic as an interesting break from the usual blah sutff they hafta print --
they give comics special care and attention. Not everyone has access to this
option... but if it's possible that you do, then check it out.
3.05: Whoa whoa, wait a sec, I hafta know the cover
price before I go to print! How do I figure that out?
This is just rules of thumb, but the final answer depends on a number of
Anyhoo, 25 cents for an 8-page mini has been a pretty standard
price for a long time now: no one expects to pay less than that. But charge
much more than that and customers will feel ripped off -- unless you're
printing in full color on glossy stock [by the way, don't], they have
a pretty fair idea what it really costs to make these things, and they don't
take kindly to profits of 300%, y'know?
- how big your comic is: by which we mean both "what size" and
"how many pages". Let's assume an eight-page minicomic [one of the "industry
standards" and probably the simplest]: each page is one-fourth of a sheet of
copy paper, so that's four pages per side, and comics are printed on both sides
of the page, so one two-sided photocopy will hold an entire 8-page mini.
- how many you print: if you're just starting out, a pretty standard
print-run for photocopied small press comics is 100. Most places will
give you a reduced rate per page once you reach 100 copies, so take advantage
of it. Besides, with the number of promo copies you'll give out,
that hundred will dry up sooner than you expect.
- how much your printer charges: it usually isn't too hard to find
a printer who can do 100 two-sided copies @ 10 cents each -- so that's ten
bucks total (plus tax if any). Therefore, each comic costs you anywhere from
10 to 12 cents, let's say. Allow a few cents per envelope on mail orders and
you could say 15 cents each.
- what's convenient to pay: you could be a philanthropist and
charge 15 cents for your mini and just break even on each one you sell. But
believe it or not, you'll probably sell more if you charge a quarter. For
some reason, digging up one coin to pop in the mail or otherwise pay for a
zine feels like less fuss to most people than having to find a dime and a
nickel, or even getting change back from a quarter: a quarter just
feels easier to do, somehow. Why, I dunno: a psychologist I'm not. Also,
people don't trust the quality of your work if you undercharge for it. It's
like if you don't feel that your work is worth much at all, then
they feel like it probably isn't worth their bother.
3.06: How do I copyright my sutff?
Well y'know, copyright is, um, not exactly complicated per se,
but there are a lot of aspects to it, and different folks will need
to know about different aspects. And [again] I'm no expert.
Fortunately, I can offer quick help by linking you to
The Copyright Website: everything you need to know in one place!
3.2: How do I get my comic distributed?
A number of options present themselves:
- local comic stores: much more often than not, comic stores
are more than willing to support local talent trying to establish itself.
There are all sorts of arrangements, from the store letting you sell on
consignment to buying your comics at a discount and then selling them at retail
[just like they do with "real" comics] to giving you free display space and
you get all the money from sales ... depends who you're dealing with. Even
stores in other cities nearby will often help out the same way, if it's not
too inconvenient for you to get there. Hey: I've even sold comics by mail
to stores on the other side of the ocean!
- record stores and bookstores: big chain stores won't usually go
for this, but independently-owned local businesses are often willing to give
you the same deal as the comic stores. Doesn't cost you anything to ask.
- real comic distributors: back in the black'n'white boom of 1986,
this was a real option [my small press Dishman was at one time
carried by five international distributors!], but now, as the Big
Comic Companies buy up the distributors one by one for their exclusive use,
this appears to be less of an option for the small presser than it ever was.
Still, if you think you have a phenomenally good zine on your hands, or if
you just feel lucky, send the distributors a sample copy of your comic and
ask. It could happen....
- give some to your friends: I can't understand some guys who'll
buy their buddies a round of drinks but are too tight to give them a free
copy of their comic. Do it! It's instant feedback! And if you're onto something,
they'll show it around: in small press, good word-of-mouth is worth a lot!
3.3: How do I get my comic advertised?
Again, give some out. Word-of-mouth. Don't forget.
Send review copies to the reviewzines. And remember the growing number
of Web sites that review zines. These things are read by the type of people
who are inclined to wanna see your sutff: every review is also a free ad.
Usenet: there are all kinds of newsgroups on the Net that are
perfect announcement boards for the release of small press comics:
alt.zines are two that leap to mind. Plus if your book is about a
particular area of interest, remember that that interest group probably
also has a newsgroup or two.
Do you have a Web home page? If so, do I need to tell you to plug your
comic on it?
Some reviewzines accept payment for classified or display ads. This
remains one of the best places to pay for advertising, because the readership
you reach in the reviewzines is a receptive one.
Small pressers who advertise
in the trades, like
The Comics Buyer's Guide or
The Comics Journal, often report paying huge sums for ads
that bring in next to nothing. Twenty years ago it was a different story,
but the market is changing...
3.4: What about trading?
An awful lot of trading goes on between small press creators: it's a
time-honored tradition that facilitates some very useful networking. There
are some who just refuse to trade: a conscious decision to hold out for something
of tangible value [moolah] for something of tangible value [their work].
There are others who would rather get a trade than money. Takes all kinds, no
one is wrong or right. Just be aware that trading is part of the
small press subculture, a lot of creators will offer to trade with you... and
while no one will put you down if you don't, you'll close yourself off from
sections of the network who can only afford trades.
3.5: How do I get feedback?
Simple: ask for it.
Give copies away. To your friends. Show your family. Ask the staff in
the comic stores. Are there any other artists in town? Give them your sutff,
ask them what they think.
Best of all: send some freebies to the pros. Who do you really
admire? Wanna know what he/she thinks of your work? Send it and ask.
You'll be amazed at how often they'll take the time to read your comic and
send you an answer. You'll also be amazed at how kind and supportive
the vast majority of them are: even if what you're doing isn't to their taste,
they're honestly glad that you're out there trying to do your thing, and
they'll encourage you as best they can. [Believe it or not, some of those pros
envy small pressers: because small pressers can do the comics that
they really want to do, the stories that mean something to them. Small
pressers don't have to draw
Spider-Man again this month,
and they don't have to be finished by Friday, they can do whatever they
want, whenever they want. They can do what they feel inside.
Some pros would love to have that kind of freedom! You've got it: savor it!]
3.6: Do I need an editor?
Maybe: probably not. In the humble opinion of this page
, an editor's job boils down to two
In a mainstream publishing firm, a comic is "supposed to":
- to spot errors [e.g., Batman's costume is green] and get them fixed; and
- to make sure that the comic turns out the way it's supposed to.
A small press comic is "supposed to":
- be on time;
- be reasonably similar in appearance and feel to the previous one so
it feels like part of the same series;
- have enough "action" and "excitement" and not too much "talking"
or "thought" [i.e., conform to the requirements of popular entertainment]
In other words, most of the time no one knows better than the creator just
how a small press comic is supposed to turn out. So in that sense, I'd
say that small press comics don't usually need editors.
- make the point or create the experience that the creator intends.
However, if you're prone to spelling errors or drawing the thumb
on the wrong side of the hand or whatnot, then getting someone to check your
sutff for factual mistakes is a good idea. If they wanna be called your
"editor", then fine. If they want to be credited in the comic as "editor",
then fine. I mean, what the heck, y'know?
3.7: My comic is published: now what?
If you sent some to a reviewzine and they review your comic, chances are
you'll get some orders in the mail. Cool. (Remember to fill 'em.)
Will you get rich and/or famous? Highly unlikely. If that's why
you got into this, you made a bi-i-i-ig mistake.
Did you send copies to other creators? Then you'll probably get some mail,
some unsolicited zines for trade from other small pressers, and slowly start
to become a part of the network.
SO: was it fun? Did you like doing the writing and drawing and
printing and mailing and whatnot? Did you like hearing from enthusiastic
strangers? Do you feel fulfilled in some way, just because you made
something and got it seen?
If so, then you're probably a small presser at heart, and you should get going
on your next comic. If not, then, uh, well at least now you know.
Maybe being published by someone else, like a Big Company, is what you really
want deep down. I can't tell you how to go about getting there cuz I know
nothing about it, but I wish you luck!