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(Average Reading Time: 12 mins)
Are you making comics to earn money, or to gain readers?
I think that’s the first question you should ask yourself before you even think about possibly publishing your work. Because there are those out there that take their art and their craft seriously. They want to be widely read one day, and they’re looking for the best way to reach an audience.
Now, if you’re just doing comics as a hobby, that’s perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with that.
However, if you’re looking to turn publishing comics and books as a way to create for yourself a steady income, then you have to start taking things more seriously.
In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King often referred to his writing as work. Because that’s what it is: WORK.
Toss out that romantic notion of artists living the lives of hermits, barricaded in their rooms while they make their magnum opus. The truth about the art of storytelling is that it requires just as much hard work and dedication as your regular 9-5 office job. And if you aren’t willing to put in the time, then maybe being a hobbyist is just the thing for you. And there’s no shame in that.
However, if you’re looking into getting into the publishing world, then here are some things I think you should consider, especially when it comes to posting your work online.
What to expect from this post:
- Be Read Throughout the Entire World
- Never Go Out of Print
- Interact with Your Fans
- Leverage off of this Interaction
- Create Your Own Personal Brand
- No Need for Capital
- If Revolutionary Writers Self-Published, Why Shouldn’t You?
- The World Needs Your Art
Be Read Throughout the Entire World
There is one thing that the internet has that your modern day bookstores doesn’t have: INFINITE SHELF SPACE.
Consider the fact that there are thousands of authors that have books out there. There are books from authors that are still living, and there are books from authors that are still dying.
You can only fit so many books one a shelf.
And most of traditional publishing these days care more about The Next Big Thing, than they do about your first published book or graphic novel. Naturally, they prioritize the books that they’re “absolutely certain” will sell.
To make things worse, if your book doesn’t sell, it gets taken off the shelf, and you get a bad taste in your mouth.
Your reputation is tainted. Now every other publisher you go to will see your low-performing book title and think, “This guy doesn’t have the right stuff.” Inevitably, you’re doomed.
The internet has democratized the publishing industry.
Sure, there are lots of bad stuff out there in the web. But there are also a lot of good stuff as well.
If your first work flops, just start another one. No one’s stopping you. And because no one really got to see your first book, there’s no one to tell everyone else that, “This guy doesn’t have the right stuff.” It’s easy to start over. It’s easy revitalize your career.
You’ve got infinite shelf space, and the widest reach ever.
You could have readers from 60 different countries and not worry about whether or not you’ll run out of product or shelf space.
Never Go Out of Print
Unless the internet completely shuts down till the end of time, you won’t have to worry about your books going out of print.
Your works can still be read by future generations without them having to worry about whether or not your books are still in stock. They can easily enjoy your stories at the click of a button. They won’t need to wait for shipping, nor will they need to sort through second-hand bookstores in a hunt for your unique treasure.
Your books are there to stay, whether they were successful or not. They could touch only a handful of people, but at least they made a difference in the lives of those few.
Interact with Your Fans
One thing we’re more aware of today is the fact that if we pay so-and-so company for a copy of Neil Gaiman’s latest book, Mr. Gaiman only gets a fraction of that amount sent to his bank account.
Now, thanks to the internet, fans are able to directly connect with their favorite authors. What fan wouldn’t love that?
Consequently, if you as an author or artist don’t really want to interact with your fans, then why in the world are you in this business? Stories are here to serve your audience, not your self.
The more your fans get to see and hear from the real you, the more inclined they are to follow you and your succeeding works. The more they like you, the more they are willing to support you.
You no longer have to be at a book signing to talk to your favorite author. If he or she is willing, you can both connect online, through your website.
This cannot be more possible than with a webcomic, wherein your readers get to see the progression of your story week after week, eagerly awaiting what happens next.
They can leave their feedback in the comments section, and you can just as easily reply to them. They can connect with other fans that are dying to see the next page of your work, and thus create a community around your webcomic.
Once they’ve bonded with others with similar interests, what’s to stop them from spreading the word about your webcomic? What’s to stop them from gathering together and supporting you whenever you have a new book coming out? Because you’ve established a relationship with them, and have helped them established a relationship with others that are like them, they are all the more grateful to you as a creator.
Leverage off of this Interaction
We thought about this lately. How do you make the webcomic experience more meaningful for potential fans? On that note, we’ve actually come up with several ideas.
1. Include them in your pages
Nothing delights fans more than being acknowledged by their favorite authors and artists.
Let say, for example, you have a page that includes this angry mob. Rather than draw random faces of random people, or silhouettes of a mob, why not include the very people that continue to support you?
Put real faces in your comic, faces of people you know would love to be a part of it.
The only way you can do that is if you know them personally (or, in this case, digitally).
Imagine the look on their faces when they see that you actually noticed them, that you actually recognized them. Think about how that would feel. Think about the times that you were able to chat with your favorite artist or author at a convention or book signing.
Make it personal for your fans, particularly the ones that stick around through thick and thin.
2. Survey them
You can put up a poll and ask what it is your fans would like to see happen in your story. Should the Hero marry Princess A or Princess B? For once, they could have a chance to have a say in what happens next in your story.
And if you do decide to implement their suggestions, they’ll feel like they were truly a part of the process. They’ll see that you care about them and their opinions, and that you only want to write the best story for them.
What could be better than having a chosen few among your fans read through your script before you finalize it? How loyal do you think these chosen ones would be towards you.
Now, they have a direct connection to you, the author and artist. They have a say in what happens, in what works and what doesn’t.
Even better: they get a sneak peek at what to expect in the next few pages, or in the next volume or book.
This works both ways, as you get to see, just as well, what works and what doesn’t.
Most traditional publishers, these days, used to have editors that would really look into the skeleton of a story–the plot, structure, and pacing. These days, that kind of care and attention is no longer given books. And that’s probably why some bestsellers that start off great, end up being mediocre about halfway through the second or third book in the series.
But you can bring back that process. You can make your comic or graphic novel the best that it can be just by having people read through your script before publication. Then, as a team, you can all determine the next best step to take.
Create Your Own Personal Brand
Believe it or not, several traditional publishers are now looking for authors and artists that already have a following online.
Yes. They actually ask you how many Facebook and Twitter followers you have, or how much traffic your website is getting.
That means, then, that if you still want to eventually get into the traditional publishing route, you will have greater chances of getting in once you start publishing your work online, and sharing it with the world.
This is what’s called an author brand, something Michael Hyatt has written about in his book Platform (buy it on Amazon), and is very familiar with. Because believe me, once you establish yourself as a brand, then whether you choose to go for traditional publishing or not no longer matters. You already have a following. You already have fans that will support you and your continued work. It’s what oftentimes determines the success or the failure of a Kickstarter project. And it’s what will inevitably determine your success as an author or artist.
No Need for Capital
Perhaps the best thing about self-publishing online is the fact that you don’t need any capital to send a copy of your book to readers.
Do you have any idea regarding the amount of time and money you need to spend in order for you to have your book published via the traditional way? It takes months, at the very least, and year at most.
And just because you have a publisher helping you out with distribution, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to help you out with marketing. And, as it turns out, this is the reason that a lot of books get shelved even before they’re given a real chance.
Think about how many comics were shipped across the world, and think about how many of them were subsequently canceled before they were ever really given a chance.
In an episode of the Paperwings podcast, they mention that Diamond cancels the production and sale of comics that don’t make enough on the first issue. So not only is your idea thrown in the trash can, but your confidence is shattered, your work is taken for granted, and your efforts are put to waste.
If you publish via the web, then you can give your ideas a real chance. Because that way, YOU’RE the one in charge of putting it out there. YOU’RE the one responsible for its success or its failure. And YOU’RE the only one that can say, “This isn’t good enough,” or “This is great! I’ll keep on doing this.”
And you don’t need a huge amount of money to start publishing.
If Revolutionary Writers Self-Published, Why Shouldn’t You?
Virginia Woolf and her husband started Hogarth, their own press, to self-publish their works. In fact, Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse were both released by Hogarth.
When Ezra Pound was unable to find a publisher for his first manuscript, A Lume Spento, he decided to self-publish. He didn’t have a lot of money for it, but he went ahead and did so anyway. He sold his first collection on the street, and was able to capture several positive reviews through that. After which, he was able to get his work into a popular bookstore in London. From there, it took off.
If you were ever read The Tale of Peter Rabbit as a kid, then you’d be surprised to know that Beatrix Potter self-published it. Why? Because all the publishers she sent it to, wanted some alterations to the work before they would accept. But because Potter felt that she had a very specific vision for her work, she went ahead and published the book herself.
Self-publishing doesn’t have the same kind of sting that it used to a few years ago. Today, yes, there are still a lot of bad stuff that enter the market. But that doesn’t mean that a lot of good books are also out there.
I recently read the first part of Hugh Howey‘s breakout series, Wool, and I have to say that it was fantastic. He’s one author that recently saw a huge fan-base build up around his work. Now, he makes well enough to support his writing career. All because he took a chance and put his book out there for people to see and recognize. This following didn’t happen overnight, mind you. But put in enough effort and I’m almost absolutely certain that the same thing could happen to you.
Lastly, the World Needs Your Art
The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.
You can’t create these interactions in a log cabin in the mountains, or locked up in your room watching TV or playing video games.
Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.
That’s why it’s important for every one of us to get our work out there, whether that’s through the traditional publishing route, or through self-publishing. We have a gift to give the world, and that give will not help make it better if we just keep it bottled up inside.
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.
Books, Novel, and Comics are stories of change. They present characters with problems and trials that they have to overcome. Like I said in a previous blog post, the elements of relatability and change are the essence of storytelling.
The last element that makes it art is that it’s a gift. You cannot create a piece of are merely for money. Doing it as part of commerce so denudes art of wonder that it ceases to be art. There’s always a gift intent on the part of the artist.
That’s why webcomics are a perfect model. Those who make webcomics put their work out there for free mainly because they see it as a gift to the world. Their hope is that the stories they tell changes people’s lives, or at the very least touches them.
Ultimately, I hope that I’ve somehow convinced you to go out and make art, to share it with the world. Because honestly, your art is useless if no one gets to see it, if no one is given the chance to be transformed because of it.