The following “advice” if you want to call it that are purely my opinions and are what have worked for me over the last seven months. It doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you, but I’m just telling you this now, because I don’t want you moaning to me by saying “I did exactly what you said to do in your silly thread and I sold jack” Ok, so take any advice given with a pinch of salt and take responsibility for you own actions.
It is 3:47am, October 7th 2016 and I can’t sleep. This happens to me a lot. It is not insomnia, in the traditional sense of the term, but is because I have stuff bouncing around my noggin that won’t let me get the beauty sleep that I very much need. I’m fugly at the best of times…
I can’t sleep because a buddy of mine on the MillarWorld forum asked me a couple of questions about how I have managed to sell as 1,100 in under seven months.
So, thanks @stuartdn86, you are a dick an because of you I can’t sleep.
You wanted a Small press 101, well you have got it mister…
Only teasing, Stu, a few people have approached me in private about how I am doing what I am.
Rather than having to answer the same question over and over again, I thought, well if I just tell you my experience over the last seven months and the things I have learned then maybe it might help answer the questions you might have. If not, this has been a waste of my time and I could have got some decent kip…
I has been a mental year for me so far, I managed to produce seven individual issues of the comics that I write, and print them. I did my first ever comic con in May and at that event alone I sold 212 comics. Which by all accounts is a pretty decent number. At the time I had no idea because I had nothing to compare it too. But since then thanks to my amazing friends on here, followers on Twitter and some local comic shops, that number has grown and GROWN…so this is what I did.
Where to start:
So, you have finished your first comic, you’ve submitted it to the usual publishers aaaaaaaaand you’ve been rejected.
Welcome to the club.
If you take away one lesson from this incoherent ramble of mine, let it be this:
IT’S BUSINESS, IT’S NOT PERSONAL!
Just because a publisher does not want your comic, doesn’t mean it’s bad, your artist can’t draw feet or you don’t know the difference between your & you’re.
It just means it is not for them.
A publisher knows what their customers (local comic shops) order in bulk. So, if a publisher thinks they won’t get the orders they need to make a tidy profit from your comic, they’ll pass.
Unless you are a complete dick and are annoying the crap out of them emailing every couple of hours asking “So, have you read it yet, pretty good, yeah?”
It is not personal.
It just means that THEY do not thing they can sell it, it means you have to go down the small press route and you just to be Liam Neeson at the end of The Grey!
Screaming to a God who isn’t answering your call for help, eventually realising that you are on your own and quietly muttering to yourself: “F@CK IT, I’LL DO IT MYSELF!”
Ok, I am going to assume that you have a comic ready to print. If you don’t, there are a plethora of decent books out there that can help learn how to make a comic book.
So, lets skip ahead. You have a PDF of your new comic!
Congratulations, I’m proud of you, seriously, I am. I adore creating comics, everyone should do it its fun. But THERE IS NO POINT HAVING A COMIC IF NO ONE IS READING IT.
Now, you need to get the bloody thing printed…
Printing (The Basics)
Do me a favour, go grab an A4 sheet of paper for this example. Got it, yeah? Ok, I’ll carry on. Turn it sideways and fold it perfectly down the centre. It now looks like an A5 leaflet, yep?
You have taken a single sheet of paper that now has four individual pages. Repeat the process a few more times, slotting the folded sheets inside one another and this is how a printer makes a comic.
A regular 24 page comic is actually made 6 sheets, folded over and stick two staples in the spine (its called Saddle Stich) and you have a comic. But that’s just the interior, you need a cover too. Which means your comic is now 28 pages including the cover.
(a comic can be whatever page count you want, as long as it is a multiple of four you won’t have blank pages)
When you approach printers for pricing tell them you want X amount printed of a 28-page comic (including the cover) and if you want it to look like your favourite Marvel comic, ask for it to be a trim 170mm x 260mm. This is standard US comic size. HOWEVER…when you are prepping your artwork to be sent off the print they may require pages to be 176mm X 266mm for production.
For the bleed, baby, the bleed.
Above I used the folding of the A4 sheet to make and A5 “comic” well a printer will most like use an A3 page on their printing press, which folded over would make and A4 comic, which is not a US standard comic size. So, what they do is after your comic is printed, they trim it down. Again why the bleed area? Ok, imagine a photocopier, as a piece of paper travels through it, ink is laid down on it, the ink doesn’t go all the way to the edge of that sheet of paper, because if it did the ink would clog up the copier and it would constantly jam. So, printers will user larger paper then the document needs and trim it down (off line) after the pages have been printed. Hence the bleed area.
How do I know all this useless information?
I sell photocopiers for a living.
Any good printer will go through all the size information that they need from you to produce your comic in just the way you want it.
Also, always ask for a proof copy too. This’ll slow down your production for at least a week, because the printer needs to run off one single copy for you which is a pain in the arse, but least you can see if something isn’t right before you spend all your savings on your first print run.
A good printer should be able to turn a print job around within a two-week period. That is on the assumption that you have already seen a proof and everything is ok.
The Press verses the digital revolution
Now don’t quote me on this next bit, because I am not a print historian, but unlike today where most printers use digital print machines (basically high speed photocopiers that can take heavier paper stocks than the regular sort, with better print and colour quality) back in the day, printers used printing presses which had plates and would lay down, colour on top of colour then the “inks” in the final stage.
Now if these plates moved around during the printing and the colour element wouldn’t sit right under the line art and would look like it has been colour by Matt Garvey.
Today this happens less because it is all digital, but doesn’t mean you should send a sloppy coloured book to the printer. It is your reasonability to ensure that your colourists has laid down decent flats (with no gaps) and is able to stay between the lines.
Normally comics are coloured using Photoshop or equivalent software.
The line art is separated from the white back ground. A layer called flats is then underneath the line are to add ironically named flat colour. It is usually done in garishly loud colours so the colourist can differentiate between items on the page for the next stage.
Then, again under the line are but on top of the flats, the flats layer is duplicated and a colourist will change the colours to match the actual scene from the comic script, render and then add shadows to make the comic look good.
After all this is down the image is finally flattened completely making all those individual layers one single layer.
Again all this is another reason why asking for a proof is important, you can physically see you comic and spot any mistakes and they can be rectified before the full job goes to press.
Printing (The cost of printing)
Guys, this is gonna vary depending on who you use. However, the MORE you print the cheaper it becomes.
It is like most things, the more you buy in bulk the more the individual cost per item comes down…washing powder, crisps, cans of pop.
The bigger the pack, divide that cost by the number of items, the cheaper each one becomes.
Ok, for example (this is just for example purposes, so don’t go running to a printer and say “Matt Garvey said that it should only costs me £X to get my comic printed)
Again FOR EXAMPLE you want to get 100 copies of your comic printed, which is a reasonable amount. (Don’t order too many because, remember you have to sell them, so don’t got ordering 1,000 comics for your first comic right out of the gate, especially if you are just going to be selling at con and to friends and family, you have to build up to it)
Say a printer quotes you £240.00, that means each one of those comics cost YOU £2.40 each.
That is your BREAKEVEN point, anything you make back over the £240.00 is profit, cash in your pocket, beer vouchers….
I sell my comics for £3.00 each, which means using this example I would make £0.60 per comic sold…which isn’t a huge amount.
If you are wanting to sell small press comics to make big bucks, then you are mistaken my friend.
Do it because you love comics and you want to share your stories to the world.
Your goal should be to cover you costs (as a minimal) any and all profits you make after go back into making more comics, paying for your table at your next con, paying an artist to draw your comic etc.
Save up that “£240.00” that is your original investment and then forget about it, that’s gone.
Its you “play publisher money”
As long as you make that back from the comics you sell you can always print more as and when you need them without having to save up again for printing.
How do I know this?
BECAUSE I MAY HAVE SPENT MY ORIGINAL INVESTMENT first time around and had to save it up again.
So, you have 100 comics printed and ready to sell, they cost you £2.40 and you sell them for £3.00 each.
If you sell them all at that price point you will make £60.00 profit on top of your original investment…you have gone from £240.00 to £300.00.
Well, that is if you can sell 100.
But then maybe you only have 80 left because you gave/swapped 5 copies with other small press comic creators for their books. You sent 10 out to editors at Marvel to showcase what you can do and now they would be crazy not to hire you to write spider-man.
Oh and a couple were damaged in the box, you spilt OJ on one and your mum wanted one because she is ever so proud of you (she’ll never read it, or you hope she won’t because she’ll think you are even more weirder than before)
The point I’m making is, no matter how many copies you have, you always need to have that breakeven/ original investment figure in the back of your head. That is the minimal you have to achieve to keep making funny books.
Now there are few tricks to get your fictional unit price lower than the £2.40 that we spoke about before. For instance, have a colour cover, but mono/greyscale interiors.
Colour costs the printer more, which means it costs you more.
Inside a copier you have four toners, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (or K as its known), if you have a full colour comic throughout, it is using all those pretty colours…having it greyscale, its only gonna use one. Which means its cheaper!
Or maybe you have a buddy who has just finished his/her comic and is looking for a printer too. Club together, get a quote from a printer for both books and try and get a discount.
Always ask for a discount, the worst thing they can do is say to you is NO.
If they do, its no big deal.
Get a couple of quotes too, one printer might be having a slow week and might give you better quote just to get some work.
Some printers, rather than give you money off may throw in 100 A4 colour prints (which will help you sell your comics later on)
Or you can use online printers…but again using a service where you are not speaking to an actual person via phone or email, you need to make sure that you tell them about all your requirement such as sizes that I mentioned above…
Foolishness of #2
I know I haven’t even touched the selling aspect yet, but I thought now would be a good time to talk about printing your second issue.
They will hopefully be a time when you have banked enough of your original investment and along with #1 you will have #2 ready to go to print.
You have a con coming up so you decide to send them to the printers at the same time to hopefully get a discount.
Again, for example you are gonna order another 100 x #1 and instinctively you think you should order 100 x #2.
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way and not everyone who will buy #1 will not automatically buy #2.
I cannot begin to tell you the frustration of standing behind your table at a con or when an order email pops up in your inbox when a customer orders #1 and doesn’t buy #2 at the same time.
Seriously, it will make you want to scream!
But ultimately it is going to happen, so just be glad you are selling at least one comic.
To help compensate the drop in sales between issues always order at least 20-30% less of #2 then you do of #1.
Again I am speaking from experience and I still have a couple of 1st prints on CHUNKS #2 if anyone is interested.
You need to realise that, not everyone who bought the first issue of your comic is going to enjoy it and their relationship with that title will be oh so brief.