So, you've written a comic book and you're considering self-publishing, but is that going to be the right choice for you? Or will this whole thing be very difficult to do well? Stick around because we are going to discuss that in today's article. In today's topic, we are going to discuss how to self-publish a comic book, a step-by-step guide.
So, let's get straight into it. We're going to start with an introduction to comic book self-publishing. The first thing to remember is the advantages of self-publishing.
Advantages of self-publishing
The first advantage is creative control. Creative control matters because it means you have control over exactly what's happening with your comic book – how it looks, and how it feels. You have all sorts of control that you wouldn't have if you went with a traditional publisher, or maybe you would never get it through a traditional publisher.
Another advantage is the faster publishing process. This means that from the beginning to the end, from the moment you start working on your comic book to the point at which it's completed, it's going to be much faster than if you were to go with a traditional publishing house.
Traditional publishing often involves slower processes. Additionally, you'll receive higher royalties. You'll earn a lot more money on each sale of your comic book assuming you choose the self-published route.
Check out this related article: Self Publishing VS Traditional Publishing - Which One Is Better?
Opportunities in the comic book industry
Now, what about opportunities in the comic book industry? The first thing to consider is diverse storytelling, and the industry provides opportunities for diverse storytelling, allowing creators to explore unique narratives, themes, and perspectives that may not be as widely represented in other mediums. That's a huge advantage over comic books.
They go through exactly the things you're going to need when you're getting your book onto the market. Additionally, this particular market is a special one. It gives you the ability to express yourself in ways that others don't. Another advantage is the collaborative nature of this medium.
When you're creating comic books, something to consider is the fact that you're going to have artists and people who are helping with formatting.
There are an awful lot of different people involved in this process compared to standard books. You're not going to have as many as you would with comic books, which is exciting. And then you have the adaptation potential.
Many comic books have a good chance of actually making it to TV, film, or other media, which you wouldn't have with traditional books at the same level that you have with comic books. You can just look at what's going on with Marvel to get a better idea of the full potential.
Creating and Refining Your Comic Book
So, creating and developing a compelling story and refining your comic book – we're going to look at developing a compelling story and characters. But how exactly are we going to do that? The first thing is you're going to need an engaging plot.
We're not just rambling on and on about some story within your comic book; no, we're not going to do that. You need to make sure that the plot is engaging. So, from page to page, your ideal reader, as they're going through your comic book, you're going to need to hold onto them.
Developing a compelling story and characters
That's something you need to consider with every aspect of the story and the plot. In addition, you're going to have complex characters. We don't want flat characters. We need well-rounded characters with depth, flaws, and relatable qualities for your ideal target reader. Another crucial element is conflict and stakes.
This is the reason we read comics or books in general – something must be at stake. What will be lost if they don't read this book? In other words, as they're reading, you should present the hero inside your story with significant stakes. Without stakes, you don't have a story.
So, this is something to consider. I can tell you I've read some comic books that fall flat because there's just not enough at stake. You'll want to keep that in mind when you're putting your comic book together and writing the script.
Writing the script
The next thing is writing the script. You want to make sure it has a very clear structure, something that people can relate to. As they're getting into it, it's not going to be. It can be confusing, but it's going to be a well-written script following a clear structure, including acts, scenes, and pacing.
These guidelines help the story progress in a way that you might not achieve if you were just "winging it" or going by the seat of your pants, where you're simply moving through the entire story without a plan.
Another crucial aspect is visual storytelling. In comic books, there are plenty of graphics, so you don't have to describe every little detail. You can use visuals to your advantage as you advance through the story.
Additionally, consider the dialogue and character voices. As you build these well-rounded characters with flaws and abilities, it's essential to keep track of each character's unique voice. Ensure that their dialogue stays true to the distinct voices of the characters in your comic book.
Storyboarding and panel layout
Then, we have storyboarding and panel layout. Firstly, focus on visual sequencing when creating storyboards. Make sure you map out the sequential flow of the entire story scene by scene. You should have a clear idea of where this is going.
We don't want to leave the impression that we are clueless regarding the overall flow of the story. We'll also address composition and framing within the panel layouts, as they play a crucial role in guiding the reader's focus and conveying the desired emotions or atmosphere.
Additionally, consider strategic composition and framing techniques. These include close-ups, wide shots, and dynamic angles used to enhance storytelling and create a creative visual impact. This is what draws your target reader into the comic book, pulling them deep into what you're trying to accomplish here.
Next, let's talk about balancing action and rest. A well-executed panel layout strikes a balance between action-packed sequences and moments of rest. We need contrast in your comic book. Avoid making it purely action-packed, as tempting as it might be. Your ideal reader may tire of that quickly.
Check out this related article: What is the right self publishing book layout?
Ensure a mix of action and calm, relaxed portions of dialogue or inner chaos that some of your characters may experience. Going back and forth between action and rest is a key element in comic storytelling and, in general, when dealing with your comic book. Finally, remember the importance of iterative revisions.
Iterative revisions and feedback
The next thing is iterative revisions and feedback, and that means we're going to have continuous improvement as you go through it. You're going through a cyclical process as you put your books, these comic books, together.
You're going to make sure that you're learning and refining as you go. You want to ensure that it isn't going to be something where, after you finish doing this, you're like, "Whoa, what the heck? I didn't learn anything new in the process itself."
You're also going to have fresh perspectives. You want to get feedback from others, be it your beta readers, critique partners, editors, or anyone you can have to take a look at what you're doing, to make sure that it's of the highest possible quality in terms of what your target reader is going to want to read.
Because we want to pull them in, we're not writing for everybody in the world; we're just writing for our exact target audience and making sure that they're going to be happy with what we're doing. If they're not, we need to pivot and make sure that we're doing something that they're going to enjoy.
Then we have to refine the vision. So, these iterative revisions, allow authors to align their work more closely with their intended vision, and this is a thing that's hard to fully capture. But you should have a vision going into this. What are you trying to accomplish with your comic books? And what exactly is the best way to go about doing that?
Artwork and Illustrations
That's something you need to consider when hiring illustrators for artwork and illustrations. You're going to have to think about hiring or collaborating with artists. That's right, especially if this is a comic book unless you're an artist yourself.
Hiring or collaborating with artists
So, the first thing is artistic compatibility. We're trying to find artists who share the same vision that you have for your overall story. We need clear communication to ensure that there are open lines of communication and effective communication with these artists.
To make sure you don't get to the end of the project with just a misalignment and lots of wasted time, money, and frustration for everyone, the other thing is you need professionalism and contracts. Do not do this based solely on some sort of handshake or informal agreement; make sure it's in writing.
So, we know exactly how much the artists are going to get paid and when the delivery schedule is going to be completed. I can't tell you how many clients I have in my one-on-one program who have worked with illustrators, only to discover that the illustrators are incapable of actually keeping a schedule.
And that's one of the reasons why many people sit down with me in my one-on-one sessions. When we're going through it, we're going to take a close look at who you are hiring and how you find the right illustrators for your particular books.
Now, in your case with a comic book, you're probably doing a lot of the work yourself, at least initially. You can start hiring this work out as you continue, especially once you have examples of what it is you specifically want.
Determining visual style and aesthetics
So, determining visual style and aesthetics. The first thing you need to remember is that it needs to be story-driven visuals. This is a comic book, and it is a story. We want to pull people in, and the way we're going to do that is by considering the story's tone, genre, and themes to determine the visual style that aligns with the narrative.
The other thing is the mood and atmosphere. We don't want just any random images. We need to make sure we're capturing a particular mood based on what's going on in the story. You'll find this even in films like Star Wars. When you're getting down to certain planets, they're changing the music, the lighting, and all sorts of stuff to pull the audience into exactly what they're trying to communicate.
Then you have consistency and cohesion. You need to make sure that your style doesn't go shifting all over the place. Once you've figured out exactly what you're going to do, you're going to pull even tighter on that and make sure that it is consistent throughout your entire comic book, including character designs and illustrations.
Creating character designs and illustrations
Now, creating character designs and illustrations, the first thing is we're going to make sure we're reflecting personality and story. The character designs should visually represent the personality traits and roles of each character in the story.
These illustrations should capture their essence, whether through distinctive physical features, clothing, or expression, effectively conveying their unique identities and contributing to the narrative. As you can see, it's all about the narrative.
We need to make sure everything happening is pulling it back into that. In addition to balancing visual appeal and functionality – and this is a difficult one – because if you only go for the visual feel, then we're going to completely miss out on functionality. You have to consider how the design will translate into various poses, actions, and emotions throughout the story, ensuring that the design allows for flexibility and expressiveness.
This is important in conveying the character's range of emotions and actions and also in being consistent with the character. Once you've established the voice and the way that character looks, you're going to need to maintain that consistency or your audience is going to get lost in the story trying to figure out why this character is acting strangely from page to page.
As opposed to, they need to be predictable based on the way that you've built them out. These are round characters; we're not looking for flat characters here. Okay, round and consistent, right? We're also going to need attention to detail and consistency, and that's what I was just talking about, to make sure you're not forgetting who your characters exactly are.
Lettering and coloring techniques
As we're moving forward through this process, lettering and coloring techniques. We need to make sure we have clear and readable lettering. Do not choose some weird cursive script that nobody can read. I like some of the standard ones.
But at the same time, you can look and see what your competition is doing. This also means considering your font choice, your size, your spacing, the placement within it, and even the colors of the text. It's going to be important, so we're looking at enhancing the mood and visuals with coloring techniques.
Coloring techniques play a significant role in setting the mood and enhancing the visuals of the artwork. Consider color palettes that align with the story's tone and themes, and utilize shading, highlighting, and color gradients to add depth, dimension, and visual interest to the illustrations.
This is key to making sure that it's pulling the audience in and doesn't distract, yet it is very easy to read. Finally, of course, it's going to be the consistency and cohesion again. That means that when you're choosing these styles about the colors and the lettering.
We can see from page to page, we can have small variations, but it should still seem to be in the same comic book, so we're not shifting massively between font sets for the whole thing. Software tools, so that's a really important thing to remember.
Formatting and Layout
Now, formatting and layout. The first thing here is going to be software and tools for comic book layout. You're going to have your graphic design software.
Software and tools for comic book layout
There are lots of popular graphic design software options, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Clip Studio Paint, as well as many others that will give you the tools you need to pull this whole thing together.
You're also going to have your comic creation software. This will include things like Comic Life, Manga Studio, and Procreate, along with the appropriate add-ons. They offer specialized tools specifically designed for comic book creators, and that's the type of tools you're going to want to use when it comes to putting this project together.
Right now, you're also going to need web-based comic tools. These include online platforms like Pixton, Canva, and Make Believe Economics, which provide user-friendly interfaces and drag-and-drop functionality for creating comic book layouts.
These tools are often accessible from various devices and offer templates, stock images, and customization options to streamline the layout process. I like Canva; it is a fantastic software that's super easy to use. If you haven't tried it, give it a go.
Panel arrangement and page composition
The third point here is panel arrangement and page composition. The first thing to consider is your visual flow and readability. You need to make sure that it visually flows from one panel to another. We're going to have variety in emphasis, which is why we're going to incorporate mixed panel sizes and shapes, as we mentioned earlier, to add visual interest and emphasize key moments or actions.
So, this is a skill set you're going to want to develop. There are a lot of online videos on YouTube and similar platforms that will show you exactly how to go about doing this effectively. You're going to have page transitions and cliffhangers, and this one is so important. Do not take your audience for granted.
When they get to the bottom of a page, you need to make sure it's pulling them in to get them to turn that page. If you don't have cliffhangers and you don't have page transitions, nothing is going to keep their interest on this page, especially if your storyline is terrible. That's the reason why a lot of these components all come together to make this story, this whole text, and the artwork in the comic book pop.
In addition, it's going to help your target readers stay engaged with what you're doing and connect with you as an artist. The third thing is balancing text and artwork. You're going to need complementary placement, making sure the text is properly placed about the images you have to draw attention to.
But don't pull too much attention away from the other graphics on the page. You're going to have readability and legibility. That means it's going to be easy for people to read this thing. It's going to be like candy for them to absorb as they read through your comic book. It's amazing, that the thing is finished before they even knew it, and that's where readability and legibility come in.
Balancing text and artwork
You're going to have harmonious integration. Now, this means you're going to aim for harmonious integration of the text and artwork, where they work together to convey the story effectively, as opposed to having the text here and the graphics over there, which just doesn't quite fit correctly.
Okay, printing considerations. That's another thing. Then you have the printing considerations: resolution and image quality. This is something I've dealt with a lot with many of my one-on-one clients lately. Specifically, if it's too high, then it's not going to work. Which platform is going to work best?
That's one of the reasons I recommend IngramSpark; it has much superior quality when it comes to printing out your books. The other aspect is your color management; you're going to pay close attention to this.
Make sure the colors accurately reflect what you're trying to achieve when printed, even if it looks one way on the screen, it may appear differently when printed. So, you're going to want to get some proof copies to ensure that everything's just fine.
Then, you have your bleed and trim to ensure that you don't have those white borders. But more importantly, it should seamlessly cover the page, adding that refined touch that many books lack when they overlook issues like bleed and trim.
Choosing a Printing Option
Choosing a printing option is the next issue to consider.
One option is print-on-demand services. On-demand printing is fantastic because you won't be stuck in a garage filled with unsold comic books. You want them to print copies for you, so when you strike gold, they can produce a bunch of your comic books. But if it doesn't sell well, you won't be stuck with a hefty bill.
The other benefit is easy distribution, which is why we love self-publishing. Readers can order as many copies as they desire. As they want, they'll print them out, and you're all set. You get the flexibility and customization; they can almost do anything you can imagine when it comes to print-on-demand for your books.
The next thing is offset printing, and this is ideal for large print runs. You're going to be printing a lot of copies, so if you already have a lot of copies that are being printed, this is going to be the highest quality and cost-effective way to go about doing things.
You're going to get this superior print quality because they're dealing with individual plates that are built to print only your book, giving you these vibrant colors and accurate color reproduction.
You're also going to have versatility and customization. Offset printing offers a wide range of customizable options, including paper selection, finishes, and special effects like embossing or spot varnish.
Comparing costs, quality, and distribution options
You're going to have your distribution channels to explore, considering the different options available based on your goals. However, I would recommend choosing Amazon if you're aiming for massive distribution.
But you can always check out my free Checklist if you want to find out more about the easy way, and the secrets to getting your book on the market as easily as possible. Alternatively, book a Discovery Session, and we can discuss your book to see if we can figure out your distribution strategies.
Distribution and Marketing Strategies
The next point to consider is your distribution and marketing strategies.
Online platforms and marketplaces
First, let's discuss online platforms and marketplaces. You want to achieve wide reach and visibility, and that's where Amazon, IngramSpark, and Draft Digital come in handy. They will all help ensure that as many people as possible get to see your book.
You also benefit from convenient selling and fulfillment. This is why print-on-demand is by far the easiest way to go, including your ebooks. Furthermore, you'll have reader engagement and reviews. Many of these online platforms have a maximum number of readers, so they'll be more focused on helping you achieve your book's goals and getting the reviews you need.
Selling at conventions and events
Now, let's talk about selling at conventions. The first thing to consider is your targeted audience. Go to conventions where your target audience is already present; they'll likely love your stuff because you're choosing genres that they're already interested in. Additionally, face-to-face interaction is a powerful way to sell.
You're going to see your target readers, and you can sell them right there on the spot. Explain to them why they should buy your book. Whereas, if they're on an online store, there are so many other books they're competing with. It's difficult for them to see the value of your book when you're just putting your face behind the book itself.
And that is compelling, especially in person. Okay, the next thing is network and collaboration. At conventions, you're going to meet other people – artists, storytellers, all sorts of people who can help you with your comic book production.
This is fantastic! They will help market your stuff, and you can help market their books. You give each other ideas. You want to maximize the size of your network.
Direct sales through your website
Direct sales through your website, is going to give you the maximum increased profit margin, of course, because nobody else has taken a chip of the pay. You're selling it directly. You're going to get an enhanced customer experience because you're going to be able to do direct sales to them.
You're not dependent on anybody else, and they're not going to be selling somebody else's books. You're going to be selling just your books. So, that's important to remember when you're getting started with all this. If you're selling from your website, the final thing is that you have access to customer data.
Check out this related article: 20 Best Self-Publishing Websites to Publish Your New Book in 2023
That means when they visit your website, some cookies can trace what exactly they're doing on your website. When you look at that, you're going to be able to see if there's a hole in your website where people are coming on and then leaving because of something that you didn't quite see.
As opposed to other sites, the downside, of course, with doing it on your website is that you have to get your traffic. That is a huge, massive burden.
Collaborations with local stores or libraries
Collaborations with local stores and live libraries will give you expanded reach and exposure because the reality is they want to help local authors out. So, you want to take advantage of that. You have your community engagement, and collaborating with local stores and libraries fosters a sense of community engagement.
It makes you feel like you're part of the community. People buy your book just because you're a local artist who's putting this comic book out. So, you want to leverage that and the support for local businesses and institutions. Maybe you can collaborate with these specific institutions. They're also making a profit, so it's a win-win-win situation for everybody building an online presence and brand.
Selling and Promoting Your Comic Book
Selling and promoting your comic book. How do we do that? We're going to do that by establishing visibility. We're going to make sure our book is everywhere possible. That's one of the reasons I mentioned the Amazon, IngramSpark, drafted digital route. That ensures we get a massive distribution of our specific book.
Building an online presence and brand
Creating a personal brand – the way that we're doing this, of course, is by building it around ourselves. We're talking about our book and doing all sorts of stuff to build a presence around ourselves, not just the book itself, but ourselves.
Okay, and engaging with readers and online presence, enables direct engagement with your readers. You can interact with them through comments, messages, or live events, targeting advertising. That is an effective way.
Utilizing social media and targeted advertising
In addition, utilizing social media and targeted advertising. So, the first thing is we're going to expand and reach a targeted audience, and this is what many things like Amazon offer. You can run your ads directly at your target audience, which is a fantastic way to test out whether your book's going to be popular based on the title, the subtitle, the cover, the description, and many other things.
Engaging content and interaction – this is also dealing with social media platforms and seeing where you can send direct messages to people and engage when they engage with you. They're going to also connect with your book.
And then finally, it's cost-effective advertising. The fact is you don't have to spend a million dollars to get into advertising. It's as expensive as one dollar a day and should be sufficient to get you started on Amazon.
Engaging with fans and comic book communities
Okay, next, engaging with fans and comic book communities, active participation. That's where we're going to engage with the fans in the communities. They're already there. They're already in discussion forums.
You're just talking to them about them, talking about your book. It makes you more human and more likely to buy from. Okay, exclusive content and behind-the-scenes – we're going to want to offer our fans a whole bunch of different things that maybe they wouldn't normally get, like exclusive content.
So, that's going to keep them hanging around. They want to see the little bits and pieces we've chopped out. Why do we do it? They want to see behind the scenes. How exactly did you go about drawing? What tools are you using? There are a lot of questions that your audience would want to know, and by interacting, you're going to be able to hone in on this.
Attend comic conventions and events – this is a really powerful one we already discussed because you can do networking. You're able to do first-person sales. There's a whole bunch of advantages there.
Obtaining reviews and testimonials
Obtaining reviews and obtaining reviews, testimonials." (Note: The repetition of "obtaining reviews" at the end of the text seems redundant. You may want to clarify or rephrase this part for better clarity.
This is the most difficult aspect of self-publishing, at all – it's getting reviews. Okay, you're going to reach out to readers and reviewers, so we're not sitting passively waiting for reviews to come in. If you do, they're going to be negative.
So, we're going to reach out to our readers and reviewers to see if they're willing to read our book, and I can tell you a comic book is going to do a lot better than many of these other types of books. We're going to utilize author-reader platforms;
there are a number of them like Goodreads, Amazon, BookBub, and a whole bunch of others where we're going to use those to get the reviews we need. We're going to engage with early readers; we're going to give them advanced copies of our book in exchange for honest reviews.
In conclusion, you can see that publishing a comic book doesn't have to be so hard. Okay, it can be done the easy way, and that involves making the right decisions that are right for you, making sure you're paying attention to all of the key concepts that come into this whole process of getting your comic book onto the market.
My question for you is: Have you started working on a comic book that you're looking to get onto the market? And if you already have one on the market, how are the sales going for it? And if you've broken any of the rules that I mentioned here. Check out my other blogs and videos for more answers to your self-publishing questions.