Web Comics

So, as you might recall, last blog post I mentioned that I’d talk about the benefits of web comics sometime. Well, that time has come. Phew, didn’t have to wait to long. I remember last time I caught myself veering off into the topic of making web comics, but it’s better if I can give it the spotlight it deserves.

I really started thinking about the positives of a web comic when I was at SPACE. Another vendor there asked me how I liked having a web comic. Now, I really do enjoy putting out a web comic, but I’d never stopped and thought about just what doing so afforded me. So I got to talking to this guy and realized that making web comics is really one of the best experiences I’ve had as a creator thus far. Isn’t it always great when you have a revelation that you’ve been doing something right?

So, here’s what I told him. I enjoy making comics to publish digitally, but to me the most important thing is this: it’s the least expensive way to fail. And that’s not a negative thing, not at all. What I mean by that is, through the creation of these web comics, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and through those mistakes, I’ve learned a heck of a lot. When I started making comics on my own, I didn’t know anything about coloring, lettering, inking, or pretty much anything. I knew how to write, period. But I had to learn all of these things as I went, and now, while I’m sure I have a lot to learn, I know so much more than just a year ago. So, what do you do when you’re learning? You make mistakes. And, instead of making costly mistakes, I got to make them for free! How great, really. It’s not that I like making mistakes, but if I had to choose between paying money for them, or getting away with them for free, well I choose the latter option.

Now, I absolutely don’t like to look back at my comics and realize I did something wrong. But, that’s how you learn, isn’t it? I look at the first couple comics I made and think “Oh, never do that, that, or that again.” And sure, I put those comics out, but that’s a nice public record of progress, I suppose. So that’s excellent.

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Now, there are other positives to this method as well. As I said in my last blog, it’s cheap. Actually, it’s free! And think about this: you can publish on your schedule, and you don’t have to have a whole full length comic done as you would if you want to publish. Plus, not everyone wants to make long stories. Some people just want to do gags, and that’s something you can do with web comics. Not to mention that anyone can do them. Isn’t that great? The power to make comics is really in the hands of everybody when using web comics. All you need is a place to put them, and that’s easy these days.

The affordability of web comics also allows you to experiment. My web comics are hardly ever about the same thing. It’s the ultimate place for me see what works and what doesn’t. And if something doesn’t work, then I can abandon it with no real damage done. Sure, I’ve lost some time, but that time went into practicing making a comic, anyway. If you publish a book, and it doesn’t work, you’ve lost the printing fee, and potentially the money given to the artist. That’s not to say that publishing physically is a bad thing, I quite enjoy publishing that way, too. It’s just a lot more final. The first couple of books that I published (as is to be expected), are not very good. And that’s all on me. The art is good, but gosh, I read that writing and I don’t like it. I feel the same way about my first couple web comics, but I didn’t lose any money on that.

In the end, I’d recommend doing both. But if you’re getting started out, why not do a web comic? What do you have to lose? You can learn a lot about the craft. And hey, you’ll get some exposure. I’m the kind of guy who jumps right into things, so that was a big plus for me. Was I ready? No. But I did it, and people read the comics I put out. When you publish on the Internet, people from literally anywhere in the world can stumble upon your work. I see people from the other side of the planet have looked at my stuff sometimes. That’s how you get your name out there and build a fan base. That fan base will grow to support you in the future. Gotta start somewhere.

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Sorry that these pictures don’t really have anything to do with web comics, but I use the images I like. Anyway, there’s quite a lot to be learned from doing web comics. And, because they are typically shorter, they can be done quicker. So you can put out more, and thus learn more. It’s like a concentrated training session. An 80s montage. Sure, you should always be reading (comics and books about comics), but getting the hands on practice is invaluable. I know in another year I’ll be better than I am now (well, hopefully, anyway). So making the web comics have really only done good things for me.

My final advice is this: if you’re thinking about doing a web comic, go ahead and give it a try. It won’t hurt anything, and you can still do any other work that you might be trying to do. It’s a win win. Don’t let digital reading or any other technological concerns get in your way. Get those comics out there and let everyone know who you are.

Making Comics Epilogue

Well, you’ve done it! You’ve made a comic. You wrote it, drew it, inked it, colored it, and lettered it! Woo, I’m out of breath now. Anyway, I’m proud of you, it’s a tough process, I know. So, what happens when you’re done with all of that? You publish it! I understand, it sounds pretty scary. And, it certainly can be.  But, after you did all that work, you probably want to publish it, right? So you better get on it, folks. Like I said, it can be scary, but we’re actually living in a great time for this sort of thing. There’s quite a few options you have when it comes to publishing.

So, let me start by saying this: publishing a comic is not the same as publishing a book. When publishing a book, you have to send out your manuscript to a publisher and hope that one of them will pick it up. Now, when it comes to comics, it’s far easier to publish yourself. That’s not to say that you can’t ship your story out to established publishers, but a lot of companies do not even look at unsolicited material. So, you might have a hard time with that. Plus, it’s easier to get yourself noticed when you have finished products to show to editors. That’s a whole different game though.

Anyway, I was saying, self publishing is the way to go (at least in the beginning). And comics are way smaller than books, so they are easier to publish yourself. And when it comes to publishing yourself, you have a couple of options: publishing a physical book or publish online. Let’s start with the physical.

Publishing in physical form is great. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling of holding a book that you’ve made in your hands. It’s an amazing experience. Now you might be asking yourself, just how do you get that book in your hand? Well, what a time to be alive friends. There are several companies that specialize in printing comics, and of course you can find them all on the Internet. The place I use is called Kablam.

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The thing that makes Kablam affordable is that they are a print on demand service. That means that you can order how many ever you want, and don’t have to worry about a minimum quantity. So, you can order 50 books at a set price per issue. If one issue is, let’s say 1.50, that’s the price you’ll pay per issue. That is in contrast to offset printers, which require a high volume of books being published. Basically, the more books you print, the lower your price will be. So if you wanted one single issue printed, it might cost you 20 dollars (as an example, I’ve never used this sort of printing before.) This type of printing is used by the big boys (Marvel, DC, etc.) that will be printing hundreds of copies of each book. For smaller, self published labels like Hot Cakes, print on demand is the ticket. This way I can order 50 or 75 copies and not break the bank. There are lots of places out there that will do this, so if you Google around, you’ll find something. You might even find something local like I did, with Page by Page Copies and Finishing. You will spend money to make physical books, but in the end you’ll have something tangible to sell at cons and maybe even a book to get into your local comic store!

Now, as I’ve said, what a time to be alive. Publishing online has never been easier before, and guess what? It’s only going to get easier as time goes on. You may notice that on this very site I publish comics. Yes, it’s true! So I know what I’m talking about. The Internet is a great, great thing, and if you use it’s power for your comics, it can mean really good news for you. Obviously, the best thing about publishing online is that it’s free. Sure, you can buy a domain name, a place to put all your comics, but those are stupid cheap most of the time. But, even if you don’t want to do that, you can just set up a tumblr and get it going. You can put your content out there for literally everyone to see. While holding a copy in your hand is primo, not having to pay anything to put your comic out there is also very nice.

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Basically, once you’ve finished making your comic, and saved it in a PDF or tiff file, it’s ready to launch. That’s a really cool thing. I mean, think about the time that you’re saving (printing does take some time). While you won’t be able to sell these digital comics cons, you will be able to drum up interest for anything you might do later. People who read your webcomics regularly will probably like you enough to want to see what you might do next. And, I don’t want to get any hopes up, but maybe someone from a big company will notice you that way! Don’t count on that as your way into the industry, though.

You might do stories that are unrelated (like I do), or you might build an entire story page by page. Either way, you’re getting your work out there, not to mention doing webcomics have other benefits (that I will address in a separate blog). Then, let’s say you’ve done a page a week for a story, you can collect those for print and you’ve got a physical comic!

The other nice benefit of publishing online is that you can sell your comics digitally. That meaning you can put your comics on your website for sale without having a single physical copy. That way your fans and supporters can simply download a file and read them on their phones and tablets. This means you can still make money, and charge a cheaper rate since it didn’t have to be printed, and people can still read your comic. As I said, what a time to be alive.

Really, publishing either way is good, and it’s not that difficult. You just have to assess what works for you and your story. Maybe you feel more comfortable with a weekly tumblr comic. Maybe you want to have a book to show an editor at a con. Just think about what you want for yourself, your book, and your future. I know that sounds like a lot, but it starts to come pretty natural after awhile. I publish in both formats. And, while online is quicker and free, there is something about holding that book in your hands that you’ll never be able to replace. Now, that’s not saying that one is better than the other, it’s just sort of surreal when you see your name as a creator.

The most important thing I can tell you about publishing is that, if you’ve done the work, publish! Getting your books out there is the goal, so don’t let this last step stop you.

Recommended Reading
The Complete Guide to Self Publishing Comics By Comfort Love and Adam Withers

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

There aren’t too many books that I’ve read that focus on this, so supplement your reading with the all powerful GOOGLE!