Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rambling on Publishing and Multi-Media

After sitting in on what is admittedly just the first of what should be many conference calls about building up a publishing company, I wanted to make my opinions public about several different topics.  I wanted to share my vision in one place where people could see what my ideas are and how I feel that things could go if we wanted them to.  The thing is, these ideas aren't just for Christian Comic Books, but could be merged with ANY business plan to publish comics.  It's a bit of a manifesto, a bit of a venting, and a bit of a plan all rolled into one.  This is NOT a how-to.  It's more of how I envision what's out there and what we can do.  I hope you enjoy it.

I want to start out with the big part.  The publishing area.  The printing, marketing, distribution angles.  Then I'll move onto other subjects.

Publishing is really a four-fold area.  You have to think about the production of the book, the marketing of the book, the physical printing of the book, and the distribution of the book.  Each of these parts is equally important to any company that wants to do comics, from the smallest of small press to the big guys that rule the industry.

A)  Production:  You've got an idea.  You want it to come to fruition.  But you want QUALITY.  How do you get quality?  FEEDBACK and get QUALITY people to work on your book.  There's a lot of garbage out there, done by fanboys with a dream but no reality.  I'm sorry to be so harsh, but it's the truth.  So how do we do quality?  Well, first of all YOU PAY THE TALENT.  This is VERY important.  Non-paid talent are unreliable, don't have passion for the project, and well.......If you say you'll pay them with a back end deal you're basically saying "If I make money, you make money.  And if I cancel the project, all your work is for nothing."  And if your book doesn't make money, they take it in the back end.  (Thanks Will for that illustration)

So what do you do?  You talk with the talent.  You find out what they might accept.  Be it $10 a page!  That's $220 for a 22 page book.  Well, if your guy does everything.  It may be more if you have a writer, artist, colorist, and letterer.  And that's if you do your pre-press yourself.  But I digress.  Some people pay $400 per book, some less.  Some even barter with their talent, giving them supplies or comics they may have in return for the work.  However you do it, it's up to you.  But pay them on time, what is agreed, period.  Otherwise the word of mouth will go around that you're undependable, non-paying, jerkwad.

Next is the marketing/distribution/printing.  I feel that all of this is related since it all works together to sell your book and make it available.  One option, and the one that I'm going to concentrate on and then blow out of the water, is to go with Diamond Distribution.  (Which is what you want if you're trying to get into comic shops, but there's always a catch.)

Marketing is getting yourself known.  At conventions, online, through social media, and ads in other comics or banner ads on places like CBR or Bleeding Cool.  Getting known so that when you solicit through diamond (appear in their previews catalog for retailers to order from) you'll actually sell some issues.  It also works if you're only selling through your online site or a series of online sites.  I'll cover that in other options.

Now you've got the marketing going, you've got a quote from a printer, you've set your cover price, and you're soliciting through Diamond.  Let's break down some numbers.  I'm kinda moving fast here, but bear with me please.

Okay.  Your cover price is gonna be $10 per book for a B&W (black and white) graphic novel with gray tones.  The cheapest to print.  You've decided your only option is Diamond and direct sales from your website.  That means that you need at least a 2,500 book minimum run to be carried by Diamond.  Say that's $1.50 per book print cost.

So we're already up to $3,000 you've got to shell out.

Now to be carried by Diamond, you have to sell to them at at least 60% off your cover price.  So you'll make from Diamond $4.00 per book.  That's a possible $8,000 plus right?

But you didn't sell your print run.  You sold half of it.  Suddenly you've only got $4,000 coming in.  $3,000 immediately goes to pay your printer (or to pay off the credit card debt you incurred).  Cool.  $1,000 profit right?  What about Shipping and Packaging to get it TOO diamond?  what about the storage of the other 1,125 books?  Suddenly you start to see what profit you may have had disappear.  Your costs mount and your return lessens.

And because you didn't make minimum, Diamond drops you.

Of course this is worst case scenario, but being pessimistic will help you open yourself to other options.  Diamond is NOT the only place to sell your comics, though it is the biggest one if you want your book in actual shops.


#1)  Sell directly to retailers.  Give them a decent amount off per issue if they're a retailer so they can make money.  You can make more for your own company doing it this way.  It's harder, MUCH harder, but well........It's an option.

#2)  Print on Demand/Indyplanet/Amazon.  With print on demand you can print your books through lulu or kablam or even amazon's print on demand/self-publishing service.  This is a good option in my opinion, one I use.  Again, it's an option.

#3)  Direct sales through your website and at conventions.  This one is a must no matter what.  Cover all your bases.

Basically all I'm saying, and this isn't with doing any major research online for OTHER distributors of comic books, is that there are MANY options we can look at.  And without putting a whole ton of money into a print run that we may have to store in our attic or basement when it doesn't sell-through.

"it's real expensive to get into multi-media"

Not exactly fully true, but partially.  If you're using the above publishing idea as your springboard, you can be ready to go into multi-media as soon as you are able to.  Just acknowledge that it is one of your goals.  Think of your project as an animated series, or movie, or TV series.  Think if it would work or not.  This way you can be prepared for this eventuality.

When Todd McFarlane created McFarlane productions (and helped createImage Comics) he had a multi-media vision.  He knew his character could branch out into more.  Now he's been in movies, cartoons, and action figures.  All because his original vision INCLUDED this.  Don't EXCLUDE it unless all you want to do is publish comics.  Embrace it as part of your vision as I do.

Don't ever say to yourself "Oh that's too much" or "I'm reaching too far".  If this is your vision (and in the particular place I'm writing this from:  I believe that my vision has come from God in response to prayer about where I'm going with my life) then don't ignore that part of it.  Work it in, know that's one of the goals you have and plan for it ahead of time.

Just keep yourself open to all avenues, not just one.  There are more options out there than you may realize.


  1. ok marty I think you're right about exploring more options. its not smart or economical to "put all your eggs in one basket" so to speak. I have a family member that has published a book thru amazon and did not come out the pockets for almost nothing. now that being said it wasn't a comic book. it just needs to be explored. I definitely know that it has to be taken to the highest level of production as far as movies, animation, and action figures to make it as marketable as possible. once established the possibilities are endless. so if we build it from the with a solid foundation it will not fall.

    1. Your family member had a different experience than I did. I published a book through Amazon's "Createspace" and only had to pay for the one copy I wanted in order to proof the book once it was in print. That was less than $8, including shipping. Now that was a text novel and not a graphic novel, but my point is still valid.

      Depending on where you go and how you go about doing things, it'll cost you more or less to get published, depending on your goals.

      As for the rest, yes you must look at the production values of your project. You must seriously get feedback from people other than yourself and your co-creators. You have to be willing to expand out further than your original vision. With the project my co-creator and I are working on right now, we see the comic book/graphic novel/continuing series as only a stepping stone to bigger and better things. This doesn't mean we chintz on the comic, art, story, marketing, etc. This means that we're upping our game beyond anything either of us has ever done before in order to prepare ourselves for that next step.

      I feel too many of us comic creators put ourselves into a box. We think only in terms of being on the same shelves as Marvel or DC and let that be the end of it. We need to think bigger as the industry in shrinking in America. Titles today are selling LESS than their cancellation numbers even a decade ago. The money is coming in from ancillary properties: Movies, Figures, Cartoons, etc. To not prepare yourself from the start for that is a huge mistake.