Monday, April 25, 2016

CLASS #2 The Key to Productivity is Organization!

All right so you're serious about this-- you want to get work done and stay productive.
We talked about goals last week-- the first and most important thing about achieving any level of success is setting up goals, because without goals how can you know which direction to move towards to succeed?

The more SPECIFIC the goal the easier it is to achieve because you can hyper focus.

There we have some prospective goals based on what you sent in, posted, as well as what I've heard from students in the past.

Goals can be connected-- in other words if you wrote in that your goals were 1. To Make Money and 2. To Work at a Major Company  the two go hand in hand, because the major companies will pay you to produce pages so goal #1 is accomplished when you accomplish goal #2.

Shall we talk pay for a second?  Why the heck not.

A former student found this on The Art Career Project and asked me how accurate it is- I can't say for sure but I think it looks low.

I can't speak for what colorists or letterers make because I've never done either, but I do know several people who are making a comfortable living doing either full time.

$100 a page strikes me first as being a little low-- although that might be for inkers which normally fall around $150/page starting out at the bigger companies.

So let's do some math here-- let's say you get hired to pencil a comic book and your starting pencil rate is $200/page.
$200 x 22 pages= $4400 x 12 issues a month = $52,800 and that's if your only penciling ONE book a month.
Most freelancers I know today are penciling AND inking their own work, doing covers (which pays $300-$700ea) not only for their own book but for any one of the hundreds of variant covers that come out every month.
So let's try that math wise:

We have the $52,800 for the penciling duties of a monthly book, we need to add in;
Covers for the book (let's assume the lower rate of $300) = $3600
Let's assume you do another 12 variant covers each year (and that's low) = $3600
and how about inking your own work?  that's lowball $100/page for inks x22x12= $26,400
which takes us to a grand total of $86,400 which is all factoring in somewhat lowball rates.

You'll also do comic book conventions, and assuming you're working for a major publisher your sales of original art and show sketches will average between $1500-$2500 per show.  If you do three shows a year (and it's a good idea to spread them out) that's conservatively another $4500

Note I included "Commissions"

Commissions are web based, people contact you to do sketches for them.   These are becoming increasingly popular thanks to more and more artists working digitally.  Since there is no original art to produce a comic book fans will get sketches.

@$50-$75 for a sketch that takes you between 15-20 mins the variable as to how many of these you do (and CAN do while still maintaining your schedule is variable) but in talking to many friends in the industry this is usually another $5-$10,000 annually.

So grand total about $100K

It's a lot of work, but at least it pays reasonably well.  And keep in mind these numbers I gave you are all on the low side.

I'm not sure why the Art Career website used the numbers they did, and I'm likely to get an angry email from someone saying my numbers are off-- I assure you they are not.  If anything I'm low.

You could also consider teaching-- Eisner himself told me our duty as comic artists is to teach the next generation.    College Professor rate is usually $5K per semester per course.

All right so let's get back to goals

All valid goals-- so what is the first step?

There seems to be a common theme.


Easy to say, sometimes easy to do, but what is the best thing you can do in reaching your goal?

How do we do that?
It needs to be like a science.

Give yourself a week or two to try an experiment.

Try finding an hour or two in a range of hours and then work.  You might find some surprises.

The typical workday in the US is 9-5 but that doesn't mean that works for everyone.    Everyone has different work schedules that increase their productivity.

Each has advantages and disadvantages some of which I outline above.

Now just because you're not an early riser, for example, doesn't mean that early morning might not work for you.

The three middle schedules are very difficult to work if you have a "real" job-- but you've still got weekends and days off to try odd ones.

When I was working in a job that was scheduled 8-6 five days a week, and with my workload usually more along the lines of 8-7 I found the two outer schedules (in green above) to work for me.

If you end up doing this full time you'll find that you work a combination of all of them.

I would find the pre-dawn hours especially productive, even though I'm not the type of person who would normally be up at 4 in the morning.  But it often worked.

To this day I sometimes still get up this early and work when a project demands it.

Same worked for late hours.  The kids would be in bed, things were settling down and I would head out to my studio and work until about midnight.

I'd either listen to music, old time radio shows, or even a police scanner while I worked and I would be extremely productive.

It was working this way for 1-2 years that led to me deciding to do this full time and to leave the comfort of a full time job.

HOW about a WORK ENVIRONMENT-- here's a look at the comic book art studios of several prominent comic artists....

Two person husband and wife comic art studio.
Studios, or your studio area should be an area that is both comfortable and inspiring to you.

Many comic artists fill their spaces with odd trinkets, posters, art, etc, some go with a more zen like studio set up-- preferring to not have a lot of stuff all around.

Whatever you prefer, your space should be used ONLY to work in.  I find that extremely helpful with productivity.  I don't use my studio for anything other than work or classes.

It helps to get your mind set for work. 

So while it should certainly be a place you want to hang out in, I personally find it works best if it's a place you save for work.

It should have tools you need, reference material, good light, a comfortable work area, etc.
Have everything you need to get to a good creative place.


No matter what level of digital you're working in you need to understand file formats and resolution.  The more organized you stay the easier your work will progress and the more productive you will be.

Even if you plan on ONLY working traditionally with pens, brushes and paper, there will be a stage where you need to scan in your pages to get them ready to be printed, since ALL printers now prefer digital files.

There are a few that will work from hard copy artwork, but they will charge you to scan and assemble the pages.


Resolution ranges from 1200dpi all the way down to 72dpi (DPI = Dots Per Inch)

The higher the resolution the crisper the image.

You need a higher resolution for any traditional printing.

Higher resolution = bigger file-- so when we're dealing with images that are going up on the web we lessen the resolution to reduce the file size and increase the load time.

It's a good idea to SCAN all your artwork at a minimum of 300dpi-- and I'd suggest higher. 

Remember you can't add to DPI-- so even though you can resize an image in Photoshop from 72dpi to 300dpi it WON'T bring the missing quality back, so scanning at a higher setting will ensure that you have a good copy for printing use.

Even if you plan on ONLY doing digital work, take the time to scan in (and save) a higher resolution image in case you later decide to go with print.

You set the initial resolution of your scanned image in your Scanning Utility when you scan it in.  Just click on the tab and choose a different resolution setting.

If you're working digitally from the start-- create your initial file between 300-450dpi.


RGB = Red Green and Blue
CMYK = Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black

It's the addition of Black which causes the image to darken.

RGB files are used for online images
CMYK files are used with four color plate printers.

You'll only need to deal with CMYK when you get to the printing stage of your project, and even then ASK you printer which format they want the files.

Back to file formats:

The chart above breaks down the file formats I use.

I only use PDF's to send large files to clients-- because they don't need any special software other than Adobe Reader to open them.

Someone who doesn't have Photoshop can't open a PSD file-- and it's never a good idea to send LAYERED files to a client or a printer-- because if they don't have the same fonts installed their computer will substitute something they do have installed.


Keeping track of what you have to do and when it needs to be done by is helpful.

This works for trying to get a project done too-- if you're going to attempt to get a 48 page book done and ready for sale at conventions a year from today that means at minimum you'll need to get 2-3 pages done PER week.

That will build in enough time to get the pages drawn and then assembled and sent to a printer or to print yourself old school.

Turnaround time with a traditional printer is usually about six weeks.  With Print on Demand more along the lines of 3-4 weeks, so count backwards to calculate out your due dates.

One thing that works for me is to only add one or two things later in the week and then start with most of the items at the beginning of the week.

If something doesn't get finished it simply gets added to the next day-- and so on.

Follow up your productivity and compare it to the goals you set yourself.

Details regarding page layouts

The layouts of a comic book page are essential if you want everything to produce "correctly".

Most artists work on 11x17 bristol.

That bristol is ruled down to 10x15 interior border which is divisible into the printed comic book size of 6.75x10.25

Your comic book can be any measure of these dimensions, but if you want them to not face marketing issues with comics not formatted to standard size you'll want to go with the 7x10 size.

The "bleed" area is that area of the page which won't be cut off by the printer-- if you want your art to go the edge of the page then you draw into the bleed area.

You want to ensure that all important images and lettering remain inside the area of the bleed.

A couple of you asked where you can get feedback-- well this is a place that a fellow pro recommended to me, I've not spent a lot of time here and I've not posted anything BUT I did see some constructive criticism of some of the work as well as a thread where the poster challenges the artists to draw a specific thing and then berates them for what they did in a really hilarious fashion.

It might be painful for some, but as of right now I'm a fan.

Because the biggest thing you want to be able to handle is criticism.

I absolutely agree with this and it made me laugh out loud.

There's a great scene from Seinfeld where Kramer decides he stinks at golf

I wish I could tell you this feeling goes away.

Maybe for some of you it's not there in the first place-- if so congratulations!

But for those that feel the Kramer way I can tell you the more pages you do the less you think about how bad they are.

Surround yourself with people who will give you honest feedback, but who will also be supportive.  It's OK to tell people to take it easy on you when you're with your friends.  Because when your work is out there live the readers won't.

LASTLY-- sending big files.

Your email client has a restriction on the size attachment of files- mine is 20MB, which is fairly small.  That means if I want to send a larger file to someone I need to use a third party system.  There are a couple of options for that.

1. WETRANSFER and sites like YOUSENDIT allow you to send large files for free.  You can also buy a premium account if you want some additional bells and whistles or the ability to send HUGE files.  Right now 2GB is the file cutoff from WETRANSFER, which suits most of my needs.

2. FTP client
A printer or publisher will allow you access to their FTP and you'll need a program to be able to access that.  FILEZILLA is the one I use.

With an FTP you enter in the client login and password they provide you and it takes you inside their website so that you can then drag and drop files into specific files they assign you with.  You can send MASSIVE files this way-- entire books.

More next week!

New York Itself Turned into Comic Characters

Having just moved to Brooklyn, I thought this was cool. I thought maybe you guys would enjoy too!

Here's the comic and here's a great article about the creators if you're interested!

I gotta say: Two graphically great pages posted on by Aria and Sally on undercoverfishcom today

Sunday, April 24, 2016

JDay Cover

J asked me to upload this for him and to ask for critiques.
I'll give you all a chance to comment before I add mine.

To continue doing regular creative work, to have a 'voice'.

To build a readership, if possible.  Nothing would thrill me more than having folks enjoy my work!

To at least break even.  Am fortunate that I don't have to make a living from art, but would love it to be self sustaining.

Here's a clearer rendition of the cover with the tattered flags

Wanted to get you a clearer vision of the image with the tattered flags.  I like this one, cause it conveys some mystery, and hopefully curiosity on the part of the viewer!
The basic  background is that the story involves a joint US/China mission to the asteroid Ceres, and things don't go well there, to say the least, thus the tatty flags.  
The face in the upper part above the masthead represents an important character in the storyline as well, and it represents an entire race who figure in.

3 Artistic Goals

1. Figure out how to translate all of the writing I do into comic form (It's more like fiction at this point and I have tons of it)

2. Keep drawing The Tales of Reverie on deadline. It's really long. Basically figure out a routine. Right now I have to constantly go back and fourth to writing, character design, thumbs, ect, and it's difficult to just push forward with the pages.

3. I just moved to NY and I feel inspired that I can actually maybe make a living on art here. So my third goal is to make my living off of my art once again. I've done it in the past, but always end up back in some time sucking job role. Gallerys, pet portraits, comic commissions? What websites can I actually get work on?

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Here's the banner I did for the story that starts on Monday.  I called it "Twelve".  It's a horror story based on actual events that I witnessed in my home two years ago. <koff>

The banner itself is kind of a done deal at this point, but I'm happy for any feedback I can apply to my next one!

Aria's Goals

I work painfully slowly.  It's a combination of lack of motivation, which stems from my lack of confidence, which can be traced back to my lack of technical skill. So my goals for the rest of the year are all deadline driven. I'll probably never be really happy with my pages, but I will be happy to be finished.

1)  Finish up the story I'm working on now (11 pages) by the end of April.
2)  Finish an 8 page story I started (presently somewhere between rough and pencil) by the end of May.
3)  My third goal is even more ambitious: Between June and November I want to finish 52 pages.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cover Idea Roughs for Koldac #1 - Hope these upload ok. #1's a bit more developed, the others are just real rough ideas.

My Goals

1. Get better at creating graphic art.
2. Get better at writing stories.
3. Produce as many stories as possible before I kick off.

The Strange One Issue #0 Cover Sketches

These were the first thumbs I did. I wanted to show Strange One in full gear and maybe using his powers because this issue #0 is really just an introduction to the character.
This is the slightly bigger sketch I did. The idea was to put him a pose similar to one of van Gogh's self portraits and bring in van Gogh style color swirls and brush strokes behind him (his powers come from being a descendant of van Gogh giving him the powers of a High Artist).

This is a digital color sketch. In this iteration I decided to put Strange standing in front of the van Gogh self portrait (at a museum) in the exact same position as van Gogh in the painting. Completely covering van Gogh (to speak to his connection to van Gogh) and only showing the background swirls of the painting and a plaque with van Gogh's name. I added my publishing company logo (which I had already created) and the title (which I created last week). I think I want to bring back the seated pose from the sketch before this and still keep him in front of the painting like this color one. I am thinking of having him sitting there cross-legged on a stool enjoying a coffee to show a bit more of his personality, a little humor, and overall strangeness!
This is the van Gogh self portrait I am referring to.

Here's a full body shot of Strange One with his gear on and hood down.
Here's Strange with hood up and his trust chain he uses as a weapon and for swinging around the city.

Sorry if this post is way too long!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Tales of Reverie Issue 1 Cover Sketch

Here's my idea. For everyone who doesn't know this story is about a boy who has crazy dreams and there's a whole world inside his head. I tried to include characters and elements that I know will be in the issue. But I'm already realizing he's probably not going to have the wooden sword and shield yet at this point in the story.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Let's get this party started eh?

It's a rough, rough draft of my cover for Ostension.  I like the idea of the 3 characters at the sinks, but I feel that I should have my main character on there too. (the girl in blue)  I'm wondering if it's too busy.  What do you guys think?

Monday, April 18, 2016


Class #1 - Apr 18-  Self Publishing VS Going with a Publisher
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  Why pay a publisher 90% of the profits for 10% of the work?  Because they can bring things to the table you can't.   But we'll get into the nuts and bolts of your options for both, which might be the right choice for you and how to begin the process.

Welcome to PRODUCTION--  as you can see from the description we'll cover a lot of stuff tonight.  But lets begin with what should be your first thought.

~ CREATOR(s) That's you and your team.   You're going to make all the stuff.
From there you have TWO Options, you'll deal with either
~OPTION A- PUBLISHER-- That is the company that will take the files from you, and then produce the book, get it off to the distributor, collect all monies and then cut you a check, after they take out their percentage and the distributor's perecentage.  IF you go with OPTION A your role ends with sending them the files and waiting for your check.
~ OPTION B- PRINTER That's the company that is going to produce your book once you've given them all of the digital or hardcopy files.  If you are going with OPTION B you will be in contact with them.  They will then ship said book either to YOU or to...
~ DISTRIBUTOR That's the company that is going to get your book into stores.   They will handle the monies and cut you a check once the sales are completed minus their percentage.

Many people confuse the Publisher and the Printer-- if you are self publishing, you are the publisher.  Since you are the publisher you'll be dealing with the printer and the distributor.  IF you are using a publisher they will deal with all of that.

Everybody has different priorities but essentially the SAME goal:

1. To get your work in front of an audience.

From there, your mileage may vary but you likely have some or all of the following goals as well...
2. To Make Money << and even this has a variable-- 
    2B. To Make A LOT of Money (enough to retire on)
    2C. To Make ENOUGH Money to LIVE ON.
    2D. To Make Enough Money to have some fun with.
    2E. To Make Anything just so I can explain to my spouse/family why I spend so much time doing this.

3. To Gain Fame and Accolades-- this is one I don't share in, but everyone wants to be respected or at the very least be justified.

Some of #3 simply harkens back to Goal #2-- Robert Kirkman achieves great fame doing the Walking Dead, when he releases a new book people take notice and therefore the new book sells better than if he was completely unknown.

4. You Want to TELL STORIES or you LOVE working in the art-form
If this is your primary goal everything else will usually fall into place.
Over the years I've been approached by a lot of people who want to make a graphic novel or a comic book and they ask how they should go about copywriting their project-- and yet they've not written or drawn a single thing.  To paraphrase Dave Sim, creator of Cerebus, this is like booking your hotel tickets for the PGA Tour before you've even bought a set of golf clubs.

You will not know if you want to do this, or even if you can do this until you do some (a lot) of pages.

Any or all of these are in your list of goals.

IF your goals are completely different, please share them with me.

Think of GOALS like a ROAD TRIP.

You must have GOALS in order to get anywhere.  GOALS is the gasoline that fuels your car-- you also are going to need tires, brakes, directions, snacks, music etc to make the trip.

Then there are the extras that make that trip easier;  Money, a co-pilot, a co-pilot you actually like spending time with, gift cards to road side restaurants and hotels, a luxury car << all of these things are extras that make your journey both easier and more enjoyable.

We can approach our goals with comics the same way.

 Once you have goals you can now work on STRATEGIES.

GOAL #1; To Get Your Work in Front of An Audience.  HOW?

Today, it's easier than it ever has been.  Because of our old friend the Internet.
In the old days you made copies of your Magnum Opus  either Old Skool on a Xerox machine with a glue stick helping to arrange the page layouts or you paid to have your book professionally printed and then you loaded up the car with BOXES and BOXES of comics and you spent your summer at conventions and stopping by every comic shop within 100, 300, 500 or 1000 miles from you in the hopes that they would sell the book either by paying up front or on consignment.

Back in 1998 when I self published ADAM BOMB #1 I loaded up my Subaru Station Wagon and schlepped copies of the book all around Massachusetts.  Consignments were a pain if the shop was a distance away because it works like this:

You Drop off a Set Number of Copies at said shop-- let's say 10.  The owner agrees you'll come back in a week or two weeks or a month and together you'll count whats left and he'll pay you for what he sold-- in the case of ADAM BOMB it had a $2 cover price so stores paid me $1 for every copy they sold.

Monday the 18th-- 10 Copies Dropped off-- Monday the 25th Count 'em up-- 5 copies left, the owner slips me $5.  MAYBE selling 5 copies they agree to take more, likely not.  If on that return trip the sell number was 1 or 2 it's also very likely they pay the $1 or $2 and then ask you to take the other 8 back with you-- This would be considered a loss.

That's the primary reason you wanted to do the follow up date as far down the road as possible.

In most cases I tried to push for checking in a month later-- 30 days gave a lot more opportunity to sell those 10 copies, and if your sales numbers were 7-10 copies not only would you get $7-$10 you would also get the most desired RE-ORDER.   RE-ORDER's not only meant more revenue, it meant people were digging your book.

I would also print up a business card with my phone number on it-- if the book was selling well enough, and most shop owners are too busy to even notice, they would call you midway for more copies.

Once while on this extended road trip schelpping books with my writing partner we stopped for gas and snacks at a shop that was mostly a liquor store.  While we were there we noticed they didn't sell magazines, so we asked the clerk at the counter about it-- he said people ask for them all the time, but he hated dealing with the magazine distributors because he felt they screwed him all the time (I didn't ask for further details) so we presented our comic for him and asked if he'd be willing to sell it.

He agreed, but since we didn't have a counter display he only took 3-4 copies.  We left and within a day he called and asked for more copies and told us to bring a counter display this time.

We spent a day or two trying to rig up a counter display but then with some research we found a cardboard box warehouse manufacturer in Charlton Ma who had many options pre-made, so we bought a stack of 10 counter displays from him and then swung down through all the Liquor stores we could find and pretty soon we had a distribution center rolling where our strongest sales numbers came through.

So while this method is valid and works even today, the internet remains a better way.

PROS to this hardcopy method:  Money.  Actual Product.
CONS to this hardcopy method: Expenses of printing, effort of schlepping, return on investment is slow and small.  All this time selling means less time creating.

The internet is akin to walking down a city street one fine afternoon and having a landlord step out and ask if you'd like to set up a shop for very little money, now whether or not this is a busy street or a ghost town is going to be equally important, but the internet offers you the POTENTIAL to reach MILLIONS of readers with virtually no effort.

The harder trick is monetizing it.

There are a lot of digital comics that are making money.  There are some that are respected, some cross over into print editions.  Some offer a subscription service.  Some make money selling T-Shirts and mugs with their characters and strips on them.

Advertising is a possible revenue generator, you have to hit very high numbers to make it pay but if you consider an online comic strip is very similar to a TV program in that it's an entertainment medium delivered electronically, well, advertising has been bringing us good and bad TV shows since the late 1940s.

The biggest benefit to digital comics is it allows you to grow your audience.

Let's take a look at my online comic strip website MARS MAGNO.

MARS MAGNO was my pet project for 2016.
After spending two years on Geeks & Greeks I wanted to do something fun (not that Geeks wasn't fun mind you) something that was outer space film noir, something that I didn't care if it sold and I didn't care if anyone read it.

I just wanted to do it for me.

So I developed this concept and drew the strip while I was in Japan last fall, then launched it in October and I update it once a week.  I started with it once a week, moved it up to twice a week, so NO INCREASE in readership so I dropped it back down to once a week.

The biggest complaint most readers of online comics have (and printed comics for that matter-- I'm looking at you AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE) is comics are not delivered when they say they will be.

MARS MAGNO comes out every Wednesday, never missed a date.  So did the readership grow?

Absolutely not.

MARS MAGNO's online readership is flat-lined.  If this was a guy at an all you can eat steak bar we just called 911 back and told them to save themselves a trip.

The readership on MARS MAGNO is SO bad after running the promised weekly since October 22nd that the stats provided by BLOGGER don't even register individual posts yet.  There's just not enough visits to give them any insight at all.

The problem is the once a week publishing schedule.  While weekly comics work very well in comic shops, because your audience is trained to come into the store each and every Wednesday, it's harder to get people to remember to do that on the internet.

It's also REALLY hard to get people to sign up for reminders.  Nobody likes to get junk mail so they are reluctant to put their info in.

Looking at this solely as a scientist one might say the online comic strip option is useless.  And I might agree with one.

However, around the beginning of January I decided to pool resources, so I pulled in talented friends and students to participate in an online comic strip portal-- said portal would update more often because now there are more strips.

The pressure isn't on ME to do a daily comic strip,  I could still run my weekly comic strip, but now OTHER creators would put strips up on other days which would allow us to update seven days a week.

Most people will tell you posting on the weekends is a waste of time.  I like the idea of seven days a week.


Because it creates a habit.

We want the readers to know that if they show up any given day of the week there will be content for them.  How has it worked?

Let's take a look at UnderCoverFish's Stats

Slightly more impressive than Mars solo site.

MARS on UCF generated 19,000+ visitors-- while when we look at his stats on his solo site we see he averaged 12.

Putting our science caps on we can see that the everyday model works, and it works exceptionally well.

Had I just run MARS on his solo site with those pathetic numbers I would have thought the concept is terrible and there is no interest in it.    This method shows me otherwise.

I'd also point out that we run vintage Batman comic strips on weekends (with permission) and they consistently rank high on the reader chart-- so much for the idea that weekend posts are a waste of time.

I think at one time they were, I think back in the stone age people only had high speed internet at work, now people waste time on the internet 24/7.

IF these numbers continue to grow we will examine options to monetize the site.

If you're someone who loves DATA this can be addictive.

The website gets healthy numbers-- and we can see the VAST majority of visitors are from the United States, use a Windows platform to view the site and choose Firefox as their primary browser.

You'd think countries with primarily English speaking audiences would be our next get-- but nope we see Germany, Russia and the Ukraine come in next followed by the UK.

We used to have high numbers in Japan but as you can see from these figures they've fallen off (this particular week hit 45 visits from Japan).

It would also seem that the vast majority of our readers are visiting the site on their desktop computers, but this number is deceptive because it assumes if you're on with your phone or tablet that you are using the browser app-- and I know I for one, use my iPad to surf the web but I seldom use the Firefox app for it.

Extra tool to help your journey: PATIENCE.

NOTE: WE will get into further details of all of this in the coming weeks-- this is to give you an OVERVIEW!

So you can go digital-- you can do it the above way.
OR-- you can go digital with the pay option already up front.

COMIXOLOGY and KINDLE -- they are now the same company.  You upload a file, they decide if they're going to sell it, it takes upwards of six weeks to get an answer, if they say yes they take another few weeks to offer it, then they give you HALF of whatever you sell $$ wise-- same deal as the Liquor Store guy only they have a lot more customers.

GOOD NEWS-- there is no upfront cost to you at all.
BAD NEWS-- it takes a VERY long time to get paid.

If you're taking notes, leave yourself some room under COMIXOLOGY & KINDLE because we're going to come back to this in a few weeks.

PRINT EDITION-- you can opt for a pamphlet style comic book, usually 22-32 pages, or you can opt for a larger "graphic novel" type book-- usually 48-200 pages.

Let's start with SELF publishing.

All right-- let's begin with the PROS.
This is probably the strongest argument for self publishing.
No one can tell you that the graphic novel you're making on leaves of Kale is not a good idea, nobody can dictate how your characters look or talk, no one can tell you anything because it's all up to you.
This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you feel about this part of it.  IF you're the kind of person who is more likely to say "Aw shucks, my work isn't that good, why would you want to read it?" when someone compliments you, maybe you shouldn't be the head of the marketing department.

And the CONS?
With the exception of keeping all the profits, the CONS are the same as the PROS.
YOU alone make the editorial decisions.
You have to handle marketing and distribution.

Self Publishing Print Edition
THIS is how you can expect your creative life to look (this is not meant to sound negative or harsh, just a reality check).
~You will work 3 months - 2 years on your project writing and drawing it.   
~You will then spend the next 2-3 months putting this book together, either with a glue stick and scissors and scanning all the pages in, or PREPARING your digital files to send to a PRINTER.  Remember I mentioned the PRINTER before?  They are the company you will hire to produce your book.
There are two basic types of PRINTERS available to you;
POD PRINTER-- Print on Demand.  They can do as few as 1 copy of your book.
PLATE PRINTER -- They will have a minimum order, usually between 1000 and 5000 copies.
~You will spend one harried month sending out preview copies, arm twisting retailers, offering incentives AND pushing the hell out of your book while it's listed in PREVIEWS.
~You will spend 4-5 days getting your files to your printer and arranging where the books will be shipped. 

The benefit to the POD printer is you can do fewer copies.

But because you are doing fewer copies the price isn't as good, by a long shot.

Roughly speaking, a 32 page full color comic book with a POD printer is going to cost somewhere around $2.25 to produce.  That's going to mean that when you factor in the discount the distributor is going to take (usually 40-60% off of cover) you will need to retail your 32 page comic book $2.25x3 or $6.75 JUST TO BREAK EVEN.

A Plate Printer which uses printing plates can produce a 32 page full color comic book for about 65c a copy but as I said they will have a minimum order.  Last time I checked most of these companies had a minimum order threshold of 5000 copies, but let's say you can find one who will do 3000 copies.

That's $1950 in printing alone.  Shipping will be extra.
It's also 12 good size boxes of comic books if they are packed 250 per box.  It could be 24 medium sized boxes.

All right-- so figuring out your cover price-- if it's 65c a book plus shipping that means it's likely going to be about 80c a copy cover price multiply x3 (you'll see why in a minute) that means your cover price should be $2.40 but that doesn't make any sense and the vast majority of comics in shops today are $3.99-$5.99 for an independent so mark it $3.99, MAYBE $4.99 if you are really happy with it.

Now here's the REALLY good news about comic book printing.  There is only one distributor left in the US--Diamond Distributors.  They produce a monthly catalog called PREVIEWS which goes out to store to solicit orders for thousands of comic books.

If you get accepted, yours will be one of them.

That means that even before you've put in your print order (and we'll get into this further in Class #4) you'll have your sales numbers.

So if you get Pre-Orders for 2700 copies and PREVIEWS is taking a 60% discount off your cover price of $4.99 that means they will pay you $1.99 for every copy they sell-- it's costing you 80c so your profit is $1.19 per book x 2700 copies ordered means you'll be getting a check for $3213 in about four months.

WOO HOO!  Chinese food all around!

NOTE-- It's not unheard of for Diamond to give you a better deal on the discount, just ask.  I'm not saying it'll work for sure but if you managed to get a deal where they pay 60% of cover then your check is going to be $5913!  It pays to negotiate!

You can take that $5900 roll it into your next issue (which you've been working on all this time right) and parlay that into another payday and this gravy train's not stopping...

Well what if your 32 page comic book sales numbers came back at 300 copies rather than 2700 copies?

And keep in mind, GRAPHIC NOVELS SALES, which have a higher unit cost, are usually lower at first-- we're talking comic books right now.

Your comic book sales come in at 300 copies, Plate Printer has a minimum order of 3000 copies which would mean you'll have 2700 copies left that you can take to comic cons and try and sell right?  Storing is usually an issue, and once you've made the circuit with your comic at conventions you're going to be hard pressed to sell them again.

So you go with POD PRINTER since your order was only 300 copies.
Here's the kink in the plan.

POD Printer is charging you $2.25 per book meaning you need to spend $675 to get your 300 copies.  POD Printer doesn't give you price breaks with more books.

$4.99 cover price Diamond at 60% off cover is going to pay you $1.99 per book while your cost is $2.25 meaning you loose 26c per book.  So that doesn't work.

Convince them to give you the 40% off cover they pay you $2.99 per book meaning you make 74c per book meaning you'll get a check for $222 in a few weeks.

That's not awful, it's not great but it's not awful.

Diamond also allows you to cancel a book if the sales aren't there.  It makes it harder to get another book with them so do this only as a last resort to keep from losing money, but the option is there.

There is some good news in the apparently bleak news I just gave you.  As you do more projects your numbers will increase, or at least they should.

One of my earliest self published books,  JERRY CLAUS; THE RETURN OF DARK SANTA sold in the area of 700 copies.  I took the money from that book and did ADAM BOMB VS THE MOON NAZIS which sold around 1000 copies.

The numbers kept going up.
Copies sold: 12, 487

Copies sold: 28,455

Again, using our science hats we see that continuity equates to sales.

I reference DAVE SIM'S Terrific CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF PUBLISHING above, and I'll use it several times through the class weeks, but Dave himself is an interesting guy, he doesn't even have an email address, so much of what he presents is proven and valid information-- he self published 300 issues of CEREBUS THE AARDVARK as promised over 20 years, major kudos to that, but shunning the internet strikes me as short sighted, especially now that CROWD FUNDING has become a valid option for publishing as well.

Crowd funding is simple-- people pledge a certain amount towards a product or event and in return they get "perks"-- in comics it's usually a copy of the finished book.

Writer Steve Altes approached me in 2014-- our conversation went like this:

From: Steve Altes
Date: Fri, February 28, 2014 2:22 pm
Hi Andy,
I'd love to talk to you about an illustration project.  Do you have any time to chat today?



Hi Steve
I don't have any chat time, on deadline with several projects.  Give me an idea of what the project is and we can get the ball rolling-- or at least see if it can roll.

Andy Fish
Freelance Artist and Writer


Steve clearly detected my skepticism that he was just one of thirty people who will reach out to me each year with a "great idea" that they don't have any money to produce.  The trouble always is that if you're trying to work with an artist they need to get paid otherwise they'll have to do it in their off time (if they believe in the work strongly) and that will mean it will take forever to get it done.
His next email was perfect-- he even saw and asked the questions he would be sure I would have:

Hey Andy,

I hear ya.  I know you are super busy -- writing, drawing, teaching, workshops, family, etc.

First, I gotta say I LOVE your work and your thematic interests.  I grew up on Adam West's Batman and James Whale monster movies and stuff like this: so we clearly have a LOT of the same interests.
I also love your use of color and the vibrant palettes and the super-saturated colors.  It's all just gorgeous to me.  No matter what happens with this project I wanted you to know that.  :)

Okay so here's the deal.
I am looking for a Boston-area illustrator to partner with me on a Kickstarter graphic novel project.  Here's the good news:  I'll set up the Kickstarter page and handle all the grunt work while all the funds raised would go to you. 
"Why Boston-based?" 
Because the setting of the GN is Cambridge and Boston, and the illustrator has to know the territory.
"But Steve, I'm already a published GN creator.  Why do I need Kickstarter?"


The emails went back and forth and I took the time to look Steve up and found out he's the real deal.
The biggest selling point for me?  He was going to completely handle the Kickstarter Campaign

How did it work?

Successfully funded!

The Kickstarter raised considerably more than the final number too- people continued to send in pledges after it ended.  The monies would cover my upfront pay and the expense of printing and distributing the book.

How's it doing?

Three weeks in and we're number 5 on the best seller list.

Woo hoo!  Chinese food all around!

The Crowd Funding Variation is simply an option in the Self Publishing Option.  Steve is considering his own publishing house based on these sales, and there's a precedence; Dark Horse Comics started as a self publisher and now is the #3 Comic Publisher in the USA.

Now what if we were to go with a publisher?
PROS to going with a Publisher
1. Higher visibility-- they have a built in audience.
2. They handle all the nuts and bolts of printing, merchandising, promoting, etc.
3. Faster paycheck-- most publishers pay you using a voucher system for pages produced and then a royalty system based on sales.   Book publishers usually pay you a retainer up front and then minus that out from your back end sales numbers.
4. Editorial Team to oversee your direction.  Provided you have a good relationship with the team this can be extremely beneficial.

CONS to going with a Publisher
1. YOU HAVE TO GET ONE.  Not easy.  Publishers are selective, they are especially selective if you are shopping something you've done.  If you want to WORK in comics, going with a publisher is the fastest way to get paid and get your name out there, but for the vast majority of publishers you'll be working on their properties and just getting a page rate.

You do have some publishers that cater to creator owned works, IMAGE COMICS is the first to come to mind.   They charge you an "office fee" for editorial, minus out the expenses of actually printing the book and distributing it and then send you a check for the remainder based on your sales.  No money up front, but you are likely to make more than if you self published in the long run.

2. You pay them about 75% of the profits to do about 40% of the work-- Dave Sim in his terrific book on self publishing asks "Why would you pay someone 90% of the profits for 10% of the work?"<< while I certainly bow to his experience my own is more 75/40-- I happen to find the production and marketing aspect very time consuming, and that's time I could be working on the next project, so I find a value in that.

3. You will be one of hundreds of projects they offer this month.  If they are not firmly behind you, you may find the end results disappointing.

A short few years ago I worked with a publisher doing two books of my own creation, they handled the production and marketing of the books.  The first one sold around 17,000 copies (they were a higher price point than either Turkey Boy or Fly) and the second sold about 33,000 copies.   My take on each one was around $1.75 per book. 

I enjoyed the process but I have some minor disagreements with them, factor in that the sales numbers were virtually no higher than what I was doing on my own equaled my passing on doing a third book for them right now.  I'm not ruling it out down the road, but for now I'm going to venture out on my own.

All right-- so you've set your goals, you've charted your plan and you've decided you want to try your luck with a publisher.  What's your next step?


American Comic Book Publishers


So how do you get work at one of these publishers?  You need to reach out to one of their editors at a Comic Book Convention.  Many of these cons have Portfolio Review sessions, in which you drop off samples and then if they are interested in your work they will arrange a time to talk to you.  If you hope to get to work with a company your best bet is to get to know the titles they publish, then look at the editor of those titles, and then try to arrange an opportunity to show them your work.

If you do opt to go with the porfolio review option, dress appropriately-- business casual.  You might stand out a bit at a con wearing a polo shirt and clean jeans, but remember these companies are considering whether or not to HIRE you.  DON'T DRESS any more formal than that.  IF you dress like you're applying for a bank job expect some stares.

During the portfolio review-- a couple of VIP things;
1. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR WORK.  I once did a review and the person showing me kept flipping to different pages of their portfolio saying "this work is old, or this work is bad" etc-- show only your best work, and then if they criticize any rather than apologize for it, take some notes as to what they criticize.

2. Pare your portfolio down to 12 samples.  They should be sequentials.  Have a bag with you with more samples in the even they like what they see and ask if you have more.  DO NOT VOLUNTEER more work if they don't ask for it.

3. Some people are better at portfolio reviews than others.  IF you are the kind of person who responds best to real criticism ask for it.  Ask them to not pull any punches and then get ready for it. You aren't going to improve if people are just being nice.
Try to see it through their side-- if you have a neat and organized portfolio, rather than pages falling out all over the place, that makes their job easier.
If they look, nod occasionally, say some small nice things but hand it back to you and say "we'd love to see your work again sometime." that translates into you aren't ready yet.
IF they ask for contact info or if they can take the samples with them, that's a very good sign.

ONLY Xeroxes-- no originals.  IF you're showing just pencil work, you might need to have the copies done on a color machine so it picks up all the nuances.
11x17 or 8.5 x11-- there are two schools of thought-- 11x17 is the actual size of the work, 8.5x11 is roughly the printed size of the work.  It's easier to carry a smaller portfolio, again 12 pieces max, and you can have a backup with more in case they ask for it.

Itoya makes those great portfolios-- or you can get a simple document report cover at Staples and put your work in that.

It's just important that the portfolio is neat and nicely presented, and it should have your business card attached to it in case they want to take it or if you lose it somewhere.

A good professional business card is important too-- equally important is your email address.

I have two emails; and -- because I don't go around referring to myself as Andy T Fish I don't love

But it's a better email than or worse

You need an email that is serious and has your name in it if you want to be taken seriously.

IMAGE COMICS Publishes ONLY creator owned comics.
They generally only work with complete teams-- i.e. they aren't looking for writers and artists to team up, they are looking for completed projects.

They do not pay page rates.  They are looking for fully realized product, essentially to distribute under the I imprint.

They charge an "clerical office fee" and then whatever actual printing and distribution costs are.
Using this model, IMAGE has a very wide range of product in their monthly offering.

A proposal to Image should include (from their website);
  1. A typewritten cover letter with all contact information (name, e-mail address, address, phone and fax numbers) clearly printed on the TOP of the page. You don’t need to ramble on or be flowery or tell us how much you love Image Comics, introduce yourself and get on with it. If you’ve had published work you could let us know about it (or even include it) but we don’t need your resumé.
  2. Presentation is not THAT important—a pretty binder is not going to make or break a proposal. We don’t green light bad projects because they’re in a nice binder—nor do we reject a good project because it’s not in a nice binder. If printing colored material off of your computer at home looks poor, get it printed elsewhere—we want to SEE how it might look on a printed page. Make sure it’s printed nicely, sure, but don’t worry about the packaging—if the pages look unprofessional, it WON’T get a green light. 
2. A typed, ONE PAGE, synopsis of the overall STORY. We DO NOT want a single-issue synopsis—we want a synopsis of the ENTIRE series or story arc. As concisely and as succinctly as you are able, TELL US THE STORY, make us interested. Please avoid hyperbole—avoid questions as plot points (“What will Barney do when confronted with…?”), etc. We are the PUBLISHER, not the audience. TELL US WHAT HAPPENS! Explain why we (or anyone else) would be interested in this series. KEEP IT SHORT! We get thousands of submissions, cut to the chase—if you can sell us your book with a single paragraph, do it!

3. Send photocopies of fully INKED and LETTERED pages (any size). DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL ART! We’d like to see AT LEAST five pages that are fully inked and lettered. If you have MORE than five finished pages, swell! Bring ‘em on! Five is the MINIMUM we want to see - not a maximum. We want to READ it. If the lettering sucks we may suggest a different letterer for the final comic book. The important thing here is that we can SEE that you know what you’re doing, that you understand where to place copy and how to tell a story.

4. Color is OPTIONAL. If you have a colorist and can provide color pages, great! This means you CAN send in colored pages you just don’t HAVE to (although, if you want a color book, it would be advisable). We DO reserve the right to approve colorists as a poor one can ruin a decent book.

5. Include a cover mock-up—this lets us know whether or not you understand the market and gives us a good barometer on your design sense. A good logo can be EASILY read from across the room. We DO make people change their logos OFTEN. Don’t be fancy or artistic—be CLEAR. You can send character sketches and or bios, but not in lieu of storytelling pages—we still need to see five finished pages of sequential storytelling, lettered and inked. DO NOT send script pages—DO NOT send unlettered pages accompanied by a script and expect us to follow along.


The creative team in your pitch is the one we expect to see actually working on your book. It is NOT okay to pitch a book and say it will be written by Alan Moore and drawn by Joe Madureira and then switch to another creative team. If the artist you pitched with leaves the team, go back to the end of the line and start over. This also means that on all ongoing titles, we need to be made aware of and approve ALL changes in the creative team. It’s NOT okay to have six pages in issue #1 drawn by some hotshot while some guy off the street draws the rest of it.DO NOT hand Image employees submissions at comic book conventions. We have enough stuff to haul around as it is. Your pitch is far MORE likely to get lost, misplaced or discarded if we get it at a show.

BECAUSE WE RECEIVE SUCH A HIGH VOLUME OF SUBMISSIONS, NO PROPOSALS/SUBMISSIONS WILL BE RETURNED. Again, DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL ART TO US—EVER. Furthermore, we do our best to respond to all submissions. But due to our very high volume, IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A REPLY WITHIN A MONTH, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER YOUR PROPOSAL REJECTED. We make absolute certain that we get in touch with submitters that we are interested in within a month of receiving them.
Also, if you DO NOT include an e-mail address with your submission, you WILL NOT receive a reply.

DO NOT try to pull a fast one! Don’t think that you can get away with saying that you had a book approved at a convention or that a previous publisher gave your book the go ahead. If your book is not up to snuff, you’re just making yourself look unprofessional.
Please do not try to “impress” us with all the deals you’ve lined up or testimonials from your friends or family. We don’t care that Stan Lee told you that your stuff looked “neat” when he was cornered in the Men’s room—we are only interested in the comic itself. Your work sells your work—not praise from others. SHOW US why we should publish your stuff.

Accepts submissions along with a signed submission agreement.
Accepts submissions from writers, artists, colorists, letterers.
Send copies, not originals, copies will not be returned, make sure you include contact information.

There is nothing public listed about their creator owned policies-- Dark Horse publishes company owned, licensed properties and creator owned projects.  I know from personal experience that with creator owned projects each contract is negotiated with the creative team, Dark Horse collects a percentage for publishing but creators own their project and can do with it what they will.

Dark Horse will also sometimes pay a page rate to a creative team even on a creator owned project, but those page rates come out of the back end sales payment revenue.


Accepts full samples-- especially interested in full package offerings-- creators who can write and fully render.  No public posting as to the creator/publisher split

ONLY accepts art samples.
Produces licensed, company and creator owned projects.


Accepts submissions  for fully rendered works. 
They accept email submissions too.


Accepts Submissions for fully packaged works only.
More likely to be interested in a comic that is NOT traditional comic size.

Lastly, good to know...
Great article on Jim Zub, who explains why you might need food stamps doing comics on your own.

Zub who self publishes sums it up best...

That’s why you should
• Support indy titles.
• Support creator-owned comics.
• Pre-order books you’re interested in from your local retailer.
• Tell your friends about books and help build support.
• Support Kickstarter campaigns for great independent comic projects.
• Buy direct from creators at conventions so 100% of the cover price goes into their pocket.