Very rarely will the major publishers (Valiant, DC, Marvel) hire a writer off the street, so self-publishing has been a ‘rite of passage’ for many enthusiasts. But how do you self-publish and what is the best form for you?
First you have to determine your Three F’s – Format, Format, and Format. Seriously – there are formats within formats when it comes to publishing comics so follow this quick guide to determine the best avenue for you to self-publish your comic book.
FORMAT: Print or Digital
This decision if often determined by your budget. Print publishing is definitely the goal we all have but the costs can kill a project before it even gets started. A quick Google search for “self-publish a comic book” will lead you to a number of services. Nearly every budget can be accommodated but only if you are comfortable using overseas companies. Don’t let this deter you though. One of my favorite independent comics (Robot 13 - http://www.blackliststudios.com/Robot13_summary.html) was initially printed in China.
The comic went on to garner enough attention to launch a Kickstarter project that raised them $9,630 to print a trade paperback. For those of us with a shoe-string budget, print is really not an option – enter digital publishing. If you truly are limited on costs, consider digital only publishing at sites like Comixology and Graphicly. Both sites are affordable are heavily trafficked by comic book readers AND print publishers. Don’t dance in the street just yet, digital publishing may be cheap but there are still some hurdles to jump.
FORMAT: Digital Comic Book or Digital Web Comic
Okay, so digital self-publishing is considerably cheaper but you still have to decide the format for your digital comic. True digital comics are more closely related to print comics and web comics are more closely related to the Sunday newspaper comics. They both appear to be the same at first, but the web comic is really only a part of a larger, more complete comic.
Digital comics are often split into pieces and offered up on the web as a free web comic with the intention of getting the reader to buy the full length digital comic at a digital retailer. They are most often offered at the creator’s website, not a distribution site (though there are web comic sites out there). Depending upon the amount of work you have available and the amount of web space you have at your disposal, a web comic may simply be a means of getting your story out there as it develops rather than wait for the final product. Web comics also generally require less space on your web server, thus keeping your costs down. True digital comics are often unique electronic experiences. Many digital comics are beginning to include sounds and very basic animations to attract more readers (buyers). So if you still want to get that full story out there, you are left with one last decision.
FORMAT: EPUB, KF8, PDF?
So you’ve decided to go with a true digital comic – not a sliced up web comic. So what’s the best way to get it to the public? If you self-publish a comic book, this may be the most important thing to consider because the actual format of your digital comic will determine how many people can read it. Do your research. Learn about all the available formats but focus on the top three – EPUB, KF8, and PDF. Find out what the requirements are for EPUB (free open e-book standard), KF8 (Kindle Fire format), and PDF (Adobe Acrobat). Each format has its pros and cons so you’ll have to familiarize yourself with each.
For the mass populace, PDF is the easiest to create and the most accepted form of all the digital formats. Though PDF may sound attractive due to its simplicity, it is the one format that doesn’t allow for Guided View storytelling – which is quickly becoming the standard for digital comics. Once you’ve chosen your format, do another quick web search for ‘publish digital comic books’ and you’ll find sites like Graphicly that will sell your book (keeping a cut for themselves) and sites like Comixology that not only sells your book but often advertises around the web (like Facebook and IGN). You would probably get more exposure at one, but again, you have to weigh the costs.