In this day and age, where technology has been developed to a very advanced stage in regards to how we communicate, many people are able to take leaps-of-faith on an unprecedented level. For the first time, we are able to break the “shackles” of being tied to big names and big companies, Creating something unique, and distributing our creative work, has never been more accessible.

Usually you hear us talk about indie games. We cover them all the time, and talk about them in our Indie Stash Casts. Recently, we have been expanding the Indie Stash to cover other forms of media that also has a booming indie community. Today I’m going to talk about a genre of independent creators that has boomed alongside indie game developers. The indie comics market.

From Image Comics, to Comixology, indie comics are everywhere. If you have the will, the story, and the art, you might just make it. Yet it’s not as easy as one might think. I know because in addition to my role here at TwoDashStash, I’m also a published independent comic book author of the Guardians comic series which just released its fourth installment.

I’m want to share with all the aspiring indie comic writers some of my own experiences as an indie comics writer, and shed some light on the challenges you will face as you begin your journey.

Don’t get discouraged reading this though, this isn’t supposed to deter you from writing comics, just the opposite. I’m trying to help you succeed by sharing with you all the lessons I have learned through trial and error.

Without further adieu, let us begin!

Guardians Print

Making Your Comic:

This is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face and something you will always need to think about. How do you make a comic from the idea you have? I believe an important thing is not to rush to make the comic.

“But I want to make it now,” you say.

That’s to be expected. Before you do, ask yourself this question: “Do I have an idea for my first full story arc?”

Yes? Good! How about the one after that? You do? Great! After that? After that? What about the one after? See where I’m going with this?

I’m not saying you should have the whole series mapped out, but you should have some ideas of what to write after your first arc and beyond. By the time I wrote Guardians #0, and Guardians #1, I honestly had a full rogues gallery for my Guardians to face off against. Did I have full stories for all of the potential villains my heroes would face? No, I did not. However, I did have a general idea of where I wanted to take the series and could plan accordingly.

Also, ideas change over time. Between making my decision to make Guardians, and the time we actually started producing it, was about two years. How did that happen? I’ll get to that later. Point is, my idea grew, became more focused, and my team changed. How? Well I won’t spoil that just yet, take my word for it, there some pretty radical changes that will have a lasting impact on the Guardians. Bottom line, if you’re really passionate about your idea, go big on even the minor details. The more you know, the more you can write and evolve your story.

Now, you have your story, what about the artist?

This is hands down, the most important decision you’ll make. More than story, more than characters or plot twists, how your comic looks matters. Not just to readers, but to you. If you don’t like what your artist is drawing, why should readers?  Everyone has different tastes, that’s a risk we all take whether it’s making comics, games, or any other media. Someone will always like it, and someone will always hate it. If you like it though, and you think it’s good, then you’re set.

So, how do I find an artist? There are several websites, forums, groups, etc. that you can go to find an artist to make your comic. There’s always someone looking for work, many them are really good at what they do. The question is not who you choose, but how do you choose them?

The process starts before you even make an ad. Why? Because you have to set your limits, and by limit I mean price range. How much are you, the writer and presumably creator, going to spend on your comic? This will affect who applies, and honestly how far you can go on your own as you wait for the fan-base to buy your comic.

Be fair, but be firm. If you can’t spend a lot, don’t be ashamed of it. Not everyone is rich and can sock a lot of money into this. Do what you can and don’t go broke!

The next thing you need to decide is what kind of artist you’re looking for. Not in regards of style, but personality. You need someone who is flexible and willing to do revisions if you think they’re necessary. Yet you also want someone who is as passionate about the comic as you are.

With Guardians, I lucked out by having two amazing artists for the #0 début issue. Both were great guys who loved drawing. One of them had to leave though, so I felt myself in a bind. Yet my other artist wanted to take over. I was hesitant, but I had nothing to lose. He didn’t disappoint. I know that if I email him for a Guardians job, whether it’s concept art, or covers, or the comic itself, he’s in. That’s the kind of person you want to work with.

So let’s say you have your story now, and you have your artist and you’re ready to make the comic. Good right? Yes it is! So what comes next? Well there’s one thing you need to think about, and one thing you need to do.

Guardians Page07

How to Publish Your Comic:

This is tricky, and there’s no “right” answer, because every comic is different. Yet this is a crucial step. How do you publish your comic for everyone to see?

There are a few traditional routes you can take to distributing your work. One option is submitting your comic to a publisher and hope they accept it. I actually did this with Guardians and submitted it to Image Comics. There are also Indie Publishers out there that may see your comic as a good investment and they’ll ask you to join.

Pros: They’ll advertise for you. If they’re a good publisher they’ll already have a fan-base waiting to see what else comes out. Also depending on the publisher, they’ll produce physical copies of your comic and ship it to comic shops across the country. Again, this depends on the publisher.

Cons: Just because they have a fan-base, doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. Also, you’ll have to sign a contract which entitles them to some of the profits, and in some cases (not all) they’ll have a say on how some story arcs go.

If you can do it, and you think it’s a good deal, go for it. Word of warning, don’t be the only person to look at the contract. Have someone you trust look at it, if it’s not a good deal, say no.

The second option is selling them on a digital comics website (printing is rather expensive thus digital comics are the lifeline for many indie writers). The most popular is Comixology. In fact it’s the #1 digital comics site in the world. Mainly because they distribute comics all over the world through digital distribution. They recently started a submission program for indie writers to submit their comics and have them distributed on the Comixology website. They have certain specifications on how the comic should be compiled, then submitted. If you get published though, everyone can see it.

Pros: As stated, if you get approved, you’ll have your comic on a respected site for the world to see.

Cons: Though it’s simple in theory, it can be a painful process to get your comic on Comixology. This is one I have much personal experience with. From submission to actually being on the website took about 5 months for Guardians #0. Then, despite promises of expedited releases from there on out, Guardians #1 wasn’t put on their site until three months later. That was with me submitting it alongside Guardians #0.

Then there’s how you get paid. Comixology takes a 50-50 cut of the profits, with a few percentages going to Amazon and other distributors. That’s fair. However, you won’t get paid until the quarter ends plus 45 days. Quarters are three months, so January-March, and so on. Then once the quarter is over, you have to wait 45 days for results. The kicker? If you don’t make a minimum of $100 in those three months, you won’t get paid, and it will be held over until you make the $100 minimum. If you’re the writer who needs the money quickly to keep going, this may not be the best option for you.

If you can get past these challenges, you might like Comixology because it really is a great distributing platform. However, be prepared for the long-haul with them.

The final true option, is self-publishing. Something that more and more people are setting up right now. It’s actually what I do, since I find it easier than an less painful than using a third-party distributor. Basically, you make a site, and set it up to have people be able to buy your comics through downloads.

Pros: It’s honestly rather simple to do if you have a dedicated website person/friend. You can easily upload the comics, edit them, and since it could be on the main website for your comic, it becomes a one-stop-shop for all your comics information. Have a blog, post your social media links, reviews and interview you do, everything can be there in one spot.

Cons: You are doing all the legwork. Since it’s not on a well-known website, you’ll have to let people know it exists. Also, being so connected has an interesting drawback. You know 100% when your comic is, and isn’t selling. You can set it up to let you know when someone buys your comic, which is great, except when no sales happen. This can ware on you, especially if you’re hoping for immediate sales.

Many choose the self-publishing option because it’s the most convenient for them. It gives you the control over your comic that others may not let you have.

Guardians2Fight

Promote Your Comic:

The age-old question of, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound” really rings true here. There is no greater challenge, for an indie writer who has just created a comic, than promoting it. It is important, it is necessary, and it is time-consuming.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, all these sites can be very helpful in promoting your comic. For the first two months of my comic being out, I had zero online presence. At the time, I did not have many opportunities to devote to social media (I also didn’t know when my next comic was coming out, so there’s that too). Once things started rolling, I realized how important a social presence is. I created a Facebook page for Guardians, as well as a Twitter account.

Has it helped in promoting? Yes. Is it useful? Yes. Has it helped fulfill every need? No.

Social media isn’t all you can to, there are so many other promotional venues out there you can take advantage of. One big thing is getting dedicated comic websites to review your comic, you can also ask to do an interview with those sites. This allows other people the opportunity to share what they think about the comic (in regards to reviews), and with interviews you can show your passion about the comic and try to reel people in. As in all things though, just because you show it, doesn’t mean they’ll come.

This was a very sobering lesson for me personally. In less than a few months, I had gotten a “following” on Facebook and Twitter, some were friends to be fair. Yet others were complete strangers who seemed interested in the comic. Yet when I made my website and started selling Guardians #1, I noticed that there were little to no sales. How could this be? I had 300+ people “following” me on Facebook and Twitter. I had advertised everywhere. So how is no one buying it?

The honest answer, is that I don’t have one. People chose to buy what they want to buy. They may like your art, and then like your page, they may see you make a funny post on Twitter then follow you. It doesn’t mean they’ll buy your comic. If they do, great! Just don’t be bummed when all of your followers on social media don’t buy your comic.

Guardians Page10

Learning to Continue, Even When You Can’t Continue On:

So you’ve made your comic. You published a few issues. You did the advertising, got the good reviews, conducted wonderful interviews, you know people have at least heard about your comic. Yet, they are still not selling. Because of that, you honestly can’t continue to make your comic. It would be foolish, or impossible depending on your circumstances. So you have two options. You give up, or keep going.

How can you keep going? Easy, if you are as passionate about your project as you think you are, it should be very hard to give up. You’ve come so far, why give up now? You keep advertising, keep spreading the word about the comic, get advice from others on what else to do, you don’t give up.

If you think you really have something, crowd-funding is always an option. Or you work a job until you can fund another comic, you don’t stop because you think you’ve failed. You just keep going.

CoverGuardians 2

In Conclusion:

Whether you read this because you’re a writer trying to make a comic, or a reader just interested in what I had to say, I say to you this: There are plenty of indie comics out there, many of them are good. All of them though, face these challenges and more. All of them want to succeed.

So no matter who you are, if this article has spoken to you, go support indie comics. Just like you support indie games. They’re really similar when you think about it, they want to break the mold, want to show something that the big companies won’t do, or do something very different. Comics are amazing, I read them, I write them, and I talk about them a lot. I would love to do it forever, and I know others do as well. The challenges won’t lessen, but you can ease them. Give it a try, what have you got to lose?

About The Author

Guest Writer

3 Responses

    • Todd Black

      It’s digital. That’s actually another challenge of being an Indie writer, if you aren’t with a publisher (which I technically am not) it’s very hard to get your books printed. Thus why a lot of indie comic writers do pure digital comics.

      I sell mine off of the official Guardians website, which I believe you can find in the links above.