This entry is kicking off “Creation Month”.
Basically, several days this month will feature some of the creations I’ve concocted over the years, regarding comic books and comic characters. I’ll give the reasoning behind them, if any, and what the point was, if any, to them. Give you a look at the process, the circumstances and the outcome, be it success or failure.
My goal was to create professional comics and successfully get them printed and distributed. Regarding my projects in between 1995 and 2004 that I’ll be talking about in the coming days, I did just that, at least until the process became financial untenable.
First, becoming an independent publisher is a bit daunting. Certainly not impossible but there are things you have to do to facilitate the business. It’s a good idea to do your homework. Talk to comic shop retailers and get their input on when the best time of the year is for an independent comic to actually hit the stands, and any other tips they might have. Then find out about all the steps it takes to print and distribute your book. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really not difficult.
In essence, the process I list below is what I usually did with each of my comics. So, a little bit about the process about actually self publishing:
The era I’ll be referring to was mostly before the internet and web comics so if you wanted to get *your* comic book distributed around the world yourself, you would go through the channels with a company like Diamond, who, until recently, had a monopoly on distributing print comics in America. To get things going, you would do the following:
(assuming you’ve already completed your comic….)
A. Have your comic ready to be published. Diamond wouldn’t take just anything and they certainly wouldn’t allow anything in the catalog that was unfinished because some illustrators are like scatter—brained cats that can’t keep to a schedule. Some. Make sure that product is ready for publication.
B. Contact the main distributor (Diamond) and get their timetable, schedule, deadlines for their process.
C. Send them a mock up of your book to show them you had a proper product and they can see it’s worthy of being published. As I say, if it was unprofessional looking or not finished, odds are, they wouldn’t allow you to solicit your book in their catalog. They would let certain companies like DC, Marvel or Image be late back in the day—and they always were, but that was a high profile comic company, not an independent. Some may refer to Image as an independent, especially back then but they would be incorrect. Considering the rock star names they had in the company, the high profile, and the millions they were hauling in, they were a big company. When it comes to unknowns and independents, there were different rules.
D. Send all the necessary info for the solicitation of your comic to the distributor. This would be:
*The mock up of the book
*The solicitation copy for your book to be printed in the catalog, a couple lines telling the comic shop owner what the book is about. Hoping to catch their eye. Most comic shop owners would sell or give away the monthly catalog to their customers so they too could see what was coming up and maybe ask the owner to order certain things as well.
*Any ads and/or artwork for ads you wanted to put in the catalog. For ads, you would find out the ad sizes and prepare your ad appropriately. I would usually get a smaller, quarter page black and white ad for $800.00. The hope, of course, would be that the ad would generate more interest on behalf of the comic shop owner, or readers. hopefully pump up those orders. Then you hope the orders are sufficient that they pay for the ad and the printing costs. (They rarely, if ever did)
E. So, after all your stuff was in, the distributor would put your comic into the catalog, send it to all comic retailers for them to order comics, etc.
F. You would contact a printer that does comics professionally and they would print up a run of your book to fill the orders. I would contact Brenner printing down in Texas, as they did a nice, professional printing job on comics. And Diamond would pick up comics from there each week. Initially, the *minimum* print run at Brenner was 3,000 copies, which was brutal but thankfully, eventually, that came down to 500 . Much more affordable.
G. Your comic would hit the shelves in comic book stores around the world.
I probably committed to this process with at least a dozen different one shot comics over a decade.
The actual timetable for all the above steps went something like this, if you wanted your comic to *hit the comic stands* in May of any year:
1. You would send all your solicitation materials to Diamond before the January deadline, thus ensuring you would get into their *March* catalog.
2. The March catalog would come out, previewing all the comics due to come out in May. Retailers/fans order comics.
3. All the March orders from retailers are supposed to be in by early April, the numbers go out to the publishers late April.
4. Publishers (me) gets the numbers, contacts their printer—who already has the files/art ready to be printed.
5. Printer prints up the order number for diamond to pick up. any excess copies get shipped to the publisher. that’s why I still have many boxes of old comics in my basement.
Oh, and lest I forget, there’s the *pricing* of the comic. What price do you put on that cover? It’s a bit more complicated than one might think because of the profit breakdown. Most retailers would keep whatever comics they order and not return them and get 50% of the cover price on every individual comic/copy sold. Diamond would get 15% of the cover price and the publisher (me) would get 35% of the cover price on each copy sold. So the comic shop owner made more money on each copy than I did (as he was taking the big risk getting stuck with comics). Plus, I had to pay the printer up front. So I had to create a price that wasn’t crazy high yet high enough so I had a chance to make some of my money back. Or in a miracle scenario, make an actual profit.
SO… I hope that all wasn’t too confusing but that’s the process. I got used to it pretty quick. Like I say, around 2005, things got to the point where Diamond rose ad rates by 50%— got too rich for my blood, because you really needed the ads to try and stand out. Although I was somewhat unique in doing this back in the late ’90’s, early 2000’s, by 2005, I was one in a sea of independents filling up the catalog and it was more and more a case of diminishing returns.
*Side note: a lot of these practices and timelines I believe are still in effect today with Diamond so if you want to dive into this world, go for it!
But I still kept creating stuff. On with Creation Month!