Table of contents
- 4 Routes for Publishing Comics
- Roles in Publishing A Comic Book
- The 7 Steps to Publishing A Comic Book
- Tips for Creating A Comic Book
- Cost Breakdown of Comic Book Publishing
- How Will You Publish Your Comic Book?
Do you have a dream of publishing your own comic book? Many fans would love to create their own comic book but don’t know what steps they should take to get started. The good news is that the process of creating a comic book is actually quite simple.
Comic books are more popular than ever, in part because of the success of the Marvel and DC Comics movie franchises. Creating these pieces is a lot of hard work, but making comics is a true passion for some dedicated authors.
In this article, I’ll use the term comic books, but the same process applies to creating and publishing graphic novels. Graphic novels are generally longer than comic books and have more complex stories.
Regardless of length, you’ll follow the same steps to create a graphic novel or comic book.
- 4 ways you can publish your comic book or graphic novel
- The pros and cons of different types of comic book publishing
- The 7 steps you’ll take to create your comic book
- How to hire freelancers to help create your comic book
- How much comic freelancers charge for various jobs
4 Routes for Publishing Comics
There are four distinct ways that comic book authors publish their comics. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, so the right way to publish really depends on your unique needs.
Release A Webcomic
Webcomics are one of the easiest ways to get into comic book publishing. Most webcomics are more like the comic strips you’ll see in the newspaper than an actual comic book. Webtoons are similar to web-based comic strips, but they’re arranged vertically, not horizontally.
It’s usually less work to create a webcomic, which is why they’re a great way to get started in comic publishing. You can build a following, and when you’ve created enough small comics, you can combine them and self-publish them in an anthology.
Upsides and drawbacks to creating a webcomic can include:
- Pro: They’re much faster and simpler to publish than a traditional comic book.
- Pro: Webcomics can build up a fan base faster because they’re easy to share on social media.
- Con: Webcomics are often short, so it’s harder to tell an involved story unless the comic is serialized.
- Con: There’s a lot of competition in the webcomic space, making it difficult to stand out.
Publish Your Comic Book Digitally
The next step up from a webcomic is a digital version of a comic book. With the surge in e-readers and smartphones, digital comics are more popular than they’ve ever been.
There are also some great platforms to get your digital comics into readers’ hands, like comiXology, which Amazon owns. Amazon even has free software to help you get your comic book on Kindle.
The ins and outs of digital comics include:
- Pro: They’re usually cheaper to produce than a printed comic book.
- Pro: You don’t have to deal with the hassle of getting them printed.
- Pro: Readers can buy them at any time and read them instantly.
- Con: Some readers prefer to have a hard copy of the comic in hand, and if you don’t offer your comic in print, they may not read it.
Self-Publish A Printed Comic Book
It’s also possible to self-publish printed copies of a comic book. Self-publishing your comic book can be a great option if you want higher royalties and more creative control.
Here’s what to consider when printing your own comic book:
- Pro: You have a physical copy of your comic book for readers who prefer them.
- Pro: Comic book collectors want printed copies, not digital.
- Pro: Readers can support local retailers if your comic is sold in shops.
- Con: Depending on the length of your comic and how you want it printed (binding, paper quality, ink quality), it can be pricey to print a comic book. Money can be an even bigger factor if you have to pay to have many copies printed upfront.
- Con: If you don’t sell all of your printed copies right away, you’ll have to find a place to store them.
Money can be a big problem for comic book self-publishers, especially if print-on-demand options like KDP or Lulu aren’t a good fit for your project. Some comic book authors use crowdfunding like Kickstarter to get the money to print a large number of copies.
Go The Traditional Publishing Route
You may also choose to go the traditional route and work with a publishing company. Many smaller independent comic book publishers accept submissions directly from authors.
Pros and cons of traditional publishing for comic books:
- Pro: You get the support of your publisher and don’t have to go through the comic book creation process alone.
- Pro: Your publisher will cover the costs of producing your comic book.
- Pro: Your publisher will have distributors already lined up, so you don’t have to worry about getting your books into stores.
- Con: If your idea for a comic book is out-of-the-box, you may not be able to find a traditional publisher for your book.
Roles in Publishing A Comic Book
Creating a comic book is a big project. There are many different roles that comic creators play in developing their books, and some choose to hire help to fill those roles and tasks.
Others, particularly self-publishers without a large budget, will decide to do almost everything themselves.
The roles involved in publishing a comic book are:
- Writer — Comic book writers write all of the dialogue and other text in the comic, called the script. They also often come up with the comic’s story, although occasionally, a creator will hire a ghostwriter to write the script.
- Editor — No one wants typos in their books, comic book authors included. Editors will look for typos, grammatical errors and can even look for issues like continuity problems. You might also want to have a proofreader look over your final draft.
- Illustrator — Illustrators work off of the script from the writer to make the sketches that become the images in the comic book. Next, they ink the sketches into the book’s panels, creating the black-and-white outlines for the graphics.
- Colorist — Colorists take the sketches from the illustrator, polish them, and turn them into a finalized piece of art. Most colorists work digitally, using programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to add color to the black-and-white line drawings.
- Letterer — Lettering adds text to the graphics of the comic book. Most comic book artists digitally letter comics on a computer using stylized fonts.
- Formatter — During formatting, everything is combined into a single file that can be submitted to the printing service for printing or distributed digitally.
- Publicist — If readers don’t know about your book, they won’t buy it. Publicity is a critical task for comic book creators. You can choose to hire a publicist or do the publicity yourself.
Although you could try to fill all of these roles, you should find an outside editor at a minimum. It’s difficult to look at your own writing critically and easy to miss errors you made. Professional editors are trained to look for mistakes and will improve the quality of your comic book.
The 7 Steps to Publishing A Comic Book
Convinced you want to create your own comic book?
Here are the 7 steps you need to take to publish your comic book:
- Write the script
- Sketch the panels
- Inking and Coloring
Step 1: Write the Script
What is the first step to publish a comic book? The first step to publish a comic book is coming up with a story. Many comic books start out as short stories that grow and evolve into something more.
Once you have your story, you create an outline, then write your script. The script contains the dialogue and any other text that will appear in your book. The script can also include general descriptions of what the illustrations should show in each panel.
Step 2: Storyboarding
Storyboards are the first link between the script and the panels of the comic book. They’re rough sketches that help the illustrator understand what needs to be drawn in each panel of the book.
Step 3: Sketch the Panels
Next, the artist will come in and sketch the panels of the comic book based on the storyboards. These are very rough “pencil” sketches that will be perfected in the next step.
Step 4: Inking and Coloring
The process of inking takes the rough sketches and turns them into black-and-white drawings, making any edits or fixing any mistakes made in the sketches. Then, the colorist takes those outlines and turns them into full-color panels.
Step 5: Lettering
Once the panels are illustrated, it’s time to letter them. Lettering almost always happens digitally in software where the script and the panels are combined.
Step 6: Publishing
The publishing process starts with laying out all of the pages into one file using software. Most graphic designers use Adobe InDesign for this step. After the book cover and interior are set, the designer saves the files in a format that the printing or distribution service accepts, usually a PDF.
The files get submitted to the printing service you’re using if you’re making paper copies. Common printing services for comics include Lulu or KDP Print. Then, you’ll submit digital copies to any book aggregators you plan to use, like comiXology or KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
If you’re producing printed comic books, you should also consider submitting them to Diamond Comic Distributors. Diamond is the biggest distributor of comic books in the United States and the best way to get your books into comic book stores.
You may also choose to formally copyright your book. Although most creative works are protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, filing the paperwork with the government to copyright your comic book can be a good idea.
How do I publish a comic book on Amazon? You publish a comic book on Amazon by submitting your completed comic book to KDP and comiXology. Other comic book printing services like Lulu offer direct integration with Amazon.
How do I publish a comic book on Kindle? You publish a comic book on Kindle by uploading your book to KDP. Using software like KDP’s free Kindle Create can make the process of submitting your comic book to KDP easier.
Step 7: Promotion
Books don’t sell themselves; you’ll need to consistently promote your comic book if you want it to make a profit and get your work into the world. It’s helpful to hire a book publicist if you have the budget for it, but you can do the promotion yourself as well.
When you launch your book, you can use strategies like press releases or launch teams to build some initial buzz. Launching is all about building momentum and creating an excellent foundation for future marketing efforts.
After your launch, you should still consistently promote your book if you don’t want your sales to tank. If you need help with promotion, check out my favorite books for book marketers.
Tips for Creating A Comic Book
Here are a few tips to help you create a better comic book:
- Take Your Time — It’s tempting to rush to finish your comic book when you’re really excited about the project, but paying attention to detail is worth it. Make sure you have a great story and high-quality graphics.
- Hire an Editor — Editors are worth every penny you spend on their services. You may also want to hire a proofreader for your finalized book before you upload it for distribution.
- Get Your Own ISBN — If you publish with KDP Print, you can get a free ISBN when you submit your book. However, they can make your book look amateurish to some readers. Buying your own ISBN is a good idea and makes you look more professional.
- Check Your Formatting — Sometimes formatting gets disrupted when a book that’s laid out for print gets converted to a digital format. Be sure to double-check your ebook’s formatting to make sure your comic appears the way you want.
- Don’t Forget to Include an Author Bio! — Make sure you include an author bio at the end of your book. Your bio is a great place to mention other books you’ve created and include your website so readers can stay in touch.
Cost Breakdown of Comic Book Publishing
Depending on how much you want to DIY, you can wind up paying a lot or very little to produce your comic book. Here are the average costs to hire a freelancer to help create your comic book:
- Script writing: $10-50 per page
- Editing: $20-$60 per page
- Penciling: $50-$150 per page
- Inking: $40-$120 per page (some artists will ink their own penciling at a reduced rate)
- Coloring: $30-$50 per page
- Lettering: $10-$20 per page
How much does it cost to publish a comic book? It costs between $130-200 per page to publish a comic book if you hire a freelancer for every step. That number doesn’t include the cost of printing the comics or publicity.
How Will You Publish Your Comic Book?
Publishing a comic book is a lot of work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. The good news is there are a lot of options for publishing your comic book. Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish your comic, you can make informed decisions about how you’ll create it.
Looking for more about book publishing? Check out more articles and learn how to:
With these tools in hand, you’ll be prepared to publish your comic book and take the action from your outline to your readers. Cheers!