This past week was very exciting for me as an artist. I’ve been wanting to do some more printed comics since my last publishing endeavors back in the 90s, but full color press is hugely expensive, and the existing distribution network is very difficult to gain a place in. I searched on some self-printing options, with idea of doing some ash-cans myself.
What I found was a fairly new option that’s come about in the past few years – print-on-demand. You send in your work files – a comic book, novel, manga, etc – and they digitally print copies, assemble and bind them, and ship them to you in any quantity you want. It’s not the same high quality as offset printing, but if you want 10 copies – you got it! The price per unit allows you to sell it and still make a small profit. You won’t get rich with this, but you’ll get some books out that will pay for themselves, which is a beautiful thing. So, if I need a small stack of books to take and peddle at a convention, I can do it.
I’ve seen this referred to as “vanity press”. A realm where amateurs can hack out books. But how many creators starting out with their first assignment come out of the gate with greatness? Most artists develop over time, gaining experience and improving skills as they work. Print on demand offers anyone a chance to grow in an environment that gets them some low-cost, low-risk exposure, which is priceless. It also would seem to allow more creators to develop their own personal style and unique creations, rather than being told what to work on, how and when by a giant corporation, who cares more about money than art.
If your aim is to work for the big guys, like Marvel and DC, what better way to build your portfolio than to take some initiative and self-publish a series yourself?
For my first time wading back into the publishing pool, I’ve chosen to go with a printing service called Ka-Blam. From what I’ve researched, they offer a great price, and a good product in a system that’s easy to use. You can choose all your options and calculate your price per unit right on their site.
The folks who run Ka-Blam also have an online store called IndyPlanet. It’s also print-on-demand based, so you can keep your entire catalog of offerings there, and when someone makes a purchase, they print it, they ship it, and you get paid. How cool is that? It’s very easy to list variant covers, graphic novel collections, etc.
And finally, they also have a service called ComicsMonkey that offers your print-on-demand books to retailers, so you have all the tools needed to get your work in the hands of potential readers.
It’s still up to me to promote my books and tell a good story. I have to be consistent, timely, provide the best quality in my work, and get out there and hustle them. But going to conventions and doing store signings is *fun*. It’s what I want to do. So, like I said before, I’m very excited to have discovered that paper publishing is not beyond the realm of us mere mortal creators!
*Note – IndyPlanet and ComicsMonkey were hacked recently. so they’re still in the process of cleaning them up and plugging stuff back in. You may get some warnings for a bit when visiting these sites.