Graphic Novels and Self Publishing Comics

I recently became interested in the subject of self publishing comic books when I noticed that some authors have been using print on demand to publish graphic novels. Since print on demand is a toner printing process (think laser printer) it's well suited to black and white line art, as long as the the density (amount on lines on the page) isn't too high. I put a half dozen four panel comics in the first book I did with Lightning Source, and they came out OK even though Lightning Source uses creme paper for the smaller book sizes. The next book I did had 17 large line drawings in it (flowcharts) which came out great on the 50 lb. white paper.

Comic books are traditionally published in full color on offset presses. This presents several challenges to self publishing comic books, since color print on demand can't begin to compete with offset on price, and the heavy book covers aren't normal for comics. I did some research, the best links-to-links site I found for self publishing comics was David Law's Creating Comics. It quickly became apparent that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As with regular book publishing, the main challenges for comic book publishers are distribution and marketing. A few mammoth distributors, like Diamond, are seen as critical to making serious money in the game. Marketing is marketing, and I've written quite a bit on the subject of Internet book marketing that's applicable to bringing visitors to a comics site as well.

The real question, if you want to take advantage of the print on demand publishing model, is are you willing to try working with low line density graphic novels, so you can use a combined printing/distributing solution like Lightning Source. If your graphic novel can be printed by them, it means short discount distribution through Ingram and Amazon, and you can actually see significant income from a relatively low sales volume, as you can earn over half the cover price on every sale. I have seen some graphic novels published through the big subsidy presses, like iUniverse, Xlibris and AuthorHouse, all of whom use Lightning Source for their printing. If you can do your own marketing, cut out the middleman and go direct as nobody else is going to do it for you in any case.

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