How to Start a Comic Book Publishing Company
Becoming a publishing giant on the level of DC or Marvel is a very long shot. Many comics creators, however, have successfully created a company to publish their own work, plus possibly work from a few other indie creators. Self-publishing gives you creative freedom without having to worry that an established publisher such as Dark Horse or Image will reject your work. Successful self-publishing requires finding collaborators, a printer and an audience.
Some comics creators do it all -- write, pencil, layout and letter their stories. If you're not able to do it all, you have to find collaborators. You want someone with ability whose style meshes well with yours. It must be someone you can work with and who's willing to work for whatever you can afford to pay. Comics writer Jim Zub says you may have better luck recruiting a talented student than a comics professional.
Printing It Up
The physical format in which you publish will affect your bottom line. A digital-only release is easier to distribute than an indie comic, and it saves the cost of printing hard copy books. If you want a traditional, paper comic, you can pay a print-on-demand service, which makes it more affordable to print small runs. Stickman Graphics says that if you go black-and-white, a local printer in your town may be able to do the job. Talk to several printers, asking for price quotes, before you decide.
Plan the Distribution
If you want to put your comic into comic-book stores, you'll need Diamond Distribution. Diamond rules the market, delivering for everyone from DC and Marvel down to small indie presses. You need at least $2,500 in orders from retailers for Diamond to take you on, which is a high hurdle to cross. For digital comics, you can work through the comiXology app, which handles mainstream, indie and manga works. You can also try paying for a booth at a comics convention and handselling your work, or promoting the book online to individual buyers.
Sticking With It
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird became millionaires when their indie creation, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," hit it big. Most indie publishers, however, are lucky to cover costs. Jonathan Hickman, who writes both Marvel and indie books, told the website Paste that working in independent comics is gambling on your own talent. To win the gamble, you need faith in your own talent and willingness to create without an immediate cash reward.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.