How to Get Started in Comics

So you’ve got an idea for a comic… but have no clue about writing comics, the industry, marketing, publishing, selling, where do you begin?

First,  let’s make a clarification.

I’m a mercenary comic book writer (among other things, but but for the purpose of this article let’s focus on that).  People pay me to write scripts for their IPs. I get a flat page rate to deliver the writing, often, with no other future payment considerations.

In this capacity, I am one cog in a production wheel.

The direct team typically also consists a penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, editor and cover artists. Indirect team members can consist of a whole bunch of other guys supporting the production and sale of the book, like marketing folks, social media managers, sales laisons and more.

Being a comic book writer, is different than being a comic book creator.

When you are a creator,  you are the one hiring the cogs (like me) to complete your wheel of comic book production. As a creator you own the IP, the responsibility of paying the bills to get the comic created falls on your shoulders. How you compensate your team is up to the individual, something I discuss in other articles, but money tends to work well.

If you come to my site often, you know that I tell you guys how it is 100% on point.

If you’re a comic creator, looking to produce a book or series, because you have the most awesome, original idea, that’s destined to make fat cash–take a step back and breathe.

  • It is really, really difficult to make money in indie comics your first time out.

  • It is even more difficult to make really good money in indie comics your first time out.

  • YES, it is possible to have a break out hit and have tremendous success, but in order for that to happen, many, many variables must come together in a perfect storm–not the least of which is an underlying foundation of superior quality across the board. Having a break out first time comic hit, REALLY IS, like winning the lottery. Make peace with that.

Notice I said, it is difficult… NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

If you’re making comics to make money.

Tread carefully.

Be wise.

Take a nod from chess and plan, not checkers and just start jumping around all over the place.

 

Back to it, if you’re reading this article, you’re more than likely a budding creator. Now that we’ve cleared up who has what responsibilities, here are 20 steps to producing your first comic.

1) Start saving money. Put it into your “comic fund.”

2) Read a lot of comics.

3) Support and get involved in the indie comic community.

  • Buy a lot of indie comics.
  • Connect with indie creators on social media.
  • Interact with them and retweet/repost their stuff–this is a great way to accomplish the next bullet.
  • Network. Make friends.
  • Go to cons. Be friendly. Make yourself known.

4) Read a lot of books on writing comics.

5) Read a lot of books on crafting story.

6) Discover and refine a killer story. This is the lynch pin of a successful comic.

7) Start promoting and building your fan base NOW. And don’t stop from this point forward.

8) Structure a bulletproof outline.

9) Decide what type of comic you’re going to produce. The smaller you go, the cheaper it is to produce. Focus on staying small for your debut. A one-shot, dual issue, or at most, a 4 issue mini-series.

10) Figure out your publication strategy and your marketing strategy.

  • Are you going to self-publish?
  • Are you going to pitch to publishers?
  • Are you going to crowdfund?
  • Though it ultimately depends on your budget, I urge you to do them all. Pitch. Crowdfund. Self-publish.

11) Create a plan of action–Plan B–in case your strategies don’t work out as expected. Do NOT skip this step.

12) Execute a solid script.

13) Hire your production crew. Editor, penciler, inker, colorist, letterer, cover artist, etc.

14) If the money you’ve saved since step 1 is enough, you can jump straight to step 17 and produce the book.
Alternatively, or if the money you’ve saved since step 1 just isn’t there, focus on the next step, your pitch package.

15) Visit publisher websites and check their submission guidelines. Follow their guidelines. Create approximately 6-10 pages of completed book, and shop it around. If you are picked up by a publisher, you will still need to pay to complete your book, but you will have support and momentum, and a reason to go have drinks with the crew.

16) If you are not picked up, and still don’t have the money to self-publish, crowdfund. Try and raise the money you need to produce your book through Kickstarter or another crowdfunding site. If you must be successful in your crowdfund, hire a consultant or at least spend ample time doing research and talking to other comic crowdfunders.

* If you fail your crowdfund, implement your plan B from step 11.

17) Promote. Promote. Promote.

18) Print the books.

19) Ship the books to those who pre-purchased. Sell the books online, at cons, on the corner.

20) Retire to a tropical island of your choice, rich and happy.

 

If you’re totally green to comics, you may find these links of particular interest:

http://nickmacari.com/comic-writing-trends/

http://nickmacari.com/other-books-on-writing/

ALL the articles under ECONOMICS OF COMICS, like this one;

http://nickmacari.com/how-to-find-an-artist-for-your-comic-script/

 

I can’t say following these 20 steps will make you a success for sure, but I can say following these 20 steps will only help increase the odds.

About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.

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