How to publish an original graphic novel

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Og
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How to publish an original graphic novel

Post by Og » Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:22 pm

All right. As some of you know, I have been SEE-cretly working on a graphic novel. Right now, I'm assembling a 10 page sample, pitch, and cover idea, and I've begun thinking about what to do with it when I'm done. My ideas follow. I've written this up very quickly without a lot of thought, just to get the concepts out there. I'm sure there are other approaches, and I'm open to them as well, but here are some ways I can see getting this thing to market.

I'm looking for your opinions, your experience with these techniques, and other ways and means I have overlooked.

1. Use it to get an agent in an attempt to get a publishing deal.
PRO: A skilled agent may be able to get me a much better publishing deal, and possibly alternate media rights (online, film, etc), than I could.
CON: Getting the right agent interested is a longshot, perhaps even longer than going it alone. And having him rep my book at that level also seems almost too good to be true. Almost.

2. Use it to get a publishing deal from a well-known creator-rights-owned comics publisher with whom I have contacts.
PRO: No revenue sharing to my agent.
CON: I'm no agent, and publishers like this have their own drawbacks and revenue sharing models. Also, from what I hear, they do little to nothing to promote it in the comics arena, and nothing to promote it outside that arena.

3. Publish the graphic novel online, try to build readership, and release the book myself as I reach certain content goals (book length, chapter breaks, etc)
PRO: Bypassing the gatekeepers and dealing directly with my audience is very appealing.
CON: Will anyone buy a book they've already read online? I know a lot of you are doing similar things, but what is your ratio of readers to buyers? (My feeling is that graphic novels specifically will have a different success rate than gag-a-day strip reprint collections, but I'm still interested in your experience on this point.)

4. Publish a portion of the graphic novel online free as a teaser, and offer the rest of the book for sale.
PRO: Time-honored and proven technique of giving people a taste and asking them to pay to get more
CON: It works in software, drugs, and films. Will it work for comics? Would that "buy the book to see the rest" moment turn off the potential audience?
Last edited by Og on Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dark77778
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Post by dark77778 » Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:47 pm

Hey Og! I'm in the midst of doing the same...sorta. It's secretly in the works as well, but only temporarily until I can find a solid angle to approach it at.
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Post by briantaylor » Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:11 pm

I say, try to get an agent or go with a comic book publishing company. That's the plan I have for my own stuff anyway. Seems to be the most direct route. Build up momentum and reader base doing smaller stories with the same characters. Use these to pitch to agents, comic book publishers like Image or book publishers like Scholastic. If the idea is solid and you have a large body of work showing you're capable, I don't see why you wouldn't eventually find success.

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Og
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Post by Og » Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:16 pm

Thanks, Brian. I appreciate it!
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jdalton
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Re: How to publish an original graphic novel

Post by jdalton » Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:37 pm

Og wrote:1. Use it to get an agent in an attempt to get a publishing deal.
Sure, but there's no reason to do this instead of pursuing a publisher. Why not do both at the same time and see how it pans out?
2. Use it to get a publishing deal from a well-known creator-rights-owned comics publisher with whom I have contacts.
Yes, definitely, but try as many publishers as you can think of.
Will anyone buy a book they've already read online?
I would say yes, but it's a difficult thing to prove with only a few success stories out there to look to.

Keep in mind, though, the publishing industry is in a bad way right now. It's gonna be tough. That's no reason not to try, but it's something to keep in mind. :(
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Re: How to publish an original graphic novel

Post by wendy w » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:18 pm

Og wrote: Will anyone buy a book they've already read online?
I think people will. I know I would if I had the money to spare.
What would probably help though is if the book offers stuff the site can't, things like additional artwork and notes are always good, not just when it comes to stuff that's previously been online, but it's used by the likes of DC and Marvel to resell in book form what people have already paid for in issue form and it works.

Another thing that I think would be a nice addition to make it more attractive is the inclusion of some kind of short after the main story. Maybe a mini origin story, or a quick catch up with a character that's been left behind by the main story line, something like that.
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Re: How to publish an original graphic novel

Post by Blom » Fri Nov 07, 2008 4:55 am

Og wrote: 3. Publish the graphic novel online, try to build readership, and release the book myself as I reach certain content goals (book length, chapter breaks, etc)
PRO: Bypassing the gatekeepers and dealing directly with my audience is very appealing.
CON: Will anyone buy a book they've already read online? I know a lot of you are doing similar things, but what is your ratio of readers to buyers? (My feeling is that graphic novels specifically will have a different success rate than gag-a-day strip reprint collections, but I'm still interested in your experience on this point.)
This question I think you can get an answer from Scott Christian Sava, he started to publish The Dreamland Chronicles online and it became a imprint at a publisher. http://www.thedreamlandchronicles.com/
I think it always come down to one thing, and that is the quality of the work you make. Dreamland is both unique and good storytelling. And last time I was in the comic book shop in Bergen/Norway his book was on the main shelf along side the big Norwegian and foreign comic book creators.

There are different ways, and if the story wants out it will find a way. But it is hard work to get there, so don`t give up. ;)
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Post by thirdeyeh » Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:25 am

This is very much the same question I am pursuing with The Unknowns that I've shown you Og. After seeing some of what you're doing as well, this may be helpful. Personally I've landed on pursuing book publishers like Scholastic and Hyperion because I think its the most successful route for the story I'm doing, meaning thats how I think it would best find its audience. Which would also entail seeking out an agent. If I took it online, chances are a much younger readership (which is my target audience), like elementary level, would miss out on it and the web may not be the best medium to help youngsters keep up with an ongoing story, especially if it comes out in spurts. The traditional comics publishers I think may miss the boat completely with it since it seems like they aren't really producing books for this age group. Building up content and self publishing is always good route as well, but again consider the audience and the effort you are willing to put in to getting the word out there. People will buy something they've read online, consider how many people still buy books when you can just as easily now, go into Barnes and Noble and read the whole thing.

So I think first off consider your audience and the best means to get to them. But you can always go online anyways and still pursue another route. At least then you're getting the work out there and presenting opportunities for discovery outside of the channels you've gone down.

Hope that helps.
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Post by Og » Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:16 am

Wow - thanks, everybody!

-Og
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Re: How to publish an original graphic novel

Post by Chris Schweizer » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:03 pm

This is pure conjecture on my part, based on my very little experience, but I thought I'd pipe in.


1. Use it to get an agent in an attempt to get a publishing deal.
PRO: A skilled agent may be able to get me a much better publishing deal, and possibly alternate media rights (online, film, etc), than I could.
CON: Getting the right agent interested is a longshot, perhaps even longer than going it alone. And having him rep my book at that level also seems almost too good to be true. Almost.


Quite a few publishers will deal with the media rights for you. They want a nice payout, too, so they'll negotiate for as much money as possible. As for agents, they're not really of any use in regards to getting published by the comic publishers, and the mainstream book publishers don't really touch anyone who's not an established property (with incredibly rare, super brilliant book exceptions). Most anyone who lands a contract with Simon and Shuster, Hyperion, or Scholastic is already well regarded in the comic world, even if they've never done a graphic novel. Most, if not all, have had some comic award nominations, if not wins, usually for the "promising talent" categories. If you don't have that sort of industry recognition yet, an agent is probably jumping the gun.

2. Use it to get a publishing deal from a well-known creator-rights-owned comics publisher with whom I have contacts.
PRO: No revenue sharing to my agent.
CON: I'm no agent, and publishers like this have their own drawbacks and revenue sharing models. Also, from what I hear, they do little to nothing to promote it in the comics arena, and nothing to promote it outside that arena.


There are plenty of creator-rights-ownership publishers (Top Shelf and Oni spring to mind first) that market the hell out of their stuff, in and outside of the comic market. Why go with one who doesn't, just because you have contacts? You can make contacts by showing your work at a show, passing on the first chapter to publishers. If it's good, you've now got contacts. Self-publish before giving it to someone who isn't going to promote it; at least you know that YOU will.

3. Publish the graphic novel online, try to build readership, and release the book myself as I reach certain content goals (book length, chapter breaks, etc)
PRO: Bypassing the gatekeepers and dealing directly with my audience is very appealing.
CON: Will anyone buy a book they've already read online? I know a lot of you are doing similar things, but what is your ratio of readers to buyers? (My feeling is that graphic novels specifically will have a different success rate than gag-a-day strip reprint collections, but I'm still interested in your experience on this point.)

Finish the whole thing and THEN put it up. A GN takes a long time to do, and they're meant to be read in one sitting. Posting a page at a time sucks. It's why the long-form narrative webcomic isn't NEARLY as successful as short strips. There are exceptions, of course - SMILE springs to mind - but serials/installments need to be CREATED as such in order to create a satisfactory reading experience. Or, at the very least, put up chapters. But not pages.

Folks want to hold stuff in their hand. Dr. Horrible was free, but I bet you that the DVD sales will be good. There's the want to support that which you're passionate about, but also, ESPECIALLY with books, the want to have a tangible object.

4. Publish a portion of the graphic novel online free as a teaser, and offer the rest of the book for sale.
PRO: Time-honored and proven technique of giving people a taste and asking them to pay to get more
CON: It works in software, drugs, and films. Will it work for comics? Would that "buy the book to see the rest" moment turn off the potential audience?


I sort of did this, but less to "hook" people and more to give them a preview. I thought the best way to do this is to have the first "chapter" of the book (in my writing I broke it up into six parts). I have no idea as to whether or not it helped sales or created interest; I just thought it fair to let potential readers get a good idea of what they'd be paying for. With the tough economic situation, the dollar only goes so far, and the last thing I want is someone to get my book only to decide that they don't like it a few pages in.

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Post by Ashwara » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:47 pm

Hmm, I have a related question.

If publishing independently, would it be better to go through a place like Ka-blam and comiXpress, or through some other printing press?

And what about distribution? If I don't have a publisher, how do I get my comic to stores across the world? Or even just state, and/or country.

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Post by PerryDS » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:58 am

This is my plan if I ever get to it

... go through a local printer, ... I do layout and design as part of my business so I can set it up.

Print between 2000 to 5000 units ... not sure if it will be colour throughout or B/w.

I have a contact with a local rep that can get the book into the local Chapters bookstore chain, and I can approach other local independent outlets to sell. The rep will even arrange book signing events across the western region of Canada.

I already have a site set up, so I would get a paypal account set up to sell online. I will place a intro excerpt online.

Set up an agreement with Diamond comics distributers.

Book into some of the larger literary and comic book conventions.

Send some copies to local papers for press review ...

More stuff yet to be determined...

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Post by jdalton » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:33 pm

Ashwara wrote:If publishing independently, would it be better to go through a place like Ka-blam and comiXpress, or through some other printing press?
Personally, I am too much of a control freak to hand over so much of the process to someone else. I would rather do a print run with a printer, keep the books in a big box in my house, and distribute as needed. I also like having total control over book dimensions, paper quality, etc. But that's not to impugn the reputations of well-regarded print-on-demand companies. Ka-Blam's rates for colour printing are very good, from what I've heard.
And what about distribution? If I don't have a publisher, how do I get my comic to stores across the world? Or even just state, and/or country.
*sigh* Well, that's the trick, isn't it? Getting your book onto Amazon, from what I've seen, isn't that hard. But Diamond (virtually the only distributor of comic books to comic book stores) makes things pretty darn difficult for the self-publisher. Bookstores might be tricky too because, if I'm not mistaken, they choose their books from catalogues sent by each publisher separately and I don't know how one would go about getting in on that pool if you've only got one book to your name. It seems like a lot of self-publishers resort to building up lists of comic book stores on their own and emailing them one at a time with news of a book they would like them to carry. I haven't tried that yet myself but I plan to soon.
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Post by jdalton » Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:22 am

If you haven't seen it yet, this recent news is probably going to quash a lot of self-publishers' hopes of ever being distributed by Diamond. I know it has mine. It was already pretty unlikely I could have met the old quota, now that they've nearly doubled it there's no chance.
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Post by Blom » Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:47 am

Diamond is something that I feel is strange about the US. As far as I know it is the only company that is distributing comics in US beside net-book and comic shops. In Norway we got 3 (not that it helps...) and in nearly all shops, like food stores, magazine stores and kiosks have comics, some of them from small companies. Maybe it is time that you got some new to distribute comics and books. A small press distribution to shops. ;)
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