Hello hello, dear readers! Before I get into the nitty-gritty, allow me to introduce myself. My name is areyoshi, and I’m a self-publishing comic artist. I’ve been a dedicated webcomic creator since 2009, and I self-published my first comic in 2011.
So. Getting started, I feel that I should briefly explain what self-publishing actually is. In simplest terms, self-publishing is the release of your content without the aid of a professional publisher. A good example? Ordering your book from an independent print company rather than submitting it to OniPress, Dynamite, or somewhere similar.
You may ask yourself, “Self, why wouldn’t I want to submit my story to a big house publisher? If they pick me, I’d be famous!” For starters, your mileage may vary with that famous thing. The book business can be very finicky, for more reasons than one, but I find the comic book business to be especially picky. Fear not, this is not going to be a rant about ‘the Big Two’ and inflexible art styles.
· If you self-publish, you retain all rights to your project
· Nobody gets a cut of the profits; all money comes back to you
· You get to tell your story how you want to, without interference
· Your stock is completely under your control
All of the above.
That isn’t a joke! Let me rephrase everything;
· Retaining your rights may limit the reach of your book
· You are solely responsible for printing expenses
· You may be missing out on valuable input about your work
· Your stock is completely under your control (so many trips to the post office…)
Truthfully, self-publishing has its good and bad qualities. Personally, I like self-publishing because it’s more about holding my book, having a tangible object, my labor of love actually being in my hands. If I happen to sell some books at a convention, then all the better.
Self-publishing may be appealing to you, but if you’re like Past Me, there’s some things you need to know before you send your book off somewhere.
Things I Wish I’d Known:
· Screen Resolution VS Print Resolution
· Live Area and Margins
· Files Types
· Where To Go
Past Me was excited to get my first self-published comic in my hands (this was back in the olden days of 2011.) Unfortunately, I was fresh out of high school and severely lacking in setup knowledge. Thus, I suffered at the hands of screen resolution.
According to our friend Google, screen resolution is defined as: “The number of horizontal and vertical pixels on a display screen. The more pixels, the more information is visible without scrolling. Screen resolutions have a pixel count such as 1600x1200, which means 1,600 horizontal pixels and 1,200 vertical pixels.”
What the heck? Alright, here’s an example…
Because I drew my first book according to screen resolution instead of print resolution, everything was too small! What looks big on your screen might not be as big as you thought when it comes time to print. If you print too small, you end up with a fuzzy print quality, which, frankly, embarrasses me to this day.
Good practice is to find out what size comic you want to print. Standard comic book size is 6.75” X 10.25”. Manga is 5” X 7.5”, and Magazine size is 8” X 10.5”. I recommend picking whatever size book you want before you start drawing your pages… Otherwise there may have to be some awkward cropping down the road, and you could end up regretting your page sizing.
I have two series that I self-publish right now. One, Optical Disarray, is drawn at Manga size. The other, Third Kingdom, is drawn at Standard size. My comics are drawn digitally, meaning that I draw them directly on the computer with a graphics art tablet (I use an Intuos Pro from Wacom.)
To ensure that Optical Disarray will print without an issue, I made a 1650 pixels X 2325 pixels template file which I open for each new page. It includes a graph (for help with straight lines and paneling,) a bleed area, and a live area.
A bleed area is the very edges of your page, where it’s alright if something gets cut off at the printer. It’s very useful when you want your art to just flow off the page.
A live area is where you want any and all necessary information to go. Important expressions or speech bubbles should go here, so that they are absolutely safe from being cut off by accident.
The same is true for Third Kingdom. Because it is larger than Optical Disarray, it is drawn at 2100 pixels X 3150 pixels.
When I’m finally done with all of the pages of a book, I prepare the files for printing. For many places, this means making sure final page resolution is set to at least 300 (as opposed to the usual default of 75,) and resaving the images to the company’s preferences. This usually involves opening Photoshop and changing my image mode from RGB to Grayscale. If your comic is in color, however, you should learn about the difference between CMYK and RGB and decide for yourself how to proceed. The independent publisher I go through prefers their pages to be sent in RGB mode, which isn’t really an industry standard, so I definitely implore you to do your own research.
From the beginning, I’ve used Ka-Blam, an operation based in Florida since 2005. They’re easy to work with, don’t charge a setup fee, and provide templates and easy directions to help make your experience better. They prefer their images to be sent as .TIFF files or as a .PDF. The .TIFF option is very convenient for folks who aren’t familiar with setting up a .PDF.
A downside to Ka-Blam, however, is that their customer support is only through an on-site messaging process. You get email alerts when you have a message, but it still doesn’t beat talking on the phone to quickly resolve issues when it’s necessary.
When preparing your book, remember to double and triple check everything. Files can be altered, but printing is forever.
I’d like to end this with a personal note; anyone can draw a comic, and anyone can get it published. Self-publishing is not any less ‘real’ than going through a big house publisher. You can buy an ISBN for your book. You can make deals with retailers. There are so many things you can do, and I encourage everyone to pursue the opportunities ahead of them.
Find me as @areyoshi on all social media! (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc; )
Visit my website to read my comics! areyoshi.com
Got a question? Feel free to contact me via email