Comics and cartoons
In part one
, I talked primarily about Print on Demand platforms within regards of self-publishing. This time I will explain more about tools and promotion relating to the pursuit.
Once you figure out where you want to publish, you’ll have a better idea of what the requirements will be. For making a comic, it’s really comes down to preference, but some programs are a lot easier to use than others for different things. Many people still use Photoshop or Sai, but it will unfortunately take a lot more than just that to be able to submit your comic for print for POD companies. (I can’t say the same for print shops, though).
Of course, you can use traditional media. A lot of people nowadays do; they don’t like the idea of being stuck behind a computer all day, and I can’t really blame them. However, utilizing tablet technology for drawing will save you a lot of money and make your life a lot easier. You won’t have to worry about making a mess or ruining a page because of a big massive ink splotch that came out of nowhere. You can erase with ease, making pictures a lot clearer. And nowadays, you can use digital technology and not sacrifice any of the organic quality you may want to portray.
With that said, I want to talk a little about technology options.
Wacom is pretty good for graphic tablets and a lot of programs support them. But while Wacom has been a leader in terms of graphic tablets, there are a lot of cons. The price, for one thing, is off-putting; everything from Wacom is insanely expensive. If you break your stylus or just want a new one, get ready to pay $100 for it, or more if they don’t have it in stock. Another issue is the drivers; Wacom drivers are unreliable at times and will behave oddly, sometimes crashing your system or failing to load.
Today, there are a number of alternatives to Wacom. Many of them have the same features and are nowhere near as expensive. Huion, for example, offers graphic monitor tablets at less than half the price of Wacom’s.
Although I still use a Wacom Intuos 5, I have moved on now to something much more handy and impressive in terms of hardware, mostly because of the price and quality: the iPad. The main reason I use the iPad now is Comic Draw, which I will get into later. But the price of it is far cheaper than anything close to what Wacom offers in terms of a display tablet. It’s portable and, if you don’t like the idea of using a stylus on glass, you can now get textured screen protectors to make the surface feel like paper.
InDesign is primarily used for desktop publishing, like book creation, flyers and magazines and using Photoshop makes it extra handy. It also allows you to save and export PDFs for internet and print uses, and while you can export files in Photoshop as PDFs, InDesign offers greater flexibility and lets you add more than one page which is very important for comics.
While InDesign does offer EPUB formats for export, it’s not very good. The EPUBs tend to be full of errors, so this application is useless for professional purposes.
If you’re publishing ebooks, you’ll need Sigil. Although there is a learning curve, Sigil enables you to make an EPUB and that should check it for errors to ensure that it won’t get rejected by publication companies. But, it seems like there are some issues related to this, particularly with Ingram Spark. Overall, it is still a good program.
Epubs, in case you didn’t know, rely a lot on XHTML. That’s right, you may have to know XHTML if you want to publish an effective ebook. In this way, Sigil kind of behaves like a website editor similar to dreamweaver but less complicated. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be screaming right now. But using Sigil for publishing comics is fairly easy, because you don't have to add words or anything else, just images -- basically copying and pasting images from your comic into the EPUB files. You do have to enter the “metadata” file information, like author, title of work, etc., but that’s probably the easiest part of dealing with EPUBs.
Unfortunately, until there is a better format or a better way to deal with submitting ebooks, you’ll probably be stuck with this program until something better comes out.
If you have an iPad that can be used with the Apple Pencil and you’re interested in creating comics, you’ll have to try out Comic Draw. It’s an app very similar to Photoshop, except it’s more centered on comic creation. It’s basically the one-stop shop for comic creation and will prevent you from going insane worrying about whether you have the correct perspective, and has uploading tools included, as well. It also comes with fonts and brushes, and its paint bucket tool is similar to Illustrator’s live paint. It also lets you export files as PSD files, EPUBs, etc., and you can import files, as well. However, it does cost about $10 to $15.
Now we get to the hard part, the part where nobody knows how it works but it’s essential for any self-publisher to master: promotion and public awareness. I’ve read a lot of books, blogs and everything on promoting art, and most of them all say the same thing: just saying it or even doing it doesn’t guarantee anything.
Keep in mind that promoting and creating are both full-time jobs.
Not everything here will work for you; these are just basic things that can help you promote yourself online:
- Get your own website
- Create a Blog (basically the same as a website)
- Create “social media” pages, (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
- Join communities or forums and contribute to them.
- Create a newsletter and ask people to sign up for your mailing lists
- Create videos, such as vlogs, drawing videos, how-tos, etc.
- Create and give away free content, such as previews or mini webcomics
Well, that’s the long and the short of it. Creating a blog is similar to having a website; some people will say go to Tumblr or whatever, and of course you can have mirrors that may help reach more people, but if you’re having blogs all over the place, you’ll probably end up losing a lot of time to it. It’s the same with having Youtube videos, you’ll have to edit and create them, and that takes time away from other things.
Each social media account you have, you will have to spread awareness of its existence and engage users on it. If there is no new content on a regular basis, then there will be no interest. The same goes for mailing lists, and I’ll tell you, a lot of people swear by mailing lists. But, if someone gets a lot of emails, they aren’t going to be terribly interested in reading your newsletter blogs and your communications will end up going right into the trash or spam folder. Most people will just ask for your Twitter or Facebook accounts, so if you want their emails, you’ll have to offer something in return, such as special features or comics.
So, if I sound pessimistic, I am. But I am gonna suggest to you something radical I read from the only person I really trust in terms of promotion, and that is: give away stuff for free. “For Free?! But how will I make money?” A lot of the time, people worry about their stuff getting pirated, which is a big issue. But let me tell you, if you’re drawing a comic and give away free little strips, black and white, or even censored content, it will do a lot to get people interested in it, especially if you use a webcomics platform such as Webtoons.com. If you get enough people interested, they may even pay you.
That said, when it comes to creating printed content, you can include extras along with it. Publish it in color, perhaps; include small articles and stories. People who really like your stuff will pay for it, and those who don’t right away may eventually, especially if you create other merchandise, like T-shirts.
Either way, it will take some time and effort, unless you hire someone else to do it, which may be a good idea for some due to the fact that a lot of people just aren’t good with the public. But that is going to cost you (unless you know someone personally who is willing to do it).
As for promotion at conventions, getting a good business card design is always something to consider with all relevant info you want to place on it. It’s probably a good idea you include something you’ve made yourself that showcases your art, rather than something too plain and boring. The cooler it looks, the more likely people will keep it – at least for longer. Make sure you include your name, contact information and website or portfolio.
Even if you don’t have a booth, you can bring some preview comics with you. If you do get a booth, make sure you have free goodies, like postcards or stickers. All of these can be purchased at Vistaprint.com, but if you are looking for other places, moo.com has higher quality business cards.
If you’re just a con-goer, go around and talk to everyone you can in artists’ alley, everyone. Feel free to make purchases or commissions, etc. It’s better to get honest feedback than none at all. If you can get people willing to review your work online, that could help an awful lot, too. Even negative reviews can be considered positive, depending on what is being critiqued. If the review is bad, thank them. If the review is good, thank them. If someone is continually trying to get a bad reaction from you, it’s a good idea to limit your engagement. The rule of two is a good rule, if you have to reply more than twice to someone who is basically trying to get you upset, it may be a good time to just ignore them. Don’t engage with trolls, and don’t lose your temper, at least in a way that will make others look at you in a negative light.
That doesn’t mean you have to take everyone’s advice on everything when it comes to feedback. If someone gives you advice and gets mad that you aren’t taking it, thank them for the advice but just say you are willing to go in another direction. Some people may not be polite about it, but try your best to be or it may turn away many other potential fans in the future.
I guess that is pretty much it. I’m sure there is a lot more, but there is always more to learn. Just keep trying to improve yourself and be better and don’t give up. Once you give up, it’s over. You lost. Because then there is no hope to improve, or any hope to keep going on with being successful, and there won’t be any more movement in terms of your work at all.
It seems like a lot of people who talk and tell their stories, whether it be in a book or an article, or whatever, they tend to get right to the good part when they succeed. They don’t talk about all the hard work, blood and tears that go into their art, because nobody tends to be that interested in it. If it were included, it would probably end up being 80% of the whole story.
Just keep doing what you want to do.