Friday, October 16, 2015

Self Publishing Your Independent Comic Book - Part 2

Part two - a day late! - in my series of posts about self publishing. This one is about production. I'm writing from the point of view of a writer-artist who has both done freelance work and hired others to do freelance work.

Generally the way a comic book starts is someone has an idea - typically a writer (or someone who likes to think of themselves as a writer, anyway). I mentioned in my last post, ideas are a dime a dozen; to self publish, you need to turn the idea into a comic book. That means producing around 24 finished pages... and that means art. (I don't go to much into script writing because I don't do it and I'm not an expert at it. If it's something I'm drawing, I do it storyboard style. If it's for another artist, I do it storyboard style... then just write out what my storyboards show.)

One thing many creators (i.e. writers) fail to understand is just how much sheer labor is involved in the creation of the artwork for a comic book. A single page of comic art can take 8 to 10 hours to draw. TO DRAW. Nothing has been colored or lettered yet! It can be done faster, but you know the old saying: you want it done fast, or you want it done RIGHT? So decent art takes time. Your options therefore are have the art hacked out for free by a friend or a sub-par artist; hire someone good who is also cheap but has a day job or some other main gig, and wait; or hire a pro freelancer. That freelancer may charge $100 plus per page to pencil and ink the art. (They may charge way more than that. If it's less, either you're lucky or they're crazy!) Any price of $100 to $200 a page for inked comic art, no colors or letters, is NOT OUT OF LINE. Not if the work is good. Yeah, that means your comic book is going to cost between 2 and 5 thousand bucks to have it drawn, if you get somebody decent.

Where do you come up with that money? Savings. Credit card. Cash out a 401k. None of these are necessarily good ideas. Kickstarter? Maybe. I had one successful one and one that I pulled the plug on when it became clear it wasn't gonna make it. But if you want the book to look professional, you have to expect to spend money. Don't complain about fairness, and don't whine about "artists holding all the power" - an artist draws for a living. Meaning to draw your stuff, it's taking time away from other work they could be paid for.  Don't expect them to work for free or for nebulous promises of "a cut of the profits." Most of the time the profits are so razor thin, that share will barely cover the sheer gallons of coffee that artist needed to draw your book. The book is your baby (unless you created and developed it with an artist from the beginning, with the understanding that no money is being exchanged up front). Budget to have the book professionally drawn, and expect that to be a large part of your expenses.

(Another word about artists: make sure your artist knows how to prepare work for comic book publication. You might want to check with your printer, if you've found one, to get their specific trim / live area specs. I've worked with different printers, and I think the last one I worked with had a 6 5/8 by 10 1/8 trim, with the live area being a quarter inch inside all around. Check first, because it does differ sometimes. You don't want art or word balloons getting unintentionally cut off.)

What about coloring? It's not a necessity for self published books. My book was black and white up until, well, now. Ask your artist if they know a decent colorist. Good colors will make okay art turn gorgeous. Bad colors will make great art look, uh, not great. Coloring is less than art but can still run anywhere from $30 to $80 a page. Consider someone to at least do grey tones on the book, which (to my eye) elevates straight line art to something more polished... unless the style lends it self well to stark black and white.

Lettering is a specialized skill, and having both lettered my own work and hired professional letterers, I cannot recommend highly enough that you find a good letterer. In my experience, they aren't that expensive, and they will elevate the professionalism of your book. Bad lettering will make an otherwise pretty well-produced comic look totally amateurish.

So, in summation: plan to spend money, or plan to wait - a long time - to get the book put together. Don't skimp on the art or the lettering. Any idea worth executing is worth executing well.

Next up: publishing!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Self Publishing Your Independent Comic Book - Part 1

I decided to blow the dust off the ol' blog and write a few in-depth updates. Not updates, really, but more of a "how to" kind of thing. As someone who has been self publishing for awhile now, I've kind of figured out what and what not to do, and I thought maybe some of my experience might be helpful for someone else. So what I'm gonna do is a series of posts detailing my adventures in self publishing, such as they are, in the off chance that anybody new to the experience might be able to glean some small bit of wisdom from what I've gone through. (I hope to update every Friday but to be completely honest, that'll depend on my workload.)

Before I dive in, a caveat: all of this, unless otherwise noted, is my personal experience. From doing this for a few years now, I've learned that if you ask a hundred different people for their story as regards self publishing, you'll get a hundred different, wildly-varying tales. So what applies to me, a white guy in his mid-30s with a college degree, a wife, and a mortgage (but no kids), might not apply to you. I started this process 4 years ago and am preparing to relaunch my book, so I think I have some insight on self publishing from the standpoint of the average no-name uncool indie cartoonist.

This is a high level overview of self publishing. In my experience, the path sort of goes like this:

IDEA: Self explanatory. You have an idea. The easy part. Ideas are a dime a dozen.
PRODUCTION: Writing the script, doing the art (or having it drawn), lettering, all that stuff. Still easy. It can get expensive, if you're not drawing the book yourself, but there's a saying: if the problem can be fixed with money, it isn't really a problem. Raising the money might be tough but there are ways around that, if you're really serious about producing the comic book.
PUBLISHING: Basically, the printing of physical copies of your comic book. Digital distribution is a thing now but the vast majority of comics are still sold the old fashioned way: floppy magazines. We aren't talking about submitting to publishers; that would not be self publishing (obviously).
SELLING: ...The tough part. How do you sell the book? If you ran a Kickstarter, once the book is in the hands of the backers, how do you get it beyond that audience? Selling has two parts, near as I can tell:

...Those last two are the toughest nuts of all to crack. Even distribution isn't impossible; if you can get Diamond to carry the book - and if it's of professional quality, they'll probably at least take a chance on it - distribution isn't so tough. Marketing is, though. It's hard to figure out, and it's EXPENSIVE. There's a reason major movie studios spend half of whatever they spent on producing the movie to market it.

So this is just part one of this how-to guide, which isn't really how to self publish so much as it is how I went about it. I won't really be covering the idea part, because who's qualified to tell you whether your idea is good or not? Next week I'll talk about production of the actual comic - everything that happens before the book is printed.

Hope to see you then!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Five months later...

Has it been THAT LONG since my last post? Yikes! I've been so active on the Toaster Guy Facebook page that I'm afraid I let the blog languish in obscurity. Let's kickstart it again!

Speaking of Kickstart... the campaign to crowd-fund the second volume of The Strange Adventures of Toaster Guy was unsuccessful. I raised about the same amount of money I did the first time around, which was about a third of what I needed to turn Toaster Guy into something with more market appeal - namely, coloring it.

But because I am thick-skulled, volume two will go ahead... it just might be a little while.

I'm working with a startup small press publisher who has agreed to help fund the production of Toaster Guy thru twelve issues - that includes re-doing the first four (particularly the embarrassingly crude first issue) and eight more, a combination of standalone comics and 3 or 4 issue story arcs. I'm hoping to hit a lot more big conventions next year (in addition to Heroes Con and Mega Con) and give Toaster Guy a big push.

So that's what's up in the world of Toaster Guy... Not a whole lot at the moment! Which is pretty lame, as updates go... I just hated to let the blog lie fallow for so long without a post.

Come find me on the Toaster Guy Facebook page, if you're not there already!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Come see Toaster Guy at Heroes Con!

Hey Toaster Guy army! Sorry for the lack of updates - I've been good about the Facebook page, but lousy about the blog. But here's your convention schedule update! I'll be appearing at Heroes Con THIS WEEKEND, at table AA-205. I'll also be appearing at Taking Flight 6 in South Charleston, SC in July (more details forthcoming), Tampa Comic Con in August, and Creative Con (I think that's what it's called) in September! Lots of chances to come see yours truly LIVE and IN PERSON (what a treat, eh?) and fill the holes in your Toaster Guy collection.

Also, I'm selling prints, like this piece of Inspector Gadget fan art! I tried not to go too grim and gritty on this one. In fact, want to see a step by step process, from sketch to finished digitally colored art? OK! Here it is, in pictures!

This is my rough, done in Manga Studio. This was just for the idea... I decided I needed to get more action into the pose - a trusted friend told me my single-character pieces were too stiff and boring.

The pencils clearly show I added action, and I decided to swap the gun and magnifying glass. I liked the idea of him peering at the viewer thru the lens. The gun I was going to go with a Luger, but that's all I ever draw so I thought I'd change it to something else... I googled "pistol" and that's what I came up with! (You can see I ain't exactly a gun expert.) I added shadows throughout to help move your eye thru the piece. Up top could have used more shadows - maybe a black sky - but I wanted to add some color up there, so I left it. Also, note the trash cans... I forgot to ink in some shadows.

The finished art! I am not a colorist, but I am also free compared to hiring someone. So I colored it myself and I think it turned out pretty good. I'm colorblind, so this is half eyedropper tool (using Inspector Gadget screen shots, then tweaking the colors to my liking as best as I could tell) and half just winging it. My wife okayed the colors so I left it as is.

That's it! If you're headed to Heroes Con, please stop by and say hello!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Post MegaCon Report and Other Comic Con Stuff

Man have I been neglecting the Toaster Guy blog lately! Please tell me you're followin' me on Facebook and not missing all the cool goings-on!

MegaCon was such a huge, unqualified success! Just about sold out of Toaster Guy #3 and 4, and several people bought complete runs. One group of teenage boys bought the first issue on day 1, came back day 2 for the second, and found me on day 3 just to get the last two! BUT - the coolest - the greatest thing - was this totally unexpected and unplanned cosplayer showing up AS TOASTER GUY!! The great Jason Fifer, who I met at a previous convention and who is part of the Toaster Guy army here in town, put a TON of time and effort into this outfit. Check it out!

...I'll also be appearing at ALT*Con in Tallahassee this coming weekend (4/12-13), and at several upcoming conventions including Heroescon in Charlotte on June 20-22; Tampa Bay Comic Con on August 1-3 (both of those are in tandem with my artist buddy Savy Lim); Creative Con in Panama City Beach; and more to come!

Come see me and say hi! Find me on Facebook (Aaron Hazouri or The Strange Adventures of Toaster Guy), Twitter and Instagram (@cartoonistaaron on both), or heck even Google Plus (Aaron Hazouri)!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Here it is guys! Last issue! Come see me at MegaCon! Table yellow 7!

Here's the final issue! I'll have this, copies of issues 1-3, and lots of other great stuff at MegaCon this weekend! Come see me at table Yellow 7!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


The saga of the Strange Adventures of Toaster Guy is at an end - the 4th issue is at the printer as I type! That's it... for now! Next comes the part where I (and the enlisted men and draftees of the Toaster Guy army) hit the ground running and see if anybody is interested in publishing it on a bigger scale!

Anybody who followed me from the beginning has seen the professional level of the comics go from this...


...To this:

I think I've improved. I hope so!

Anyway - I'll be at MegaCon in Orlando on March 21-23 at table Yellow 7... Come say hi!!