Knowing Is Half The Battle: Jesse Lonergan Gives Advice on the Publishing Industry

You’ve been working on your comic for what probably seems like forever and finally, you feel that you are ready to share it with the world. Of course, you can always go the route of self-publishing, but that carries with it a number of obligations and expectations — printing, shipping, marketing — that you may not have the desire or the knowledge to take on. Thankfully, there are a number of amazing small press comics publishers who are constantly looking to expand their catalog and bring new voices into the world.

Unfortunately, though, as much as there are ethical publishers who want what’s best for the artists they publish, there are also bad actors who prey on the talents of young and new creators.

Part of the goal of Fieldmouse Press, the nonprofit press that publishes SOLRAD, is to advance the comics arts. We see the continued social and economic success of cartoonists as integral to that goal. SOLRAD has devoted and will continue to devote resources to this area of focus.To this end, we are running an ongoing feature at SOLRAD called KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE where we both feature an artist every week and ask for their advice about navigating the world of comics publishing, best practices for the business of comics, and other general advice. Today on KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE we’re featuring tips from JESSE LONERGAN.

Jesse Lonergan was born in California, raised in Saudi Arabia and Vermont, and spent two years in Turkmenistan with the Peace Corps. His comics include Joe and Azat, All Star, and Hedra. You can find out more about Jesse’s work by visiting his website or you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.

Jesse Lonergan

Annoying Preamble

I’m not sure who exactly these tips are for, but one thing that I feel should be mentioned is that up until very recently, I had a day job that had nothing to do with art or comics, and I didn’t really look at art as a job or source of income, so if someone is looking for art to be their job or career, I might not be the best example for how to go about doing that. I have been very fortunate recently and gotten some wonderful opportunities, but I still feel like I am very much a novice on the business/industry side of things.

The main thing(s) I expect from a comics publisher is/are…

I expect a publisher to take care of the printing, marketing, and distribution, and I also expect them to be able to do that better than I can by myself. I’m willing to do my part, but if it feels like I am doing more than the publisher is on those fronts, I’ll be frustrated.

My #1 advice for submitting to agents and publishers…

I’ve had very little luck with submissions, and when I have submitted, a response beyond an automated one is very rare. Most of my published work has come about because somebody at a publisher contacted me or because I had developed a relationship with someone at a publisher. 

I think it can be worth it to take a lower-paid illustration job in return for ___…

With any illustration work, I mainly think about how interesting it is to me, how much I need the money, and whether the time involved in the job would prevent me from doing other things that I find more interesting, and it’s a balance between those three things. 

If a publisher/offer seemed too good to be true, here’s how I’d check it out…

I don’t think I’ve ever had an offer that has felt too good to be true, but I would check to see what the publisher/offerer had done previously and see if I could contact anyone who had had any experience with them in the past.

My best tip for promoting your work online and at cons…

I think most of my recent success has come because of my online presence. I have a website that I try to update regularly and it basically functions as a business card. I have an online store. I treat social media as work, so I post every day Monday through Friday, vary my post times, make sure what I post looks good (photographs with natural light as opposed to dim photos taken at midnight), and try to gauge what gets a response and what doesn’t and figure out why that is.

Also, and this may have more to do with my personality than anything else, I decided to keep my comments brief and post almost no personal things on my various accounts. It’s really about my art, not my pets or the status of my beard.

It’s been three or four years since I’ve done a convention, and I’m not sure how good I was at promoting myself at them. I think my main tip would be to take care of yourself. Conventions can be long and overwhelming, so making sure I have healthy snacks, staying hydrated, and taking breaks away from the noise and crowd are important to keep my mind in a good place.

To take care of your health / mental health as an artist, I recommend…

I feel like we all know how to do this: eat healthily, get some exercise, try to get eight hours of sleep, be present in what you are doing, have conversations that actually mean something, turn off all the screens… it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make sure you follow through, and that’s something I struggle with, and it’s also something that probably varies from person to person. For me, schedules and timers help a lot. I tell myself how long I will do something, answer SOLRAD questions – thirty minutes, and when the timer goes off I stop.

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