Knowing Is Half The Battle: Katriona Chapman 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.

How do I move forward from an idea to a finished book? How should I approach the licensing of print and digital rights for my comics? Who owns the copyright for my work? How do royalties and advances work? There are a lot of questions about the publishing process, some of which are unique to comics, and some of which are standard areas of concern for working artists around the world.

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.

In May, SOLRAD reported on initial concerns with the UK-based press Nowbrow; we are continuing to pursue this story as more information becomes available. That initial call for information in May led to conversations with a variety of people in comics, including Sarah Wray from Astra Editorial, who has worked with publishers such as Avery Hill, Liminal 11, and Breakdown Press. Sarah had a great idea for a series of mini-interviews with currently published cartoonists, which our publisher, Alex Hoffman, coordinated with her. We plan to make this initial series of artist interviews an ongoing feature at SOLRAD, 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.

To begin this series, Sarah Wray, reached out to a number of cartoonists that she works with and provided them with the following prompting statements:

  • The main thing(s) I expect from a comics publisher is/are…
  • My #1 advice for submitting to agents and publishers…
  • A sneaky red flag or shady thing I would warn new creators to look out for…
  • I think it can be worth it to take a lower-paid illustration job in return for ___…
  • If a publisher/offer seemed too good to be true, here’s how I’d check it out…
  • An organization I’d go to for support if I needed advice or if something went wrong…
  • My best tip for promoting your work online and at cons…
  • To take care of your health / mental health as an artist, I recommend…
  • I wish someone had told me ___ before I started working in the comics industry…

We’ve coordinated follow up and worked with our interviewees on clarifying points when necessary. We’re calling this series: Knowing Is Half The Battle, and we hope you enjoy it.

Today we’re starting the series off with tips from Katriona Chapman. Chapman is an illustrator and comic artist/writer living in London. She’s also the head of marketing for Avery Hill Publishing. Chapman started out as a children’s book illustrator and has worked with publishers all over the world. Additionally, she publishes small-press books and zines under the name of Tomatito Press, and, in 2013, she co-created the graphite anthology Tiny Pencil alongside Amber Hsu. In 2015, Chapman created a zine called Katzine, and she’s published eight issues of it to date. Her first graphic novel, Follow Me In, was published by Avery Hill Publishing in 2018. Her new book, Breakwater, is scheduled to be published in November 2020.

Katriona Chapman

It can be tempting early on to be casual about agreements with clients/publishers, but get used to having a basic contract/license agreement that you get your clients to sign… or get used to understanding usage and rights if you’re signing contracts sent by clients. I’m pretty sure early on as a freelance illustrator I had publishers send me contracts that would’ve given them copyright, and even once ownership of any original art that I produced for a job. There’s rarely any need for a client to get all the rights to the artwork your produce… and they will usually amend this in the contract if you query it. 

You can and should negotiate. I was often given very tight deadlines, and the client would often be happy to give me more time if I just asked for it, and pointed out how little time they were giving me once I broke down the page count and working days I would have available to complete them. Try to think of clients as your equals and not the people with all the power who are throwing you a bone! They’re very unlikely to be working through weekends on this project, so you shouldn’t have to either.

Some agents can be just as predatory as some publishers when it comes to taking advantage of young inexperienced creators. If you get an offer from an agency, do lots of research and try to contact other creatives they represent. When I was signed with agencies I would often get emails from people thinking of signing and asking what my experience with them had been, and I was always happy to give honest feedback. That leads on to my last point:

Build up a network of trusted friends and contacts in your field, and share information. Early on I had lots of illustrator and comics contacts that I met through social media and became good friends with some of them. You can help each other out with advice, technical info, creative feedback, experiences with particular clients or agents, pay rate questions. Set up or join online or real-life groups and keep swapping information!

If you have tips about publishing you would like to share with SOLRAD, please email Daniel Elkin, our editor, at

Thanks to Sarah Wray for contacting cartoonists and setting up this series of micro-interviews.

SOLRAD is made possible by the generous donations of readers like you. Support our Patreon campaign, or make a tax-deductible donation to our publisher, Fieldmouse Press, today.

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February 2023


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