Knowing Is Half The Battle: Kristyna Baczynski 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 represents 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’re calling this series Knowing Is Half The Battle, and we hope you enjoy it.

Today we’re sharing tips from Kristyna Baczynski. Kristyna Baczynski is a cartoonist and illustrator. Her debut graphic novel, RETROGRADE ORBIT, was released in 2018, and her first author-illustrated children’s book, READ ALL ABOUT IT!, followed in 2019. As well as a long career in self-publishing, she has worked with clients and publishers such as 2000AD, Laurence King Publishing, Etsy, and Twitter. Baczynski has been nominated for multiple Eisner awards and British Comic Awards including the Best Short Eisner for her comic HAND ME DOWN. You can find her Shop Here and her Patreon Here.

Kristyna Baczynski

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I had, and in some ways still have, a tendency to want to be seen as a ‘good freelancer’; to try to keep my clients happy and foster good working relationships. This can create a power dynamic that makes you feel awkward asking questions and negotiating the finer points of a contract. Shake those feelings off now! You aren’t rocking the boat by being thorough, you’re being professional. A contract is a starting point and your client or publisher absolutely expects you to want to inspect it closely and make adjustments. 

A big red flag I’d warn creators to watch out for is if a client or publisher is not accommodating of your questions. It’s unprofessional for a client to be unable to answer specific enquiries. To me, it’s a signal that the rest of the project, if you were to take it on, would be rough going. If they can’t answer simple questions about royalties, advances, budgets, payments, or deadlines, then you can expect them to be similarly poor at communicating amends, editorial advice and sales information down the line. Avoid them.

Not every publisher or client will be a good fit for you. Making comics and illustrated books often requires close, collaborative working relationships with a handful of people. These may include editors, art directors, designers and marketing staff. The best, most enjoyable projects come from good working relationships, so finding a publisher that really ‘gets’ what you do, and (even better) is a fan of what you do, is brilliant. They’re going to be a champion of your work and get it out to distributors and readers. So if you sense that a publisher doesn’t feel that way about your book, then you can keep looking for another one. Shop your work around until it finds the right home.

If you feel out of your depth when approaching publishers or negotiating a contract, then reach out to your community. Comics is not a regulated industry and as freelancers we are often scattered and isolated in our working environments. Our individual knowledge and experience will always have areas that are lacking, but as a community we have a wealth of knowledge. This can be imbalanced because one person’s ‘community’ is different from another’s, due to age, location, networks, privilege, etc. Early in my career, I found that when I used the few connections I did have – even just following up from a conversation at a comic convention – people were willing to offer insight. That knowledge helped me make better decisions about projects. Now that I’m more established, I try to respond to inquiries from newer creators in the same way. In fact, there are really great freelancer groups and networks I still rely on (e.g. Litebox, Let’s Talk Pricing) because there’s stuff I don’t know too. If you don’t see a group or community that feels like a good fit for you, try to create that space by making your own.

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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