Knowing Is Half The Battle: L. Nichols 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 L. NICHOLS.



L. Nichols, a trans man, artist, and MIT engineering grad was born and raised in rural southwest Louisiana, assigned female at birth and raised by conservative Christians. His graphic novel Flocks was released to critical acclaim and is his memoir of that childhood, his family, friends, and community…the flocks of Flocks, that shaped and re-shaped him.

Now a celebrated multi-disciplinary artist with a distinct voice that utilizes the language of science and engineering to add an additional layer of meaning and complexity to his art, L.’s illustrations and comics have appeared in the Village Voice, Gilt Taste, the Atlantic, the Zinester’s Guide to NYC, Smoke Signal, SMITH Magazine, the Nib, and the anthologies QU33R (Northwest Press), We’re Still Here (Stacked Deck Press) and Warmer: A Collection of Comics about Climate Change for the Fearful & Hopeful. He is the co-publisher (as Grindstone Comics) of the award-nominated comics quarterly, Ley Lines, with Czap Books. He lives and works as an illustrator, comic artist, graphic designer, educator, and sometime blacksmith with his wife and their two children in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can find out more by visiting L. Nichols’ website or following L. on Twitter or Instagram.



L. NICHOLS

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

I’m someone who’s published a graphic memoir, Flocks, with a comics publisher and also someone who co-publishes a quarterly comic series, Ley Lines. In both cases, I think that the top priority of a publisher is to support and promote the work, to make the artist feel like they believe in the work they’re doing. I want to find a publisher who’s as excited about my work as I am, who can help me find an audience I can’t find on my own. I want them to help encourage me, to push me to do better. And likewise, when publishing, I print work I find exciting and do my best to share it with the world. Every time a new Ley Lines issue shows up, I’m thrilled. Like, seriously, I can’t tell you how excited I am about literally every single issue. I feel blessed that artists trust me to print their work. I try to treat each like the gift it is.

My #1 advice for submitting to agents and publishers…

I’m currently in the process of trying to find an agent, so I don’t know how to answer that part of the question. But with smaller indie comics publishers, my advice would be to be consistently producing and sharing your work, building relationships, and finding places where your work will fit in with the other books being published. Also, persevere. One of the things I love about indie comics is how easy it is to make a minicomic to share. Don’t be afraid to share! Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.

A sneaky red flag or shady thing I would warn new creators to look out for…

Don’t work on spec. Don’t take a deal from someone who doesn’t respect your time. Your time has value! Get everything in writing. Don’t just agree to someone trying hard to sell you on THEIR dream.

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

I do lower-paid or free illustration jobs for projects I care a lot about but know there’s no budget for. I mean, I believe there’s more to value than just money, so sometimes, for me, the value is collaborating with a friend or promoting some cause that means something to me. Or sometimes I just want the challenge of a certain project but know I’m not getting paid what I’d wish. But I won’t do the work if I’m not getting something valuable to me in return. I just have a flexible view of what “value” means to me and am constantly evaluating that.

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

I’d ask around to people I know in the industry. Hopefully, someone would’ve heard something and know if it was actually too good to be true.

An organization I’d go to for support if I needed advice or if something went wrong…

I don’t really know? First, I’d ask my comics friends for advice. Then, if it was a legal matter, I’d probably call my lawyer and see if she had a colleague she’d recommend.

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

This is definitely not a good question for me hahahaha. I’m good at hiding! But my advice for you and also myself would be this: don’t downplay your own work. If you can’t advocate for yourself, why do you think anyone would read your work? There’s a trend I see of comics people saying stuff like “oh, yeah, I don’t know. It’s crap” and stuff like that. If you honestly thought it was crap, why did you spend an ungodly number of hours drawing it, then pay way too much for a table at a convention? Stand up for yourself! Be confident! But not like a used car salesman. 

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

I think it’s really important not to tie up your identity into just being a person who produces X. Your self-worth is not defined by your productivity, how many likes/shares you get, how many books you sell, etc. Nurture your whole life, and try to find community where you can. Try to build community outside of the comics world, too. Take breaks. Find hobbies. Explore and learn and grow. I get an immense amount of pleasure from hiking, biking, gardening, and spending time with my friends and family. When I feel more fulfilled in my whole life, it shows in my work. 

I wish someone had told me ___ before I started working in the comics industry…

Embrace the uniqueness you bring and lean into who you are as an artist. 


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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