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.
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.
For the initial interview series, Sarah Wray from Astra Editorial, who has worked with publishers such as Avery Hill, Liminal 11, and Breakdown Press, reached out to a number of cartoonists that she has worked 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…
To add to the dialogue, we continue to reach out to cartoonists using this format. Today on The More You Know we’re featuring tips from MariNaomi
MariNaomi is the Author/illustrator of: Kiss & Tell, A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22, Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories, Turning Japanese,I Thought YOU Hated ME, and the Life on Earth trilogy. She is also the Founder and administrator of the Cartoonists of Color and Queer Cartoonists, and Disabled Cartoonists databases. As well, MariNaomi hosts the Podcast, AskBiGrlz. You can find her on most of the social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And you can also support her Patreon.
An organization I’d go to for support if I needed advice or if something went wrong…
My agent! This is one of the main reasons to have an agent, if you ask me (which you did haha). They’re not just there to find you a publisher. A good agent will advocate for you and your work, make sure your contracts are fair, step in if something goes wrong, and go after late payments. Most importantly, an agent is (hopefully) someone who has a lot of experience working with publishers, so you can go to them if you’ve got an issue or question you’re not comfortable asking your publisher directly.
My best tip for promoting your work online…
Promotional best practices are quite different with each platform, so I’ll just list a few:
If you don’t have a website, then get one immediately, and list it in the profile of every social media platform you use. Include links to your work, an online portfolio, a bio (be professional — leave the cutesy bios to newbies), a bibliography (add links to where folks can buy your work!), an artist statement if you feel like it, and easy-to-find contact information. If you’ve done interviews and podcasts, link to those. If you have a CV, this is a good place to put it. If you do events, list them here and link to upcoming ones. This should be the place a person can go to learn all about what you do as an artist. A good website will show people that you’re serious about your work.
On Twitter, people expect a certain amount of self-promotion, so you shouldn’t apologize when you’re announcing or sharing new work. That’s what folks want from you! That said, if all you do is self-promote, you’ll get unfollowed or muted pretty quickly.
Make sure to balance out your feed with other stuff: Promote other artists. Talk about your interests. Interact with people in a thoughtful, engaging way. It’s kind of like going to a party. If all you do is talk about your work, people will lose interest.
Use the pinned post option. If you have a viral tweet and you get a bunch of strangers looking at your profile, the pinned post should represent who you are or the work you do. That post will determine whether or not they’ll follow you.
Add your website to either your bio or your pinned post.
Participate in hashtags such as #VisibleWomen or anything that applies to you, and make sure to always include images of your best work. This is a great way to get the attention of new followers.
Don’t auto-DM new followers (instant unfollow!).
Don’t follow/unfollow/follow/unfollow/follow people in quick succession to try to get their attention, it’s annoying and will get you blocked.
Instagram is kind of the opposite of Twitter as far as self-promotion goes. Aside from your friends and family maybe, potential followers mostly don’t care for photos of your friends and family, so make a separate account if you must post those pics. (I have a separate account for my dogs and cats and butterfly raising, for example, whereas I post it all on the same account on Twitter.)
Curate your feed so that it’s just your best work, so if a stranger happens upon it, your art will entice them into following you. I regularly cull my Instagram page to delete unpopular posts and try to learn what’s working and what isn’t.
Use hashtags–they work!
If you want some guidance, look around at Instagram-successful creators’ pages and see what they’re posting, what hashtags they’re using, how they interact with their followers.
If you’ve got a profile on my Cartoonists of Color, Queer Cartoonists, or Disabled Cartoonists databases (get on it if you qualify!), the most important thing to do is include an image link that best represents your work. When potential readers, booksellers, editors, art directors, etc., are scrolling through hundreds of creators, it’s the images that initially catch their eye.
If you’re a cartoonist of color, list as many ethnicities as you identify as, since this is the way a lot of people search this particular database.
In the section where you list your jobs and genres, ONLY list the jobs and genres you’ve actually worked in, not jobs/genres on your wishlist. Nothing looks less professional than having one or two titles listed, accompanied by ten job titles or genres. (For example, if you list Cartoonist as a job, people understand you’re also a penciler, inker, letterer, etc. Only list those other jobs if you’ve been, for example, a letterer-only on a group project.) Also, make sure to write out a short bio to let folks know who you are or what jobs you’d like to find.
Keep your profile updated! If you move, if you publish new titles, if you want to refresh your image, those are all good reasons to check in on your profile.