Should I pitch to another publisher or go the webcomic route?

TL;DR (Too Long; Don't Read AKA Summary):

I decided to go the webcomic route as you have probably guessed from visiting halfwing.com. :D

Details...

Should I pitch another publisher?

I initially just pitched Image Comics, because I felt halfwing fit in well with their current material (which I really like).

Image is famous for taking the same fee for all books and letting you retain many of the rights to your series.

Also, I follow Jim Zub and other creators that work with Image Comics, and they seem to have a pretty good relationship with them.

After my first pitch failed with Image, I had to decide what to do next.

Dark Horse Comics looked promising, but they don't tell you the splits (I assume then it is different for every series) and their legal agreement scared me off a bit. You have to agree that you won't sue them if they have series come out after your pitch that is very similar to your series.

I guess that makes sense from a publisher's point of view. They don't want to get in trouble if someone submits an idea they are already working on. Most other publisher websites had something similar to this... but it still made me pause.

Also, I couldn't find if it was good working with them and/or if you maintain any of the rights to your series.

Time for some research... to the internet!

I started Googling not only Dark Horse but all comic publishers and... there are a lot of them. Many take submissions, but I hadn't heard of a lot of them.

Who should I pitch? Who is legit?

If you look at Diamond's top selling comics, you can get an idea of the big publishers, but many of those don't take pitches and/or don't focus on creator owned comics... *cough* *cough* Marvel... DC....

To learn more about the others, I found Jason Thibault's comic publisher list was pretty helpful, but it lacks any feedback about the publishers themselves, that is, it doesn't answer any of these questions:
  • If you are a creator, are they good to work with?
  • Are they good at marketing books?
  • What kind of reach do they have?
  • Are you likely to get paid?
Answers to those questions are really hard to find. I searched for hours and hours until I found fairpagerages.com.

The site/blog is dedicated to "presenting data in order to help artists not only be better informed about the standard rates of the industry but to also encourage them to not accept work that falls below the standard."

The best part is their surveys from creators (covers most comic publishers). I reviewed both the 2015 and 2016 surveys, and the results are pretty eye opening.

Lots of artist get screwed giving up the rights to their properties, and if their series aren't successful, they have to pay the publisher "a substantial fee" to get the rights back if they want to go the webcomic route.

Many artists also call out that the publishers made very little effort to sell their series, and many publishers aren't great about paying you. There is lots more information, make sure you read the surveys.

Yikes! 

I know these surveys aren't definitive and there are cases that are probably the opposite, but it really made me think twice about submitting my series.

If I could get the same reach via the web that most of these small publishers get with bookstores, shouldn't I just do it myself and build an audience the sell my book via Kickstarter when I have enough material?

It seemed a lot better than hoping my book would be promoted properly. Publisher won't put in the same sweat and tears I will. It's my baby after all.

Also, DC Comics stated the Comic Book Industry Is On The Brink Of Collapse at the 2017 San Diego ComicCon (SDCC). Of course, they say they have a solution, but their solution doesn't sound any more promising from reading the article about the session.

Webcomic

I started to lean towards the webcomic route, but there were a bunch of questions I had to figure out.

  • How do you make the money back you invested in your series?
  • Can I make a living?
  • Most importantly, what does the "webcomic route" really mean?
From my understanding, the "webcomic route" means you put up your comic for free on the internet, build up an audience, and sell some of that audience physical books when you have enough content for a book (~150 pages) via Kickstarter.

You can also earn extra money via Patreon by providing sneak peeks and other extras to users who donate monthly to your comic (or you).

The good thing (maybe bad thing for some of you) is you control the effort put into recruiting your audience. If you make a good product and find an audience for your series, you will be in good shape.

You also don't have to split the profits with a distributor (e.g., Diamond  takes ~16.6% of cover price) or retailers (e.g., 40-50% of cover price goes to retailers). You can read more on the economics of publishing comics here.

That means you can sell a lot less books and still make the same amount you would going the traditional route.

The bad news? You have to learn how to recruit an audience and it can take time to build up that audience.

How to Make Webcomics is a great book by four artists making webcomics for a living. They call out that you won't make enough to pay the bills for about 2-3 years.

In other words, don't quit your day job.

Final Decision

I know, I know, you already know. I went the webcomic route.

Webcomics might sounds a little bleak from all the information above, but you are in control of your content and maintain all rights.

As long as you produce quality work and do a little work on your website and promotion, there is light at the end of the tunnel... it's just a 2-3 year journey.

The traditional route seems more of a crapshoot, so I am going the webcomic route. Let's see where I am in 2-3 years. ^_^;;

-Jeremy

P.S. - If this helped, please support me by reading halfwing, thanks!

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