Creating An Independent Horror Comic
Last year, I co-created a horror comic with a guy I'd never met, who lived in a different country and spoke a different language. This year, we're on the verge of printing our second book independently. So, what have we learned? What should you be thinking about when you decide to create an independent comic, online or in print? Well, here are some suggestions...
Unless you're some mega-talent with a pencil in one hand and a laptop in the other, you'll collaborate with someone. This means at least two opinions on everything from story points to the layout of the final product. Sometimes those opinions will differ, minimally or hugely, and there will be awkward conversations about who ultimately gets to be right. My advice is... don't be awful, don't be a pain to work with. Be prepared to listen and lose some things. Be honest, and ultimately everybody wins.
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To everyone. To whoever you're making the comic with, to people you know who might like it, to strangers, to forums. Send emails, make posts, and introduce yourself to people. Tell them about who you are and the work you do. It took me far too long to break my shyness about the stuff we were creating and ultimately it hurt it. A little confidence goes a long way. You don't have to constantly be in a Hard Sell mode, but formulate a quick pitch in your head for when someone inevitably asks 'So, what's the comic about?'
A lot of webcomics update each week, some more often. We don't, but we try to update as often as possible, and we do that by being prepared. I have the scripts ready way before they're needed, and Ammar sketches whenever he gets the chance. An online comic that only updates sporadically, a page every few months, probably isn't going to find an audience.
This is one we're still discovering, but if you go the print route, it's going to cost money. Start by gathering quotes from a range of companies – I've found the ones that specialise in comic book printing are the most knowledgeable. Unless you're a paper nerd, you'll need their help picking the correct stock, binding option, cover finish etc... The quotes will range from what you expect, to absolutely batshit insane. In the end, though, it's not all about price – you want a printer who knows what they're doing and cares about the final product. To cover the costs, you can either raid your bank account or, if that's no option, there's always...
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It feels almost like a rite of passage for indie comic creators to try their hand at running a Kickstarter nowadays. And with good reason. Kickstarter isn't just a way to fund your projects, it's also a great way of letting people know that you exist in the first place. We're running one at the moment and it's going pretty well – one of the biggest benefits we've seen is that strangers are discovering the comic via Kickstarter, and backing us. People who may not have seen it otherwise. As for actually running a Kickstarter, we're no experts, but here are a few obvious tips:
- Keep your goal low. Something achievable but still useful.
- Plan everything. Don't just throw it together.
- Offer appealing rewards. Varied, too.
- Seriously, PLAN. Agonise over every detail.
- Postage will cost more than you expect.
- Be prepared to advertise.
Once you've printed some books, find your local conventions and get yourself a table! In my experience, there is no greater way to get your work out than by standing behind a table covered in it, talking to whoever happens by. Some people might ignore you, some might take a flyer, others might buy one of everything you've got and tell all of their friends about it. It helps if you're able to...
I normally attend conventions without the artist I work with. We live in different countries, so it's difficult getting together. Luckily, I've got a pal who attends the same conventions I do, so very often we share tables or request to be placed next to each other. Where you see us, Wart – The Comic, you can be sure Merrick – The Sensational Elephant Man isn't too far away. It enables us to chat, even when there's no one at the table, and then bring people into our conversation as they pass. It's a lot more natural than shouting 'Hello!' at everyone who wanders by. It's a simple, silly thing, but I feel it helps shift our comics because there's already a dynamic that people can join. We look like we're having more fun than the people sat down behind their table, alone, playing Candy Crush on their phones, so we're more approachable.
Got that first book done, printed and ready to sell? Maybe even sold a few copies. Awesome. Keep going. Put the work in until Book Two exists. Even if you're not making any money from it yet. Start a second series. The more books you've got on your table, the more you can sell, and the more you sell, the more your name gets out.
It's difficult, not impossible.
Our Kickstarter campaign is going strong, over 75% funded, but there's still plenty of time left to get involved! Also, as a thank you to HorrorTalk for letting us write this, we want to give you readers a great offer...
Pledge £25, drop us a message saying HORRORTALK, and we'll send you the £35 package. So that's two books, three posters, some stickers and a t-shirt for just £25. And we'll ship anywhere in the world. So, take a look!
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