standing at a lonely two questions. More may be added in the event
that they are asked sufficiently frequently.)
By what process do you create your comics? I imagine computers are
involoved in some way, yes?
I begin by typing up a detailed plot summary (or "treatment")
for a story. Once this is revised to my satisfaction, I begin -- in
Quark XPress --
laying out the panel borders and balloons while simultaneously writing
the dialogue. The lettering is done using a font I made in Fontographer
based on a specimen of my hand-lettering. As each page is finished,
I print it out at 8 1/2 x 11" and rough in the pictures with
a graphite pencil. This continues until the story ends, at which point
I again revise heavily. Once I'm satisfied with the rough version,
I scan each page into Photoshop,
and enlarge it and print it out at 11 x 17", and print out the
corresponding Quark page at the same size on bristol paper. Then I
lightbox the rough onto the bristol with a Colerase light blue pencil,
improving it as I go. Then I ink the figures with an Aitoh fountain
brush, and ink the backgrounds with Micron pens. The finished drawing
is then scanned again into Photoshop, where I add the color using
a Wacom stylus-and-tablet.
Sometimes kindly student interns assist me with background inking
and rough color. The finished pages are saved as Tiffs, and then assembled
into a book in Quark. I use a PC, feeling that the cartoonist's simple
needs do not justify the more expensive Macintosh.
For more information on making computers do your bidding, consult
Kevin Tinsley's Digital
Prepress for Comic Books.
How does one go about applying for the Xeric grant for comic book
self-publishing? Do you have any advice for the budding self-publisher?
for information and an application. A plethora of additional information
on self-publishing for cartoonists can be found on the Web by searching
using the terms "self-publishing" and "comics".
Since my experience as a self-publisher lasted a mere one issue, I
only have a few bits of advice I can pass on:
For how much money should one ask?
for exactly the amount you need, but mention that you'd be willing
to accept a lesser amount. Get quotes from a number of printers,
determine cost for warehousing, shipping, advertising, promotion,
mailings, etc. One should never guess randomly about how muchone
needs. In the Xeric literature it says "most awards are in
the amount of $5000", but if you need more, ask for more. Some
black and white self-publishers are able to stretch that 5000 bucks
over two or more issues. I asked for about $6500 since my book was
What do I say in the "artist's statement" on the application?
be daunted by this requirement. The Foundation realizes that talented
cartoonists are not necessarily talented expository writers. Just
be yourself and explain what you hope to achieve with the work,
whether it be "my goal is for this comic to be a template for
the next wave of expressionism," or "I intend for this
comic to make the reader laugh until he or she urinates". The
comics will speak for themselves, so you shouldn't fret about having
to explain them.
How does one deal with a printer?
Quebecor in Montreal printed my book, and my experience with
them was entirely agreeable. However, you should shop around for
the printer that can best meet your needs. My advice for a low-stress
make everything idiot proof: don't ask the printer to scan your
pages for you, add page numbers, or anything like that. The more
that you leave in the printer's hands, the more inadvertent errors
can occur (pages out of order, etc). Scan the pages yourself and
give them a nice tidy Quark file, fonts included.
include a printout, or better yet a dummy of the finished book,
so they can see what it's supposed to look like. That way the
printer can't claim, for examle, that you sent them low-resolution
files when your printouts are obviously at high-res.
order proofs for all pages: blueline proofs for black and white
pages and 3M proofs for color. Better to spend money on proofs
than to be shocked and dismayed when the finished book comes back
looking terrible. You will need to sign off on the proofs before
printing can begin; do NOT sign proofs that are unsatisfactory.
Tell them what to change, and request another round of proofs.
Do not yield to scheduling pressure on this; better a beautiful
late book than a ruined book. If you have to delay the book's
convention debut to the next convention, so be it.
sure all communication with the printer is in writing, so that
if the book comes back misprinted you have legal leverage to demand
a reprint at the printer's expense.
does distribution work?
to distribute to comic shops through as many distributors as you
can, but at the very least make sure to try to distribute through
the largest and most powerful distributor, and have something of
a monopoly on distribution -- at least of the mainstream material,
which makes up the bulk of business. Once you've secured the grant,
tell them that you're a Xeric winner; I believe they're under some
obligation to distribute you even if they are unconfident about
your sales potentianl.
Here's an efficient order of events to utilize
when working with Diamond: in, say, January, solicit your comic
in the Diamond catalogue. Retailers will then place orders for your
book, and then Diamond will pass on the number of comics ordered
to you. Arrange with your printer to have your print run match your
Diamond orders, printing maybe 25% extra to account for the other
distributors and future re-orders. Warehouse these printed comics
at the printer's, but have them send you a couple of hundred to
send out to journalists in the interest of generating buzz. Then,
when the time comes, have the printer ship the comics to Diamond
for April distribution.
Make sure to budget for a full-page ad in Previews,
the Diamond catalogue, as it is easy for your tiny solicitation
notice to be buried in the massive catalogue.
Can I get a publisher to distribute for me?
above advice is for self-publishers who take the standard route
of soliciting independently under their own publishing company.
An alternative, however, is to forge an alliance with an existing
publisher under which they will deal with the distributor for you
in exchange for a cut of your sales, usually 5-10% of cover price.
This is good for you in that you are relieved of the burden of having
to interface with Diamond, plus your chances of being noticed by
retailers browsing the catalogue is improved if you are among already
known books. The downside is that the learning experience of interacting
with the distributor is lost; some might argue that the whole point
of the Xeric grant is to create a learning situation. So my advice
is that if you think of self-publishing as a necessary stepping
stone to working with a publisher, then work with a middle-man.
But if you see yourself as being a self-publisher for the long haul,
learn how to do it yourself sooner rather than later.
final bit of advice: make a pact with yourself that if you are rejected
by the Xeric Foundation, you will save up a couple thousands of dollars
and finance the project yourself. There was a time when the Xeric
grant functioned as a sort of minimum threshold of professional competence,
but lately the grant has been going to more and more established talent.
So use your own feelings as a gauge of your readiness rather than
relying on external encouragement.
2005 by Jason Little.