Plan how you want to release your comics in advance. Will there be print editions? Will you put out serialized single issues or just big graphic novels? What is your Internet strategy?
We recommend everyone, no matter their story or plans for printed editions, release comics digitally. Back in 2008 we launched The Uniques online as digital downloads. At the time a number of our professional colleagues didn’t see a future in digital comics. They scoffed at staring at computer screens to read comics, and espoused their love of old paper and how books smelled and felt in their hands. Within five years, though, every major publisher was releasing nearly their entire catalogs on various digital platforms, some titles even published as digital-first comics. At this point, you’d be crazy not to put your comics online. It’s cheap (free in many cases!) and easy, and provides the highest opportunity for reaching the widest number of readers.
But where do you go from there? Our advice for anyone self-publishing full comics or manga is to put out single issues as digital downloads, possibly using print-on-demand to have some copies of your individual issues you can bring with you to sell at conventions. Then when you have enough issues completed, collect them in physical trade paperbacks (TPBs) for sale at stores. Make your first issue free as a digital download if you can afford it. Our sales numbers took huge leaps when we started offering the first issues of The Uniques and Rainbow in the Dark for free online. When you have enough of a backlog, start releasing pages for free on your website, one or two a week, to draw in new readers and people who prefer webcomics. We talk more about all of this stuff in our how-to book, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics, but it’s good to have a strategy in mind right from the start, so you know how to structure your stories to fit your publishing model.
If you want to produce a webcomic, you need to decide how often you’ll release new installments and how big those installments will be. Your intended production pace will help determine how much content you can pack in each page or strip, and how far ahead you need to get before you start publishing to your website. The most important thing is that you update as frequently as you can manage, and that each update should feel substantial. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – if you can’t easily produce three pages every week, don’t make promises you can’t keep. And every page or strip should feel like a meaningful piece of story in some way. If too many installments feel like filler, or it takes too long for anything big to happen, people will stop checking back in for more and will forget you.
It might seem like minutia, but all these things are good to know, even when you’re first creating the concept for your comic. Oftentimes, how you intend to deliver your comic will shape the way you structure and create your story.