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From Sketch to Success: Seasoned Comic Creators Share Their Best Advice for Newcomers


From Sketch to Success: Seasoned Comic Creators Share Their Best Advice for Newcomers

Embarking on the journey of comic creation is an adventure filled with learning and discovery. For many creators, hindsight offers valuable lessons that could have smoothed the initial path. 

Over on Facebook, in ICD’s Creator HQ group we asked, “What’s one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started creating comics?” Drawing from the collective wisdom of various creators who chimed in, here’s a piece of advice that many wish they had known when first starting out: Start Small and Save.

“Be ok with losing money for a while, be it on printing costs, advertising, or paying artists.” – Fred Mckinstry

Creators emphasize the importance of financial planning. Comic creation is not just an artistic endeavor; it’s also a business venture that requires a substantial investment. The costs can quickly accumulate, from printing to paying artists and advertising. It’s crucial to also consider the less obvious expenses such as shipping, storage, and distribution that can impact the budget significantly. Brian J. Lambert advises to “save lots of money because they cost lots of money to make,” highlighting the financial reality of the comic publishing world. Additionally, securing the necessary permits and understanding the legalities of publishing can entail fees that many first-time creators might not anticipate.

“Start with smaller projects, not your big magnum opus. Building a following from scratch takes time, relax.” – Jack Holder

Furthermore, the approach to your project size matters. Beginning with short stories or smaller pieces can lead to early wins, help build confidence, and fine-tune your storytelling skills. Engaging in shorter projects also provides the opportunity to explore different genres and styles, which can be instrumental in finding your unique voice as a creator. Instead of aiming for a magnum opus right off the bat, it’s beneficial to tackle smaller projects. This strategy can also lead to a more immediate feedback loop from your audience, allowing you to make adjustments and improvements rapidly. As Kenji Jumanne-Marshall notes, producing more work, even if it’s not perfect, can be better than waiting to create that one ‘great’ comic. Moreover, the process of creating multiple works builds a portfolio that showcases your versatility and commitment to the craft, making you more attractive to publishers and readers alike. This sentiment is echoed by C.R. Florence, who succinctly states, “Start small.” Starting small allows you to manage resources better and avoid the financial strain that larger projects might impose before you’re ready.

“It’s easy to make a comic….harder to sell. Put more time in learning marketing.” – Paul Gomez

And it’s not just about the creative side. The realities of comic creation extend beyond the drafting table and into the nuances of day-to-day life that can test one’s passion. Michael Topping points out the grueling reality of “low pay, long hours, no health benefits,” indicating the need for creators to be prepared for the less glamorous aspects of comic creation. This underscores the importance of having a robust support system, whether it’s a community of fellow creators or understanding family and friends. It’s also wise to have a financial buffer or a secondary source of income to navigate through the lean periods that often accompany creative professions. It’s a labor of love that may not initially offer the same securities as other professions. Yet, for those who persevere, the rewards often extend beyond monetary gain, offering a sense of accomplishment and the joy of bringing one’s imagination to life for others to enjoy.

“You’ll have to hire security to keep all the hot babes away.” – Frank Martin

On the brighter side, Scott Douglas Redding reminds us that if you “tell your story well and you’ll get a loyal audience,” underscoring that the quality of storytelling can build a dedicated readership regardless of the comic’s scale. In crafting compelling narratives, it’s the emotional connection that counts. Characters that resonate and stories that evoke a spectrum of feelings will often find a place in the hearts of readers. This bond turns casual readers into fans who will follow your work, advocate for it, and build the community every creator hopes for. By focusing on the integrity of the story and the authenticity of characters, a creator can transcend the constraints of budget or marketing. And when a story strikes the right chord, it can spread through word of mouth, becoming a favorite topic in forums and social media discussions. A well-told story is like a seed; given the right conditions, it will grow and flourish in the fertile soil of the collective imagination.

The collective advice to new creators is to be financially savvy, start with manageable projects, and focus on the strength of your storytelling to build a following. This solid foundation can set the stage for greater success and fulfillment in the world of indie comics.

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Brett has been collecting comics for close to 30 years and is passionate about showcasing the amazing stories in Indie Comics and growing the indie community. A marketing and communications professional with a Masters of Nonprofit Management, he founded The Indie Comix Dispatch in 2020. Brett is also a member of the National Writers Union.

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