Comic Book Publisher Profile

Essentials Needed To Be A Comic Book Publisher

Girl and little boy looking at a comic
Markus Moellenberg / Getty Images



Job Description:

The publisher of a comic book is the one to release the comic to consumers. This may have many roles in it. One may be that of an editor, making sure content is good and up to the standards of the company or individuals. It may also take the role of a marketer, getting the word out on the comic to various news sources. It may also be a financial position, coming up with money to pay the various artists and printing costs. Another facet of publishing is retailing or selling the comic online, to stores, or at conventions. Some people choose to do this themselves, and another turn to comic studios such as Image Comics or Dark Horse.

Skills Needed:

  • Business Know How – The publisher needs to be able to know what needs to get done and when. If the colorist is waiting on the inker to finish production, they may take a job elsewhere and tie you up even more. You need to know whom to trust with your product in areas such as printing, taking reliability, speed, cost, and quality into account.
  • People Person – It will really help you in the long run if you are a likable person. Others will bend more to helping you and will go farther for you if they like you. A totalitarian dictator will only drive people away.
  • Financially Savvy – Knowing how much to pay for things is critical. Are you paying too little for artists work? Or how about too much? Is that glossy cover going to drive the cost of the book up so much that no one will pay for it? Are workers not getting paid on time? These are all kinds of questions that need to be answered. If you aren’t careful, with the power of the internet, you can have your entire future destroyed by your actions.
  • Honesty – Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Burning a bridge with one creator can lead to having many creators turn against you. The world of comics is actually very small, and people talk. If you are honest and open with people about contracts, schedules, pay, and other areas of your business, it can go a long way in protecting your reputation.

Equipment Needed:

Basic Equipment

  • Money – It requires cool hard cash to be a publisher. Not matter what form you use, you will almost always need some kind of funds to get things done. The most common costs will be printing and pay talent, but there are things like marketing, conventions, and other equipment to do the job.
  • Computer – For some of the other professionals, a computer is still probably in the “optional” category, but not so for the publisher. Due to the technological advances that have been made to us, a publisher will need a computer for many things. Email, writing and sending press releases, checking work sent in a digital format, building websites, accounting…the list goes on and on. I doubt there is any publisher out there that does not use their computer in the many aspects of the comic creation business.
  • Printer – Whether this means your home computer, the one at Kinko’s, an established printing firm, or even the web, the term printer here means a way in which to get your comic into readers hands. Most comics will be printed, but with the rise in popularity of webcomics and downloadable content, digital comics could be the wave of the future. The nice thing about paper comics is that it is a tangible object. It’s real. The nice thing about digital content is that it is vastly cheaper to produce.
  • Help – Publishers need people to help them do things. Mailing packages, taking orders, answering phones, setting up booths, manning said booths. You can probably do all of these things at first by yourself, but I’m sure if you’re a “People Person” (see above) that you will have some friends that can help you.

Optional Equipment

  • Marketing Firms – Some people use these firms to do the PR (public relations) for them. This will probably come down to money and time for the publisher. If you don’t have the money but have the time, do it yourself, but if you have the money and need the time elsewhere, it may be the point in your career to hire someone else to do that job.
  • Diamond DirectDiamond Comics is pretty much the distributor for comic books. If you want comic stores around the U.S. to carry your comic, you pretty much need to go through these guys. They have a whole section of their website detailing the process.
  • Contracts – Let’s be honest, people sue for lot’s of things these days, some legit, some not. Having a contract can greatly protect yourself and your creators down the road. Having a carefully worded contract can be the thing that could bail you out later down the road if someone drops the ball. Protect yourself when dealing with others, even friends. The price you pay could end up costing you your dreams.

Some Comic Book Publishers:

So You Want To Be A Comic Book Publisher?

Print it out! If you are interested in self-publishing, there are many printers that will do books for you at reasonable rates, some even on demand. Larger publishers have their own ways of doing things, so your best bet is to find the publisher that best matches your product. Fantagraphics probably won’t be interested in your superhero space opera spectacular, but they might just be interested in your artistic comic journal telling the story of your daily life. If those fail, there’s always kinkos and the zine rack at your local comic shop.

Page 2 - Quotes From Comic Book Publishers

Quotes From Publishers:

From Brett Warnock – Co-Founder of Top Shelf Productions. From an interview with guide Aaron Albert at the Emerald City Comic Con.

About self publishing – “If you want to be a creator and make your own comics or you want to be a publisher and publish other people, my advise is just do it. That’s how I got started. Start small, live within your means, but just do it, don’t talk about it. There’s so many people who are like, I’m going to do this, and they never do. I got started with just a handful of tiny little comic books I just did it and had a modicum of success and just built on that and built on that.“

From Todd Allen – Columnist at Comic Book Resources and writer of "The Economics Of Webcomics, 2nd Edition." From his column at Comic Book Resources – Comic Book Publishing Follies.

About going from webcomics to published comics – “Your rule of thumb should be 1% of your online audience might buy something of yours in the physical world, so if you have 20,000 regular readers, you shouldn't reasonably expect more than 200 of them to fork over for a book. Sometimes the percentage is higher, sometimes lower, but your goal here is to network and get noticed, if that's the game you're playing. Think of it as an internship with a stipend and it may be more palatable.“

From Dan Vado – Founder and Supreme Commander of SLG Publishing. From an interview at Newsarama.

About different avenues of publishing – “The direct market has moved itself into a place where only a small handful of stores really support a company like ours in any meaningful way. It has become a vicious cycle, really. A lot of retailers don't carry the comics because they don't sell, but then the potential customer has given up going into most comic shops because they don't see what they want. This and our other online sales address that."

"We are not giving up on print, obviously we still print some things in comic book format and our emphasis is now going to be on graphic novels and books as well as associated merchandise. Even retailers who are generally supportive of our line tell us that there is a "wait for the trade" attitude out there that makes selling indie comic books unprofitable, or less profitable, for them."

"I think if you are going to be in this, or any, business today you need to be able to embrace and be present in as many sales channels as possible. Online and downloadable comics are just one more channel for us.“