Previously, we’ve reported on a number of automated publishing platforms now available for self-publishing authors. From the top players in the space such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Apple’s iBooks and Smashwords – to the smaller collaborative offerings that include such start-ups as Widbook and FastPencil, today an indie author has a lot to choose from. But what about those who’d like create a graphic novel or comics, where commercial art, cartoons and illustrations are as important as the written word. What options does the graphic novelist have?
From Where I Sat. . .
In 2010, after completing Facebucks & Dumb F*cks, a graphic novel satire about Facebook and having experienced the typical rejection-tango most of us have conducted with traditional publishing houses, I started researching what was available to me in the online self-publishing arena.
What I found however was somewhat disconcerting. While there were several automated options available for those who authored novels with hundreds of pages of text, there were limited options for a graphic novel of 40-50 pages. Why? Well, basically because the automation simply was not available yet.
The ‘vanity press’ route in which authors paid to have their graphic novels published outright by a third-party was available. However, while those types of operations would have offered me a certain amount of independence to go-it-alone, it was fraught with challenges such as predatory pricing and the impression created that one’s work was less reputable than those sanctioned by commercial publishers. Also, the association with a business termed a “vanity press,” was a turn-off, in and of itself.
The Apple’s iBooks option. . .
I soon learned that formatting my book using Apple’s new iBook format was a viable possibility. It was a low-cost and profitable means to by-pass traditional publishing, while aligning my work with a reputable brand name.
However, getting a book approved by Apple back then wasn’t a simple process. You needed to follow specific formatting guidelines in order to avoid time-consuming hiccups and yes. . . possibly a rejection email from Apple if you flubbed up somewhere a long the way. Long story short, I solicited the services of an individual known for his success in uploading graphic novels to Apple’s iBookstore, and the rest is history. My book was self-published, sold a few thousand copies and won the ‘Gatekeeper’s 2010 Graphic Novel eBook of the Year’ award.
However, had I published my book two years later I might not have needed to hire that third-party to help format my novel. In 2012, Apple released their long-awaited and much-requested iBooks Author (iBA), an eBook authoring automated application.
Using the popular WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) methodology, graphic novelists could easily upload and edit their images by themselves, within a short amount of time. In their promotion, Apple even assured early adopters that, “well-known publishers and everyday people (were) using iBooks Author to create all kinds of multi-touch books for iPads - all it takes is a Mac and a story to tell.”
One of the major benefits of going the iBook Author route is it’s a free download from the App Store, designed for the technologically-challenged newbies (like myself) – and it allowed anyone with an itch to self-publish an accessible tool to get the job done expeditiously.
As far as the interactive features that come part and parcel with the iBA, my previous blog, “Late Adopters Can Enhance eBooks Too!” will provide you with a complete run-down of what’s currently included.
Kindle Comic Creator
Not to be outdone by one of its competitors, Amazon launched the Kindle Comic Creator, April 11, 2013 to compete with the iBA. The finished product allowed users to upload comics, graphic novels, and manga ( popular Japanese comics) in a variety of formats—PDF, jpg, tiff, png and ppm —quickly converting them to Kindle e-books. Indie authors can also import EPUB and KF8 files that are created in accordance with the Kindle Publishing Guidelines.
From my personal standpoint, had the KCC been around in 2010, I probably would have doubled or tripled my sales (Note: this is all speculation on my part based on what other graphic novelists have told me).
The KCC software also supports facing pages, double-page spreads, and right-to-left page turns (most common in manga), as well as Kindle Panel View, which allows readers to view the novel or comic-strip, one panel at a time. That specific feature makes for an easier read on small devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and the iPhone and Android apps. Today, graphic novels created using the KCC are now readable on the Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, Kindle Fire, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Keyboard, as well as the iPad, iPhone, and Android apps.
Calling All Coders
R. Scot Johns, the author of the award-winning novel "The Saga of Beowulf," and who blogs regularly for “The Adventures of an Independent Author” proposes yet another option for self-publishing graphic novelists.
Not a big fan of the Kindle Comic Creator, he critiques the platform as limiting. Since Kindle uses only fixed layout files, there is no option for “live text functionality (dictionaries, search, etc.), no bookmarks, and in some cases, no hyperlinks or background image zoom,” notes Johns.
So in interviewing Johns for today’s blog, his suggestion to overcome that hurdle was to “code ebooks by hand using a simple text editor.” Having written a book explaining the process (“How To Make Kindle Comics & Children's Books“), Scott says, “there is really no need for an app to do it, although having a nice graphic interface would be nice.”
“Coding books by hand is currently the only way to efficiently produce ebooks with all possible features for all platforms. But it all depends on what you're after and how much you're willing to learn,” adds Johns.
As testimony to those that have taken Johns lead, he notes that authors Stormy Dae, Troy Husum, Nancy Aurand-Humpf and Chris Osman have all followed his instructions proficiently to successfully publish their own work.
Graphically Speaking. . .
So them’s the options, my fellow graphic novelists! Had I had the latest tools of Apple, Kindle or the wherewithal of investing in the learning curve required by R. Scot Johns, my 2010 graphic novel might have been more enhanced and interactive. But that’s how fast the digital landscape is changing. To be competitive, today’s graphic novelists have not only to be deft at creating intriguing visual narratives, they need to invest their time in the technology that will get their book to market, with the best street appeal possible, graphically speaking!
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.