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Self-Publishing for Graphic Novelists

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… [Read More]

Graphic NovelistsPreviously, 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. . .

Graphic NovelistsIn 2010, after completing Facebucks & Dumb F*cks, a graphic novel satire about Graphic NovelistsFacebook 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.

iBooks Author

Graphic NovelistsHowever, 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

Graphic NovelistsOn the flip side, there was one major drawback for those using the Apple solution, namely, you couldn’t upload your work to Kindle.

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

Graphic Novelists

F. Scott Johns

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 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.

10 thoughts on “Self-Publishing for Graphic Novelists”

  1. Todd H. says:

    Self-publishing has gotten easier and cheaper than ever before.

  2. First of, thanks for the links to the other selfpublishing platforms. From Munich I know which has expanded to the USA to I cannot say much about Graphic Novels, because that would probably require high resolution images to be uploaded, but in terms of selfpublishing ebooks and keeping contact with your readers, it as well designed for hobbyists as for professional writers. That way not every author needs to keep up their own blogs, but are integrated in a community of readers and writers. The connection to kindle, amazon and so forth is granted there too. Just have a look:

  3. To be clear, it is not the fixed layout format itself that eliminates live text functionality in Kindle. You can have all those features, just not if you use the Comic Creator. That requires removing the “comic” book-type value in the OPF.

    Also, there is now a Kids’ Book Creator app released by Amazon that produces fixed layout children’s book in a similar manner to KCC. And don’t overlook InDesign’s export options as a viable tool for creating illustrated ebooks.

    1. Trisha Cupra says:

      A Kid’s Book Creator app?! That’s what I’ve been waiting for. I’m off to google it now. Thanks!

  4. Rohit says:

    Very informative article for someone venturing into graphic novels or who is an avid fan of DC/Marvel comics(like me). I can rely on the above options to cultivate my hobby and publish my own graphic novels in a professional way.

  5. Nolan B says:

    Thank You for this information, it gives a lot of food for thought for both seasoned and upcoming Authors.

  6. corbetzzz says:

    Great information, thank you.

  7. Pam Thomas says:

    Excellent article! Thanks.

  8. paul says:

    Thanks for the concise explanation.

  9. meekdoe says:

    How do I go about self publishing hard copy pods? Your post was enlightening, but was hoping to find out about software choices such as manga ex 5 and how to upload files to from there to Createspace etc, or am I deluding myself that this is even possible?

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