Category Archives: Tutorial

Getting Covered: Effective Comic Cover Imagery

Let’s talk about comic covers.

A strong and evocative cover with a well-designed logo grabs attention and builds anticipation for the story inside. It’s your eye-catcher, sales pitch, and branding all wrapped up in one illustration. When it comes to creating your comic, the cover image may be your only chance to entice a retailer or reader to invest in you. It’s a crucial part of the whole package.

Sounds great, but with so many other comics on the shelves and colorful artwork vying for customer attention, how can you stand out in such a crowded field?

I’ve seen a lot of great looking artwork gracing the front cover of independent books, but many of them aren’t effective as cover imagery. Too many lack focus, clarity, or a visual hook and they don’t compel a new reader to pick it up and start browsing.

When you start putting together ideas for a cover, pull back and think carefully about the first impression you want to make.

• What is the genre?
• What is the mood?
• Who/what is most important?

In short, what do you want to communicate right off the bat about this story and what’s the clearest way of showing that?

No matter how complex or in-depth the story inside is or how many characters are in the cast, you need to simplify. The cover for a brand-new project you’re trying to sell is not the place to have a crazy montage of characters or a jumble of imagery all at once. A postage stamp collection of visuals isn’t direct and doesn’t stand out from a distance, which is what you need when people aren’t already aware of the creators, the characters, or the story.

Let me give you some examples from my creator-owned series:

Glitterbomb is a Hollywood horror story, but I wanted to emphasize the “horror” aspect for our first cover.

What did we want to communicate?
Otherworldly, possession/transformation, foreboding

That’s exactly what Djibril Morisette-Phan, my wonderful collaborator on the series, delivered.

Here’s another crucial element – the cover is an iconic composition that can be identified from 6-10 feet away.

When designing a cover and trade dress, print it out the same size it will be as a book, go to your local comic shop and put it on a shelf full of other comics, then take 5-6 steps back…

• Is it visible?
• Does it stand out?
• If someone was looking for it, would they find it?
• Could it grab the attention of a new customer?

Glitterbomb #1 communicates the mood of our series and grabs attention. Farrah, our main character, stares right at the reader, compelling you to stare back. It’s arresting and full of atmosphere, eye-catching and memorable.

Almost every cover for Glitterbomb communicates similar ideas. Some lean on the Hollywood elements but all of them have a sense of horror/foreboding. They prepare readers for the journey:


Artwork by Marguerite Sauvage, Vivian Ng, Djibril Morisette-Phan, and Trevor Jameus.

Also note that even with these thumbnails before you make them full size, you can easily identify the subject and the logo stands out. The core shapes that make up the design and the colors aren’t muddy or indistinct. Clarity is crucial.

The third cover for The Fame Game our second Glitterbomb mini-series (shown here publicly for the first time) is one of my favorites so far:

The California sunlight should be warm and inviting, but it contrasts with the creepy supernatural eyes and expression to turn that sunlight into something harsh. It’s a great mix of our horror & Hollywood themes.

Compare those Glitterbomb covers to some of the best ones from Skullkickers, my action-fantasy sword & sorcery series, also published by Image:


Artwork by Chris Stevens, Edwin Huang and Espen Grundetjern, and Chris Stevens with Saejin Oh.

What do they communicate?
Violent but whimsical, fantasy, comradery, adventure.

What you see on that cover is what you get within the pages. Our best covers exemplified those core ideas while teasing events happening inside. Simple and direct, but also telling the reader if this book might be for them.

A great cover for a new property is more than a montage of characters we don’t yet know or care about. It’s more than a character looking cool without any context.

I think the most effective cover on a creator-owned book I’ve worked on has been Wayward #1, by Steven Cummings with colors by Ross A. Campbell:

Supernatural. Teen. Ready to kick ass.

That powerful image coupled with our elevator pitch that Wayward is like “Buffy in Japan” did wonders for our series launch. It branded us and brought in readers in a big way. I can’t even count the number of people who have stopped to browse and buy Wayward Vol. 1 thanks to that killer cover.

“Oh wow, what is that?”
“Who is she?”
“Kitties!”

It’s been powerful mojo for us. It breaks the ice and invites inspection.

Our best covers have created a similar feeling of teenage supernatural adventure taking place in Japan:

Artwork by Alina Urusov, Takeshi Miyazawa, Phillip Tan, and Jorge Molina

Here are some other creator-owned comic covers that showcase clarity and concept. Each one brands the series and prepares the reader with subject and mood. Each one is inviting and visible from across a room:

Artwork by Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Gabriel Rodriguez, Stjepan Stejic, and Fiona Staples

I don’t think there’s only one way to do covers. You can have storytelling-centric covers, design-based covers, abstract high concept covers, or anything else you want, but in each case you need to grab attention and deliver a sense of what readers can expect inside.

The cover is an airlock that separates our real world from the world within those pages. It communicates a feeling and prepares the audience. Do it well and you can bring in complete strangers who might otherwise have passed you by.

If you found this post interesting, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics, donating to my Patreon, or buying comics from me in person if you see me at a convention.

Just To Clarify – I’m Not Rich

Yesterday’s announcement about Wayward being optioned for TV development by Manga Entertainment was an absolute whirlwind. I received dozens of messages from friends, family, colleagues, retailers, long-time readers, and complete strangers congratulating myself and the rest of the team. It’s a big milestone and one I’m certainly not taking for granted. However, I do want to clarify some important things because I’m already noticing people making assumptions about what this means or where we’re at:

A media option does not mean a dump truck of money showed up at my place.

I’m not rich.

Creator-owned comics are still an uphill climb.

Let me clarify what an ‘option’ is and how it works in broad non-contract specific terms:

An ‘option’ means a company is reserving the opportunity to purchase media rights to a particular property in the future. They do this so they can confidently seek out possible production partners and financing without wondering if it will be worth the trouble or what it will cost later. The contract we’ve signed includes terms that specify what rights they would be able to secure, what it would cost, our particular involvement if that purchase is executed, and how long they have to do all of that before the option lapses and we’re free to negotiate with other parties. In short, they’ve paid to secure our interest for a set period of time. It’s a crucial first step in media development.

Most entertainment companies don’t option properties unless they feel they’re something worth investing in. There are stories of properties being optioned just to keep it out of other people’s hands or to bury it so it can’t compete with similar productions already in development but, thankfully, that’s not the case here. The gang at Manga are aggressively pursuing Japanese production partners and are using the extensive network of contacts they’ve built up over the past 26 years to make that happen. Once they’re able to get those details nailed down, ideally, they execute the option purchase and we go fully into production.

What’s immediately beneficial to us right now is the visibility boost that comes from this announcement. In a very crowded comic market, we’re able to stand out a bit more than before. That will hopefully lead to increased interest and sales so we can keep the book rolling and deliver the best story possible. Making Wayward the comic is our top priority.

Can this media thing fall through?
Yes, but so far all signs are moving in a positive direction. We wouldn’t have signed this deal if we didn’t think it would move forward and neither would Manga.

Have you been paid?
We’ve received a small amount of money for the option. The majority of that has been put into our ‘war chest’ to pay for future comic production.

So you’re not quitting your day job?
Correct. Still working away. Lots to do.

They didn’t bring a dump truck of money to your house?
Also correct. No dump truck.

Can you turn my idea into an anime?
No. I don’t even know how to do that. This is all new for me too.

Please?
No.

I can’t go into the specifics of our particular contract, but I will give some broad tips:

Every media development deal is different. If you’re fortunate enough to be approached about an option, don’t let anyone tell you there’s one boilerplate ‘media deal’ and you have to sign it as-is. Everything is negotiable. Seriously. There are elements I didn’t think would be possible that we put right in the deal in black and white.

Common sense and good intentions are not a contract. Everyone can get along well and want the same things at the start, but these kinds of deals are signed with companies, not people. Companies change. People leave. The only obligations a company has is what’s outlined in the deal you signed. Don’t make assumptions. Make sure the terms and obligations are clear for all parties involved.

Don’t sign anything without getting legal advice. Even if a contract looks straight forward, they can be surprisingly complex and have ramifications you never imagined at the time. The more I learn about this aspect of the business, the more thankful I am that I have good people helping me navigate these waters.

Be willing to walk away. If you can’t make the above work, you have to be willing to let a deal go rather than sign a bad one. Patience, persistence, and a level head are crucial when going into this kind of stuff. This particular conversation about Wayward media rights started in August of 2015 and didn’t really start coming together legally until about 6-7 months ago. It can take a while and you need to stay focused on what’s important.

I feel incredibly fortunate that we’ve made this step forward and I’m hopeful about where it’s all headed. As soon as I can reveal more about the future of Wayward the TV Show, I definitely will. Until then, please keep telling people about the series and if you’re not caught up on the story, consider snagging our collected volumes or catching up digitally on comiXology.

Otherwise, thank you for all the kind words and encouragement! None of this could have happened without support from readers and retailers like you!

Making Comics Progression: Script to Final

Want to see how a comic is made? Here’s a step-by-step progression of the process using a two-page spread from WAYWARD #4 as an example:

Script:
Jim writes the story for Wayward, guiding the team through the major moments and visual beats along with dialogue, sound effects and other text.
wayward04-page12-13script

Page Rough:
Steven roughs out the overall composition, checking positioning and making sure all the important visual information is conveyed. On pages with a lot more text he’ll also double check that there’s enough room for that text along with the visuals.
wayward04-12_13-rough

Pencils:
In the case of Wayward, the line art is scanned in straight from Steven’s pencils.
wayward04-12-raw

Final Linework:
Jim resizes the art for the final page format, digitally darkens the lines, cleans up any smudges or dirt from the scan and blocks in large areas of black indicated in the pencils.
wayward04-12_13-lineart

Colors and Final Lettering:
Tamra digitally adds mood, texture, and light and shadow to finalize the page art.
Marshall adds word balloons, captions, and sound effects as needed and sends back a final print-ready file.
wayward04-12_13-colors

Want to read the full issue and see how it fits into the story? It’s included in WAYWARD Vol. 1: String Theory, available from your favorite local comic shop, Amazon, or available digitally on comiXology.

Zub Hosting Master Seminar on Comics Experience

ce-email-twitter-jim-zub-master-seminar

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m working with Andy Schmidt at Comics Experience on a Master Seminar session all about organizing and managing comic and other creative projects. Discussion will include financial analysis, budget-building, finding collaborators, putting together an effective pitch, and approaching publishers.

There are many resources available for creators when it comes to art and writing, but understanding how to effectively build a project and carry it through to completion without losing your mind or your savings, that’s not something I’ve seen as much of, so when Andy approached me about hosting a session covering that hard to find material I agreed.

Past Comics Experience Master Seminars have been with industry luminaries including Brian Michael Bendis, Christos Gage, and Klaus Janson. It’s a pleasure to be brought on board to talk about the pitching and production process.

variouscovers-768x591

Click here for all the details, but here’s a bullet-point rundown of how it works:

• Held Saturday, October 29, 2016 from 10:00 AM Eastern Time until approximately 4:00 PM Eastern Time with a one-hour break for lunch.
• You will learn from both lectures and demonstrations presented by Jim Zub.
• You will be a part of a private Q&A with Zub and host Andy Schmidt.
• You will learn about financially planning a comic book project.
• You will learn how to find great collaborators.
• You will learn how to be a great collaborator.
• You will learn about the different avenues to publication.
• You will learn how to prepare a project to pitch it and how most effectively to pitch a project.

This Seminar is $295. For Creators Workshop members, a $50 discount is offered on the forums.

You’ll have access to a recording of the seminar for two full weeks after it’s held—including the Q&A portion.

Online registration only: To attend the Master Seminar: Building Your Comic Project with Jim Zub, you must register online. Enrollment is limited!

Creator-Owned Economics: Grabbing The Long Tail

Nine months ago I posted an update on how Wayward was selling in the market and compared it to a similar release period for Skullkickers, my breakout creator-owned series that launched in 2010. I wanted to get this update pulled together sooner, but things have been busy, in a very good way. Lots of great new work-for-hire projects on tap along with a small break to clear my head. But now that the summer is well underway I’ve had a bit of time to dig back into the numbers and, as always, I think it’s interesting to look at how it’s developing.

The comic market is jam-packed with product. There’s a cornucopia of choices for readers every week, with more titles fighting for shelf space and a sense that grabbing market share requires constant reboots, renumbering, and controversy in order to move the needle.

Keeping a creator-owned title consistent and making it successful without the marketing muscle or global movie icon status Marvel or DC have is tough. Wayward launched quite strongly and by the end of our second story arc it looked like we’d found a relatively stable sales level. Let’s see how that’s continued with arc 3:

01-July2015Update-WaywardSingleIssueSales

Wayward #11-15 follows what a lot of industry people would call ‘standard market attrition’.
The start of each story arc sees a small boost and then the numbers continue to settle a bit lower each month after that. You’ll see a similar curve for a lot of superhero titles, which is why there’s a tendency to hit that ‘relaunch’ button more and more frequently. Raising awareness on a title and doing a round of press is expected for a new #1, while it’s much-much harder for readers, retailers, and reviewers to take notice of a #11 or a #16.

Still, that bar graph doesn’t look too bad. It’s a graceful easing after issue 1. What does that mean for our single issue profitability?

02-July2015Update-WaywardSingleIssueProfits

Yikes. Okay, that definitely doesn’t look good. In Wayward arc 3 we started skimming along the threshold where printing and distribution costs start to really eat into profitability. As I’ve talked about before, the cost of creating a product like a comic varies depending on your ‘price per unit’. The more you’re able to print (and sell), the cheaper each one costs, vastly improving your profitability. Once you dip below a certain key threshold, that balance between production cost and profitability starts to work against you. Even though our sales in arc 3 only dropped 21.2%, the profitability on those single issues dropped 67.7% because we fell below that ideal balance.

So, you look at that and it seems pretty obvious – Wayward’s days must be limited. We probably shouldn’t even be producing a fourth story arc because we’re going to drop right off that chart into unprofitability. At best we should wrap our story up by issue 20 and call it a day, right?

Wrong.

Let’s look at our trade paperback sales and you’ll see why.

03-July2015Update-WaywardTPBs

Since the first Wayward trade paperback launched in March 2015, we’ve seen explosive growth in our collection sales. Unlike single issue sales where initial orders define the health of a series, trade paperback sales have the potential to be ‘long tail’; They continue to grow rather than shrink. In fact, in Q3-Q4 2015 we sold more trade paperbacks than we did at launch. Wayward is consistently picking up new readers and quite a few of them are moving on to buy Volume 2 and 3 or our Deluxe Edition hardcover (which includes volume 1 + 2 + 80 pages of back matter + poster all in one spiffy over-sized package).

Let’s compare cost versus sales:

04-July2015Update-WaywardTrends2

In late 2014 Image invested in a large print run of Wayward Vol. 1, confident the series could continue to sell as long as we were consistent with our release schedule. With each subsequent sales period you can see how that’s working: the collection back stock continues to move, making each six month block more profitable than the last. By Q3-Q4 2015 we’re making more than double what’s been spent on printing, shipping, and storage while digital sales continue to grow, increasing our overall readership.

Skullkickers had six month periods where the collections made more than was being spent on printing and distribution, but early expenditures dug a deep hole we had trouble getting out of and the overall margins were much thinner. We finished the series, but barely broke even when it was all said and done.

05-July2015Update-WaywardTrends1

If all you saw was analysis of monthly single issue sales, Wayward would look like a middle-of-the-pack Image title with unremarkable numbers. It has a small but dedicated readership in single issue format (and they mean a lot to us), but the bigger story is the success it’s seeing in collection sales.

Wayward does really well in comic shops, book stores, libraries, online retailers, and conventions in a collected format where people get a chunk of story all at once and then anticipate what comes next. Our ‘Buffy in Japan’ sales pitch mixed with high quality art/story, good word of mouth, YALSA recognition, and our ability to balance on a shaky tightrope between American comics and manga is working for us.

WaywardVol01Cover-FRONT000-WaywardVol02Cover-FRONTWaywardVol03Cover-FRONTWAYWARD-DeluxeBOOK1Cover

I would love for our single issue sales to be higher (and I’m hoping more of our collection readers will get impatient and subscribe at their local comic shops) but right now our trade paperback sales are strong enough that we can continue to push forward. Steven can continue to make Wayward his full time job, Tamra, Marshall, Zack (and now Ann who is helping with Irish lore research), and our alt cover artists all get paid, and I get to keep building this supernatural adventure series chapter by chapter, arc by arc.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, tracking the life or death of one creator-owned comic series isn’t an accurate barometer for the industry as a whole, but I do think Wayward is following several trends worth noting:

The Long Tail:The importance of trade paperback collections for the long term viability of a series is undeniable and I think that trend is going to continue as the market keeps expanding beyond traditional comic shops. Image has done a masterful job at leveraging the visibility of The Walking Dead, Saga, Sex Criminals, The Wicked + The Divine and many other hit series to build trust in the book and library market for their collections. Every Image title has benefited from that rising tide.

Digital Is Growth: As many people have noted, digital isn’t killing the traditional print market. Yes, there are people switching to digital, but the majority of digital comic readers seem to be “additive”, new or returning readers supporting work rather than pirating it. Digital may only account for 11.28% of our sales, but profit-wise it’s a valuable addition that helps keep our series running.

Single Issues Matter, But They’re Not The Whole Story: Single issue sales still have a place in this market. Serializing stories over months builds an audience, builds market awareness, and gives readers more options even if trade paperbacks are the go-to choice for more and more fans. That said, I think the emphasis placed on single issue sales to determine success/failure is short-sighted and damaging. Right now it feels like the Diamond 300 chart and the New York Times Best Seller List for Graphic Novels are the only two metrics people follow and neither one covers a broad enough picture of sales and growth. The ‘single issue success’ mentality leads to the kind of boom-or-bust speculation and variant cover glut that has destabilized the market before and could do so again.

The Middle of the Pack Is Important: The prose publishing world has slowly eaten away at the idea of “mid-list authors” and I think comics should be careful not to slip into a similar mindset. Comic sales continue to grow in a market where many other categories struggle and the best way to keep those gains from being clawed back is by continuing to build out the market with variety rather than sinking all development into a narrow field of “hit-makers” or Hail Mary-style events/ controversies/ reboots/ renumberings.

Wayward16A-585x900-webGlitterbomb01A-585x900-web

Wayward #16, beginning our fourth story arc, arrives in late September. Glitterbomb #1, my new Hollywood horror series, launches earlier that same month. I’m hopeful for my own personal growth and the continued strength of the industry as a whole. Tell people about the books you feel are worth investing in and support the kind of industry you want to see now and into the future.

If you found this post interesting, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics, donating to my Patreon, or buying comics from me in person if you see me at a convention.

Promotion: Building Retailer Trust

I’ve spoken before about how important it is for independent creators to reach out to retailers even if they have a publisher. Building a healthy dialogue with the people who are on the ground selling your work can make a huge difference to finding an enthusiastic readership and, of course, future sales of your book.

Comic retailers in the direct market have an incredibly difficult job. Each month they comb through the Diamond Previews catalogue and decide how many copies of HUNDREDS of different line items they’re going to purchase for their store. The key word there is “purchase”. The vast majority of items ordered by comic shops are bought on a non-returnable basis. Essentially, the comic store is your actual customer and they’re selling comics to their customers at a mark-up to cover the items that don’t sell, pay their rent/bills, and ideally actually make some kind of profit on their investment.

Think about that for a minute. Put yourself in their shoes. You invest thousands of dollars buying comics based on a postage stamp cover image and brief description of the contents from a catalogue, multiplied by several hundred times every single month. Order too little, your customers are annoyed and you lose out on important purchases. Order too much you’re stuck with product that takes up space and loses you money.

Wayward15Solicit

Here’s all retailers have to go on when they decide how many copies to order of WAYWARD #15.
Imagine trying to accurately order like this for hundreds of different comics per month.

When you realize how difficult ordering non-returnable comics are, a lot of retail behavior that may seem obtuse suddenly makes perfect sense. That’s why pre-orders and pull files are so important. That’s why books coming out when they’re solicited is so crucial. That’s why well known publishers, characters, and creators are such a priority. At every turn a retailer is trying to minimize variables to make sure they can sell through on what they order. The more inventory they’re unable to move, the harder it is for them to stay afloat.

If you want to increase your orders through the direct market, you have to prove your work is something a retailer can count on. One of the ways I do that is by sending my retail email list a complete PDF of my creator-owned comics before Final Order Cut-Off (the final date where retailers can adjust their order numbers before we set our print run).

I want retailers to know exactly what they’re ordering and feel confident in terms of who they can sell it to. I remove the unknown about the contents from their ordering equation so they can make a more accurate assessment of its worth to their store.

Here’s an example of the retail preview email I send out through Mail Chimp (a great web-based email list organizer), with the download link redacted:
EmailExample

Some common questions I get from other creators about this practice:

Q: Do you send the entire issue or just a preview?

A: The whole thing. Like I said above, I want retailers to know exactly what they’re ordering and to be informed so they can bring their customers on board the work I’m doing.

Q: How do you add retailers to your email list?

A: Whenever I meet a retailer at a convention and I get their card, I ask if it’s okay to add them to my list. Same with any retailer contact I have online. It’s a slow build but works a lot better than spamming random retailers hoping they respond.

Q: Aren’t you worried retailers might reduce their orders when they read the whole issue?

A: It’s possible, but I’d rather have a shop order what they can sell than have unsold copies hanging around for months and months on end making me look bad. I think the quality of what I’m producing is worthwhile, but either way I respect the stores who are ordering my comics and want them to be fully informed about what they’re getting when they place that order.

Q: Aren’t you worried about someone pirating the PDF you send out to retailers?

A: I’m sending this advance PDF out about a month before release, so it’s possible they could pirate the work, but that would also cannibalize their possible sales as well, which seems counter-intuitive. I respect the fact that they’re my retail partner and have to trust that they’re not trying to hurt the comic industry. So far no one has screwed me over on this, and my fingers are crossed that it remains that way moving forward.

Q: What if they ignore the email and don’t read it?

A: Then I’m in the exact same boat I was before, but at least it’s there if they ever want to dig in and see what I’m producing.


When publishers try to pull a fast one on retailers by artificially inflating sales or not delivering what they promise, it breaks trust and leaves retailers in a difficult spot. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want to sell as many copies as possible because that enables me to keep creating, but I also want to make sure those copies are reaching excited readers. When retailers know they can rely on my work, they’ll order more copies, promote it better, and help me build an audience that comes back for each new project I announce.

If you’re a retailer who isn’t already receiving advance PDFs from me, please contact me with your store site and contact info so I can make sure you’re on my retail email list. I want to work with you and keep making great comics.


If you found the above tutorial helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics to show your support.

Tutorial: FAQ Round-Up

With my current work schedule it’s been difficult to put together the kind of tutorial articles I did a year or two ago. Even still, I try to keep up with questions from aspiring creators on my Tumblr page. If you’re not following me there you might have missed some interesting information or helpful advice.

I’ll use this post as a hub to paraphrase the best questions and point you toward my answers:

Q&ABar1
SUBMITTING YOUR PITCH/PORTFOLIO

Q: For email submissions, what format should I use?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/137816013685/for-email-submissions-what-kind-of-format-do-you

Q: Is it better to submit a mini-series or ongoing series?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/136881062290/one-thing-i-dont-think-i-saw-in-your-posts-was
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/101220936630/ive-been-reading-your-blog-very-closely-and-have

Q: Is it better to release one graphic novel or a mini-series and trade collection?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/80599971891/what-incentives-are-there-to-making-monthly-issues

Q: Is it okay to pitch a book you already self published?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/117516172775/hi-jim-i-wondered-if-it-ever-makes-sense-to-pitch

Q: Once you get a ‘green light’ on a comic project, then what happens? What’s the next step?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/149440050655/newb-question-once-you-get-a-greenlight-on-a

Q: Do you worry about a publisher rejecting a pitch and then stealing the idea?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/117459511565/not-sure-if-youve-experienced-this-jim-but-when

Q: How many “no’s” did you get before finally getting something published?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/128724185655/i-dont-expect-any-a-response-but-how-many-nos

Q: When did you realize you’d “made it” in the comic industry?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/112012600650/hi-jim-loving-your-inspirational-posts-and
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/80720187118/as-a-fellow-comic-creator-i-was-wondering-how

Q&ABar2WRITING ADVICE

Q: How do I get started making my own comics?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/111979954730/how-do-i-get-started-in-making-my-own-comics

Q: What are the most common mistakes you see from new comic creators?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/83015069393/dear-jim-what-are-in-your-opinion-the-top-5-or

Q: Did you go to school for writing?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/113687068195/hi-jim-im-curious-if-you-ever-took-any-college
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/112081144160/how-far-do-you-think-someone-can-go-with-a-career

Q: What do your comic scripts look like?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/91880015085/wheelr-guttersnipercomics

Q: How long does it take to write a comic?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/128750360600/how-long-does-it-take-to-write-a-comic

Q: I’m having trouble getting my ideas down and organized. What do you suggest?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/137623641105/ive-had-an-idea-for-a-comic-ive-wanted-to-write

Q: How do you come up with character personalities and develop them? Any tips?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/139937550740/how-do-you-come-up-with-character-personalities

Q: What advice would you give to someone working on their first ongoing title?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/132541809000/how-do-you-plot-out-an-ongoing-series-ive-tried
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/135733194495/what-advice-would-you-give-to-someone-working-on

Q: What things make up a great first issue?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/135708402045/hey-man-hope-youre-doin-well-if-you-have-the

Q: Do you have any advice on how to make a comic book adaptation of a novel?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/134056703515/do-you-have-any-advice-on-how-to-make-a-comic-book

Q: How do you come up with titles for your stories?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/127197979645/do-you-struggle-with-story-titles-if-so-how-do

Q: How do you structure a short comic story?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/131748911780/how-do-you-structure-a-small-5-page-comic

Q: How many panels should I put on a page?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/105349206560/hello-im-an-aspiring-comic-book-writer-and

Q: Do comic writers have to use sound effects?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/131588272400/do-you-know-any-writer-that-doesnt-write-sfx

Q: How do I get feedback on my comic writing?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/127826664080/it-hurts-when-you-say-you-wont-review-peoples
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/71754649055/about-your-jealousy-is-poision-post-what-if-we
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/160732717435/been-trying-to-break-into-comics-and-get-my

Q: How do I critique my own work?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/124574148000/ive-re-written-my-first-issue-nearly-six-or-seven

Q: Do you have advice on co-writing a story with another writer:
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/133898589330/though-im-not-the-anon-who-sent-you-the-previous
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/134056295130/hi-jim-your-comments-on-how-do-you-co-write-a

Q: How can I improve gender-racial equality in my writing?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/117986754960/id-like-to-think-that-im-sensitive-to-the

Q: How do webcomics differ from print comics?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/115577681220/in-terms-of-process-how-do-web-comics-differ-from

Q: I want to be a comic writer but I feel like I’m running out of time. Should I call it quits?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/147345886260/i-want-to-be-a-comic-writer-but-i-feel-like-im

Q&ABar3CREATOR-OWNED COMICS

Q: Is it better to buy single issues or trades to support a creator-owned series?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/115630267710/as-a-comic-loving-dad-space-can-really-be-an
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/138060870005/ive-been-following-your-work-since-skullkickers

Q: What’s the difference between self-publishing and being published by Image?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/104336034670/whats-the-difference-between-self-publishing-and
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/104068099395/hey-man-i-want-to-know-what-percentage-of-sales

Q: How much money do creator-owned comics make compared to working for Marvel/DC?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/127593623035/not-knowing-much-of-the-business-side-of-things

Q: Could you provide any advice on copyrighting or trademarking your work?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/135191109785/jim-could-you-provide-any-advice-on

Q: Do I have to pay to print my own book if I’m published by Image Comics?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/125199459950/im-working-on-a-superhero-comic-book-series-and

Q: What’s the proper percentage breakdown for profits between a writer and artist?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/125706365715/in-a-creator-owned-work-the-profits-are-50-to
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/104119664470/hey-i-read-your-post-on-percentage-of-sales-and

Q: Do creators always control their work with creator-owned comics?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/121641083195/am-i-correct-in-understanding-that-creator-owned

Q&ABar4WORK-FOR-HIRE COMICS

Q: How much flexibility are you given on work-for-hire projects?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/131757402180/hey-jim-just-read-your-last-ask-and-thats-a

Q: How much interaction do you have with the art team when you write work-for-hire?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/132868342705/how-much-interaction-do-you-have-with-the-art-team

Q: is it normal for DC/Marvel to approach you instead of you approaching them?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/111979546285/hey-jim-is-it-normal-for-dcmarvel-to-approach

Q&ABar5MISCELLANEOUS INDUSTRY QUESTIONS

Q: How can I find an audience for my work?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/132950500770/reposting-from-fb-what-would-your-tips-be-on

Q: How do you work on multiple projects at the same time?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/130304241340/hey-jim-i-have-two-questions-for-you1-how-do-you
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/131810783435/how-do-you-go-about-writing-on-more-than-one
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/115664427830/are-you-really-writing-six-comics-a-month-how

Q: How do I get involved with the social side of the comic industry?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/132116904370/i-follow-a-bunch-of-comic-creators-on-twitter-and

Q: Is there anywhere I can see what a professional contract looks like?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/128748976440/is-there-a-place-where-i-can-see-what-a

Q: If someone had a great comic story idea and you liked it would you consider co-writing it with them?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/133896865595/if-someone-had-a-great-comic-story-idea-and-you

Q: I hear about writers needing other jobs to make a living. Is that true with writing comics?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/137239239485/i-hear-about-writers-needing-other-jobs-to-make-a
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/104934807775/if-you-didnt-teach-do-you-think-you-would-of

Q: Do you get invited to comic conventions you attend? How does that work?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/139378699795/hello-jim-do-you-get-invited-to-the-comic

Q: How do I become a comic colorist?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/92426334105/youre-a-writer-and-know-things-how-does-one

Q: Have you ever had a comic or project you were involved in turn into a disaster?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/134066715390/ever-have-a-comic-or-project-you-were-involved-in

Q: What do you think of the diversity trend in mainstream comics?
A: http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/133038810685/snippy-nope-answer-is-kinda-funny-but-im-serious
and
http://jimzub.tumblr.com/post/129649876830/according-to-bleeding-cool-dc-is-using


If you found the above Q&A links helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics to show your support for me answering all these questions instead of doing paying work. 😛

Creator-Owned Economics: Wayward Oct 2015

Just over seven months ago I posted a financial/sales article letting people know how well Wayward launched in the current comic market using Skullkickers, my previous creator-owned series, as a comparative benchmark. Now that Wayward’s second story arc is complete and I have more sales data to look at I thought it would be good to post an update.

I’m happy to say that Wayward is doing well in a very, very competitive market. With both Marvel and DC putting out a ton of new #1 issues and Image on an incredible roll with new creator-owned series, the shelves at comic shops are absolutely jam-packed and it can be hard to stand out. Every series goes through periods of attrition, and that’s to be expected, but my biggest fear has been that we’d get completely lost in the shuffle and our readership would plummet.

Here’s how initial sales have held up through 10 issues:
ComparitiveSales-Wayward-SK-01-10

Wayward arc 2 stabilized quite well and it looks like we may have found our ‘level’. The drop between issue 7 and issue 10 for Final Order Cut-Off (when comic retailers finalize their order numbers) was less than 500 copies and the gap between each one has gotten smaller and smaller. The variance between issue 9 and 10 was less than 50 copies. What doesn’t show up on that chart is that we’ve also been getting steady reorders on earlier issues and, once you factor those in, the series has even more stability at this point in time.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have any concerns. Creator-owned books are always vulnerable to market fluctuations and even small drops that accumulate over the long haul could push us into a situation where the series isn’t financially viable. Arc 2 was stable but we need to make sure we keep readers around through arc 3 and beyond. My fingers are crossed that we’ll get a small post-trade bump on Wayward #11 (have you pre-ordered your copy yet?) to keep us rolling.

Okay, so sales look good, but how does that translate into initial earnings:
ComparitiveProfits-Wayward-SK-01-10

You can see that even a slight variance in sales can have a larger effect on profits. Again, we’re seeing overall stability, but there is some drift there as it moves along.

By this point in its life cycle Skullkickers was already struggling to turn a profit in single issue print sales while Wayward is covering its production costs. What that means is that the art team (Steve, Tamra, and Ludwig) gets paid, our letterer (Marshall Dillon) gets paid, our back matter essay writer (Zack) gets paid, and Image gets their base fee without me having to dip into my personal savings to cover any of the bills. The small amount of profit leftover month to month isn’t much but that’s okay. I’m in for the long haul with convention book sales, digital/print accruals, and co-ownership. I was also able to sock away some money from our big first issue for my “future project war chest.”

Let’s look at the latest issue breakdown of who gets what:
PieChart-Wayward10

As you can see, those percentages have moved around compared to Wayward #1 Cover A (which had a massive print run compared to issue #10, skewing the numbers quite a bit). With Image’s flat rate fees and the changing price of printing, shipping, storage, and distribution each issue will vary, but this seems to be a more “normal” breakdown for our series. It’s also a more of a balance as the creative team, distributor, and publisher have a stake in the series. As I mentioned before, being with the 3rd largest comic publisher in North America during their current renaissance has been a huge benefit. Image has been able to leverage their hit series to bring down printing costs and negotiate terms that leave more money for them and the creative team.

Let’s look at accrued sales and digital:
Wayward-Accrued-Issue-Sales

If you compare these to the first chart you’ll see that reorders have helped some of the issues level out. As an example, Wayward#2 has sold an additional 7% of its initial order numbers in reorder copies.
I was surprised to see that Wayward is primarily a print-heavy audience right now. Digital sales (the vast majority of which are through comiXology) only make up 9.1% of our current sales totals (and I didn’t count issues 8-10 in that calculation since I don’t have digital data for those issues yet). I was expecting a higher percentage of digital, but now that many of our early issues are sold out at Diamond that number will almost certainly increase.

Okay, so how about trade paperbacks?
ComparativeSales-Wayward-SK-TPB01-02

In short, Wayward is kicking ass in trade. Image printed a very aggressive number of Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory books and in the past six months we’ve moved a big chunk of that stock thanks to great word of mouth and a $9.99 cover price. Although convention sales aren’t reflected in that chart, I can anecdotally say that Wayward Vol. 1 sells very well for me at shows. I usually just tell people “It’s like Buffy in Japan”, mention it’s only $10 and they’re in.

I know a few other creators I’ve spoken to have been wary of the $9.99 first volume price point, but so far on Wayward it’s working well. Image printed enough copies that our price per unit is incredibly small and that means it won’t take long to get that book into the black. Most importantly, the $9.99 pricing has paved the way for a lot of new readers to try it out. It’s a loss leader to build our overall audience, banking on the fact that they’ll come back for Volumes 2, 3, and beyond. I’ve been able to sell multiple copies to people to give as gifts or buy again even though they have the single issues. $10 feels like a reasonable price to spontaneously try something new, especially at a convention. I don’t think the value pricing is useful on a mini-series collection or short run, but for an ongoing series like Wayward it seems to be helping.

Skullkickers has always had a trade-waiter readership and I’ve been happy with our TPB sales but Wayward is gaining ground at a ridiculous rate. In six months Wayward Vol. 1 has sold about 90% of the lifetime sales of Skullkickers Vol. 1 from the past four and half years. Yeah, that’s kind of nuts. Initial orders on Wayward Vol. 2 were almost the same as volume 1, so I’m also curious to see how it’s selling in six months time.

Now that Skullkickers is complete it moves into new territory for me. Over the next year I’m going to see what the long tail sales are like for the six trade paperbacks and three deluxe hardcovers that encompass the series. Will more people try it out knowing they can read it all or does the finality of it and lack of new issues make it less visible? I genuinely don’t know.

Skullkickers-TreasureTroveSkullkickersTreasure-hc2-coverSkullkickers-TreasureTrove3

On the deluxe book front, the first year of Wayward is being collected in a spiffy oversized hardcover called, appropriately enough, Wayward Deluxe. It’s a bit mind boggling for me to realize that in one year we put together enough material for a 320 page tome, but we did and I’m hopeful that it makes it onto some comic buying gift guides and sells well through the holidays.

WAYWARD-DeluxeBOOK1Cover

As I mentioned in my previous article, I think Wayward’s success has been a combination of Image’s growth, my increased career visibility, and an engaging concept coupled with Steve and Tamra’s knockout artwork. The audience I’ve built up over the years through working on Pathfinder, Samurai Jack, Conan Red Sonja, Dungeons & Dragons, Street Fighter, and Figment have come together along with Skullkickers readers to give Wayward some wings. If we can keep that grassroots interest going I’m hopeful the series will have a long life.

If you’ve bought Skullkickers or Wayward, as a retailer or reader, you have my deepest thanks. In an industry with giant media companies and world-beating superhero brands I’m doing my best to carve out a little spot for my creations and I couldn’t do it without your help.

If you found this post interesting, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics, donating to my Patreon, or buying comics from me in person if you see me at a convention.

The Full Script for WAYWARD #1!

Wayward01-CoverA-FRONT

A year ago WAYWARD #1 arrived in comic shops nationwide so, as a special thank you to all of you, I’m posting up the full script for the issue. If you own the issue or our first trade paperback you can compare the script to the final printed version page by page and see how the collaborative process of making comics works.

Please feel free to share this post and link far and wide.

WAYWARD #1 FULL SCRIPT
http://bit.ly/1i8zMJ6

All of us on the Wayward team deeply appreciate your support. Keep telling people about the series.

(PS: Back in 2011 I posted the full script for SKULLKICKERS #1. You can find that over HERE.)


WaywardVol01Cover-FRONT
Wayward Vol. 1
String Theory

(issues #1-5)

Rori Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can she unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late?

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Chapters-Indigo
Cheap GNs
comiXology
Forbidden Planet
Instock Trades
Midtown Comics
TFAW
Third Eye Comics

How to Color for Comics?

With so many tutorials on my site about how to write comics, I occasionally get asked about good resources for other parts of the comic creation process. Well, I’m happy to point people toward this one, and that’s not just because it has a Skullkickers pin-up in the example. 🙂

skullkickers_edwinhuang_COLORS

K Michael Russell has put together an extensive online course that walks through professional comic coloring techniques step-by-step. If you check out the course outline you’ll see an exhaustive number of subjects covered, all broken down into bite-sized pieces that make it easy to understand and refer back to.

There are two versions of the course offered for sale. One is streaming video off the site and the other one is downloadable so you can have the files stored locally on your computer and reference them any time.

rendering_section

advanced_techniques

When I was going through art school Photoshop was just coming into its own as production software and I had to learn a lot of these techniques through trial and error or by cobbling together tutorials from a variety of sources while asking friends for help. I wish I had something as clearly laid out and well organized as this course when I started digitally coloring my work.

Needless to say, I recommend it for people who want to produce pro quality comic coloring.

326x126-cc-com-logo