Self-Publishing for Cartoonists

 "A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad."
 
-Albert Camus

 

Article by cartoonist Dan Murphy

If what you want is to publish something luggable that can hold down a coffee table, get gift-wrapped, and be dog-eared in libraries by aspirants and acolytes, you might decide to follow the example of reknown cartoonist Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher and crowd-source a bankroll on Kickstarter to get the presses rolling and bookbinders binding.  It would help, of course, to precede that indie pitch with three decades of stellar cartooning at a publication comparable to The Economist.

For cartoonists who prefer skipping the decades and don't mind existing on smartphones and tablets in lieu of bookshelves, Comixology Submit and iBooksAuthor, both around since 2012, have just been joined by Amazon's Kindle Comic Creator (KCC).  All are free downloads that can serve in getting comics, graphic novels and political cartoon treasuries out there.  Submitting the finished digital tome to the respective digital bookstore is free as well.

 

Web author R. Scot Johns has posted a tech-savvy review of Kindle Comic Creator. (His website also offers tutorials on Kindle KF8 and iBooks book making.

 

A quick thumbnail of some differences between formats:

Kindle's Comic Creator gives the author input on what gets magnified throughout the comic, if you want that. Comixology's Guided View software automatically chooses the reader's visual pathway (but claims it does so brilliantly).

 

iBooks Author is the only format to accomodate video and hyperlinks, though KCC promises to be video-friendly down the line.

 

The Apple entry, true to Steve Jobs' Apple-centric proclivity, makes an iPad a viewing requirement (though there's now a way that'll apparently make your iBook Kindle-friendly).

Comixology publishes to a pantheon of devices -- Apple, KindleFire, Windows 8.  Ditto Kindle.

 

KCC gives an author freedom to sell their work outside of Amazon.  Comixology Submit authors can do the same.

 

Books published in iBooks format can only be sold (or given away for free, something the others don't allow) through an iBooks store or iTunes U, though if exported "from iBooks Author as a PDF" you can sell it anywhere.

 

All three formats let you publish without wading into HTML/CSS.

 

Comixology Submit accepts your comic or graphic novel in PDF format.  With Kindle Comic Creator, you can build a book page by page in your choice of jpg, pdf, tiff, png or ppm. Apple iBooks is a drag-and-drop operations, with text in iWork Pages or Microsoft Word, and images in jpg, png, gif and video and audio files as m4v, m4a.

 

 

The royalty provisions differ.  Comixology gives the author 50% of whatever's left over after expenses, which means 50% if you sell on Comixology.   But if the comic is sold via iBooks, after Apple takes its 30% cut, the artist splits the remaining 75% with Comixology.

 

With iBooks Author, it's a 70/30 split, the author taking the lion's share.

 

Kindle Comic Creator will sell your creation on Amazon and give you 35% of list price OR (in some territories) offer you 70% of the sale price but reserve the right to drop the price to what it decides is competitive.

 

So, are political cartoonists taking advantage?

 

Becky Jewell, at graphicly.com, points to Paul "Maddo" Kelemba's collection from Kenya, and says: "We wish that more political cartoonists would use our distribution platform, because ours publishes to Kindle, iBooks, and Nook worldwide."

 

 

For $150, graphicly.com publishes ebooks across formats and around the world (and secures the books an ISBN).

 

"We also have many books that deal with social matters across the world," Jewell says. "Since comics are a visual format, communicating social justice issues via the comics medium is something that many people seem to understand and appreciate.  For instance, here is a book on Graphicly that discusses issues surrounding the caste system in India."

 

  

 

Amazon's Brittany Turner says Kindle Comic Creator content just has to fall in line withKindlebooks' content guidelines.  Some of those guidelines are hard and fast (no porn, thou shalt respect copyright), but they also have loopholes big enough to back a truck full of Chinese censors through.  No "offensive content."  Well, a graphic novel depicting government corruption in Zimbabwe would offend Robert Mugabe.  So would Amazon stand behind a Kindle comic author and freedom of the press on that one?  Their content guidelines sure won't tell you.  And as for Kindle's willingness to publish and distribute advocacy comics targeting, for example, the NRA, the Keystone Pipeline, or China's presence in Tibet, Turner just offers a sphinx-like nod towards their guidelines.

 

At Comixology, Chip Mosher, VP of Marketing & PR, points to Wheeler and Duin's Oil And Water, about life in the Gulf in the wake of BP's Deepwater Horizon blowout as an example of supporting comics that tackle hard news.

 

 

 

And, though Comixology doesn't yet have Political, Satire or Advocacy listed as genres, Mosher says: "We’d love to have more political comics, more satire comics . . . We’re certainly not opposed to having a 'satire' or 'political' section of our app."

 

Apple offered no comment on whether it would support authors of iBooks tackling hard, controversial subjects graphically or compiling collections of trenchant political cartoons.