by Troy Little

Everyone has a different reason why they want to self publish comics. Mine began in a serious way when I unexpectedly found myself laid off my job for a year - I work as a freelancer in animation, which is as fickle an industry as comics, and I spent a lot of time debating which direction I should focus on I guess fate said "Comics" loud and clear.

With little to no interest in most mainstream comics, I never considered competing for a place in line to draw Batman. I needed to be able to write, draw and print whatever I wanted without anyone's approval. Self-publishing seemed the most logical route.

I spent a lot of time doing research as I was developing the story -- what printer to use, how much will it cost, how do distributors work, etc. I found Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing by accident and read it through about 10 times. As far as I'm concerned, this is essential reading material to the would-be-small-press-publisher.

I began Chiaroscuro in September 2000. I failed at my first attempt at the Xeric grant, and rightfully so - I had only 16 pages finished! Undaunted, I continued to work on the first issue, finished, and went on to the next. Chiaroscuro hit the shelves almost exactly one year from when I started it, and it was on my second attempt, then halfway through the second issue, that I was awarded the Xeric grant.

I could kiss Peter Laird for this, his respect for his humble beginnings and the founding of this grant made it possible for me to continue publishing and to promote my book in ways that would have been near impossible without it. Being associated as a Xeric grant recipient alone has been a tremendous help in drawing attention to my book.

Over the last year, I found that one of the greatest promotional tools for the small press publisher is the Internet. I started out by hyping my book on comic message boards, but it was quickly made apparent that people don't want to buy what they can't see. So I built a crude web site where I could display sample artwork and keep in touch with readers. The site has served me well; I get orders every week for back issues from people who just discovered the book.

Other than the Internet, my advice for promoting your book would be to start an e-mail newsletter, attend the small trade shows, get your books in the hands of online reviewers, answer your e-mails promptly, don't solicit your book until it's finished, deliver on time, and most of all, produce the best damn book you can.

Keep in mind that, like any business, you stand to lose money for the first five years. Understand that this commitment to story telling is going to take up your spare time and cash with no promises or guarantees. But really, If you love what you're doing than none of that matters very much, you just keep on doing it one way or another.

This December heralds the fifth issue of my comic, with issue six in the wings. So far so good.