Creating & Marketing Your Own Comic

“Get a piece of paper. Draw a comic. Run down to Kinko’s and photocopy it a few times. Sell it to someone for a dime. Voila! You’re in comics.”

– Scott McCloud, creator of UNDERSTANDING COMICS, MAKING COMICS etc.

As Scott suggests, one of the many things I love about comics is that they’re punk at its purest: anyone can do it with a minimum of outlay. All you need is something to say and the skill with which to say it. No publishers required, and no editors to dilute your message. Unlike film, you can present your work in any format you dream up for yourself. The shape, paper, printing process… it’s all up to you!

Below is a selection of emails we’ve received over the years about creating your own comics and selling them to retailers. It’s not exhaustive; it’s just what I have to hand and how I replied at the time in the Page 45 Mailshot’s letter column, updated here for the website.

You’ll also find some invaluable help in the following:

Lynda Barry’s WHAT IT IS
Gary Spencer Millidge’s COMIC BOOK DESIGN
Esther Watson & Mark Todd’s WHATCHA MEAN, WHAT’S A ZINE?
And the three relevant Will Eisner books on the subject.

There’s even more in our shop’s Art, Criticism & Creating Comics section. Matt Madden’s 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY will really make you think, and is hilarious in its own right for those of us without opposable thumbs.

Writers who aren’t artists will also find sample scripts dotted about various graphic novels like SANDMAN volume 3, the new edition of RED, and the CIVIL WAR: SCRIPT BOOK is exactly what it says.

Above all I would emphasise the following:

If you don’t try, then you will never know.
Creativity is cool!
Everyone has thousands of words and pictures inside of them that need to come out before you really start to sing: practise, persevere, and never let anyone tell you that you just can’t do it.

(Especially me. When I was five I tried to play the triangle. My teacher said, “Give it up!” and that was the end of my musical career. As it happens she was right, as anyone overhearing me devastate songs on PS3’s Singstar will tell you. Duran Duran have recently taken out a restraining order, but please don’t let that put you off.)

Not every critic gets it right. Even the late and very great Will Eisner turned down SUPERMAN. I looked at Lizz Lunney’s early work and to begin with she showed promise but wasn’t quite there. But look at her now – we can barely keep their brilliance in stock!

Hi there,

I’ve mentioned before that I’m making a graphic novel of my own, and that I’d like to put it on your shelf if possible. I have now finished my design and would appreciate you having a look over it (i understand this is a matter of weeks right?)

The comic is based on a holiday journal me and some friends made a couple of years ago, its quite rough and ready and home made style, which is what i was going for.

If there’s any chance you could have a look over it, please let me know and I’ll bring a copy over. I’m not really sure how it works with if you decide its ok to sell, like how many copies i need to make, or whether i just give you the one copy to begin with etc. I’d be grateful for any info on how you run that side of things.

Anyway, let me know if you’d like to have a look at it.

Thanks again,



Thanks for writing. We don’t normally have time to look over works that aren’t ready for sale, only printed copies. One of the few exceptions I can recall was Gary Spencer Millidge’s STRANGEHAVEN which we responded to immediately, ordered masses of the first few issues then sold them all. We’re still selling his exceptional books right now. On the other hand it was a photocopy of a comic all ready to go to press.

It tends to work like this: tremendously brave people leave a sample copy of the printed, finished product with us, and we express our gratitude. We won’t read it in front of you on the shop floor because we’re here to serve customers and we want to give any work submitted our undivided attention. Sometimes that takes a week, sometimes a month, but we’ll look at absolutely everything we’re offered because we want to make money from as many quality comics as possible.

All parties are absolutely delighted if we love it and believe that it has a market here, at which point we decide how many copies to take to begin with, possibly restocking later depending on how fast it sells. Everyone’s very sad if we don’t.

When we do take copies though, they’re on a firm-sale basis: you get a cheque when I’m next writing cheques, and it’s up to us then to promote and sell your wares. I know some shops only take self-published works on a sale-or-return basis, but sometimes they say “yes” just to get writers and artists off their backs, put the books on the stairs then return them unsold without having lost (or, you know, made) a penny.

Retailers usually want 30-40% of the cover price themselves – the higher end if it’s a firm sale and they pay you without lumbering you with any returns, or the lower end if they take them on a “sale or return” basis.

I really can’t decide for you how many copies to make, but I do recommend you buy a copy of Dave Sim’s CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (updated) which touches on precisely that point with several alternatives.

Hi, I’m one half of an aspiring Nottingham writer-artist team with a hefty graphic novel project in its early stages, and I heard that Page 45 might be able to offer support to local projects. I was just wondering what that support entails, and how we’d go about getting it once our work is complete. The work itself is a gritty science-fiction/fantasy story with no-holds-barred writing and a very dark style of illustration.

Any help would be fantastic.



Always great to hear of fresh creativity.

Basically it boils down to this: we support and indeed promote a lot of local, self-published comicbook material but not because it’s local and not because it’s self-published. We promote quality material we believe in regardless of publishing status and geographical location, and we support whatever we think will sell. Capitalist bastards that we are.

Oh look, here’s a lovely self-publisher we’ve supported for years:

Hi Stephen,

I hope that you are well! Happy New Year. I’m writing to say thanks very much for your cheque and to let you know that FLUFFY will be coming out in Hardback next month. I’ve given the publisher your contact details and she shall be in touch with you.

Also! Chip and Bean now have their very own quiz and it will be in the Independent on Sunday Review starting from the 28th of this month.

Speak to you soon,

all the best

Simone Lia

Chip and Bean in their own quiz! Now all I have to do is wake up that Sunday morning.

We still have a few of the original issues for sale, and the softcover of FLUFFY is permanently in stock. When it first appeared we made it our Comicbook Of The Month.

Dear Page 45,

I am writing to query if you would be interested in stocking a small press comic that needs the support of UK stores.

To give you some background, I write and produce for online comic Night Warrior, from Raging Psycho Comics, a UK based operation with worldwide writers and artists. Flame & Fury is our first printed issue and we need the support of independent stores to help sell our product.  I am the writer for the main story, with art by Steve Bentley. The issue is also backed up with a short issue by Tom Waltz and Casey Maloney, the team behind IDW’s Children of the Grave.

Due to the need to print in the US our costs have been high. Therefore, we offer 20% of the cover price (cover price is £2.99) on a sale or return basis. Some stores have offered to stock our issue for no cut in order to support the small press community, and while we gladly accept such generosity we feel it is only fair to at least offer what we can afford.

If you are interested in stocking the issue or have any other queries, please contact us at  *********** or you can contact me by phone on **********, and advise how many you would like to order.  We have a significant promotion opportunity in December, as such we are placing our print order on the 13th November 2006 and need orders confirmed before that date.

I hope you do not mind this unconventional approach, however we find it is too costly for a small press comic to go through a distributor. We hope with that with the support and exposure independent stores can provide we will be able to strengthen our position and build a platform for future success in the industry.

Many thanks for your time,

Paul Burke

A fine, professional email with everything we could have wanted were we interested in more Punisher/Batman comics. We’re not. We have enough of those, cheers. We’re looking for more stuff in a Simone Lia/Tom Gauld/Jeffrey Brown vein: gentle, fiction/non-fiction, or quietly crazy humour.

That’s how I replied to Paul, and Paul graciously replied:

Thanks Stephen, much appreciated. Is it common for stores to have a requirement on the content of small press comics? I notice you stock a broad range of professional comics so it could be a problem for us if stores are reluctant to stock small press comics that are more akin to The Punisher or Batman than the usual light humour ones that frequent this market.  It would be a disaster to be honest!

Thanks for your time.



I don’t think it’s common for stores to have any policy on the contents of what you call “small press” comics. It’s not very common on them to have any small press comics at all.

With us, it’s more of a question of, “There are enough Punishers and Batmen in the world already! Those shelves are crowded. Let’s go find some other voices with other sensibilities to sell to different readers.” All stores are different, though, so I’m sure you’ll do well from retailers who can’t get enough Batmen.

Here’s an example of why I get out bed in the morning (if I get out of bed in the morning):

hello again, thanks for the last 3mailshouts.

its just a quickish question that i hope you can answer or give me a tip/or someone else to ask. first let me say… i am new on the whole comic book thing but i’m enjoying what i see (some great things) i am really getting in to it. anyway i have been busy over the last 2/3 years whilst at school doodling and drawing (well my life really). i have even made my own characters etc. and recently started making books (stories) and a comic. now to the question, i want to know what to do now i have my ideas and comic ready to go. i have started testing the waters by selling my comic to friends at school. can you possibly give me advice, additional help or pass on details. hope this isn’t to hard question. thankyou kindly

helen hancocks.  🙂

ps- your shop is fantastico and dont stop as i want to come back…i’ve found stuff i like!


Firstly, thank you. You have no idea what it’s like to arrive in the morning to an email like that. It’s amazing, and you’re very, very kind.

The great thing about comics is that – yeah – it can be as immediate as just putting pencil and pen or brush to paper, taking a trip down to the photocopier, getting your head round how you’ll staple or otherwise bind it, then hawking them around your friends, posting them to your enemies, or seeing if you can persuade the idiots who run comic shops to take them and sell them for you. I’m certainly open to suggestion, so please send me a copy to look at!

The good news is that someone like Tanya Milkkitten, largely ignored throughout this industry, has become something of a superstar at Page 45 (Jeremy Dennis always was and always will be a superstar here), and the same could happen to you. Both MILKKITTEN #4 and one of Jeremy’s WHORES OF MENSA were made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.

Finally, whilst reassuring you that Page 45, perhaps more than any other retailer over the last twenty years, has discovered and nurtured new voices regardless of where they came from, let’s put one final misconception to bed via an email from my dear friend Dr. Bryan Talbot, by far one of this country’s most talented comicbook creators whose works we have championed since our very first hours. That’s how we became friends in the first place, and by promoting someone like Bryan is how we initially prospered. But he was somewhat surprised recently when he posted about us on-line:

Hi Stephen,

Are your ears burning?

No, that’s my fingers. I’ve fifteen different ashtrays around this house and none of them appear to be in the study right now.

One of the places I informed of your mailshot was Smallzone, which I think I also invited you to join. Did you do so? For there’s a bit of a follow-up discussion started (below). If you’re not a member and want to join up to add a comment here, let me know.

I never thought of P45 as not indy-friendly!



Reply by Terry Martin 1 hour ago:

. . . and I’ve yet to convince Steve that Murky Depths is right for Page 45 – but, of course, he knows his clientel better than I do. Shame that Travelling Man closed in Nottingham; Murky Depths used to sell well there.

Reply by Shane Chebsey 9 minutes ago:

Page 45 is a superb shop with one of the best selections of indy titles in the UK. However, they demand high standards, and are not to be considered “indy freindly” as such.

Every book is judged on both merit and commercial value, and although I think they sometimes don’t give enough indy titles a chance… as you say Terry, they certainly do know their customers… hence many years as a successful retailer.

I am surprised they don’t try Murky Depths though. Then again, they wouldn’t try Falling Sky either, and I reckon it would sell really well for them… not being biased, honest.


Aww, isn’t Shane a lovely? Seek out MURKY DEPTHS and FALLING SKY online. Google their creators or something.

In the meantime, by way of a short column, here’s how I replied to Bryan whilst emphasising that I am in no way referring to either of the above sterling gentlemen, but instead making a wider observation. Let’s call it…

Middle of the road is only a place
where you’re most likely to get run over


As it happens – and you can quote me if you like – Shane Chebsey’s absolutely right. I’ve gone on record before as saying that Page 45 isn’t exactly ‘indie-friendly’ in the widely perceived definition of the phrase.

For a start I don’t even recognise the term ‘indie’ and never, ever use it. At worst it’s as self-defeating as ‘small press’ and even at best it’s utterly meaningless. Kylie Minogue was in the Indie Charts, and music doesn’t come more corporate than that.

I went to great lengths in the original version of the CEREBUS GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING to explain what I meant, and it was there that I coined the term ‘Real Mainstream’ to denote the average woman or man on the street who at Page 45 has lapped up what so many refer to as ‘small press’ but which to us is self-evidently mainstream because it appeals to the mainstream in a way that the niche genre of superheroes never, ever will. I wrote that we need to take back the English language from the American corporations who stole the term ‘Mainstream’ for their own financial benefit with the complicity in the US and UK of almost every retailer, journalist and creator, even if they themselves represent the Real Mainstream.

Page 45 is Quality Friendly.

Page 45 is Quality Friendly Regardless Of Publishing Status. The key words there are ‘Quality’ and ‘Regardless’. You can hit the ‘Diversity’ key right next to it if you like.

That means that regardless of who publishes the material, if we regard your work as brilliant and different, we will make every effort not just to keep your work in stock and pay you accordingly, but to shelve it attractively, promote it in the Page 45 Mailshot and recommend it one-to-one on the shop floor. And there aren’t many comic shops that can say that: they refuse to stock anything other than corporate superheroes. But if it isn’t brilliant or it isn’t different, we have no use for the material whatsoever.

I’ve come across those who believe that just because they are not published by DC or Marvel then that gives them an inherent right to our shelves. It doesn’t, particularly since they tend to be those peddling biro-drawn superhero knock-offs.

We’re always very grateful for any opportunity to discover new material (so thanks again for showing me BRITTEN & BRÜLIGHTLY, a fine recommendation indeed) which is how we came to sell over 200 copies of STRANGEHAVEN #1 and even more copies of Nabiel Kanan’s EXIT #1. But it often blows my mind that some of these people who are narked for being refused valuable shelf space here think that they deserve to be racked next to the likes of Chris Ware, Eddie Campbell, Alison Bechdel, Rosalind Penfold, Oliver East, Hope Larson, David Heatley, Jeffrey Brown, Simone Lia, Shaun Tan, Posy Simmonds, Tom Gauld, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry, Tanya Milkkitten, Joe Sacco, Andi Watson, Nabiel Kanan, Guy Delisle, some chap called Bryan Talbot and the hundreds of other Greats, each of whose works we sell in three-figure numbers. Hell, we sold precisely 100 copies of Jeremy Dennis’ 3 IN A BED, and would have sold far more if she had any more.

And do you know what? These people who think their wares merit such placement…? Largely they haven’t even heard of more than a couple of the above and wouldn’t ever dream of buying a copy themselves, at which point I just shrug my shoulders and sigh.

So no, Page 45 is not and never has been a soft option for amateur drivel. We’re here for the Real Mainstream, like the rich, blue-rinsed, octogenarian lady you’re so fond of talking about who strolled into Page 45 by mistake when you first signed here, bought and then relished your TALE OF ONE BAD RAT. Those sort of people demand quality.

Give us insight, inspiration and craft, and we will worship you to the heavens, prostrate ourselves at your feet and – in one notable case above – take care of a third of your world-wide, first-year sales.



P.S. To my shock and horror I have recently been informed that Page 45 accounts for almost every single reorder at Diamond UK of Rosalind Penfold’s magnificent DRAGONSLIPPERS: THIS IS WHAT AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP LOOKS LIKE. We’ve sold hundreds of the UK and US editions, and there are few books we’ve stocked that have ever elicited so much heartfelt feedback, but it seems that no one else in comicbook retail cares. It is to weep.

DRAGONSLIPPERS most certainly isn’t ‘indie’: it’s published in every country by mainstream prose publishers, as is your own ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, which has here outsold any given superhero book by a factor of twenty and gone into several new printings already yet which I swear people still refer to as ‘indie’. Penguin Books and Jonathan Cape are apparently ‘indie’!

That’s what I mean by the English language.

How can a book bought by the mainstream and adored by the mainstream be anything other than mainstream?

Mainstream isn’t a term to be embarrassed about, it signals the breadth of your appeal. Small Press sends the signal that you’re beloved by no one. And that simply isn’t the case.