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B&N Week 166: How Often Can You Reasonably Publish?

| February 25, 2014

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Hey! Wasn’t it just Tuesday? Feels like it, doesn’t it? Well, I’m back, you’re back, so let’s ask a question in the newly minted B&N tradition!

This week’s question is simple: how often can you reasonably publish?

Well, not so simple, when you come to think about it. Like all everything else when it comes to creating comics, things depend on everything else.

The biggest thing publishing frequency depends on is money. Money to produce, money to print, money to distribute [depending on if you’re self-distributing or are able to get into Diamond]. The amount of money you  have on hand will tell you how often you can publish. 

Since money is obvious, we’re not going to talk about it anymore. We’re going to talk about other factors.

Let’s talk about ideas. Let’s say you have enough money to cover your costs, so that’s taken care of. How many ideas can you put out there before a few things start to happen: readers get tired of your voice, or you start to cannibalize your own sales?

Readers getting tired of your voice is a very real thing. As a writer, you can get stuck in a rut, writing the same story over and over again, or writing different stories in the same way. One of my clients liked to play with time. Different timeframes for the same story, and they would jump back and forth between the two. Once it was pointed out to them, they made a conscious effort to tell a new story in a more linear fashion. They recognized their rut, and worked to get out of it. That easily could have become their voice, and it could be something that readers would grow tired of. Something to watch out for.

Switch up your voice. Switch up what you’re trying to say in your stories. Switch up the point of view, themes, and characterizations. Don’t Tom Cruise it. (Huh?) [In his blockbusters, Tom Cruise plays the same character time after time, with little variation. They’re all Maverick. Don’t believe me? Go watch Top Gun, any Mission Impossible, Knight & Day, and Jack Reacher. Want to see him out of character? Tropic Thunder.]

Cannibalizing sales could be a very real thing. Let’s look at music.

I love Prince. This is nothing new. The man creates a lot of music. In the 80s, one of the complaints he had with his label was that they were holding back his output. He was already basically putting out an album a year for a while, but he wanted to put out more. If he were to do that, though, the label [rightly] understood that he’d be competing with himself. It would be a situation where he’d have multiple new albums out at the same time, without letting each album have enough time for their own sales to peak and/or level off. He’d be doing himself more harm than good.

Comics could be the same way. If you’re self-publishing and you have the money to do multiple stories at the same time, you could be facing a situation where you’re putting out too much product that is competing with itself—especially if the stories are somewhat similar.

Marvel/DC puts out a lot of books. Several Spider-Man, Avengers, Wolverine, Batman, and Green Lantern books. Todd McFarlane was putting out several Spawn books in the early 2000s [to include Sam & Twitch]. Now he only puts out the one. Did he experience cannibalization of sales? Only he knows. Marvel and DC don’t experience too much of it, because they need to pump out a lot of books in order to stay afloat and keep their respective universes moving forward. They are not small operations with a limited voice.

If you’re thinking about publishing a lot of material, there are ways to go. One way would be to try to publish different stories under different publishers. This should be self-explanatory.

Another way, of course, would be to stagger the release of new material. Having a couple of mini series or arcs completed and just ready to go would be a great position to be in. Then you could make an actual publishing plan, knowing what you were putting out and when.

How often can you reasonably publish? While a lot of it depends on you, I would say that you’re doing good if you’re able to put out a single issue per month. The logistics of getting a single book done in a timely manner is a huge undertaking, let alone twelve or more. Getting more than a single arc done in a year means you’ve got a lot of things on the ball, and you should be congratulated for your efforts and achievement.

That’s all I have for this week. Time for you to answer the question for yourself, and figure out how you’re going to accomplish your goal.

See you in seven.

Click here to comment in the ComixTribe forum at Digital Webbing!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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