OnDemand Publishing

Resource: Lulu (www. lulu .com)

Your manga is done. You see the finished project in front of you in Manga Studio, and you're ready to print it out and distribute it to the masses, either through the mail or possibly at a comic or anime convention. So the next question on your lips is probably, "How do I do that?"

The simplest and least expensive option is to create an ashcan comic. All you need to have is a printer, a large stack of paper, a paper cutter, and a stapler. As you can probably surmise, the idea here is to simply print out the pages, trim off the excess, fold them in half, and staple them together. It's a perfect low-cost means of creating a comic for distribution, although it doesn't have the professional look of some contemporary comics and manga.

If you're looking for something more professional-looking, you can always contact a local printer and have them print the comics out for you. All you need to do is provide the pages in a high-quality format and the printing company can make the book in any form you'd like, from a traditional-styled floppy comic to the perfect-bound digests you see on the manga shelves of your local bookstore. It's great... if you have the money. The problem with this route is that in order to get the lowest print cost, you have to buy in bulk. Even then, it can cost you a bit of cash. So, you're working from a loss right off the bat.

More recently (as in the last year or two), a new option has emerged that helps take the whole production and distribution arm of the creation process out of your hands. Companies like Lulu and have started what is called on-demand publishing. This is how it works:

v You create an account with the company

V You follow the directions to set up your new comic. This includes setting up the cover price.

v You provide the pages to the company to print in whatever file format they want them in.

That's all there is to it! The on-demand companies take care of the sales, the printing, and the mailing of your manga or comic. The best part of this deal is that it costs you nothing to do this. No membership fee, no printing fee ... not one red cent!

How this works is that each comic has a base price on the site. This price helps the company cover the cost of printing and distribution. Because you control the price of the book beyond the base price, you set your own royalty rate. This can be a few cents or a few dollars. But those profits are yours, and you don't have to worry about rushing down to the post office to bulk mail your comics and hope that they make it to your readers.

The Jog of Webcomics

Now we're getting into a topic I'm very familiar with.

I believe some of the earliest webcomics can be traced back to the early to mid 1990s. Nowadays, thanks to the massive success of comics and manga such as Mega Tokyo (www. megatokyo. com), Penny Arcade (www.penny-arcade. com), /iu/>(www.pvpcomics. com), and so on, it seems like you can't go anywhere on the World Wide Web without running into a webcomic.

And why not? Producing and distributing your comic on the Internet is probably the fastest and cheapest way to bring your product to the masses. You don't need to worry about making sure you have the exact number of pages needed for a print book. If you're really avant-garde, you don't even need to worry about sticking to a traditional comic page format. The possibilities are endless, creatively.

However you tackle it, with just a few clicks of the mouse, your comic is up and available for hundreds (or if you're lucky, thousands) of readers in an instant. There's nothing quite like instant gratification. Add on a message board or blog (or at least an e-mail address), and you can cultivate a loyal fanbase that eagerly anticipates the next installment of your series (or who may purchase a trade paperback of your series should you decide to print it).

Of course, the first thing you need to think about is where you're going to host your comic. You can always purchase your own space from one of the many Web hosts out there. Then, if you're code savvy enough, you can generate a Web site to house your comic, if there's a potential downside, it's that this path costs you money, depending on the type of service you purchase. And if you're just starting out in the world of webcomics, and you aren't even sure if people will like your story, it can prove to be a costly gamble.

That said, there is a place I think to be a great starting point to cultivate your comic and fanbase, while not costing you a dime. In the early 2000s, a Web host was formed that was designed purely to be a repository for anyone who wanted to create a webcomic. In exchange for banner ads, people could place their comic on their servers and take advantage of their automated functions and code that would make updating the comic (and blog if you wanted to have one) a breeze. Originally it was called Keenspace but more recently changed its name to Comic Genesis (www. comicgenesis . com).

To paraphrase an old advertisement, I'm not just endorsing them, 1 was originally a client. The first webcomic I created, Place Name Here, was a Keenspace comic. I can tell you that it was a great way to get my feet wet and start building a fanbase before I moved to my own Web space (and that was only because I'm also a Web programmer and 1 wanted to program my own site from scratch).

If you're looking to dive into the world of webcomics but don't have a lot of money to spend, start at Comic Genesis. You get to do a lot there for very little.

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