Story Studios Self-Publishing Business Model Part 1


It’s a strange truism that there are almost as many would-be publishers for indie comics as there are readers of indie comic. Most comic fans have some cherished idea that they would love to see realized in sequential form, or they love to draw and dream of seeing their art printed in comics. Comics are a noble calling, but the reality of all the time, work, and expense it takes to make these dreams happen rules out about 95% of these endeavors.

For those of us who do make and publish comics, there is no single business plan. One thing is for sure, however: you cannot mimic the mainstream comics (read: Marvel, DC, and some big indie publishers) and expect to make a profit or break even. It is all a matter of scale and demand, so it is best to not even try to go there. One indie publisher (Crossgen) tried to replicate the creation pipeline of the legendary Marvel bullpen from the 60’s and 70’s, and they ultimately failed. (That’s a gross oversimplification of that tale, but lesson is you cannot just throw money at the problem.)

I plan to cover a lot of the popular indie comic approaches, but I am creating this article because this is what has worked well for me. I am not claiming that this is the only way to succeed in self-publishing, or the best way, but it has worked for me. I should add one caveat: the market evolves continually, so my method will not work well forever. Already, I have seen a lot of opportunities come and go, and businesses including Comixpress, Project Wonderful, Graphic Smash, and the like have their time in the sun and then close their proverbial doors. Times change, things change.


In case you haven’t heard of me, my name is Scott A Story, and with my wife and often-time collaborator Benita G. Story, we co-own Story Studios. Before I became a self-publisher, I was a freelance artist on a great number of indie comics. Usually I was the penciler, sometimes a penciler/inker, and sometimes a colorist or penciler/inker/colorist. In the beginning I drew mostly comic interiors, but as time went on I composed more and more comic covers. The publishers I worked for are too numerous to mention, but they included Image, Amp, Arrow, and others.

In 2004 I dreamed up my own creator-owned property, Johnny Saturn, and almost immediately Benita joined as my co-writer. Story Studios was born. As of this writing, that equals 18 individual comics, three trade-paperback collections, a pinup book, two sketchbooks, a calendar, and subsidiary merchandise like t-shirts and mugs. The webcomic version ran for 2006 to 2016, during which it garnered Webcomic Reader’s Choice Awards and enjoyed a sizable and loyal following. It was during this period as well that me, Scott Austin, and Arne Schulenberg founded the successful Collective of Heroes, a juried webcomic collective that featured superheroes. The Collective of Heroes still exists and is still healthy, although now it is in the hands of other talented creators.

So, I’ve done all that, and tested those waters well. What have I not done? I have not tried crowdfunding yet, nor self-published via offset printing, nor used Diamond Distributors to the Direct Market. I’ll explain all those in greater detail, and why I have not taken up those options, as the article progresses.


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