2022 Independent Comic Book Publishers Audit

Updated: Jun 23

There are loads of independent publishers of comics on the scene. It's hard to keep up with the kind of content each publishes, who has open submissions, what kind of contracts each offers, and other important information creators want to know.


That's where we come in.


Over 2021 and into 2022, Comic Book Yeti did a series of interviews with a number of indie comics publishers who are still fairly new to the scene in an effort to collect all of this information in one place. We'll link to each below.


But first, a few disclaimers and other things to keep in mind as you read:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all of the information below comes from the publishers themselves. Information will understandingly be biased and subjective in their favor for these sections.

  2. As such, readers should be discerning. Each contact from each publisher is different. What people say is important, but so is how they say it, and what they don't say. In every case, consider the speaker's reasons for what they share and the manner in which they share it.

  3. As stated, these interviews were conducted over a year and the information is subject to change. Part of the reason this took so long is because so many things changed along the way. Depending on when you're reading this (say, in 2023), the below information may have changed even more.

  4. We attempted to standardize the questions asked of each publisher for the below audit. However, some questions went unasked or some answers were not received. We will note these as necessary.

  5. We were not able to interview every independent publisher. Some are so new, or they haven't printed or delivered many of their comics yet. Others didn't respond. We intend to follow up with many of those not listed here for a future audit.

  6. As with any publisher and signing any contract: protect yourselves, hire a lawyer if you can, and always strive for honesty and clarity.


I would also like to note that, in order to protect ourselves, we have cut any word-of-mouth or gossip shared with us, as well as editorial opinions. (But be assured, they were juicy.)


Publishers: If you have any corrections, please send them my way. I want this to be as accurate and helpful as possible. If you weren't mentioned or would like to chat again, please reach out. We have some openings in July.


Finally, if this is the kind of content you find helpful, please consider donating to our Patreon or Ko-Fi accounts. Your generous donations help keep our talented writers helping out on important projects like this one.

 

BAND OF BARDS

Watch the original interview and read the follow-up interview.


Website: BandOfBards.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Wants to authentically represent groups of people who have not been properly represented in the comics format in the past.

  • Aims to find a balance between individual issues, one-shots, OGNs and continuing series depending on the creators' vision of the work.

  • Tim Stolinski and Chris Benamati, who run BoB, listen to creators and adjust their ways of doing business accordingly and trying to avoid the pitfalls other publishers may fall into.

  • They also have big plans (which I have seen but am not at liberty to share) to further differentiate from other publishers, evolving themselves and the comics industry in the future.

  • Hopes to shine more of a spotlight on creators than other publishers do.

  • Growing to publish light novels as well as comics.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: So far, yes, but would like to get away from that in the future. Recently switched to Zoop from Kickstarter after the KS blockchain controversy.


Open Submissions?: Yes, via the submission form at BandofBards.com.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: Creators own 100% of their IP.


 

STORYWORLDS

Read the original interview.


Website: StoryWorldsMedia.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Publishes self-contained, 64-page graphic novellas (with multiple arcs/volumes planned)

  • Focusing on diverse (often featuring strong female protagonists), global stories about technology or topics appealing to a broad reading audience

  • Starting with genre-hybrid books in action, sci-fi, drama, espionage, with ensemble casts where possible (no superhero titles)

  • Aims for tones that are more positive, cerebral and escapist than dark dystopian and apocalyptic

  • Makes a point to offer a wide range of art styles across their titles

  • Digital-minded and future-facing

  • Plans to publish books for younger audiences and some horror/adult titles for more mature audiences in the future


Relies on Crowdfunding?: It does not appear so.


Open Submissions?: Not yet. Possibly later this year.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • StoryWorlds pays creators a work-for-hire flat fee, then keeps the book's profits

  • No royalties for creators unless the creator has developed a substantial part of the story IP

  • Regularly talks to their lawyers (Sheridans in London, UK) about creating clear contracts that walk the line between concepts of ownership and authorship, to ensure clarity and fairness for their creators and security for StoryWorlds


 



AHOY COMICS

Watch the original interview.


Website: ComicsAHOY.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Every comic they publish has a sense of humor.

  • Consider themselves comic magazines instead of comic books because of their added prose content in each issue

  • Not actively pursuing adaptations of their comics, but wouldn't turn anything down

  • Happy to keep doing what they're doing, though may launch some content for younger audiences in the future


Relies on Crowdfunding?: No


Open Submissions?: No. Tom Peyer says "It's rare that we have more than 4 projects running at once... so those seats get filled pretty fast." However, some creators may be able to get work into their anthologies, and they are always looking for prose and poetry.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: We did not discuss this in our interview, but will update if/when we get more information around this.


 

TKO STUDIOS

Read the original interview.


Website: TKOPresents.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Larger-than-average comics stand out on shelf and offer a sort of IMAX comic-reading experience

  • Offers single issues/floppies but releases them all at once in a box set while offering a trade paperback version at the same time so the reader can binge on the series rather than wait for subsequent issues

  • Comics can be any genre (except superheroes) but TKO is looking for a fresh spin they haven't seen before

  • Is OK giving creative teams extra time to do their best work on a book

  • Curated, quality-over-quantity approach to their line

  • Distribution deal with Ingram Publisher Services/Publisher Group West and more recently, Simon & Schuster, helps get their titles in bookstores

  • Believes in highlighting new voices, especially those that have been historically excluded


Relies on Crowdfunding?: No


Open Submissions?: No. Pitch by invitation only.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • This is unclear from their interview, though Tze Chun mentions they'll have some announcements around this soon.

  • Sources who wished to remain off the record tell us creators are paid a flat rate up front and the publisher retains the rights to their IP. However, this may not be the case for every creative team and comic.

 

SCOUT COMICS

Read the original interview.


Website: ScoutComics.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Claims they "have established ourselves as a pipeline to major studios and producers for some the of best new characters, ripe for development in TV, Film, Digital, Mobile, VR, and video games." Our sources say this is true!

  • Scout seems to put a great deal of effort into marketing their comics to retailers AND to fans, making it affordable and as easy as possible for comic shops and other retailers to get Scout titles.

  • They also seem like they're trying all sorts of new things to destigmatize comics as a format and break through in ways other publishers aren't, like bringing in established creators, for example.

  • The publisher has also shown tremendous growth in sales, enough to warrant a new headquarters in Fort Meyers, FL.

  • When we last checked, their sales continued to rise, even during the pandemic.

  • Offers subscription boxes at a reasonable price, making it easy for people to get Scout comics, even if they can't or don't want to visit a comic shop.

  • Deal with Simon & Schuster helps get their comics in more places.

  • They also have big plans for the next year, and some fantastic indie titles that will soon get the distribution they deserve.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Somewhat – many of the series they pick up were self-published via successfully Kickstarted campaigns before Scout signed printing and/or distribution deals with the creators. In a way, it's proof of concept and of customer base.


Open Submissions?: Yes


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • As discussed in the interview linked above and off the record with creators, creators only begin to see a profit (via royalty split) once the costs of printing and distribution are repaid to the publisher. While this sort of thing is something some creators had issues with over at Action Lab, the costs of printing and distribution can vary from publisher to publisher and Charlie Stickney even makes a point to say it's worth creators' time to have that discussion with potential publishers.

  • Scout does not pay advances.

  • Books are 100% creator-owned and creators can walk away after the terms of the contract are met.


 


DAUNTLESS

Read the original interview.


Website: DauntlessStories.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Focusing on 48- to 96-page graphic novellas.

  • Sometimes uses/developing a built-in crowdfunding platform called Greenlight to help fund books so they aren't reliant on Kickstarter or other platforms.

  • Not limiting their stories to specific genres or styles.

  • Aims to operate less like a comic book publisher and more like a traditional book publisher or film studio.

  • Plans to evolve to publish serial comics, which operate on a monthly subscription platform to develop short stories released a little at a time.

  • Open to ongoings as well as one-shots and OGNs.

  • Hiring diverse creators is a priority.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Yes


Open Submissions?: No, but reopening soonish. As a new publisher, they're only able to put out so many books, and already have plans for those. They're handpicking creators right now, but if you'd like to contact them to start talks, the contact page is here.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • Offers "great royalty rates and page rates," according to founder, Marcus Jimenez.

  • From Jimenez: "We let each creative team own as much of their creators rights as possible. We ask for the right to reprint in order to keep their books in print as long as possible and keep the royalties coming for them as long as possible, and sometimes we ask for a percentage of first option rights. Other than that, we believe even when we are funding every stage of production that these creators deserve all the praise that comes to them and the perks that come with that."


 

MAD CAVE STUDIOS

Read the original interview.


Website: MadCaveStudios.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Been around for several years now and have earned that feeling of being an established indie publisher in the comics scene.

  • As an established publisher, they already have distribution through Diamond and recently also signed a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster.

  • Also recently announced opening submissions for creator-owned comics.

  • Shortly after that, Mad Cave announced a new Director of Sales.

  • Have a keen eye for talent and have even published/are planning to publish a few Comic Book Yeti alumni!

  • Runs an annual talent search to find and publish new creators.

  • Does not rely on crowdfunding, and usually pays upfront.

  • Partners with Echo Lake Entertainment with regard to TV & film production.

  • Has a YA imprint, Maverick.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: No


Open Submissions?: Yes, they're open for creative-owned comics. You can submit through the Creator Owned page on their website.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • Usually pays creators upfront

  • Creator-owned titles retain 100% ownership of their IP at Mad Cave

  • Mad Cave owns the rights for their hired projects


 


VAULT COMICS

Read the original interview.


Website: VaultComics.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Primary focus is sci-fi and fantasy, with part of the year shifting to horror.

  • Has a horror imprint, Nightfall, and a mid-grade/YA imprint, Wonderbound.

  • Has made a point of seeking out diverse creative teams for their books and is well-known for their efforts there.

  • Also trying to expand the industry by bringing on talent who is new to comics but has a following elsewhere, like Christopher Cantwell, Sarah Beattie, and Matt Nicholas.

  • Has a good mind for how to grow their market beyond comics without relying solely on screen options.

  • Distribution with Diamond, Simon & Schuster, and web platforms helps get their comics in more places. Developing direct-to-consumer options, as well.

  • Only has two editors running all the books.

  • Though they've only been around for a few years, their growth and success is staggering.

  • Recently secured some serious financing, which likely will help them grow even more. However, it'll be interesting to see how these new stakeholders may influence this change.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: No


Open Submissions?: No


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • Proposed questions were not answered in the written interview.

  • From an anonymous source: "Vault pays an upfront page rate for its creators, and then a percentage of the back end money after its expenses are covered. Things like variant covers are charged to the creative team, so that amount can be pretty high."


 

CAST IRON BOOKS

Read the original interview. And listen to our latest interview with Lizzie Kaye here!

Hoping to set up a full interview soon to answer these questions for our next publisher audit!


Website: CastIronBooks.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Small, highly selective group of titles.

  • Lizzie Kaye has impeccable taste in the comics she chooses to publish.

  • Kaye also wears all the hats as the sole proprietor and employee of Cast Iron Books.

  • Publisher's social accounts support and promote and manage titles during crowdfunding and Kaye has over 5 years of experience using crowdfunding to make comics.

  • After the goal is achieved, CIB takes care of printing and publishing and distributing the books.

  • Loves character-driven stories that comment on the human experience.

  • Wants to produce comics by debut creators looking to push the comics format forward, giving them a form longer than single issues to do it.

  • Not necessarily looking to grow or make a ton of money – just wants to produce beautiful works.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Yes


Open Submissions?: No. May open again soon.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

Great quotes from the podcast episode linked to above:

"[Comics we publish are] basically a joint venture."

"My goal is to make beautiful books."

"Cast Iron Books does not make more [money], ever, than the creator."

"The copyright remains with the author/creator/artist."

"I do not take film/TV/adaptation rights...I just take the print and digital rights."


 

Comic Book Yeti reached out to many more publishers but was unable to secure an interview due to schedules or other reasons. However, we thought we'd note some below based on notes we've received from creators. We hope to interview spokespeople for these and more in our next audit.

 

SOURCE POINT PRESS

Our contributor reached out for an interview multiple times but Source Point Press was unresponsive.


Website: SourcePointPress.com


Main Differentiators:

  • It seems like, where other publishers are looking to grow via IP farming or trial-and-error marketing, SSP is putting most of their eggs in the convention basket. I was surprised to see they had a table at a small con in my neck of the woods, but these guys are willing to travel and make those face-to-face connections. The pandemic must have hit them hard, though, because of this.

  • Seem willing to take chances on new creators' books.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Some.


Open Submissions?: Yes.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • We don't have verified information here. If anyone has more information, let us know and we'll update this section.

 


AFTERSHOCK


Website: AfterShockComics.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Has brand ambassadors to represent AfterShock to retailers and comics fans.

  • Great uniform branding on their comics.

  • Lots of respect from the comics community.

  • Good distribution to LCSs.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: No


Open Submissions?: Pencillers and colorists only.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: Unclear



 



COMIXOLOGY ORIGINALS


Website: ComiXology.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Digital only.

  • Highly established, with Amazon as a resource. We're still including it here because they hire (or at least seem willing to take chances on) newer indie comics and creators.

  • Tied to a good digital app/reading platform.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Yes


Open Submissions?: No. May open again soon.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: Nothing verified. Please let us know if you have more info.


 

AWA STUDIOS


Website: AWAStudios.net


Main Differentiators:

  • Founded by Marvel alumni (and investors)

  • Claims to "[offer creators]...the best deals in the industry, [provide] them with resources to help them do their best work, and [afford] them the freedom to follow their lights..." (though how they do this is unclear)

  • They also state they want to fix the comics industry

  • AWA has a "creative council," which is not often seen in smaller, new indie publishers

  • AWA's "retailer council" offers retailers some major incentives to carry AWA titles

  • No specific theme or style to their comics, spanning all genres, tones, lengths and formats


Relies on Crowdfunding?: It does not seem so.


Open Submissions?: Open, though their Submissions page asks you to check a box that is not there, so likely needs to be updated.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: Unclear


Note: Though we initially had an interview set up with Axel Alonso, he went on paternity leave before we were able to complete it. We started talks to set up another interview two other times with them, but again, never heard back.


 

ACTION LAB


Website: ActionLabComics.com


Main Differentiators:

  • Has subsidiaries for comics of a more adult nature or others targeting younger audiences


Relies on Crowdfunding?: No


Open Submissions?: Uncertain


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes:

  • We recently did an in-depth exploration of the contract, but would like to note the following:

  • Action Lab retains rights to creators' IP indefinitely unless the contract is breached or all parties agree to void the contract

  • Comic book profits are split only after the initial cost of printing and distributing the comic (and other associated costs) are recouped by the publisher

  • The cost of making the comic is up to the comic's creators to repay before they see profits.

  • Consider reading up on our investigative work before submitting your comic to them.


 



ABLAZE


Website: AblazePublishing.com


Main Differentiators:

  • The website makes it sound like they search for talent from across the globe and have a desire to serve and represent marginalized voices

  • Several of their titles definitely have a darker theme

  • No real "house style" to their art, and it's good to see different styles represented


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Yes, for at least some titles.


Open Submissions?: Uncertain


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: Uncertain



 

Website: SecondSightPublishing.com


Main Differentiators:

  • One of the few Black-owned and -run publishers in the industry.

  • Focuses on horror, superheroes & science fiction. May have recently switched back to horror-only. Hoping to set up an interview with them soon.

  • Has ties to Caliber Comics and Antarctic Press.

  • Until they closed submissions, it was one of the few places where early comic creators had a chance to get published.


Relies on Crowdfunding?: Uncertain. Would love to find out more if anyone has verifiable information.


Open Submissions?: Recently closed.


Pay/IP/Contractual Notes: Uncertain. Would love to find out more if anyone has verifiable information.


 

Thanks for reading, folks!


If you have more information about these publishers, feel free to send it!


If you liked this and would like us to cover other publishers, let us know!


If you're one of these publishers and would like to have a follow-up interview, get in touch!


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