There’s always the wish to start big. Starting big means you make a splash, you make some waves, you get noticed. This is almost always the way to go, because getting noticed means you have a better chance of gaining interest, and gaining interest can translate into sales—and sales are what it’s all about. Telling the story is part of it, but you’re trying to tell that story to the masses and make a living at it. Thus, sales.
What does starting big mean? Well, that depends on your role in comics.
For the bulk of us, starting big means starting at one of the large publishing houses that pays a page rate. It means starting on a well-known property. It means being trusted with the keys to the mansion and the Bentley, not just the keys to the house and car. That’s for the majority of creators. This is how they want to start. They want to storm the doors, because they believe they’re good enough.
Few new creators get that chance. Most will be relegated to self-publishing of some type. Some of that will be very far down the totem pole. Actually, most of that will be very far down the totem pole.
There are, however, a smaller subset of creators who want to be publishers. I’m not talking about self-publishing their own books. That’s a given. I’m talking about publishing books created by others.
When a creator decides they want to be a publisher, then they have all kinds of homework to do. The very first thing they have to decide is if they have money to publish. Not just a page rate, but printing. (Publishers can get around paying a page rate, but they can’t really get around printing. If they’re only trying to do digital comics…well, creators can do that for themselves.)
The rash publisher will want to launch an entire line of comics all at once—and will try to accomplish this. The more cautious publisher will start with only one or two titles and learn how to sell them before trying to gain more titles to sell.
Starting off large as a publisher with no cachet is not the best move. Not unless there are lots of smart people behind you and a lot of money. I remember when CrossGen comics started. They took out ads in Wizard magazine, saying they wanted to start a new company and wanted to hear from everyone. They ended up not using anything that was submitted to them, and only going with established creators, working on an original universe that was provided to those creators by the company’s owner. They made a splash, but they didn’t stick around for long for various reasons.
Slow and steady is a much safer option. The publisher can see what does and doesn’t sell for them, and apply lessons learned to their next foray, and the next, and so on. Organic growth is best. Look at both the Marvel and DC universes. They didn’t grow overnight; they are the product of decades of creation.
If you want to become a publisher, or even understand what a publisher does, look at the landscape of comics, and do the research on the beginnings of publishing companies. See what they did, and try to put it in context of the times, and then see if you can apply any lessons to your current situation. It may be a long road, but for some creators, it’s worth it.