Small Press Day 2017!
9th July 2017
It’s that time of year again – Small Press Day is upon us! A day to celebrate, support, and promote the indie comic book scene – from webcomics, zines, and small press creators – here in the UK and Ireland!
I’ll admit, being a small press creator myself I’m a little biased, but it’s a comic community filled with some of the most diverse and awesome comics that you’ll ever find. If you’ve ever found yourself browsing your local comic book shops Marvel or DC sections wishing that there were more comics that featured that elusive genre, character type, or even trope then chances are you’ve been looking in the wrong place. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly that it’d be awesome to see more queer PoC comics with something more than the same caped crusaders we’ve been reading for decades from the big two – there’s a vast world of small press comics filled to the brim with everything you could imagine or wish for that are sadly overlooked all too often.
And that’s at the core of small press day – it’s taking these talented creators and showing their work to the world, to people like you, your friends, and others who love comics but wish they could find more that feature that one thing that you love and find lacking in mainstream books. It’s about finding new artists and books that you never knew existed and falling in love with their work… and hopefully helping them to gain recognition and a greater audience to make sure they can continue to create new and exciting projects in the future too!
All day today there’ll be events, signings, and small “artist alleys” popping up at your local comic book stores and venues (check out the official list here) – but for those who can’t get out to these or simply want to find more great stuff to read and follow online be sure to check out the #smallpressday2017 and #smallpressday tags on twitter and elsewhere and find, share, like, support, and chat with creators from across the country (and indeed world)!
On the theme of finding and supporting small press comics let’s look at three important topics and try to find a good place to start! First, how to find these elusive folks. Second, showing your support – both for free, and (if you like) throwing some cash at your favourite creators… note: don’t literally throw cash at people, that’s probably rude and coins would hurt. Thirdly, some of my favourite UK small press folks as recommendations to help you to start on your journey into the world of indie comics!
1.0 Fantastic Small Press & Where To Find Them
So, you’re setting out into a brave new world of indie comics, zines, and who knows what. But where to start? I mean, you can’t just wade out into the street with a megaphone and yell “bring out your small press!” … just because Batman did it once in a meme, doesn’t mean your neighbours will be pleased if you try it too.
For those who can, there are a ton of local and national conventions across the UK now where you can always find artists and small press creators huddled together for warmth in an area we like to call Artist Alley (or Comic Village if you want to be different *cough*MCM*cough*). Am I being overly dramatic? Probably. Artist Alleys are actually pretty warm and friendly places filled with artists who have finally gotten away from their desks long enough to socialise, geek out, and of course – sell their books and art. This is always a great place to discover something new in person and to interact directly with creators – it’s like the good/creative bits of the internet but offline and with fewer trolls (not counting Homestuck cosplayers of course).
There is also your local comic book shop – most of them these days have a shelf or two dedicated to small press comics and zines. One of our local shops even displays/sells art prints and merch from local artists too which is pretty cool. Not to mention the amazing resource that is your local comic book shop staff who are often more than willing to give recommendations! Some even have indie creators as guests for events like Small Press Day and even Free Comic Book Day, or other signings, hosted group meetings, etc. It’s always a good idea to ask staff for information about these events – or if your local shop doesn’t have these, it doesn’t hurt to suggest them or enquire about ordering books from your favourite creators too.
However, this is the internet, and most small press creators these days are online somewhere – it’s just a matter of looking in the right places. Check tags on Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram for things like #Artist, #Smallpress, #Comics, #Webcomics, #Commissions, #ArtistAlley, #SmallPressDay2017, #ComicBookHour, #WebcomicChat, etc. and you’re bound to find something interesting. There are also plenty of comic listing sites – from TopWebcomics style ranking/vote sites, to more specific lists such as this awesome LGBT webcomics list, the Queer cartoonist / Cartoonists of Color databases, or for those of you who have already found a comic online that you enjoy – chances are that they’ll have a links page somewhere listing other comics that they recommend.
Not to mention joining geeky Facebook groups, forums, subscribing to comics subreddits, joining Discord channels, checking out the Creative section on Twitch, or comic convention/artist alley interviews from podcasters/vloggers like The Geek Show!
There is, of course, still the option to find comics through websites and apps that host webcomics – places like Tapas, Webtoon, DrunkDuck, SmackJeeves, etc. – all of which have pretty decent category and search features to find things that appeal to you.
There are so many options to choose from online, and it can be overwhelming jumping into the deep end so to get your toes wet – check out the recommendations below in section three, and perhaps follow some of those twitter hashtags: I highly recommend #ComicBookHour and #WebcomicChat especially as they are regular hour long chats and discussions about small press comics with creators giving insights into their process etc.
2.0 Supporting Your Favourite Small Pressers
There are two distinct ways to support your favourite small press creators; a) help to spread the word about them and their comics, and b) cash monies to keep the light on and the comic pages coming!
As a small press creator myself – both of these forms of support are always welcomed equally, you never have to give a creator cash to show your support and I’m sure I speak for most of us when I say that we understand how it feels not to be able to afford to when you see post after post about our stores/commissions. Even I have a list of artists, most of whom are good friends of ours, that I’ve been wanting to buy their books forever but haven’t yet managed to. Seriously, there’s a few books I do own on my shelf that before I bought them I’d spent years promising that I’d buy them some day – I know how that feels, so no guilt tripping about not being able to afford to do that here.
2.1 Sharing Is Caring!
So, let’s first talk about how to support your favourite creators for FREE. No cost to you. And you may even get some new people to geek out about your favourite indie comic with too. I’m not sure if it’s still a thing but at one time fans of bands used to organise “Street Teams” through message boards, zines, and the like where they’d promote their favourite bands by putting up posters in local music shops, bringing friends along to gigs, requesting songs on the radio, posting on forums, etc. etc. (I even did this for Veruca Salt at one time – hey I’m a sucker for female fronted grunge/rock bands).
You can do the same thing to spread the word about your favourite small press comics and artists too! Perhaps a little differently because I doubt anyone wants to hear Fera as an audiobook read out on the local radio station but I’m not going to stop you I guess. But yes, introduce your friends to the comics/artists that you enjoy, ask your local comic shops or events to invite artists for signings or if you can leave flyers/posters (no littering or breaking the law of course), organise fan groups to discuss your favourites on and offline, post on forums, share/RT/reblog artists posts online (particularly promo posts, artwork, and sales). Just make sure to leave their links and details on the posts so that others can find them too – remember sharing from them is almost always better than simply reposting! You can even contact geeky/comic news and review sites or magazines and suggest your favourites as potential features or reviews.
As a more subtle approach – vote for them regularly on sites like TopWebComics, nominate them for relevant awards (the British Comic Awards for instance), like and comment on their posts, email them or even create fan art to let them know that you’ve enjoyed their work. It may seem silly but creating comics without any feedback can feel like no one cares about the comics we put so much work and love into, so that one email, sketch, or comment can make an artists day and give them that motivation to keep making the things you love. A little encouragement is always nice, we love our projects, and it’s good to know that others enjoy them too and that we’re not just screaming into the void.
2.2 Khajit Has Wares…
For those who can spare some coin there are plenty of ways that you can support your favourite creators directly and help fund new books, or perhaps just this months rent. Most creators have a “day job”, or freelance work to keep the lights on, which can limit the time and resources we have to make comics and art. But with the financial support of fans they can free up more of that time, fund print runs of books, get to more conventions, or simply have that extra cup of caffeine every now and then. Every creator will have a different set up that you can use to do this – from online stores, books in local shops, convention appearances, advertising, commissions, and more – and you’ll usually find links to these on their websites and social media pages. For now though, let’s use angelKat as an example of some of the ways you can support your favourite creators as we have a few of the more common options set up on our site as well.
Online Stores: Chances are if an artist is creating comics and has an online presence they’ll have one or more online stores to choose from. These can include being on their own sites where they supply the books/art directly to you, print on demand stores where you can get t-shirts and other merch, digital stores for all of your ebook needs, and even comics available through big name sites like Amazon or Comixology. For example, angelKat has: our own print/books store, a Gumroad store for digital comics, t-shirts available through Society6/Redbubble/Teepublic, and even some of our digital comics on Kindle via Amazon. But you may also see other artists selling their books through Etsy, Storenvy, Comicsy, Comixology, and many other sites too – either way they should be linked on their websites or showing up on their social media posts from time to time.
Local Comic Book Shops: Some artists will have their books and art in the small press section of your local comic book shop. We’ve had our books in various Travelling Man stores in the UK in the past and whilst it increases the costs involved, there’s something special about having your book on the shelf of a “real live comic shop”. If your favourite isn’t there, it doesn’t hurt to ask the staff if they could stock it, or to find out any details you can pass along to the artist to get books to your local shop.
Commissions: Ever wanted to get something special and unique from your favourite artists? Commissions are an awesome way to do that by getting yourself some artwork of your favourite characters, OTP, or even yourself. It’s even possible to get art as gifts for friends and family. These aren’t always the cheapest things but always well worth it to have a little slice of something you love just for you. Not all artists accept commissions, not all accept them all year round, others still will have the occasional offer or sale with discounted prices for a limited time too. As for angelKat, we regularly have commissions available, with seasonal sales, convention exclusive discounts, and more – we can even record/stream the creation process on YouTube/Twitch as fun extra bonus content.
“Tip Jars”: Donate buttons and tip jars are an old staple of webcomics, and today is no different. Except now there are services like Ko-Fi, PayPal, TwitchAlerts, Amazon Wishlists, and for those lucky enough to be affiliates/partners on sites like Twitch – subscriptions. Generally these are things where you’ll get a thank you, your name appearing on a stream, or even a quick sketch as thanks for your support. Those things aren’t guaranteed of course and every artist does it differently but it’s a good option if you have a couple of coins you want to tip an artist with but don’t particularly want to grab a book or print etc.
Patreon: Monthly subscription services like Patreon get you early access, bonus content, and sometimes more, for a small amount each month. This is a good option if you want to regularly support an artist, even for $1, and get a few rewards for yourself too.
Kickstarter: This is the big one, and normally only brought out for one-off funding of books. We crowdfunded the first issue of The Editors, and it really does help to offset costs of print runs which can be a substantial investment otherwise – there’s a reason why Kickstarter was a game changer for small press and indie productions in general.
Conventions: If you ever find yourself at a convention, make sure to check out the Artist Alley/Comic Village section because there are a ton of amazing small press creators there that have work that you’re sure to love. It’s another place where you can get yourself something you don’t see every day – and whilst I’m biased of course, definitely a better investment than the Funko Pop figure dealer who’s charging twice the retail price a couple of aisles over. Not to mention you get to geek out with your favourite artists which has got to be a bonus, right?
Advertising/Affiliate Links: I’m sure you’re sick of sites, bloggers, YouTubers, etc. asking you to turn off your AdBlocker by now – but for a lot of creators adverts on our websites and videos help to cover the costs of hosting websites, advertising ourselves, etc. so it’s really appreciated if you whitelist your favourite sites on your AdBlocker of choice! You’ll also find plenty of sponsored ads, affiliate links, and similar on our websites – ranging from adverts where creators are paid per click/view, to affiliate links where you get to shop on your favourite sites as you normally would and creators get a few pennies without it costing you anything extra.
3.0 angelKat Recommends!
Below is a list of some of our favourite small press folks and their comics from around the UK to help get your toes wet. All come highly recommended and really deserve your love so go check them out and help to spread the word: small press is great!
Anyway, I have rambled on for far too long so go forth and find those awesome small press comics and zines and spread the love!
Until next time!