Maybe fulfillment companies aren’t an option for you, or maybe you’re like me and want to, at least once, try to handle the whole distribution process on your own.
Self distribution is tough work and depending on your situation, it can end up saving or costing you quite a bit of money. As always, I encourage you to explore your options before diving in.
Odds are, unless you’re printing on demand, you’re not going to be selling all your comics at once. This means you’re going to have to store your comics somewhere and depending on the number of copies that you’re printing, you may not have space at home to do so. If this is the case, you’re going to have to invest in warehousing.
I haven’t run into this problem yet so I can’t give you any specific tips or suggestions but make sure to plan in advance for any storage costs that you might be facing.
Two of the most important factors that go into determining the cost of shipping a package are size and weight. The type of packaging you use will be a major influence on these factors and thus your overall cost.
If given the choice, aim for the smallest packaging option available to reduce costs.
Most people ship their comics in either Flat Mailers or Bubble Mailers (pictured above). These mailers are probably your cheapest option as they are both small and lightweight.
That said, the packaging you choose will depend on what exactly you’re shipping. If your product doesn’t fit in a small mailer (most comics should), you might be required to ship in boxes, which will significantly increase your costs.
Also important to keep in mind is how protective the packaging is. From personal experience, in order of least to most protective: flat mailers < bubble mailers < boxes. Unfortunately this is also in order of increasing prices. You’re going to have to decide for yourself what you’re willing to invest in.
You might also choose to bag and board your comics, especially if they’re single issues. Most comic shops sell these in bulk but you can also get them online quite easily. Bags and boards are relatively cheap and add another layer of protection as well as a degree of professionalism to your comic.
Now, This might go without saying but make sure your comic actually fits in the packaging! I’ve heard a few horror stories of people ordering packaging for hundreds of comics just to find out their book doesn’t fit. This is especially important to keep in mind if you plan on shipping multiple items together. Make sure the packaging can actually contain everything.
You can find packaging in a number of places including Amazon, Staples, – or even directly from postal services like USPS or Canada Post (though they tend to be more expensive).
For More Than Men, (which was a 32 page, 6.625” x 10.25” comic), I used the Pratt MJ-3 Self-Seal Stay Flat Mailer, White, 9” x 11 1/2” which I found on Amazon.
They were cheap and seemed to do the job but I did hear from a few people that the packaging was slightly damaged on arrival (though the books themselves were fine because I had bagged and boarded them).
Labels are really useful for streamlining the shipping process. While you may be able to get away with writing out addresses manually onto your packages if your audience is small, eventually this approach becomes much less feasible.
Fortunately, printing labels is easy!
Avery provides a free, easy to use online tool for customizing shipping labels. The tool lets you print your own labels or you can get Avery to print and ship them to you (for a price). I used this tool for More Than Men and it saved me a TON of time.
If you want to print your own labels, you can buy blank labels all over the place (Staples, Amazon, Stamps.com, Avery, as well as direct from some postal services). Just make sure that the labels you buy are the same size as your template.
For More Than Men I used the 2” x 4” (10 per sheet) Avery labels which I bought directly from Staples.
Make sure to get the right type of paper for your printer (laser vs inkjet).
Some people who are frequently packing and shipping comics have invested in their own label printers but personally I haven’t found a need for one yet.
As a bit of a side note, know your country’s rules when it comes to where labels should go on your packaging. The US doesn’t seem to care, as long as the destination is printed clearly. Canada Post requires the return address in the top left and the destination address in the center.
Postage / Stamps
Postage is essentially what shipping companies use to determine your shipping costs. Like I said before, the type of postage you’ll require largely depends on the size and weight of your parcel, but also what exactly you’re shipping.
Unfortunately I can’t go into detail about the different types of postage because they change so often and vary drastically from country to country. Priority Mail, Media Mail, Super Deluxe Express Mail… there are a lot of different options but you can usually check the websites of your local shipping companies for price estimates on each type.
Also of note is postage prices vary quite a lot between shipping companies. In Canada, your choices are Canada Post, UPS or FedEx (unless you want to ship with a fulfillment company) but in the US there are a whole lot more.
My suggestion for how to determine which shipping company to go with is to go to all the local companies with a fully packaged sample of my comic and ask for an estimate. They’ll tell you exactly what type of postage you’ll have to get and how much it’ll cost you. That way you don’t have to do any guesstimation about your shipping costs.
I shipped More Than Men from Canada Post and USPS because they were the cheapest options at the time but make sure to investigate for yourself before choosing any one company.
As of January 2018, it cost me the following to ship my 32 page, 6.625” x 10.25” comic (all prices in CAD):
- Within Canada (Domestic): $4.06 each
- Within US (Domestic): $3.05 each
- From Canada to International: $11.00 each
I believe I was juuuuust over the weight limit for a cheaper shipping tier though so keep that in mind if your comic has fewer pages than mine.
A few postage related questions I’ve received:
Can I use Media Mail to ship my comics? For those who don’t know, Media Mail is a US postage type which is far cheaper than all the other options. The short answer is: unless it’s educational and a graphic novel, probably not. If you want a more in depth explanation, you can find some HERE and HERE.
What do you do for international orders? Unfortunately, no matter what you do, it’s going to cost you quite a lot to ship internationally. I was quoted about $11 from Canada Post to ship a single issue comic to the US. Fortunately, I live close enough to the border that I actually drove down into the US to ship all US copies of the comic and that drastically reduced my costs (to about $3). If that’s not an option for you, the best advice I can give is to plan in advance for these costs.
Quick tip: If you’re crossing the border to ship anything, don’t seal the packages in advance! I’ve heard people getting turned around at the border for doing so.
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Table of Contents
- It All Starts With An Idea
- Thought Dumping
- World Building
- Writing Scenes
- Breaking Scenes Down
- Choosing A Title
- Sorting Out Your Budget
- Writing A Solicitation
- Where To Find Your Team
- What Makes A Good Partner
- General Tips
- Standard Black vs Rich Black
- Font Websites
- Font Types
- When To Bold Text
- Sound Effects
- Getting Print Ready Files
- Offset vs Digital Printers
- Why Page Count Matters
- Book Formats And Binding Types
- How Many Copies To Print
- Tips For Saving Money
- Printer Comparison Table