Self-publishing: a true story

How I brought my comic series Niki Batspite to life and how it helped me to launch my career.

Nowadays there are plenty of ways to self-publish, digital or in print. The comic and manga industry are facing a huge revolution and we can be part of it.

Find ideas that work

In the late ‘90 I was a 16 year old art student, doodling in the spare time of my summer job to frame the main character for my first structured story: a half-good-half-evil main character in a world where everyone can sense each other’s “percentage of goodness”.

My vision was shifty for months, despite my efforts to sharp it. The more I tried, the more the idea settled on my mind. One day, while I wasn’t even thinking of it while doodling, the first sketch of Niki Batsprite was there on paper, looking at me with his distinctive smile.

Let ideas settle for months, even years. Cuddle them, cut them apart. If they’re still solid and “wow” like the first time, they’re ideas worth realizing.

Road to publishing

There were no tablets or smartphones at that time, so I wrote the cartoon’s screenplay with pen and paper during classes (I was attenting an animators school).
In the early 2000 I started to explore ways to publish it in any form (the project was planned to suit all media). While looking for an investor or publisher, I studied the copyright law, the licensing industry, marketing and such obscure matters.

Investors I met (including CEO’s from Disney and software houses) reacted positively and pointed out that my project “has potential”, but we didn’t finalize any contract due to other reasons.

If a publisher says “no”, there may be other reasons not related to your proposal.

It can be that you come at the wrong time, that your title doesn’t fit their catalog, that they already set their budget for the next 5+ years, and so on. Be always professional, positive and polite. Leave a glimmer for the future and keep trying from time to time.

Published, at last

I kept working in graphic design, gathering all the experience I could and thoughening up my self-esteem to the next level. When I turned 30, I realized that I had to fulfill my dreams “now or never”.
Some experience and savings were on my side. So I quit my umpteenth temporary job and started freelancing while realizing the first comic book of Niki Batsprite.

I rewrote the original screenplay from the school days and redesigned things that needed a fresh touch. The graphic style fits the mix of humor, action and romance in the story. However, I started from scratches on drawing and colouring, practicing hard to achieve a decent level.

A comic/manga book doesn’t have to be your perfect masterpiece.
All it needs is a solid story told through professional art and layout.

Despite of me being a newbie in making comics, my experience in graphics and the help of my partner Daniele saved me from tricky mistakes. Her sister Elena is a professional translator and did an amazing job.
I print the issues of Niki Batsprite at a local printing press. The boss knows me since I was a kid and have a genuine passion for his job. Since day one, his help was invaluable.

The book is yours, but it needs teamwork.

To start (over) as a professional artist

Simply put, I kept:

  • making issues and self-publishing them,
  • studying and practicing like there was no tomorrow,
  • freelancing saving each and every cent,
  • exhibiting at comic conventions.

The commitment and sacrifices allowed me to break into the comic industry as a self-published author. In the following years I proved the insiders that I was there to stay. I made friends, got job opportunities and exposure.

It took me 14 years to publish Niki Batsprite #1.
And it wasn’t the finish line. It was, in fact, the beginning of the journey.

I hope that this behind-the-scenes was useful to you.
Feel free to write me your opinions and experience, I get back to work on my next comic issue. 😀

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Francesca Urbinati Artist

Francesca Urbinati

Sono illustratrice e fumettista freelance. Ho lavorato su effetti speciali 3D, graphic design e multimedia per RAI, Mediaset, Adobe, ArtOrder LLC, Studio Hamburg, MoveTheGame e molti altri. Pubblico la serie a fumetti Niki Batsprite e aiuto altri artisti e autori a emergere.
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