Friday, June 12, 2015

Self-Publishing a Comic Strip by Dana Atnip

Okay, I have a confession to make and I’m making it to “The Mitten.”

I’ve been having an affair.


That’s right. For the past year I’ve been unfaithful to my picture book manuscripts and illustrations. While our relationship was going great, I needed to satisfy my desire for my other love: comic strips.

And now I’ve come forward with that love, and in May 2015, I launched my webcomic, Galactic Dragons for teens and adults.

While the relationship has been tiring, it’s also been exhilarating.

Galactic Dragons by Dana Atnip

It was a big decision for me to launch a comic strip on the internet that I created many years ago. But even after years of rejections, I still loved writing and drawing comic strips.

Back in the 90’s when I was very actively submitting work to syndicates, people would ask me, “Why don’t you just send your comics directly to a newspaper?” Well, for the same reason you don’t walk into a bookstore and ask them to sell your books; it doesn’t work that way. A syndicate is the business that promotes and sells your work, and the newspapers buy from them.

Syndicates are to cartoonists what a publishing house is to a writer and the guidelines for submission are similar. It is also very difficult to receive a syndication contract as they too receive thousands of submissions every year. Everything was done through the mail, and you were to send them six weeks’ worth of daily strips plus one Sunday. And then you waited for an answer.

While I received good feedback and even personal messages and advice from editors at the syndicates, I was never offered the golden contract. So after years of trying (and failing), I put away my pens and Strathmore to focus on my illustration. I left behind my dream of being a syndicated cartoonist.

However the 90’s was also a very different time; the internet was still pretty new and most people were still buying and reading newspapers. The only way to get your comic out there was to get a syndicate to offer you a contract. But the internet changed all that. People could now present their work to an audience at the click of a button.

A friend that I met through the SCBWI asked why I never just made my strip into a webcomic, and I realized just how much I missed drawing comic strips. So after deciding that I was actually going to do this, I spent a year recreating the strips, this time with the help of Photoshop and my Wacom tablet. I still pencil-rough the strip on paper, then scan it into Illustrator and Photoshop for inking, lettering, and clean-up.

Galactic Dragons by Dana Atnip

But now that I’ve launched the strip, the work is only just beginning. Without a syndicate I’m on my own; no one is promoting my strip, paying my expenses, or helping me to build an audience, just like when a writer decides to self-publish. But at the same time I also own the work outright and don’t have to answer to an editor who may think my more risqué strips have gone too far for a very PC newspaper audience.

And best of all, I’m following my dream, even though I’ve chosen a tougher path.

illustration by Dana Atnip
I’m still planning on continuing with my picture books as that’s also my love (oh picture books, I could never leave you!). Now comes the challenge of continuing a comic strip that updates twice a week, promoting it, and still staying active with the SCBWI, all while working my full-time job. But I accept the challenge. 

When Dana isn’t working with animals, she’s drawing and promoting her Galactic Dragons comic strip or writing picture book manuscripts and illustrating. Her children’s book website can be found here: She also created the logo for the Rate Your Story website. She has been a member of SCBWI since 2010.

Coming up on The Mitten blog: the conclusion of Dawne Webber's Beyond the Book seriesa new 3 part craft series on developing voice, and another round of Hugs and Hurrahs. Send your good news to Patti Richards at by June 17th. 

SCBWI-MI is gearing up for the fall conference. The organizers will share more information soon, but until then, click the link below to see the list of talented speakers.


  1. Kudos to you, Dana, for accepting the challenge and following your dream!

  2. Best of luck, Dana--wonderful illustrations and comic strip!