Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to the list…
This week’s question is a great one and it comes from Mark Stainer and is as follows:-
“Is Self-Publishing really worth it? If you want to get “noticed” in the comic industry, is it better to sell your comic to an existing Publisher or self-publish it yourself?”
Baz Renshaw writes:
It is absolutely worth it, for many reasons. First, it will give you an insight as to just how much hard work goes into creating a comic book.
It’s not just sitting around thinking of cool ideas. Its pricing up printers, its marketing your work, its finding distribution, its keeping a balance between your art and your home life, its working long hours with little or no financial reward. But if you get over all that, you will have something at the end of it that is purely YOURS. No interference, no concessions or compromises. For many that’s an end in itself, but secondly, if you want to use that to show to potential editors to get paying work, it shows commitment.
For artists, you will have learnt far more about the art of sequential narrative and developed your style far more than doing one off pin ups. For writers, you will be able to present an editor a finished script complete with illustrations and be more likely to communicate your ideas quicker than a stack of typed submissions.
Thirdly, whether it’s ‘better’ or not depends on your intent. Do you want a career in comics, or do you want just to dabble? Either way, it’s worth doing.
Writer, artist, editor and Liverpudlian Barry Renshaw is behind the ENGINE COMICS line of publications and a founder of the ACCENT UK collective, makers of among other things, REDEYE MAGAZINE, a quarterly for the UK comics scene.
Mike Bullock Writes:
Self-publishing certainly has its rewards. Complete creative control of your project. You have free reign to put it out when you want and how you want on your deadlines, not someone else’s. So there are definite upsides. The downsides are equally large, however, as there’s a great investment of time, money and effort with no guarantee that anyone besides your mom & friends will ever look at it. Sure, you might be the next Brian Bendis, but you have a greater chance of joining the almost endless number of people who dumped tons of resources into something that was never seen by more than a handful of people. If you’re going to self-publish, do it for the love and fun of doing it, don’t do it because you hope to enjoy some sort of commercial success. The same can also be said of publishing with a large company…
Mike Bullock is a writer, promotion agent and President of Runemaster Studios, Inc. Lions, Tigers & Bears, his first published foray into comic writing, debuts in January 2005 from Image Comics. His other comic credits include editorship on Alias Enterprises’ Imperial Dragons and Dreamwave’s Warlands. Bullock has several other creator-owned comic properties in the pipeline, including Gimoles a book set to debut in the summer of 2005.
Kev F Sutherland :
Dunno, never tried it. But it seems to have worked for Paul Grist.
Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.
Dez Skinn Writes:
For pure creative freedom, self publishing wins every time. Even big name creators, when leaving the major publishers and major properties, can suffer frustration with smaller companies. Witness Barry Windsor-Smith at Dark Horse or various people at Image.
You either work for hire at the majors and hope sales will justify you getting a bonus or do it yourself.
The problem with working on a “lesser” title at the majors is they just don’t have the time/space/money to promote your work as well or as much as you want. Neil Gaiman beat the system with Sandman by spending a huge amount of time and money promoting his work through signings and touring. Instead of writing multiple books to earn a living, as most writers do, he put his all into one book then promoted the arse off it.
Many an excellent work has been cancelled through lack of publicity.
Dez Skinn is the editor of Comics International and Orgainiser/Chairman of This November’s UK Comic Expo – http://www.comicexpo.biz check it out and come alone!
I really don¹t think there is a right answer. Self-publishing is probably a 100 times harder because you are having to worry about the business, and you are selling your wares to retailers, Diamond, fans and distributors. Whereas if you are a creator you only have to sell your book to the publisher of course helping the publisher to sell it to the audience is ALWAYS welcomed! 😉
Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.
Egg Embry Writes:
If you want to “get noticed in the comic industry” then first you have to get noticed by your publisher.
Now that you know who you have to impress first, that only leaves the question – Should you go with an existing publisher or self-publish? And your answer depends on what you want.
If you want to be associated with a successful company that really believes in your work, well, there’s a lot of prestige and support from selling something to IDW or Top Shelf (among many others) because they are successful companies that try to back their products.
To give two examples of being a part of a company and how that truly helped (in my opinion) two different titles, let’s look at AiT/Planet Lar’s DEMO and Viper Comic’s DEAD@17. Both books were the focus of their respective companies for many months worth of promotion and push. If either title had been self-published, would it still have been good and a success? Yes, I believe so. But would either have been the indy hits of 2004 and 2003 (respectively) that they were?
Honestly, that’s a bit more up for debate because part of their “buzz” that started them on the road to stardom was the massive push that their publishers gave them.
So, if you want a publisher, then your only proper course is to join a company that you REALLY want to be a part of and that the company REALLY wants to do your book! If the company is not 100% behind your product, I’d self-publish so at least the publisher (you) truly believes in your product!
As long as the publisher really gets behind your book, then you have been “noticed” in this industry.
Egg Embry is an editor on DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES for Arcana Studio. Currently, his writing appears in Ronin-Studio’s tsunami relief book, HOPE #1.
Let’s be honest, Self-Publishing is a long hard grind and you have to be patient and consistent to get noticed, cos’ eventually is does happen. I guess if you have a good idea and are only interested in been a creator there’s nothing wrong with going with an established publisher, who may guarantee huge sales.
The thing with self publishing I found is that you have to totally understand the business aspect as you are constantly dealing with the side of the business most creators don’t even want to bother with. This can be the difference between success and failure even if you have good book.
Daley Osiyemi creator of Brodie’s Law and co-founder of Pulp Theatre Entertainment where he works as producer and creator on various new media and comic projects. Writer and producer of online animated comic series None But Us, developed a character to help promote broadband and is currently working on a graphic novel and a film idea.
Depends who you ask. The rewards are plenty if you have a hit (Jeff Smith’s “Bone” is a good example). Others have moderate success and go on to use this as a springboard to mainstream projects that will hopefully pay the bills (here I am thinking of Mike Allred going from self-published Madman, to Marvel Comics). Some have no success at all.
Selling a series to an established publisher has its advantages. If you have little or no business acumen at all, this is probably your best bet. You still need to do stuff like check the books every so often to make sure your publisher isn’t ripping you off. (Just the threat of checking the books is better than nothing). But a good business person can make your book profitable even if you don’t have a runaway hit. Short of going back to school and getting an MBA you might want to consider this option.
There’s also that added advantage that you have to get your idea across to a publisher to sell them on it. IF you can do that, you might have a chance. There’s always that possibility that you may not see the flaws in your work because you are simply too close to it. Whereas a publisher is not going to spend a lot of money printing and promoting a project that simply doesn’t look commercial, you may be tempted to throw a lot of good money after bad on a project that isn’t up to professional standards. I did. I may have learned a lot by doing it, but I might have saved myself a lot of trouble and simply flushed the money down the toilet.
While you MIGHT get 100% of the profits by taking care of the publishing yourself, you might also end up taking 100% of the debits. With an established publisher you can hope to at least break even.
James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.
It all depends on what you’re in it for. You mentioned to get “noticed” in the industry, so for that alone it is worth it to self publish. Save up a good four thousand dollars and use a good thousand or two to get a nice two issue comic going (or a single 48 page comic). Put your heart and soul into that bad boy and put it out there. It won’t make any money and you’ll have to go in knowing that you’re gonna have to kiss that 4 to 6 thousand dollars goodbye. You’re not going to see that money again. But you will have your creation in physical form and you can show family, friends, retailers, fellow fans, pros, and publishers. Everyone is more open to reading a finished comic than a script, synopsis, or looking at portfolio art. But you can’t stop there… that book will open a few doors, but you’re probably looking forward to the Marvel and DC doors.
You have a LONG road ahead before you reach those hallowed halls.
With the first comic you’re going to make connections and friendships. Build those bridges and take work wherever you can get it. Sure you may get burned a few times- it happens to the best of us. Make informed judgments but now that your foot is in the door you are going to have to work that much harder to stay there and from there to move further forward. You may have to do another self published comic. You may have to join into an anthology or two. You may have to do scripting over an already written plot or background work for another artist. You have to keep selling yourself, proving yourself, and putting out work. After a few years (it could be months or it could be a decade… it depends on how much you work at it and how much luck you have on your side) you’ll finally reach the place in the industry you want to be. But you can’t stop there- once you make it you have to prove you belong there. More work ahead… you’ll have to not only step your game up from the work that got you there but also compete with the quality work of the other giants in the industry.
So yes, if you want to get “noticed” in the industry, self publishing is the way to go. Most existing publishers, even small ones, won’t even consider you seriously if you don’t already have published credit to your name.
Now for those of you who want to self publish because you have a creation close to you, you’re going to have to do the same thing. Personally I think the work is more rewarding than the “fame” or “recognition”… but that’s just me.
There is room for all of our distinctive voices within our beloved comic book industry.
Make yourself heard!
You’re going to need it!
Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the publisher of Myriad from Approbation and writer/creator of Blood, Shells, & Roses coming soon from Arcana Studios!
These days, nobody takes a chance on a complete unknown.
Self-publishing lets “real” publishers know you’re out there and that you take the work seriously enough to see a project through. It’s usually only after you’ve done something at that level that the industry will start to pay attention to you enough for the phone to start ringing. (And, who knows, once you get a taste for self-publishing you may actually start to enjoy it…)
Roger Langridge is the creator of Fred The Clown, and is also writing and drawing a one-shot for Marvel called FIN FANG FOUR – make sure you check it out!
Whether to self-publish or not depends on many factors.
Do you have the talent to get noticed right away by the major publishers?
Are you a self-starter or do you need to work for someone else?
Mostly, it depends on what your goals are. If you want to get your work out there, self-publishing is as good a method as any, and you can do it faster than waiting and seeing if you have the right stuff for another publisher.
I think self-publishing is the best way to go to gain the attention of bigger publishers, if that’s what you want.
If you want to get “noticed” in the comics industry, try streaking the length of the convention centre during the San Diego ComicCon. Otherwise, if you’re very, very good at what you do, you work hard, and you’re reasonably professional, then you will get noticed whether you self-publish or not.
Creators self-publish for two reasons:
1. They want to own and control their work outright. They want to work on their projects without editorial interference, and choose how, when and where their own material is presented. They want to benefit directly from profits made, make their own choices regarding movie and TV deals, foreign publishing and licensing rights. In other words they’re control freaks.
2. They self-publish to *get* noticed by other publishers.
Self-publishing demonstrates ability and an understanding of how comic books are put together. Self-published books are also a neat and efficient little portfolio for distributing to editors and publishers.
If you have a project that no one will publish, then self-publishing is a viable option. If your aim is to earn a decent living by doing work-for-hire and selling your ideas, then all your efforts should be geared towards signing up with a publisher. If you want to mother a creation and want to control every aspect of it, then self-publish.
If you’re lucky, then you may even make a little money doing it. If you want to earn a decent living *and* self-publish, then good luck. And if you achieve that, please let me know the secret.
Gary has been self-publishing his award-winning Strangehaven comic book series for ten years and his third trade paperback collection Strangehaven: Conspiracies will be published later this summer http://www.millidge.com
If you’re a clone, get published. If you’re original, you have to publish yourself.
I’m not worried about being “noticed” in one industry. A bunch of us small publishers are wrenching the mainstream book publishers from their riverbeds into our streambeds. As a vendor with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Baker and Taylor, Barnes and Noble, Coldcut and FM International, I am asked for my opinions — they call me long distance and take my words to their meetings — and my company calls the shots. Next time I come out with a Print-on-demand book, ALL distributors and retailers will have ONE CHOICE — either order wholesale directly through www.booksurgedirect.com or www.lulu.com, or get no books.
So when the customers wander into the comics shop, only those distributors who will order by this method will be able to get these books. And because retailers can get them themselves — they can cut out the distributor and get the profit themselves.
And the customers can order directly from www.booksurge.com and www.lulu.com so retailers be EXTREMELY nice to them.
I’m about to fill out the paperwork for Ingrimm — and they will get the same line. Either order the books this way, or get no books. And if you’d prefer that Amazon or Baker and Taylor get the money, then that’s your problem, not mine. And don’t call me small and laugh at me — I am the future. And some of the distributors and retailers know it.
THEY’ll get the books. And the customers will want to know why the companies who don’t cooperate CAN’t.
And by the way – for those of you publishing with traditional editorial methods — if you’re at a publisher’s party, don’t bother sucking up to the publisher or editor. Go find the diffident little interns and buy them drinks and discuss marketing with THEM.
WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK GOES THROUGH THE SLUSH PILE?
Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!
Craig Johnson Writes:
If you want to get noticed nowadays you have to have one of two things:
1. An existing reputation in an alternate media (for example, as a screenwriter, or movie director, or novelist); or
2. A self-published comic. It is certainly possible that one could mock-up a couple of issues of a book, send it to Sirius, Antarctic, one of those guys, and have them agree to publish the series. But it’s far more likely that it’ll be bounced back and you’d need to publish it yourself – and keep on doing this. Eventually, talent will be noticed (obviously send out free copies of your self published book to as many editors and websites (such as SBC!) as you can)…
Craig hates Superman for reasons only he understands, and also is 2nd in command here at SBC!
I’ll answer the first part– yes, self-publishing is worth it! Not only was it three of the best years of my life, it lead me into a career I never imagined I’d ever get to have. Do it! Do it now!
As for the second question– all you need do is some research to get your answer. Look at what others have done. Where are they now? Where would you like to be after you create your marvelous work? And . . . why can’t you do both with different projects?
Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.
I think that self publishing is worth it if you have a story to tell and no one will let you tell it. I tend to think that no one will let you tell your story unfiltered…there are a few Images or Speakeasys…so, trying to get your story (YOUR Story) told through Marvel or DC or Dark Horse and expecting it to come out as you planned…good luck. It’s like screenwriting. If you think director is keeping your vision, you’re crazy.
Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! His work can also be seen in Reflux Comics #3 and in X-Men Unlimited #5.
“The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it – James”
This week’s question is a good one and one I have been thinking of asking the Panel for a long time, so thanks to Mark for actually sending it in.
I self-publish with Portent Comics. Why do I do this?
I often ask myself that question.
Is it because I want to be “noticed”? Well yes, maybe it is.
Why not submit your ideas to a bigger publisher than yourself?
I think the answer is a mixture of freedom and self achievement – I am able to create and control my own work.
Would I like to write for the bigger companies?
Of course I would – I have enough Superman stories in me to last a lifetime, I love Superman.
BUT the reason I self-publish is that I get to play with my toys, and I don’t have to give them back.
It is certainly a wonderful feeling seeing something you have wrote come alive in pictures on a comic book page, working with artists and friends to creative something you can call your own is a wonderful feeling.
Have a look at http://www.portentcomics.com to see what we are doing!
All the best
GET TO KNOW YOUR PANELLISTS with…
Who are you (ie – what are working on at the moment, and how did you get there?
At the moment I am trying to get my computer together after a major crash destroyed a week’s worth of work (almost) but I’m supposed to be working on a new PLUS 8 pager for Desparado Publishing’s “Negative Burn”
What has been Your career highlight?
My favorite (can you tell I’m a YANK? No “u” in “favorite”) piece of work so far would have to be “Redemption” in the first issue of The PLUS from Just a Buck Comics. I did it all! And some of it’s even funny!
Why are comics so cool?
Because a guy like me in a slapped together studio with little money invested can go toe-to toe with a big name and still come out looking pretty good.
What exciting projects do you have coming up?
The PLUS story that I’m supposed to be working on.
Interesting Fact about yourself nobody should really know?
I have a webbed toe. Just one. It doesn’t make me a strong swimmer.
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