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#279223 - 03/30/99 03:41 AM "Self" Publishing
Sean Murphy Offline

Registered: 03/30/99
Posts: 1481
Loc: State of Confusion
I was looking through the letter column of a recent issue of Bone and someone was asking about self-publishing. Jeff Smith remarked "If I can do it, anybody can" or something like that. Now, I've been a comics fan for a long time and like to follow stuff in the industry, and one thing I've noticed is that a whole lot of "self-publishers" actually have a lot of help, especially from their spouses. Case in point, Jeff Smith's wife Vijaya handles the entire business end of the Bone empire, leaving Jeff to concentrate just on the creative side. Also, I heard that she was working at a high-paying job while he was starting Bone, so he didn't have to worry about making money at first.

Here are some other examples I was able to think of:

Dave Sim: The supposed god of self-publishing, Sim was supported in the beginning by his now ex-wife Deni. Also, I personally think that Sim would be nowhere without Gerhard. It must be a lot easier getting your book out when you've got someone doing ninety percent of the art for you.

Wendy and Richard Pini: The third great self-publishing success story, they were always upfront that they were a team.

Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada: Like the Pinis, they have made it clear that Exhibit A Press is a joint venture.

Likewise David and Maria Lapham with Stray Bullets.

Phil and Kaja Phoglio formed Studio Foglio together after Phil split from Palliard Press.

I can't remember the name of Terry Moore's wife, but I know she takes care of the business side of things for Strangers in Paradise.

Anyway, it seems like creating a book AND publishing it seems like an awful lot of work, and that all the really successful folk have had a lot of help, personal and/or financial (I heard that Mark Oakley lived with his parents for the first few years of publishing Thieves & Kings).
Can anyone name some successful self-publishers who actually did it all by themselves? I know that "successful" is a vague term, but what I mean is being able, like the folks I mentioned above, to put a book out regularly and make money at it. I don't mean artistic successes- I love Tyrant and Berlin but haven't seen an issue of either of those in ages.

In case you're wondering, I have thought about self-publishing a book of my own, so I'm curious the truth of the matter.

#279224 - 03/30/99 10:07 AM Re: "Self" Publishing
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
You're right; a large percentage of self publishers are really 'mom and pop' businesses, with one spouse doing a lot of the business day to day, while the other focuses on creative stuff.
Sim, indeed, formed such a 'mom and pop' team when he launched CEREBUS, but came to be one of its most vociferous critics.
In my own case, I chose to carry 100% of the responsibility for my self publishing ventures.

Rick Veitch
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#279225 - 03/30/99 11:40 AM Re: "Self" Publishing
Raven Offline

Registered: 03/29/99
Posts: 238
Loc: Ontario, Canada
I have found that I really have a problem doing the business end of things, which is why I have not yet self-published anything. All I want to do is write good stories.

#279226 - 03/30/99 12:11 PM Re: "Self" Publishing
Joe Zabel Offline

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 2546
Loc: Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
I think artists are gonna have to start signing pre-nups promising no publishing chores for the spouses. On the other hand, if your spouse is also your publisher, you not only have to meet the deadline, but you better BEHAVE!

Joe Zabel
Joe Zabel

#279227 - 03/30/99 02:31 PM Re: "Self" Publishing
Jeff Zugale Offline

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 1806
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
I'd have to agree that teamwork is the best way... Pagan City is me (art, computer geek stuff, schmooze), writer Chris Wichtendahl (also schmooze, more computer stuff every day, etc.) and his wife Carry (Executive Left Brain, takes care of biz stuff). I don't think we could do it any other way. We all work, too; I do a lot of freelance graphics and illustration, Chris is a programmer/web guy, and Carry works in massage therapy. So we have some income to devote to MFH.

I also work with the Pinis, and they're most definitely a unified team. Quite nice to see how closely they work together and how much they care about each other after all this time. [img]/resources/ubb/smile.gif[/img]

I have no idea how one person could do all this without any support whatsoever... more power to ya Rick!

Jeff Zugale
Pagan City Comics
Jeff Zugale
My "Just A Bit Off..." webcomic

#279228 - 03/30/99 09:45 PM Re: "Self" Publishing
Stephen R Bissette Offline

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
As someone dealing NOW with the legal realities of divorce in the wake of publishing and self-publishing, Joe's pre-nup suggestions should be taken to heart.

In fact, I'm sorry to say that my advice to both my kids will be to see to such contractual matters prior to marriage (both write and draw, and my daughter Maia intends to write, draw, and publish her own work as an adult). For all my frank talk about my business affairs, this issue has been one of the most difficult and painful to sort through.

And I ain't through the process yet. Tell you how it goes once I'm out the other end, folks...

#279229 - 03/30/99 10:42 PM Re: "Self" Publishing
Raven Offline

Registered: 03/29/99
Posts: 238
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Actually, I have yet to be published, thanks to those nazi Diamond people, but as a writer only, I have no choice to work with others. Luckily I have two great artists and we are doing two awesome 4 issue limited series', but we will need a publisher, business person for the studio, inker (maybe), and letterer (maybe). Speaking of which, do you know anyone at Marvel who I could get to pass around an idea for me? I have this Daredevil story that i think is great, and now is the perfect time, with the success of the book and all, but I don't know too many people. I am pretty much a closet Canadian, and don't get out much. But I do read and write a lot!
Anyone who can help please do, thanks.



Raven Entertainment Studio
Comics so dark, you'll buy Liefeld just to feel good again!

#279230 - 03/30/99 10:58 PM Re: "Self" Publishing
Eric L Kent Offline

Registered: 11/22/98
Posts: 178
Loc: Mt. Washington,KY,USA
Steve typed: As someone dealing NOW with the legal realities of divorce in the wake of publishing
and self-publishing, Joe's pre-nup suggestions should be taken to heart.
In fact, I'm sorry to say that my advice to both my kids will be to see to such contractual
matters prior to marriage (both write and draw, and my daughter Maia intends to
write, draw, and publish her own work as an adult). For all my frank talk about my
business affairs, this issue has been one of the most difficult and painful to sort

Oh is a hard thing Steve. I went through it 7 years ago..and it's something that as anyone who has been through it isn't an easy or a "quick" thing to mend.

And I ain't through the process yet. Tell you how it goes once I'm out the other end,

I hope it goes smooth for you Steve. Mine was a messy messy event that lasted over 4 years. It played hell with my creativity and my time..had to work like 2 jobs just to pay the bills and other things. But I'm here now and have custody of my child so it wasn't in vain. [img]/resources/ubb/wink.gif[/img]

Eric L. Kent

Eric L. Kent
Logan and the Bunny Squadron ONLINE Now at a Powermage Website near YOU!
Powermage Studios
Eric L. Kent
"Tragic Heroes" and "Logan and the Bunny Squadron" coming soon to a shop near you

#279231 - 03/30/99 11:31 PM Re: "Self" Publishing
Rich Henn Offline

Registered: 12/07/98
Posts: 478
Loc: Eldersburg, MD USA
Dude, what it really takes is money.
Bottom line.
And, some good investigating.
When I say "investingating", I mean
shop around. Shop around printers.
Shop around retail outlets.
Find out what your local shops carry.
Start there.

And start with ashcans. Very simple, very easy. Don't go full blown comic book, full color and don't go into it thinking that you're going to turn the industry on it's head and make scores of money.

Do it because you love it, and no other reason. There are VERY few self publishers out there who become the success that Jeff Smith, Pini's, Dave Sim or Colleen Doran have become. It's a fluke.
Talk to ANYBODY else within the confines of this online convention, for example, and see how many are barely breaking even.

It helps to have some background on printing.
It helps to have some background on advertising or promotion. But the way to get started is with an ashcan. Simple, easy, effective.

Mail em. Toss em at shops. Ask retailers to put them into pull and hold boxes. But not just any pull and hold. Know your target audience. You're not going to put a fantasy related comic into someone's box who buys
Stray Bullets. You'd want to hit readers of
Books of Magic, Castle Waiting, Finder...that type of thing.

Shop around you local printers!!!
You'd be surprised the local printers can give you a good deal on something that you could send to Brener or Priney for example.
And get the potential printer to show you samples of their work! Ask for a tour of the shop! After all, you could potentialy be tossing a lot of money this guy's way, and you need to behave like a buisnessman.

Get a web site. Link to others.
Go to Conventions. TALK TO PEOPLE.
Give away copies of your ashcan.
Get feedback. Mail your product to online mags and other periodicals for reviews!
Get feedback from your fellow creators!
You can do it!

I do Timespell all by my lonesome.
I have assitance with the writing, and another friend does the inking...but I'm
the guy who does the advertising, production,
shipping, making contacts, goes to the conventions and sell, sell, SELL!!!

You'd be surprised what you can do alone, if you put your mind to it.
You have the energy, it's all how far are you willing to go from there.

And I wouldn't be so quick to call Diamond
"Nazi's". First rule of buisness: NEVER BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU.

If they rejected you, it was for a reason.
Don't be harsh...step back, use that criticism constructively. Don't get offended. Instead, tell yourself "Well, maybe if I do this, this and this..."
And then RESUBMIT.
You'd hate to put out your product and find
it's only mediocre at best. Dave Sim put it best when he said "Treat EVERY book like it's your best work."
Don't settle for less.

Money? Yep. It costs bucks.
Advertising. You WILL need to do this.
An average small ad in CBG can run you $30-60. Thats a TINY ad.
Go bigger, get more money.
CSN costs a bit more. But investigate it.
Do AD SWAPS with other creators.
That's free.
Do links with websites.
Talk to other periodicals about ad rates.
Any periodical that reviews comics is good.

I spent over $1000 advertising Timespell last year. And I got off easy.
I paid under $1000 to do a 2000 issue print run, and that's on high quality stock.
If nothing else, anyone who's ever seen my book will tell you that it's not a cheasy looking peice.
You can't get that cost for that product at
ANY of the comic book printers.
Not Priney, not Brener, not Morgan.
I print local. I get to go to the printer,
supervise the run, I get a turnaround time
of 5 working days.
Then I box em and ship em.
This gauruntees me overage on the run,
less damaged product, and careful packing.
Also, I'm the only one responsible for a late product or a damaged product, so there's no
finger pointing.

Hope that helped!
Good luck!


#279232 - 03/31/99 01:11 AM Re: "Self" Publishing
Glenn Barbis Jr Offline

Registered: 01/09/99
Posts: 765
Loc: Nowhere, Pa.
Raven, Rich is right on the money with everything. Take your time and investigate everything. Get all the knowledge you can from every source available about everything it takes to put out a book.

Printing, I feel, is one of the biggest concerns. Paper quality, cover color seperations, page count, and especially quantity all factor in to the price you pay for printing. Brenner, when last I dealt with them, had a minumum print run of 3000 copies. That's alot of books for a small publisher, just starting out, to sell. Our #1 was with them and, 4 1/2 years later, we are just about sold out and breaking even on it. Our original orders through different distributors (before Diamonds monopoly) were around the 600 copies mark. Without alot spent on ads too. Alot of left over copies. Our main cost was Brenner.
Shop around for a smaller printer, that can give you quality, reasonable print runs, and the chance of going back to print if the need be.

And I can't say enough about ad swapping. Go to shows, talk to other small press, and see about swapping books and ad space. If you like their book, tell them. Get a dialogue going and try to hit their readers, while you do the same for them. I also give our book to top name creators and ask them to read it at their liesure and write to me with their opinions. This is also how I have gotten to know alot of them from the shows, and I'm surprised at how many top names now know,recognize and remember me. (It does the ego good sometimes.) Take in all the criticism, good or bad. It all helps to make the product better.

And the most important thing Rich said, Don't think you have the next great book. When the first order numbers come in, if they aren't what you expected, don't get dicouraged. Just shove it out to more people and retailers (comp or promo copies are a neccesity. ashcans are the best). They are the best gauge of material. You just have to make them know you have it.

Good luck and have fun. That's what comics are truly about anyway.

"These are just my opinions, I could be wrong." - Dennis Miller

[This message has been edited by Glenn Barbis (edited 03-31-99).]

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