Print on demand and digital publishing have reduced much of the cost of self-publishing practically anything, including comics. So in many ways I’ve been thinking that comics self-publishing is just getting started.
But Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics, in an open letter to Dave Sim had this to say:
The dynamics of the marketplace have changed so fundamentally that something that made (relative) sense 20 years ago doesn’t necessarily make sense today. The market has turned decisively against pamphlets and against self-publishers, and that’s just a reality. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of self-publishers. A sensible person adapts to reality.
This is at least partially a bit of trolling on Thompson’s part. Actually, it might be 100% trolling. But I can see the point.
In the print world, at least from my perspective, trade paperbacks are winning (though I’ve read they’re not yet ready to replace the income generated by producing “singles,” at least for major publishers). Book store distribution is key and while you can do this as a self-publisher, publishing companies, even small ones, are at an advantage.
And for digital comics, there remain advantages to being part of a publisher there as well. From a Prism Comics article on comics being rejected by the Apple App Store:
Even if a creator happened to have the technical proficiency to write her own comics app, going from iBooks to a boutique comics app is hardly ideal for a small publisher or self-published creator. You have no opportunity to reach readers unless they specifically look for comic books; you don’t benefit from the browsing and search traffic on the larger store and your books won’t appear in searches.
There are various ways self-publishers can get into comics-centric apps for the iPad and other mobile devices, but being published by a Marvel or a Dark Horse seems like a bigger advantage than ever — in a comic store, there’s more of a chance of someone who normally buys only form the big two serendipitously discovering a self-published comic. But if they only have the Marvel and DC apps on their iPad, that’s all they’re going to see.
This is all on my mind because I’ve been thinking for some time now about publishing online comics through Technoccult. Not my own work (though if I ever thought I had anything good enough, then maybe), but works by others looking for an audience. But I’m not sure if the world needs yet another online comics publisher. With the plethora of creator-owned publishers out there (Image et al), and the boom in digital publishing, how many people who should be published are still not being published? I’m wondering if there mightn’t be some other way I could contribute to comics publishing, such as syndicating other works.