Is This The End Of Self-Publishing Comic Books, Or The Beginning?

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.

(via Metafilter)

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.


  1. As a newly aspiring comics writer I’ve found the biggest obstacle to self-publishing is finding an artist to work with – the usual channels into the industry (pitching to the companies which allow unsolicited scripts such as 2000 AD, Dark Horse etc) are fairly slow because of their huge slushpiles, which leaves you with a lot of time between getting a positive or negative and being able to pitch again to those limited companies. I’ve got pitches in limbo with all of the ones I know at the moment, and though I’d love to be able to just make stuff anyway you can’t really just release scripts. Helping facilitate the artist-writer connection is probably the best way to contribute to self-publishing comics right now.

  2. “Technoccult Comics”? I like the sound of that.

  3. As a casual comic book reader I’d be interested in some syndication or/and original recommendations. I don’t actively seek new material but if your offering I’ll certainly check it out.

  4. I get the distinct impression that if Technoccult were to publish, or at the very least syndicate or advert the self published, I would whole heartedly endorse such an effort. Though perhaps, if one were to do so, it may pay to keep in theme with the tones and subject matter which originally drove me to regularly read here.
    As an artist and a writer, I’ve long sought out potential avenues for the support and distribution of my work, without the need to “sell out” by selling my ideas short or flat out censoring myself for the sake of a publishing giant. I was once asked to sign a waiver so that I wouldn’t sue if and when they sold my ideas without paying me, before the interview had even started. For the record, I didn’t sign it.
    All that being said, I take one step at a time down the self-publishing path, waiting and searching for opportunities to stop working in a grocery store and start living my dream job. Storytelling.

  5. Hey guys–great website!! I think Kim is correct that it’s harder for a publisher to get in with Diamond and make a living at publishing floppies. many small publishers and indy comics will get pre-orders of 500-2000 through Diamond. Hardly money making numbers, but still a good start at building a fanbase (you need to start somewhere). But Diamond won’t allow you to keep soliciting books at 500 orders, like they would in the 90’s–there really was no minimum back then, allowing you to slowly grow a fanbase. So what is the indy self publisher left to do? well, with POD and createspace, LULU, Comixpress and other–an artist/writer can upload a book and doesn’t need to print/store/ship. Also–WEBCOMICS–I was not into this at first, but now I’ve seen the light–web comics are a great way to build a worldwide fanbase. You can make some money with google ads and project wonderful, but you also have to sell merch. I think you can also sell comics apps, reformat for Kindle, Nook etc, and have a free web comic. using all of those platforms, you can really reach millions of people. They say we’ll have 600,000,00 mobile devices by 2015. if even 10% read comics we’re in a good space. We’ve already seen PVP and PennyArcade build huge fanbases. Plus webcomics like REMIND have used kickstarter to fund the printing of collected editions of what’s already FREE on the web. Fans will still buy what’s free. And once you have a web fanbase you’ll have no problem selling to stores, word will have already spread. I think it’s an amazing time for getting your books all over the world. The model will probably be digital firsts–singles/floppies and then to collected printed TPBs.

    Frank Forte
    Asylum Press
    PO Box 2875
    Hollywood CA 90078

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