self-publisher's forum: advice for an indy publisher
22 January 2006
James Reddington asks about twleve questions instead one:
I write myself, and I kinda run a small press company that has grand plans to be a indy publisher further down the line. We have had good reviews and people have enjoyed our work - especially our new title Rob & Ducky which was my first real attempt at comedy. Usually i am an all out horror or superhero guy - down with 2006 upon us i am working to expand our reach.
My question is "What Advice would you give someone in my postion?"
Should they do to Diamond? Is it worth it anymore? Should they enlist a pro's help? Should they push for more reviews? Try and get some pro's to read their work? Should they stay "small press"? What would you do if you were just starting out in the comic industry? Should they try and submit work for bigger companies - either their own or their writing services?
Any serious independent publisher must offer their product via Diamond. There are other distributors like FM and Cold Cut, but these generally prefer your product to be visible in Diamond's catalogue Previews anyway, and these will only ever be able to shift a small percentage of books in comparison to what the Big D will sell.
You could also offer direct to comic retailers, install pro shopping cart software on your website and set up at every convention, expo and festival that you possibly can. But these options are very labour intensive and/or expensive and you should expect only a limited number of sales. If you have lots of money to burn, you could even go direct to the book store market, and good luck to you. But that's not really an option that most small press types could afford.
Of course, there is currently a lot of discouraging press about Diamond's cut-off point for carrying titles. But if you can't meet Diamond's minimum sales requirements, then you aren't likely to be making any kind of profit. So if you decide to offer your titles to Diamond, then you need to be prepared to work very hard at publicising them. Diamond will list your titles in Previews with a thumbnail image, but that is unlikely to garner many pre-orders from retailers and consumers by itself. You should consider advertising your books in the same issue of Previews, as well as elsewhere if it can be afforded; target indie-friendly retailers by mail or phone; use the internet to garner pre-publication publicity (by sending out advance review copies and suchlike). There is much you can do, but it's important to synchronise your efforts so that the publicity reaches its height when the listing actually appears in Previews. That way, the retailers and readers that use Previews to pre-order comics actually know what they're ordering. And you'll stand half a chance of selling a bunch.
Of course, you may end up spending more to advertise the books than print them – but unless you get big orders on the first issue of a title, it's very difficult to increase orders on subsequent issues. More than likely, they'll halve with issue 2.
Getting a professional to contribute in some way, like doing the scripting (as Alan Grant has done for Brodie's Law) or perhaps providing a cover, can certainly help get additional attention for a new title.
Reviews in the comics media are essential. Overprint (when printing using litho, additional copies are usually very inexpensive) and send out copies to as many magazines, websites and journalists as you can afford. Good word of mouth is essential.
If your ultimate aim is to land a fat contract with one of the big publishers, then a successful, well-reviewed, independent title will definitely add to your credibility and demonstrate a certain skill and knowledge of the industry.
If you're very, very good at what you do, extremely reliable, easy to get on with and fast – then you may find it easier to simply submit samples to editors and keep your fingers crossed.
Otherwise, if you simply enjoy creating comics, then there's no shame in choosing to remain small press. Just don't expect to make any kind of financial profit from it.
It all depends on whether you want to be a publisher, a creator, or both. I can't help you with that, all I can say is to follow your heart and do what you really want to do.
This question and answer was originally presented as part of Silver Bullet Comics' roundtable discussion The Panel
© 2006 Gary Spencer Millidge. All rights reserved.
All text and images (c) copyright Gary Spencer Millidge/Abiogenesis Press All rights reserved.