Thursday, 22 June 2017

Why self-publish?

Self-publishing is now an accepted form of direct communication with the readers, with both long-time pros and newbies having hands-on control of their product. (Even the mighty Pat Mills is publishing his own books.) Nevertheless, I still occasionally hear criticism of self-publishing. Accusations of "vanity press" and things like "things must be bad if they need to generate extra income by self-publishing". Such mean-spirited comments should easily be ignored of course, but sometimes that only leads to others accepting such unwarranted criticisms as fact if they go unchallenged.

Truth is, a lot of us enjoy self-publishing simply because of creative control. As enjoyable as mainstream comics work is, it often involves working on characters created by others, following an editorial remit, scripts that can be altered editorially, and (most likely) characters that are owned by the publisher. Self-publishing gives the creator(s) complete freedom to do things their way, in their own style, in their own time, and to design the comic exactly as they wish. We're artists. We're all hippies at heart, and we like our freedom, man.

("Hang on a minute", some of you might be thinking. "Wasn't Combat Colin done to Marvel's remit in the 1980s before you regained the rights?" Kind of, yes, but my editors gave me so much freedom on the strip that it always felt I had near-complete creative control anyway.)

As for the accusation that self-publishing is a desperate attempt to increase one's income, well, amusingly that's kind of flattering and insulting at the same time. Print runs for self publishing are often small, so profit is minimal unless a character really takes off. The point of doing it is not one of financial gain, but I understand how that might be a hard concept to grasp for some coldly commercially-minded people. It's all about the enjoyment of creating a comic that's 100% by yourself, from the cover to the last page, including layout, logo design, and all. If it breaks even, great. If it makes a small profit, even better, but if you're doing it solely for greed then you'll be disappointed. It's for the love of the art, mate, innit.

I must admit there are some practical reasons why I'm self-publishing again. There are a number of characters that are my intellectual property that were just languishing in limbo. It seemed silly to devote all my time on strips I didn't have the rights to and let my own creations fall into obscurity. So, in 2015 I brought back Brickman, last year I revived Derek the Troll (with Rock Solid as back up) and this year Combat Colin finally gets his own comic (with Suburban Satanists No.1 to follow either later this year or in 2018). I know that each of those properties has a following, and hopefully their individual comics will generate new readers too. Apart from a few contemporary references, I've always tried to make my humour feel timeless, so my 1980s material should work for modern readers too.

Most of my working time has to be spent on mainstream comics work though, as that's what pays the bills. That doesn't make it less enjoyable of course. Toxic, Epic, Doctor Who Magazine, and Beano each have their own identities and are great to create strips for. It's a privilege to work on the top comics titles in the UK and long may it continue. 

In my spare time I'll continue to develop my self-published titles, and although I may only have time to do two (or three at a push) per year, the plan is for them to continue. I hope you'll enjoy what's to come, including Combat Colin No.1, out next month!
(If you're interested in my comics, and I guess you must be if you're reading my blog, you can buy them directly from me here:
http://lewstringer.com/page7.htm )

Getting back to my initial point, ignore the critics. Some people just want to nitpick and sabotage what others create, to drag everyone down to their own level of misery and hopelessness. Other people will support such projects, financially if they like them, or even just by spreading the word on comics that don't appeal to them personally. The comics industry has evolved from where it was 50 years ago, and self-publishing is as legitimate and slick as mainstream publishing these days. Check out the tables at the many comics conventions around the country and you'll find comics that appeal to all tastes. 

39 comments:

Manic Man said...

I've never had a problem with Self publishing myself, in fact I'm currently awaiting some from the 80s I ordered to almost complete a set (I like the great work of the late Bob Laughlin) so really, screw the Critics who just want to make a name for themselves as yet another of the 70s style 'we hate this' angry critics.

Just a shame that still, too much of the UK comic market so-called 'fans' don't want to support UK comics.. the only local comic shops to me (not that many, not that local) only really want to Stock 'big name' American comics..

Lew Stringer said...

There are a number of comic shops that will stock indie comics but some won't, and that's a shame. (Meanwhile, their over-ordered Marvel and DC comics clutter up their back issue bins.) I'd rather sell my comics directly to the readers, personally, so I can keep the cover price down instead of having to factor in the percentage the shops would take. Combat Colin No.1 will be 40 pages for £3.50 to buy from me at conventions (about £5.50 by post) which is good value I think.

Manic Man said...

very true and yep, sounds good value.

Bill Boyd said...

You've obviously convinced yourself and you'll probably convince a few others, but we all know the real reason. Complete creative freedom? That sounds like a vanity thing to me, man. As for Beano being one of the UK's top comics, it's hardly a long list and it's not even at the top of that, is it? I shouldn't be surprised at your rationalization. After all, you deal in fantasy for a living.

Lew Stringer said...

Hey look, folks! My weirdo stalker has a new alias. "Bill Boyd". Gotta love that alliteration complex. Ha!

Phil Boyce said...

Very funny! I agree with every Maniac says so you must've "convinced me" too, and would just like to add there's an audience there for this particular title and I'm one of them! Small press, independents and self-published titles were a lot harder to come by when I was younger but I'm now excitedly looking into reading much more. There's a huge, vibrant seen of them out there I've discovered alongside the mainstream, with Vampire Free Style from Jenika Iofredda being a particularly beautiful introduction to the wider field.

Lew Stringer said...

Very true, Phil. Creators gotta create. Haters gotta hate. The haters are the losers there, as always. You'd think they'd find something better to do with their lives than wasting it on resentment.

Shane Chebsey said...

Right on Lew! Self publishing is where it's at. When I started sef publishing back in 1994 I could only have dreamt at where the scene would be now.

William Boyd said...

You can call me William then. That's my name, not an alias but you appear determined to bunch anyone who is mildly critical into one person, whoever that may be. And why do you always sidestep the point in order to indulge in invective? Weirdo stalker, hate, resentment? Sounds like you have a persecution complex of some sort.

I repeat, complete creative freedom sounds like a vanity thing. The truth is, you're trying to drum up a little bit of extra money for yourself and promote your characters in the hope it will lead to something bigger in the future. No shame in that but be honest about it. You've obviously got more time on your hands than you'd like, what with all those conventions you're attending. You never used to have the time when you were busy.

Shame about Beano's low sales. Would be nice if you addressed my points. Hope work picks up for you soon.

Lew Stringer said...

Nah, you're just spouting the same old crap while hiding behind a new alias, "William". I don't usually publish your ad hominem nonsense but I thought it'd be amusing for readers to see it this time.

Truth is, as you well know, there weren't anywhere near as many conventions around years ago, and I was busy caring for someone so I often had to decline invites anyway. It's interesting though that you think people aren't busy if they're not working 24/7 and can take the occasional weekend off. I can almost feel your resentment through the screen. It's nice that *you* have so much spare time to indulge your trolling though, but you might try a healthier hobby.

Don't let the facts stop you trying to post again, though. Perhaps 'Transparent Twonk' could be your next alias? It might not get published, mind, but I'm sure you'll find somewhere else to vent.

Lew Stringer said...

Right on, Shane! I can appreciate that some people will be indifferent to self-publishing and it's their prerogative not to support it, but to actually try and put people down for it shows a level of spitefulness that is quite bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Hang on William, isn't being a guest at conventions proof that Lew's a successful artist?

Lew Stringer said...

Shhh! Don't bring logic into it. The trolls don't deal in logic. ;-)

William (my friends call me Bill) Boyd said...

William is the name on my birth certificate but if it doesn't suit you to believe that, you're entitled to your delusion.

And again this accusation of resentment. Do you take yourself so seriously? You're furiously self-publishing, appearing at the opening of a fridge and any convention that will have you, and you only have a few pages of regular work on hand at the moment. That's successful?

The fact is that convention organizers will invite anyone who's prepared to come, but if that's how you like to spend your time I'm happy for you. I have very little spare time as the demands of my job require my full attention but unlike you I get paid holidays.

Let me know when you're making £40,000 a year and I'll consider you a success. Let's face it though, working in a diminishing market like comics, that's never going to happen.

Back to the real world for me. I leave you to your delusions.

Lew Stringer said...

Wow, congratulations on some Class A trolling there, "William". Not only have you imagined stuff about me, you've even invented a scenario for yourself where the demands of your job require your full attention... apart from the three times you've posted here today during work hours that is. Oops! Bit of a giveaway, that.

Let's look at the facts: this blog is entirely about my own work, so the only people likely to read it are those who like my work, or who just want to troll. I'm sure people can see which of those suits you. On yer bike.

Brad Brooks said...

William: How many conventions have you been invited to as a guest then, if they'll invite absolutely anyone?

I "kid" of course. We both know it's none.

Lew: More power to your elbow, my friend. I have some money I'd like to give you at the Lakes festival if you're going…

Lew Stringer said...

I'll be there, Brad! It'll be great to catch up! God knows how many comics I'll have done by then, now I'm apparently "furiously self-publishing". (Actually it'll just be Combat Colin No.1, and the two I did over the last two years.)

Gavin Burrows said...

I hear the measure of success these days is having your own troll. Congratulations Lew, you've made it!

James Spiring said...

Might have known there'd be a troll here when I saw you mention trolls when you posted the link to this on your other blog. The only troll that should be given any showcasing here is Derek.

I don't see anyone else mentioning low Beano sales. But they can't be THAT low, or it would've shared the Dandy's fate. If I'm not mistaken, it's been holding steady at around 30k for some time (34k in the latest figures, and that was a slight increase from the previous released numbers). And one of the reader turned into a cartoon things they do got mentioned in one of the newspapers last week (though too late to promote the issue in question - the next issue was already out). That wouldn't happen if nobody was reading it.

Lew, I like that Transparent Twonk name you gave Boyd.

Lew Stringer said...

Yeah, it seems an odd thing to target the Beano's sales when it's survived for 79 years and has outlasted EVERY other British comic of its type! But some people look at a positive and can't help but try and find a negative. What a pitiful outlook on the world.

Anonymous said...

The more "William" posts, the more he sounds like he's in some kind of jealous rage, stabbing angrily at his keyboard with angry resentment. I love his conclusion that being I nvited to conventions equates to UNPOPULAR AND UNSUCCESSFUL!

Anyway, I've waited a long time to be reunited with Combat Colin. Consider me a sale waiting to happen. And it's great to see you in DWM's hallowed Tim Quinn & Dicky Howett spot, you draw the finest Capaldi this side of Rachael Stott's pencil sharpener!

—Phil

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Phil! Yep, give the troll enough rope and he'll hang himself as they say. Anyway, no more comments from him will be published. A twisted personality like that will only perceive his humiliation here as a victory.

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, and I'll bet you've answered this question before, but will we ever see the return of Robocapers? 2000 AD is running its sort-of spiritual successor, but it'll NEVER be Robocapers.

—Phil

Ryan Frost said...

If a rock band were to 'self publish' on a indie record label, unencumbered by the need to be mainstream or comply with the wishes of the 'suits', many people would laud such an effort. Many low-budget and indie films are superior to the stuff Hollywood churns out at the moment.

Surely the same logic would apply for comics, too?

Anyway, I absolutely loved Combat Colin as a kid, and can't wait to get my mitts on the new comic

Anonymous said...

It's clear who you're trying to pin this on but how do we know you're not writing these comments yourself to point the finger at someone you're obsessed by and increase your visitor stats? Or what if it's someone who's trying to stir things up between you by taking advantage of your willingness to blame every critical or negative comment you receive on him? I'd caution you to be more responsible and stop seeing your pet troll around every corner. You owe it to yourself as well as your readers.

Lew Stringer said...

I think most people do applaud self-publishing / indie comics, Ryan. The troll seems to have an agenda towards me, as soon became evident. His comments about self-publishing were just a smokescreen to stick the boot in. There's no evidence of "Bill Boyd" having a go at self-publishing anywhere else on the Internet. (Mainly because he didn't exist until the troll made him up yesterday I guess.)

Phil, Marvel only returned the rights on Combat Colin. I didn't think to ask about Robo-Capers at the time (and didn't want to chance my luck) so I can't reprint those strips I'm afraid. It'd be nice if Panini UK could reprint them though, but they don't really have a suitable comic where those strips would be a good fit at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Once again some twattish troll disrupts an intelligent and good natured discussion with his personal attacks on Lew. It's about time you told this cretin to f@£# right the way off, He's a waste of space c¥}t of the highest order!!!

Lew Stringer said...

Don't worry. No more of his rubbish will be appearing on this thread. He tried to post two more comments but I deleted them.

Anonymous said...

Bill/William/whoever you really are, the reason people are saying you're resentful is because your comments are full of resentment! Simples!

JA

paul Mcscotty said...

I don't really understand anyone’s objections to self-publishing it's a pretty established form of publishing and should be applauded imho – certainly seems a very strange reaction from Mr Boyd. I just noticed your "A Lew Stringer comic" icon on "Combat Colin", love it, was it inspired by Odhams comics? - Good luck with the books I have “Brickman” already and will definitely get “Combat Colin” as well.

Lew Stringer said...

I suspect "Bill Boyd" (not his real name) has his own resentments towards me to air, Paul, and used self publishing as just an excuse to have a go. That's why he arrived guns blazing with sneery comments from the outset. The jigsaw pieces itself together.

Yes, my new icon is based on the old Power Comics logo and also a nod to a few others too. Well spotted. Thanks for the good wishes. Combat Colin should be combat ready soon!

Kal said...

Self publishing is great. It's a way for creative types to fire up the old juices without having to limit themselves to any house style, hopefully make a bit of beer money (or at least not lose any in the venture) and interact - to a degree - with fans.

From my (fan's) perspective, I get to interact and support those creative types, hopefully read something good and look at pretty pictures. I can't get to many conventions* and this is as close as I get.

Mind, it doesn't really matter what motivates the creator or the punter. The end result is more comics. That's what we all want, yeah?

*Speaking of conventions, was gutted you were sick and missed Nottingham last year, Lew. Maybe next year, chap.

Lew Stringer said...

Yeah, sadly I couldn't do Nottingham this year either because it clashed with another con. One of these days!

Great points about self-published comics there, Kal. It's definitely an expanding market, and with the cost of printing *relatively* cheaper than it was years ago, everyone can produce nice looking comics on a par with the mainstream. (Of course some sense of design and artistic talent is important too, but most indie comics I see look pretty good.)

Lew Stringer said...

Of course, the downside of self-publishing and not having an editor is when you notice a spelling mistake after the comic's been printed. Aaghh! (Only a small typo but it's there forever.)

Lew Stringer said...

Comment I had from "anonymous" the other day that I didn't publish but needs addressing: "how do we know you're not writing these comments yourself to point the finger at someone you're obsessed by and increase your visitor stats?"

Oh do grow up you deflecting, projecting pillock. If anything, posts about trolls REDUCE hits as most people aren't interested in what they perceive as internet squabbles. Billy boy, for someone who mentioned above about self-publishing being a vanity thing, how vain can you be to think that your input is going to boost anyone's blog hits?

No more trolling is permitted here. Normal service will now resume.

FilthyNevs Coleman said...

You know, I can't work out why 'Complete Creative Freedom' could be considered a bad thing by anyone with a working knowledge of the history of comics.

While there are some creators out there destroying their cache and prestige by letting publishers knock out their work without an editor to bounce off of and say 'Do you think this page is telling the story you intended in your original script.', I'm inclined to think that letting creators have their head has turned out to be a better decision than having some toady grub at Marvel or DC fiddle with your work or put in their 'This might offend someone in the Mid-West' fears to the package.

I'm not inclined to say everything created with the whims of comic creators has been gold, but certainly I think we're far richer for having the likes of Cerebus, Fun Home, From Hell, Grendel, Weirdo, Sex Criminals, Grindhouse, Mage, Maus, Bitch Planet, Sin City, The 1%, Zap,Strangers In Paradise, Bone, The Incal, Elephantmen, The Bulletproof Coffin or the obvious contender for 'Did fine without any editor slapping their paws all over it, thanks for asking.' The Walking Dead, which I believe is Robert Kirkman's product and he gets the majority of all royalties involved with that franchise.

As far as I'm aware, both retailers and creators have been trying to push that the creative team is the main reason for a book's sales and the publisher ought to be the last consideration, so why anyone would want to lament someone aiming for those goals is beyond me, unless they were trying to ignore the history of comics in order to score a cheap point in a field they didn't really know much about me. But obviously I'd have to be some kind of Lew Acolyte to make that observation, rather than a professional with 30 years experience in the business.

Lew Stringer said...

I can't work out of the troll is against creative freedom or whether he just doesn't believe that's sufficient motivation to self-publish, Nevs. Either he's so pro-establishment that he's always going to side with the major publishers against the little guys, or he's so bereft of creativity himself he can only see financial gain as cause to do it.

It's also very arrogant that, even when the person doing the comic states that creative control is the motivation, that the troll dismisses it as untrue. If he lives in a bubble where his opinion is the only valid one, that's some weird narcissism going on there. It can't be a happy life. Thanks for commenting.

Search Engine Evader said...

You missed a certain "no-hoper" called Will Eisner off your list, Filthy. I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure Denis Kitchen published his later work verbatim and without alteration.

If it was good enough for Will, I'm sure it's good enough for Lew...

Lew Stringer said...

Back of the net!