Stay indie or try to enroll with a publisher? Both avenues are an option...
Self-publishing is not a new idea.
But the tools we have at our disposal today are new. To get a better picture of the development of self-publishing I wanted to talk to someone who'd been doing it for a while...
Terry is an American comic book artist who has been writing & drawing comics for well over twenty years. He's a multi-talented creator who has been independent since before it was cool. You might know him from the comics Strangers in Paradise or Rachel Rising.
So, just to start things off - how did you get started with this whole making comics thing?
Been drawing all my life. When I saw the self-publishing movement in 1992, I decided to try it for myself. And 20 years later here I am with a lot of books on my shelf.
I have enjoyed the freedom of being independent. I had stories I wanted to tell, and I got the chance to tell them without changing or adapting them to other properties.
When you work on the mainstream icons, you're like the 8th husband: there may be some love there but the kids will never trust you.
True, it's sink or swim as an indy. I keep at it for so long because making your own books is like having your own band, and 2) indy pays better than mainstream. I'm not getting 8% in the book world, or 18% in the mainstream comics world, or 50% in the creator owned deals... I get 100%. It's worth the extra risk and work.
You do realize don't you that all indy cartoonists are incredibly rich.
Well, I think there’s definitely an argument that it works on paper. After all, a lot of what I do here is push indie forward. And I won’t deny that it makes sense in many ways and has worked for a lot of people - there’s also a long gap in starting out and getting to the point where you’re able to maintain a worthwhile income.
It took me 18 months before I could quit my "day job".
And that was a joke about rich indy cartoonists.
How have the web innovations - like digital comics or social media - impacted your work or the way you support yourself?
I've lost a lot of sales to torrents, obviously. Only my website store and Comixology have provided income streams. Social media buzz and 2nd hand recommendations are impossible for me to track or count on.
How important is your convention presence to your business and maintaining connections with your readers?
It's just my opinion but, I think it's important for somebody in the middle of the pack to get out there and stay relevant. Only the super stars can stay away and be fine. The world is constantly wanting to turn away from you. Whatever you did last year is SO over. It's all about now, and getting out there is a sometimes humbling lesson in just how many kids out there DON'T have you on their radar. You go home inspired or fired up or dismayed, but at least you know where you stand.
Be original and write what you want to read. When you draw, find new ways to show things so that we see the world through your eyes. That's what readers are searching for, new ways of hearing and seeing the familiar. Try not to always draw things that can be photographed. Try not to write the Hero's Journey, people are so burned out on it. Don't be a clone of anybody popular because that's like being a cover band and we all know where they end up. Just be yourself because there are a lot of people out there looking for exactly what you have to offer. So, have faith in yourself and what you have to offer, then work like hell to get it made and out to the world. They will thank you for it.
That’s a mountain of great advice right there. Thanks for taking the time, Terry!
You're welcome. Hope it helps somebody.
I think it can be greatly encouraging to hear an experienced creator extolling the virtues of self-publishing. So keep at it. The road ahead may be new, but it's not entirely foreign!
If you'd like to check out and support Terry's work, you can find his store here.
Interview conducted by Jeremy Melloul, Creator At Large