Thoughts on Self-Publishing

My good friend (plus excellent writer and God-pimp) Maurice Broaddus recently wrote a nice essay on why he hasn’t self-published.  Go read it.  It’s a good essay, and every part of it is true, especially the “Money should flow to the writer” bit.

After reading the essay, it got me thinking about self-publishing and the different ways it can be used and abused.  See, it’s a different evil depending on the type of work.

For prose, self-publishing should be avoided at all costs.  If you want reasons, go read Maurice’s blog.  Sure, it’s fine for hobbyists, but it will not make your career.  Every once in a while I see some talented writer pushing some half-pro/half-trash looking thing, and it makes me want to throttle somebody.  They’re making themselves look like a joke.  Instead of realizing this, however, they consider themselves mavericks of the publishing field.  Gah!

Which is not to say self-publishing your prose can be all bad.  I’ll add this exception to the rule: free promotional items.  The little “A Team-Building Exercise” chaps I’m putting together for STAPLE! are an excellent example of this.  I’d never dream of charging somebody for these things, but they do make for a rather cheap way of getting my name out there to 100 lucky folks.

Now, I tried the same thing a few years ago with some other stories, but I sold them for one dollar.  A year later, I recycled about 94 of them.

Then there’s comics. Self-publishing is often a badge of honor in comics.  A lot of incredibly talented people started out that way (and a few stayed that way).  Hell, when I pitched one of the major comics companies back in 2002, I was told, “We usually only published people who have self-published before.”  True story.

But you know what?  Self-publishing comics is no business for a writer.  Hell, I’ve found over the years that pitching comics is no business for a writer.  If I were an artist I would have self-published a book years ago.  Instead, I’ve spent the last three years going through the same pitch, waiting for various artists to turn in pages for a year before they either get their own deals or decide they want to self-publish their own books.

It’s a vicious circle of sorts.

So there you have some of my own thoughts on self-publishing.  Feel free to send comments and/or hatemail.