How to Self-Publish Comics… Not Just Create Them #1-4
by Josh Blaylock
Devils’s Due Publishing, 2006
This is another pretty awful book about self-publishing comic books. I would like to say that — like with How to Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony Caputo which I reviewed recently — anyone attempting to follow this book to self-publish a comic book is bound to crash and burn, but the reality is, I don’t think there is enough information in here to even start a company to drive into the ground.
The problem most often with this book is that Blaylock tells you WHAT to do but not HOW to do it. This is a book full of advice, but without information to act on. Just flipping through issue #1 again here, Blaylock’s “chapter” on ‘Distribution: Bookstores” is a whole half-a-page long, he says: “When distributing your comic books through bookstores, there are a lot of distributors out there.” He mentions a few of these but doesn’t give any contact details or discuss in any way how to approach these people or what is needed from you when you do so. At one stage on this same page, he says: “In a future volume, I will go into more detail about marketing to the book market,” but I’ll be damned if I can find where he actually got back around to that detail anywhere in this series.
It feels like most of his chapters end with: “There’s lots of information about this on the internet, so be sure to go look it up!” rather than himself telling you how to do it. Where the Caputo book was almost overloaded with in-depth details, Blaylock reads like he wrote this thing in between games of Halo and picking up nachos. He is so vague at times and clandestine with concrete information that I felt like he must have been so deliberately in order to sabotage any possible competition. Caputo was out of business when his book came out — Blaylock is still in it. Coincidence…?
Another unforgivable offence with this book is his “chapter” (this time a whopping seven sentences long!) on “Distribution: Newsstands.” The chapter describes what newsstand means: “Newsstand is the avenue of distribution for periodicals such as the magazine rack at your local grocery store, or the comics you find in convenient stores” (that hilarious typo is Blaylock’s, not mine). Blaylock then goes on to say that he doesn’t really know anything about newsstand distribution and that he “may cover Newsstand distribution in further detail in a future supplement, but for now I’ll only touch on it, because it may have been an outlet you were planning to exploit.” Actually, he didn’t even really touch on it for those people — he only mentioned it existed for people who already knew it existed anyway having been planning to exploit it. This chapter is fucked. If you are writing a chapter about something in a non-fiction book, you have to write about it. If you don’t know much about it, you have to research it. You can’t say: “I don’t know anything about this subject” and then slap a $4.95 cover price on the front. Imagine opening up a biology textbook to the chapter on photosynthesis and finding: “I don’t know much about this subject, but I sure would like to. Maybe someday I’ll get back around to it.”
(below: The offending page on newsstand distribution.)
The typo I mentioned above also brings me to one of my favorite passages in the book — this line about being accepted by Diamond Comics Distributors: “Their requirements aren’t really that strict, so a rejection means you need to take a serious look at your comic book. It’s most likely nowhere near the professional level it needs to be, and you need to be honest with yourself about the quality of what you’ve put together.” Well, Diamond regularly rejects art comics too, so this statement from the publisher of Barack the Barbarian sounded slightly narrow-minded to me. But what I love is that at the bottom of this page and the top of the next, some text has been deleted resulting in unintelligible gibberish. Is this what Blaylock means by a professional level of quality? It certainly seemed to be good enough for Diamond so even the validity of the statement’s intended meaning is questionable. Typos are frequent in the series.
(below: Another offending page — misprinted professionalism.)
I also found it weird that “Vol. 1” (issue #1) covered “Building the Infrastructure” such as setting up shippers and distributors, and Vol. 2 was “Building Your Creative Team.” But you need to have the comic before you can approach distributors to distribute it for you. Weird, especially since the goddamn title of the book seems to assume that you’ve already created the book.
The one thing I did like about this series was the sample contracts, invoices, and other practical documents at the back of each issue. Issues 3 and 4 then had 10 and 8 pages of house ads respectively, which led me to the belief that this was really intended as an exploitation book. There are a lot of people out there — myself included — who are hungry to self-publish and will spend money on a book like this as soon as they see the title — like I did. What they get is lazily written and shoddily put together, and full of ads for titles published by Devil’s Due; and delivering those ads (at an inflated cover price) to vulnerable, unwitting readers strikes me as this title’s real agenda.
P.S. This series was also published in a trade paperback edition which I struggled to find, so I got the periodical version.
P.P.S. Hilarious update, one day after writing the above review: