True Facts: comics’ righteous anger, a pocket guide to self-publishing your own comic books
by Larry Young. AiT/Planet Lar, 2002.
“Pocket Guide” is right. This book is a slim 120 pages, with plenty of white space on the already pocket-sized pages. Much like No Guts No Glory which I reviewed a while back, it is a reprint of an internet column. Unlike that book, which was too physically big, this one is almost too small. Most columns are only one or two pages, but each chapter gets a full page announcing its number; and there is an introduction by Matt Fraction; so it could have been even shorter. Some, but not all of the columns come with additional commentary from Young a few years after the columns were originally written.
Not that this is all bad. The first several chapters are excellent and tell you succinctly what you need to do to get your book published and out there. The first four “chapters” cover creation, printing, distribution, and promotion. It’s about as straight-forward as you can get, but that actually makes it encouraging. At this point Young apparently had planned to stop, but then kept on going with the subject of promotion in subsequent chapters: writing press releases, getting noticed, focusing promotion on retailers, etc. One thing I quite liked was that Young spends some time writing about the fact that many of us find self-promotion distasteful and how to deal with that.
But then it starts to lose focus — straying from the path and occasionally back onto it — and I’m not sure what some of the columns have to do with self-publishing at all. There is some discussion about the state of the industry, the state of internet discussion about comics, how back issues are bought by the pound at Comix Experience, etc. Some of these later columns may have been “on topic” but Young’s writing is less sharp here and it takes him much longer to get to the point — not good in a 2-3 page column. There were two columns devoted to telling Marvel they need to focus their brand identity and that they don’t have a clear view of who their customers are which I didn’t agree with. You don’t tell Penguin Books or Random House to only publish vampire books — for the sake of the industry, a juggernaut like Marvel should be diversifying if anything. (In fact, I wonder if the fact that Young published this very book through his own company doesn’t somehow violate his own rules by going “off brand.”) Anyway, look — now I’m off topic too!
Okay, so the book starts good, and ends bad. What’s the problem? Well, it forgets that it is a book and not the internet. Rather than just farting all of his columns out into a book without changing anything, Young should have used all the info he’d written in the columns and re-editted the thing into a book from scratch. Put everything in order — put all the marketing stuff together, rather than scattered everywhere — and cut out anything that is irrelevant to the book’s purpose. If you’re trying to make a point about the sentimental value of comics with that “buy-by-the-pound” anecdote then come out and say it, and use it in the intro or something. And give the chapters goddamn titles so you can actually find stuff when you need it. This would all make the book much shorter — yes — but it would also turn it into a lean, mean publishing resource