Thursday, February 16, 2012

Comics for writers and thoughts on self-publishing

Over the years, I've created quite a few comics for writers for Inkygirl, Will Write For Chocolate, Writer Unboxed and other venues. After prodding from writer friends (especially Christina Katz), I've decided it's about time to compile the best of them into a print book compilation. If I can't find a traditional publisher, then I've decided I'm going to self-publish.

Why? Because I KNOW there is a market for this book (which I've tentatively titled "Will Write For Chocolate"). I keep getting emails from people I don't know, asking where they can buy my comics in book form as a gift. I have over 16,000 followers on my @inkyelbows Twitter feed for writers, and a growing number of followers on my various blogs. Yes, the book has a niche market and will never hit a New York Times bestseller list. But it does have a market.

I originally had pitched this book as a collection of my writer comics AND tips for writers, but one publisher I approached said they preferred fewer comics and more writer tips. Instead, I've decided I'm going the opposite route: get rid of the writer tips (there are already so many good writing advice books out there) and focus on ONLY my comics.

While I admire those who successfully self-publish, I would still personally opt for a traditional publisher if given a choice for several reasons.

I don't like adminstuff, for example. And frankly, am not good at it. I love coming up with ideas and creating, but would far rather take a smaller cut of the profits and have someone else take care of at least part of the business end.

Yes, yes, I know that freelance writers and illustrators need to also be businesspeople and be on top of payments and invoices and royalties and record-keeping and so on. I do it when necessary and am getting better.

Plus, depending on the publisher, having a book traditionally published can get your book into wider distribution channels. Yes, I can promote the book myself and will promote the book regardless of whether the book ends up traditionally published or self-published. The more promotion I have to do, however, the less time I have left for creative work...and self-published books need more author-powered promotion to succeed.

Traditional publishers also have a lot more resources to help you make the book stronger and more marketable. My experience working with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on I'M BORED has helped me better appreciate the huge value (and joy) in collaborating with a publisher's in-house team.

I've seen so many self-published books whose content may have merit but have turned me off because of the abysmal layout, amateur-looking covers, typos and grammar gaffes. While there are excellent and high-quality self-published books out there, there are also many ugly and unedited self-published books.

Content is king, it's true. But it's also a fact that when it comes to selling books to people who aren't your friends or family or supportive colleagues, then packaging also matters.

Apologies for the rambling nature of this post. I originally was going to just post one comic and a brief paragraph about why I may end up self-publishing Will Write For Chocolate...and look what happened.

Anyway, I'll be gradually posting more comics for writers on Inkygirl and MiGwriters as I continue to compile, tag and catalog my comics in prep for my book. Through my agent, I'm also going to continue to look for a traditional publisher. If I can't find one, then I'm going to self-publish. 

I'll let you all know what happens.  :-)

- Debbie Ridpath Ohi


  1. Oh, joy! Put me on the "would-love-a-copy" list.

  2. I don't care if you go traditional or self-publish. I'm buying either way :)

  3. I hope you can find a publisher, although it might be a fairly tricky sell (I suspect they usually look for syndicated cartoonists).

    However, if you don't, I suspect that you are in a *very* good position for self-publishing. You have a sizable group of fans with whom you are in constant contact, plus your cartoons hit several different niches.

    Printing full-colour has its significant challenges. If possible, I'd talk with web-cartoonists who have produced print works for their self-publishing experiences. (Also, if you can get a company to do order fulfillment, you're way ahead of the game, since that's a major time sink for small-ticket items.)

  4. Anna, Shonna, Nicole: Thanks!

    Tom: Thanks very much for your advice. Much appreciated.

  5. I've always loved that genie cartoon. Hee hee. But yes, this is an example where self-publishing is a great model. You have an audience and a niche. Many web comics do this well. A similar example is crafting books. Major publishers don't want to take on embroidery books, for example, but those books have an audience of people who really want them. I'm not sure the promotional model for this is as time-consuming as self-publishing a novel.

  6. You are right. There are a number of excellent projects out there that won't make the big publishers enough money to warrent publishing that book. Niche books. And those are just as necessary and needed by some people.

    I love your cartoons. They are so fun.

  7. I think my plan is pretty similar. Try and get traditionally published, but if all else fails, self-publishing it is.

  8. No need to apologise for rambling Debbie, that's what blogs are for ;-)

    I think that one should be very careful with self-publishing. It might be a valid road for you to take, but then you would really need to take ownership of every step of the process, so that you can ensure that the end result is 100% professional. Good luck whatever way you decide to publish :-)

    I actually wrote a blog post about it yesterday on my blog. You can read it here

  9. What happened with this, Debbie? Inquiring minds want to know!


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