While the show hall buzzed with activity Saturday afternoon, a packed room gathered to learn more about the ins-and-outs to publishing independently at the Indie Creators Unite!: A Guide to Self-Publishing moderated by Fanboy Comics Managing Editor and Co-Founder, Barbra Dillon. The panel of experts included Matt and John Yuan, owners of Cool Cats Comics and Cards; John Bring, co-creator of Penguins vs. Possums; Jared Sams, The Mad Muslim Mulatto creator; and Bryant Dillon, President and Co-Founder of Fanboy Comics.
To start the panel discussion, each expert described their role in the industry and expressed tips or positive aspects to self-publishing before Barbra Dillon asked each person to discuss how they managed expectations as they traversed the path of publishing their book. The Yuan brothers started off by stating, "don't risk more than you are willing to lose." A creator should spend what they are willing to walk away from. And, as retailers, the brothers emphasized the creator needs to consider their pricing scheme: the $3.99 full price is fine at a con, but s/he must be able to offer a retailer wholesale price.
Bring stressed that the creator has to be realistic with their expectations. Bring used himself as an example. He said he went to the cons with no expectations when he began selling the first issue of Penguins vs. Possums. He said he would have been happy to sell one. Success does not come overnight; it's a long road and the creator shouldn't be driven by money but motivated by passion. It was a sentiment seconded by Sams. A creator must find value beyond making money, because it should be about meeting new people – one's fans and peers – and creating opportunities for promoting oneself in the tight knit comic book community.
Bryant Dillon countered to not throw financial responsibility out the window though. He stressed that if a con isn't going well (selling your book), he advised shifting focus and create marketing opportunities instead. He added, "you have to have endurance" in this business and you must stay positive because it does take time when self-publishing your book.
Of course, there are cons to self-publishing. Most importantly the loss of freedom was heavily stressed. The creator loses creative control and must fulfill the expectations of the publisher overseeing the project. For instance, Sams related that The Mad Muslim Mulatto would have most likely been named something else.
Barbara Dillon added two pieces of sage advice opening up the panel to Q and A. The first is to budget your time realistically by giving yourself enough time to complete each milestone marker on your timeline. In other words, don't rush it, because you have a lot riding on your book. And the other pearl: "be kind to others." In this business, you are working with many people and honestly you just never know who is picking up your book. It may be someone who has the power to decide to your project is worthwhile and offer you a contract for more books or maybe even movie rights.
Visit Fanboy Comics at table AA1336, John Bring at table AA735 and Jared Sams at table AA1242.
Michele Brittany is an independent pop culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture, and she regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.