Friday, April 12, 2013

Self-Publishing and Self-Distribution

Why, hello, Spacemen. Where is the future?
A thought I can't get out of my head is one that came up during the Independent Visions panel I moderated at Planet Comicon last weekend. The conversation had a section that revolved around self-publishing as something that was necessary for a comic book creator to do when starting out and turned toward Kickstarter and all the benefits and headaches of those projects.

Peter Bagge mentioned that a PDF of his new book had been released on a file-sharing website a full month before it is released to the public and that so many internet denizens are used to 'free' entertainment they don't think about the damage done to the artist. However, when one of those denizens is in front of him at a show, they are happy to pay for a physical copy of the book they maybe stole pre-release and to talk to him about the work.

"So it's not art until they're in front of you," I said.

Everyone seemed to agree.

Ben Templesmith pointed out that the PDF had to have been leaked by someone from the publisher and that begs a question: Why would you do that? It potentially hurts sales of the book, which means less money for the company which one works for. Which means less bonus (potentially, if the company hands them out) and perhaps fewer artists coming to work for that company. It seems antithetical to everything.

Except, maybe not.

Templesmith talked about having creative control over his work. He likes to have it all and not having to share revenues with a publisher is the best way to make a living. Kickstarter offers that opportunity to anyone with an idea. If the project isn't funded, it's because either a) it sucks to begin with or b) the project leaders didn't have a good plan.

Everyone on the panel seemed in agreement that interacting with fans of the work is the best part of the job. Seeing them in person is cool and them buying directly from the artist at a show is the best way to support the artist.

So I asked them if they'd ever experimented with con exclusive items. No one really had, and that made me wonder.

What if someone of Bagge's or Templesmith's cache produced a book, printed it and ONLY sold it through their website or at personal appearances? It's still art, it's still available but the distribution is extremely limited. The risk of theft is monumentally lessened but once a digital copy goes out into the world, it's inevitable that someone will pirate it. So having a free copy on the artist's website is a good way to minimize that.

It just got me thinking about how people think about art. Of course I wondered about that a while back, too, but this one is sticking with me. There has to be a distribution model that could work for artists like this. I'm rolling some ideas around in my head and maybe something will stick. I need to do some research, and I should have when I first thought of this a year ago.

What do you think? If there were a way to shop independently released books that you could purchase direct from the artist, would you use such a service?