These columns on self-publishing (and the PRO-CON speech) have met with a very enthusiastic response. As I write this, 171 hasn't shipped yet, but I expect Gary Reed's 'Guide to Self-Publishing' will prove a welcome addition. I might even reprint it from time-to-time along with any additional comments and suggestions that pertain.
A lot of people have misinterpreted my anti-company stance, thinking that what I am saying is that they should not work for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Valiant, Mirage, Rob Liefield, etc., etc. under any circumstances. There can be nothing more beneficial on many occasions than going for a cool and relaxing dip in a swimming pool. Likewise with the companies. A dip into their pool can be very relaxing, lucrative and prestigious. But you should get in and get out within a certain time frame. You don't want to live in a swimming pool no matter how cool and refreshing it is, do you? I've talked to too many friends in the business who started freelancing for the companies as a temporary measure who are still just freelancing twelve years later. When they finally walk away (or are thrown away), they will have nothing to show for those years apart from whatever is left of their advances, page rates and royalties. I had a nice chat with a fellow at Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina (great Con, by the way. Highly recommended) who had just attracted the interest of Richard and Wendy Pini for their company-owned Elfquest line. Never had anything published before. As he explained it to me, he had been on cloud nine (naturally enough) at the prospect of becoming a Pro. Then he read the Pro-Con speech and was more than a little unsettled by it and wanted my advice. The best advice I could give was to decide what it was that he wanted. Did he want to be drawing someone else's characters ten years from now? Well, no, he didn't want that. Five years from now? Two years from now? I told him that whatever length of time he decided he wanted to work on someone else's characters, he should have that period set firmly in his mind at all times. That he should measure that length of time from the initial overture (Richard and Wendy had expressed interest a few weeks before). Always include the negotiating process in the length of time you are allotting for working on material that you don't own. You might not see a script or a contract for three months. That's three months of your 'career' that shouldn't be discounted; three months of treading water. As I mentioned in the Pro Con speech (and I probably should have emphasized it a little more), you should always be working on material that you own and control while you are working on material that you don't own and control. Working on well-known characters can be a great help when it comes time to self-publish. When talking up Jo Duffy's self-published Nestrobber at the trade shows, retailer interest increases quite a bit when you mention that Jo is the writer of the best-selling Catwoman series for DC. A number of retailers I've talked to have had great success cross-marketing A Distant Soil with the Sandman trade paperbacks, billing Colleen as a Sandman artist. Now, just to give you a contrast with that, James Owen, now that his right hand is getting back in shape, has eight issues of Starchild finished and is ready to ship bi-weekly through the summer to get back on schedule. The book is starting to attract a lot of attention from the retail community (especially at the trade shows) and his commitment to sticking to a bi-weekly schedule until he gets caught up and monthly thereafter is playing no small part in that increased attention. Of course he's now getting overtures from the work-made-for-hire companies to work on some very prestigious projects. He's had to make a hard choice; do work-made-for-hire stuff to get his name better known and use that name recognition to give Starchild a higher profile, or stick to his original plan and count on a reliable monthly schedule to build circulation. James (God bless 'im) has chosen to build Starchild on his own. One of the factors that figured into his decision was the awareness that he would be billed in his convention appearances as 'James Owen, Batman artist and Starchild creator' and that most people would want him to autograph his work-made for-hire material. If you want to walk the tightrope between work-made- for-hire and self-publishing you should always be aware of the calendar pages flipping past and which of the two is consuming most of your time both in the short term and long term scheme of things. No one can tell you what balance is right for you. Each creator has to decide the balance for him or herself.
I'd just like to add that there was a behind-the-scenes dust-up between Diamond and myself over their 'no autographing in the exhibit room' rule for the Seminar a couple of weeks before the event itself. I thought the Seminar was going to be a shambles, but it was a very effective format. You were right and I was wrong, Dan.