Self-publishing vs traditional: Which is better?

If you've been following the publishing industry (not just comics, but the whole industry), you know it's been in turmoil for the past few years. Ebooks have made self-publishing a lucrative option not only for unpublished authors, but also for mid-list writers like JA Konrath who are reaching a dramatically wider audience than they ever did with their traditional publishers.

Though the prose arm of publishing has been having this conversation for a while, it's been pretty quiet in comics except for the tangential conversation about creator-owned vs. corporate-owned. That's actually a separate conversation, though. BPRD and Saga are just two examples of creator-owned comics that aren't self-published. Who publishes your book often has nothing to do with who owns the characters and story in it. I'm glad to see First Second's Senior Editor Calista Brill start the comics arm of the discussion, especially in the as-objectively-as-possible way that she does.

When I ask "which is better" in the subject of this post, I'm not talking about the quality of the books. I'm talking about which is better for the creator, and it's liable to be a different answer depending on the creator and her individual circumstances. Brill outlines the positives of each publishing option, but it's not too difficult to infer the negatives. When she says that a positive of traditional publishing is royalties, the implication is that you don't get those when you self-publish. On the other hand, what you do get in self-publishing is all of the profit, meaning that that's not the case with a traditional publisher. On the other other hand, getting all of the profit also means taking all of the risk.

It's a messy decision full of influencing factors, and Brill does a nice job laying them out in an objective way.

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