Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Table Talk - Which Side of The Control Fence Are You On?

This week, Barry, Bobby and Mike discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing versus working with traditional publishers and then dig into the two sides of the work-for-hire/creator-owned treasure trove.

Question (Mike): What do you guys think about self-publishing versus working with a publisher? Obviously you both know a little bit about that with the announcements of Reese Unlimited and Ben Books. What do you see as the benefits of each?

Bobby: Personally, I prefer to work for a publisher so I can focus on the writing and marketing side of things. That said, I have started BEN Books and I’m excited to do a limited number of projects on my own terms. The downside, for me, is that I don’t overly enjoy the design and other behind the scene work that comes with putting a book together.

I started BEN Books because the publishing industry is in such turmoil right now and I wanted to get my latest novel, Deadly Games! in front of readers and had been shopping it around for a year. That was about where my patience ended so I decided to try publishing it myself. I’m looking at Deadly Games! as an experiment. If it goes well then BEN Books will continue to do more stuff. If not, well...

Barry: I definitely prefer working with a publisher. I don’t enjoy the publishing side of things and try to avoid getting too involved in them. I like writing and then letting someone else take it from there. Reese Unlimited is an imprint of Pro Se so they’re still handling the entire publishing end. I self-published the first couple of Rook novellas and it went okay but I quickly realized that I wanted to move away from that. Things have changed a lot in recent years but I think there’s still a stigma attached to self-publishing (which shouldn’t be the case but I hear it often).

Mike: I think we all agree on those points, for sure. I do enjoy doing some design work and such, but really have no big desire to handle any more of business side of things than I already do. In fact, I'd prefer it if I didn't have to handle any of it.

It's tough enough doing promotion and marketing for a single book, so doing that for an entire publishing venture, while trying to create and write, and handle the variety of business dealings would really just suck a lot of the fun out of it for me.

I kind of get that self-publishing stigma, as I've seen many a 'self published' effort that isn't even close to being ready for prime time, but on the flipside, there's a lot of self published stuff that's really quite nice. Hopefully, when I start doing things under the Runemaster Press banner, people will say we fall into the latter category.

Bobby: I think the stigma isn’t as bad as it used to be now that many bestselling authors, y’know, the ones that used to look down their noses at self publishers, are jumping ship and going the self publishing route. Yes, I am speaking of a few folks I’ve talked to in particular. I won’t name names, but one bestseller once gave me a stern lecture on the evils of self publishing and the small press. Just this year, that writer self published a novel. Hmmm...

Barry: Bobby, you’re 100% correct about the stigma. But when I went to get my books carried by a local bookstore, the first thing they said was “We don’t stock self-published books.” I had to explain that I didn’t self-publish them and give them publisher info to establish that but it was unfortunate. Hell, even if I did self-publish them, it doesn’t mean the books aren’t good. I read stuff that’s traditionally published all the time that’s awful, too.

For some of the old-school folks out there, self-published is synonymous with “amateur.” It’s an erroneous thought, though. Look at Wayne Reinagel’s stuff – he’s one of the absolute best New Pulp authors right now and he runs his own publishing house.

Mike: Yeah, and Van Allen Plexico's Sentinels stuff is better than a lot of what I've read from standard publishers. So, it's definitely a stigma that's inaccurate at best.

That stigma notwithstanding, if you had to do only one, which would it be?

Bobby: Barry, I get that same thing at conventions. People will come by my table and flip through one of the books and at least half the time they ask if I self published the book. Then when I explain that I did not self publish the Green Hornet anthology (for example) they seem almost disappointed, put the book down, and walk away. It’s weird.

I’d prefer not to be my own publisher for the simple reason that I do not enjoy that aspect of it. I want to write it, turn it in to a publisher, then move on to write the next story. For that reason I plan to keep my self published projects to a minimum, maybe 1 or 2 a year. We’ll see how it goes.

Mike: I've toyed with the idea of self publishing, or creating my own publishing entity to publish the works of others, but I just don't think now is the time to do it. Which sounds like a good excuse not to. [wink]

On a tangent, if you guys could only do one, would you prefer to only write work-for-hire or work on your own creations?

Bobby: That’s a tough one. I do love writing my own creations, but I also wouldn’t balk at writing Thor or the Fantastic Four so... I guess, if I had to choose, I’d go with working on my own creations.

Barry: Well, there’s a definite thrill to writing classic characters like The Avenger or The Green Hornet. I wouldn’t have traded those experiences for anything. But writing your own creations is ultimately more satisfying. Before I ever wrote one word on The Green Hornet, I received a big fat email attachment listing all kinds of things that I couldn’t do with him and other things that I should definitely include. With Lazarus Gray or The Rook, I’m able to age them, kill off characters, radically shift the tone of the series when I want, etc. Much more freedom.

Mike: Sounds like we're all in agreement. I loved working with Phantom, Zorro, Black Bat and others, but at the end of the day if I was forced to choose, working on my own creations is far more satisfying.

Over the past decade, Barry Reese has written for publishers as diverse as Marvel Comics, Moonstone Books and West End Games. Primarily known for his pulp fiction creations The Rook and Lazarus Gray, Barry has also penned stories featuring The Green Hornet, The Avenger and Ki-Gor. He won the Best Author Award at the 2011 Pulp Ark Conference.

From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, Bobby Nash writes novels, short stories, novellas, comic books, and graphic novels. Visit him at

Born with an excessively overactive imagination, Mike Bullock has parlayed that into a successful career writing comics and prose fiction. Bullock has written more Phantom comic book stories than any other US author and won the Angouleme Discovery Prize in 2007 for his creator owned series Lions, Tigers and Bears. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention, guys. While a lot of what I do is published by other companies, some of it is indeed published via my own creator-owned imprint, as it were. And one advantage I think you failed to note is that, in that situation, instead of receiving a tiny percentage of the sale price, you're probably getting to keep more than half of it. You're also able to buy copies of your own stock at much lower prices for resale. Those two factors can make a huge difference for me when choosing where to take a new project I've developed.


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