Production Blog for the new anthology from Jason Rodriguez, coedited with James W. Powell
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jason: The Good Books

When I first decided to self-publish POSTCARDS I went back and reread all of the books I’ve purchased on comic book publishing. Honestly – with a bit more clarity now than I had a year ago – I realized they were all outdated and suffer from extreme tunnel-vision. I’m making a 168-page hardcover anthology. The people contributing to this book sell like mad within the direct market. One guy is a bookstore dream come true. My mom, the only comic she’s ever read has been Archie, not only knew who one of the contributors where but actually cried when I told her he was in the book because she was so proud that I got this iconic figure to contribute.

And I’m rereading these “How to Publish Comics” books and realizing that they go against everything I’m talking about in my Hive columns. None of them discuss what to do about people like my mom – people who like the concept, recognize a name, never been to a comic shop and can be convinced to purchase this book if I put it in front of them.

So I had to buy new books.

Dan Poynter’s SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL, whereas focusing on non-fiction, has more useful information in it than any book that says “Comic Book” within its two-hundred+ pages. So much so that I purchased Poynter’s contract CD, used the publishing contract as my template, took it to my lawyer friends (living in DC, 50% of your friends are lawyers) and there was hardly a complaint – the contracts were solid.

Peter Hupalo’s HOW TO START AND RUN A SMALL PUBLISHING COMPANY is easily adaptable to comics and offers a balanced counter-point to Dan’s book’s philosophy of doing one book and doing it well. This book convinced me to lower my initial print run substantially and use whatever juice I generate and eventually put it into different books instead of more copies of one book that’ll sit in storage and slowly turn a profit.

Jan Nathan’s PUBLISHING FOR PROFIT helped me think about the financials and reconsider some decisions I made. The bottom-line is, with some of the talent contributing I saturated certain markets – I made a decision to sacrifice the inclusion of one more big name to go with cost-effective (and equally talented, honestly) alternatives.

Tad Crawford’s BUSINESS AND LEGAL FORMS FOR AUTHORS AND SELF-PUBLISHERS FOR PROFITprovided contracts that I can look over but more importantly checklists and texts on the negotiation process. If I told you how much the start-up cost for this book was you’d freak out, mainly because I’m learning how to gauge people’s wants and supply it to them instead of paying out my ass to satisfy them.

And then there’s the bible, for POSTCARDS, at least.

Lloyd J. Jassin and Steve C. Schecter’s THE COPYRIGHT PERMISSION AND LIBEL HANDBOOK. Let’s put it this way – I’m making a book based on postcards that feature copyrighted artwork and the writing of people who are protected by copyright law. If I didn’t read this book, there’s a good chance I would have been sued. Most of the POSTCARDS featured are in the public domain and, thanks to a worthwhile (and tax deductible) investment into genealogy sites, I’ve discovered most of the author’s copyrights have expired. The ones that required permission I’ve learned how to get it and what my rights are. Whereas the whole 1900-1920 timeframe for all but two of the postcards gives the book a common thread and look, it also protects me.

Buy these books. A comic is a book. You need to understand the direct market, true, but if you want to make some money you really need to understand the book market.


Jack said...

Thought you would also be interested in Dan Ponyter's Radio show ...Publishing Poynters Radio. Very insightful and lively exchanges between Dan and other self-publishers debating the big questions self-publishers face. Topic include:
Spotting Self-Published Books; Should You Consider Paying for Book Reviews; Is Google Threatening Self-publishers; Can You Make a Living at Self-publishing?

You can listen online at

Note: currently looking for guest on a show we're doing about product placement in books. I produce the program and would love to hear your thoughts.

6:29 PM  
Jason said...

Jack - I'll certainly check the episodes out. I'd love to be involved in whatever Dan's doing so shoot me an email at - graphic novels are in an interesting transition phase as they move to the larger publishers (one of the books I edit just got bought by Random House and it's been a bit of an eye opener). I'd be happy to talk it out a bit.

7:23 PM  

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