The Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing Your Manga

February 27th, 2011

I get an amazing number of emails asking how to become a published writer or mangaka. I’ve talked about some of the most important things a young writer or artist needs to know and about getting involved in the manga industry, here on Okazu.

Today I’m going to address the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing your work. This primarily relates to print models, but has a lot of application to online models (e-publishing, print-on-demand, apps, webcomics) as well. 

The Advantages of Self-Publishing Are:

1) Creative Control – No one will retitle your book, or pick a cover image you hate. From start to finish, this will be your vision.

2) Cutting Out Middlemen – Because you do not have to impress an agent who then has to impress a publishing company, you can bypass other people putting their fingers into your pie. Any profit you make is yours.

3) Takes Less Time – Again, because you are not spending hours of your time looking for or communicating with an agent, your book can go from manuscript to printed matter much more quickly.

The Disadvantages of Self-Publishing Are:

1) Creative Control – it is *up to you* to make every last decision down to the color of the border around the ISBN…heck, it’s up to you to get an ISBN at all.

2) Cutting Out Middlemen – Because you do not have an agent, you may not have guidance from an experienced person in the publishing company who can help you shape the book into something that has more sellability.

3) Takes Less Time – Again, because you don’t have agent or publisher, you may also be lacking steps like editing and proofreading which are *absolutely critical* for any publication, from poetry to non-fiction.

Also to consider: Publishers rarely provide serious promotional backing to a new author. They may give you leads to radio hosts or bookstores that might potentially welcome you for an interview or signing, but it will still be up to you to make it happen and to get to those locations. As a self-published author, you have no promotional assistance at all, so there’s no difference really. I believe strongly that you, as the author, ought to be out there pounding the boards whether you self-publish or go through a company.

What publishers offer are: editorial guidance, copy editing/proofreading and possibly, a modest advance. Publishers also provide distribution through bookstores and websites. You will still be responsible for selling that first book mostly on your own.

What self publishing offers is: A chance to learn the process from beginning to end, so you know exactly what it takes to get a book done. You will be responsible for lining up distribution and sales and promotion, but you’ll reap all the rewards, not just a portion of them.

The choice to look for an agent/publisher or strike out on your own is yours. Either way, there will be a lot of work ahead of you – some tears, possibly heartache. But whichever way you go, you’re sure to learn a lot about yourself and what you want from your creative life in the process. 

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Awesome advice :D and I love your pros/cons list. ;)

  2. @Anonymous – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. BruceMcF says:

    The question is, if you want to do the distribution yourself, but want the editorial work to be done … how do you hire your own editor?

    With the shake outs in the industry, there have got to be experienced editors who could use some freelance editing work.

  4. @Bruce McF – That’s not *the* question, but it certainly is a relevant question. Yes, there are any number of editors out there of all levels of sophistication and quality. It’s not always easy to know when it’s a good fit, but a dialogue with any prospectives will make it clear who your can work with. You should get recommendations and work history, of course.

    Don’t assume that experience means competence, either. There’s more to a good editor than just having edited before.

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