THE COMPLETE VERY BAD PUBLISHERS, now in one handy linkpalooza HERE.
This series of posts was written nearly ten years ago, and while it may sound as if I’ve spent my every waking moment in publishing running from Duddly Dastardly, I want to emphasize that out of a career that has lasted more than two decades, I have only worked for a small handful of bad publishers. Unfortunately, they were VERY bad publishers. And bad publishers seek out young creators, effectively killing the enthusiasm and drive of most of them.
The upside: none of my Very Bad Publishers is around in comics today to spread bad mojo. A couple of them are still in business, but not in the business of publishing comics as they once did, and it is unlikely you will ever work with them or anyone associated with them.
OK, on to the read. Here’s what I learned from some very bad publishers.
Sometimes you’re the pioneer and sometimes you’re the canary in the coal mine.
Being the first mover in a new market can be a real advantage. I’ve been on the first mover end of a lot of comics industry events: the black and white boom of the 1980′s, the self publishing boom, the independent press, yadda yadda.
While being a pioneer gives you the opportunity to scope out a new arena and experience explosive growth in a market without much competition, pioneering anything is high risk. You experience the explosive growth before you can build up a back end plan to minimize risk. And since you start off with little or no competition, you may not be prepared the day the competition shows up.
Being the first mover gets you the new territory, but there’s no guarantee you get to keep it.
For example, lots of early US manga pioneers are sitting around with their mouths hanging open because they helped open a whole new market they are no longer in a position to take advantage of (which is why second mover advantage may be even more important than first mover advantage: you get to learn from your predecessor’s mistakes.)
Almost everyone I knew (including me) who self published experienced a blissful period where we managed to move a kajillion copies of comics one day that we couldn’t give away the next year. When there were 7 self publishers, it was easy, but when there were 100 of them, we had a problem.