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Tom Richmond on why he did self-publishing

NCS President and MAD Magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond recently released his new book The Mad Art of Caricature!. It’s a great book that I highly recommend you check it out and buy. A notable book like this certainly could have found a print publisher, but Tom opted to explore and publish through self-publishing. He posted his reasons why this morning.

When I compared how much I could reasonably expect to get as an advance from a publisher to how many self-published copies I would need to sell to equal that same figure, it seemed likely I would stand to do better financially by self-publishing. Was I right? Time will tell. I have easily paid off the entire print run and am in the black on the book (THANKS to all who have bought a copy!), but I will need to sell a few hundred more copies before I pass the ?probable advance? figure. If I sell the entire print run, I will certainly earn several times what I would have earned with a traditional publisher, even if they had sold 5 times that number of copies, due to the low royalty percentage I?d have gotten past the advance.

It?s an interesting business, of which you now know a lot more that you probably cared to. Publishers still have the ability to tap markets that self-publishers simply cannot access, but unless your book is going to sell tens of thousands of extra copies that way, self-publishing it increasingly becoming an option that makes financial sense in the right circumstances. Publishers also basically leave the promotion of the book to the author, which adds to the attractiveness of self-publishing.

Community Comments

#1 Howard Tayler
October/31/2011
@ 10:11 am

That’s very similar to my experience. Unless a publisher can sell about ten times as many copies of my books as I can, self-publishing remains the more profitable venue.

The fact that I’m able to sell several thousand copies of each book myself means that self-publishing is also a sustainable business model.

(Also, Tom’s book is great!)

#2 Tom Richmond
October/31/2011
@ 10:50 am

Thanks for the shout-out, Alan.

One element I forgot to talk about on that post that makes voluminous self-publishing possible: PayPal (or similar) payment processing and shipping tools

Self-publishing my book would not have been possible without these products. I easily created an online shopping cart for payments acceptable from any country in any currency. I print the labels and pay for the shipping right online, package the book, slap the postage-paid label on and drop at the post office. Incredibly easy and it works. I could not imagine shipping out hundreds and hundreds of packages manually at the post office.

#3 Daniel Boris
October/31/2011
@ 11:42 am

Self-Publishing has come a long way, and is a great way to go if you have a decent fan base, and an excellent way to generate income from original artwork that would otherwise be expected for FREE on the internet. For more info on my ?Hey, Look at Me!? book: http://www.indiegogo.com/Hoxwinder-Hall-a-printed-collection

I’m sure Tom’s book is good too!

; ))

#4 dave nelson
October/31/2011
@ 12:03 pm

Tom’s online resources have been so valuable to me that I would feel guilty not buying the book. Plus, the fact that it’s signed is the icing on the cake!

#5 KEITH POLETIEK
October/31/2011
@ 1:27 pm

I’m making good money on my Adventures of Johnny Lazarus book series using CreateSpace.com which prints and sends copies to me on demand. A bit more for a book than self-publishing, but I didn’t have to put out $Thousands, just a few hundred to get a finished product (included ISBN and LLC numbers). Then they set up my books for sale through Amazon.com for me and ship me as many copies as I need, when I need them, to take on the road or sell through my website.
I paid just over $300 to get everything set up and a finished copy (took a few weeks to get a final proof going through their channels) but with shipping from them to me – I pay less than $3 per book on a book I now sell for $10. I paid $1.50 for books one and two, but had to print 5,000 to get that price, then I had to find a place to store two pallets worth of books while they sold. Wifey not happy!! I’ll eat the $1.50 per and know that I only need to have 2-3 boxes of books on hand at any one time. Worth a look, especially if you don’t have the name recognition of Tom Richmond.

#6 Tom Richmond
October/31/2011
@ 1:43 pm

Daniel- A collection of a comic is by definition not a “Hey, Look at Me!” book. It is a narrative collection with entertainment value beyond just showing how good you draw. That’s real content, whether it’s seen syndication, other publication, or not.

#7 Keith Brown
October/31/2011
@ 3:07 pm

I bought Tom’s book. Now I need another book to help me deal with the depression caused by Tom’s book. Heavy sigh…..
Lol.

#8 Alex Hallatt
October/31/2011
@ 5:59 pm

Since I don’t have Tom’s readership, I’ve been teaching myself how to make epubs to put out my own ebooks. I experimented with a collection of human cull cartoons (making the world a better place by removing all the annoying people) which is up on lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ahallatt).

Now I’m working on how best to format my Arctic Circle comic strips to put out an introductory collection as an ebook. If you have any suggestions, you can leave them at http://www.facebook.com/arcticcirclecartoons

It’s an exciting time to be a cartoonist, with all the new ways to get your work out there, even if you only have a niche audience.

#9 Daniel Boris
November/1/2011
@ 11:45 am

Tom – I completely agree! And by the way, you rock, Sir!

#10 Rich Diesslin
November/1/2011
@ 11:56 am

It’s an awesome book. A+++ highly recommend. ;)

Keith, thanks for the insights on createspace POD publishing. Is your book full color?

#11 Dan Collins
November/1/2011
@ 9:44 pm

Next up: Epublishing.

#12 Tom Richmond
November/2/2011
@ 10:36 am

Epublishing…. not sure that is going to happen with this book. I researched and tried to set up the book so it could be exported as an ePub, but further research is not encouraging. The ePub format demands dynamic text wrapping and font resizing, and when you are talking about an art-instruction book that is very image-heavy, that becomes next-to-impossible. Haven’t given up yet, but it’s going to take a lot more work than just exporting the book.

#13 Dan Collins
November/2/2011
@ 9:56 pm

Tough but not impossible. The tech is there, we just need more practice. InDesign exporting requires some clean up codewise but I have the documentation to do it. Even a fixed layout for a landscape aspect across two pages. Whether this book or not, epub is the next step.

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