In­die pub­lish­ing

Think dif­fer­ent Should more artists con­sider us­ing in­die pub­lish­ers to get their work out there, won­ders Tom May

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

Could small-scale pub­lish­ers be the an­swer for artists keen to see their art in print?

It’s great to see your art­work on­line. But let’s be hon­est, there’s noth­ing like see­ing it in print. So do you pur­sue a tra­di­tional pub­lisher, with the likely loss of cre­ative con­trol that en­tails? Or self-pub­lish your own work – then hit a wall when try­ing to bring it to the world’s at­ten­tion?

Well, there is an­other way: the in­die pub­lisher, aka the small press. Small presses aren’t highly vis­i­ble, mind, and you prob­a­bly haven’t heard of most of them. So why are so many artists keen to work with them?

“I view my small press work as an ap­pren­tice­ship ev­ery as­pir­ing artist should go through,” says Jim Lav­ery. “It’s helped de­velop my dis­ci­pline, tech­nique and at­ti­tude to dead­lines. It’s also re­sulted in a cat­a­logue of pub­lished work I can re­fer to and learn from.”

Jim’s work has been pub­lished in two in­die comics: Lit­tle O Pro­duc­tions’ Hor­rere, and Ma­dius Comics’ Pa­per­cuts and Inkstains. “The edi­tors al­low

me a tremen­dous amount of free­dom,” he en­thuses. “On the down­side; money, specif­i­cally the lack of it.”

Shoul­der­ing the bur­den

Alis­dair Wood, the founder of Hor­rere, ad­mits that cash is tight in the in­die world, but be­lieves it has a lot to of­fer artists. “An in­die pub­lisher can take away a lot of the stress of pre­par­ing work for print for the artist, as well as the cost,” he says. “This gives them enough room to show off their tal­ents with­out com­mit­ting a huge amount of valu­able time.”

Pa­trick Mul­hol­land, who’s worked with US in­die pub­lisher Bro­ken Icon Comics, tells a sim­i­lar story. He re­sponded to its ad­vert seek­ing an artist to work on graphic novel The Cow­boy Gaunt­let. Pa­trick ini­tially ac­cepted the role un­paid, in re­turn for ex­po­sure; the pub­lisher was so pleased with the artist’s work, though, it later agreed to pay him for it.

In­die pub­lish­ers can help with the stress of pre­par­ing work for print…

“One of the best things is the chance to build your own world and sto­ries,” Pa­trick says. “If you’re start­ing a new se­ries or pitch with a writer, you can have a lot of in­flu­ence on the look and feel of the book. You can put more of your per­son­al­ity into it.”

Indies can be great for artists start­ing out, he adds. “You’ll gain ex­pe­ri­ence in work­ing on scripts and tak­ing notes on your work,” Pa­trick says. “You’ll learn to work in col­lab­o­ra­tion, tak­ing ideas and giv­ing them.”

That was cer­tainly the case for Neil Ford. “I’ve not worked for a big pub­lisher yet – I’m very early in my art ca­reer,” he ex­plains. “But Hor­rere asked me to do the art for a script by Rob Jones and Mike Sambrook, en­ti­tled If You Go Down to the Woods.

“We had a great time as­sem­bling the comic,” Neil says. “Long Face­book group chats ev­ery night were both hi­lar­i­ous and in­spi­ra­tional. I thor­oughly en­joyed it, and would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend get­ting in­volved in small press.”

Neil’s col­lab­o­ra­tors agree, and see in­die pub­lish­ing as a grow­ing scene within the dig­i­tal art land­scape. “Peo­ple who were un­able to get their work out there be­fore have way more op­tions now,” en­thuses Mike Sambrook. “I’m in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive about the way that things are look­ing.”

Rob Jones is equally up­beat. “At the comic fes­ti­val Thought Bub­ble, held in Leeds, Eng­land last year, New Dock Hall was wall-to-wall in­die pub­lish­ing,” he says. “It was in­cred­i­ble to see: this huge swathe of peo­ple who had taken a half-formed idea that they may have had in the bath, then turned it into this dream. As well as Hor­rere and Pa­per­cuts and Inkstains, there’s amaz­ing stuff from Red­shift Press, Raw Edge Comics, In­sane Comics, Fifth Di­men­sion Comics and oth­ers com­ing out over the next few months.”

indies can be fun

And it’s not just about new artists. Paul Wil­liams, aka Sketchy Mag­pie, is a full-time il­lus­tra­tor of five years and has had work pub­lished by the likes of Macmil­lan and Ox­ford Univer­sity Press. “But gen­er­ally, those ex­pe­ri­ences have felt a lot more like ‘work’ com­pared to draw­ing comics for Fu­tureQuake, which is al­ways a hoot,” Paul ex­plains. “I feel a lot more free­dom to ex­per­i­ment and be cre­ative, and that’s where the most valu­able de­vel­op­ment comes from.”

The in­die pub­lish­ers them­selves have sim­i­lar mo­ti­va­tions – cre­ative pas­sion trumping the de­sire for big money. Take Dani Hed­lund, editor-in-chief of F(r)ic­tion, a lit­er­ary jour­nal fea­tur­ing sci-fi sto­ries and be­spoke dig­i­tal

art­work. “When­ever I go to a pub­lish­ing con­fer­ence some­one will say: ‘Dani, what the hell are you do­ing? This is not a vi­able busi­ness plan!’” she laughs. “And yes, we’re all liv­ing off ra­men noo­dles and work­ing out of coffee shops.

“But F(r)ic­tion has this em­pha­sis on weird work that would never oth­er­wise see the light of day. Th­ese artists are pour­ing their heart and soul on to the page and we be­lieve that should be rep­re­sented as beau­ti­fully as pos­si­ble.”

But while the in­die pub­lish­ers aren’t ob­sessed with money, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t money to be made. At a time when so­cial me­dia and crowd­fund­ing are dis­rupt­ing the old pub­lish­ing mod­els, artists are look­ing be­yond tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers and es­tab­lish their own new wave of indies. Cre­ative di­rec­tor Jon Schin­de­hette is one of them. The au­thor be­hind the ArtOrder blog is plan­ning to launch a new ini­tia­tive, ArtOrder Pub­lish­ing, in the first half of 2016. “I got the idea when I met an artist whose art book had been cre­ated by a well-known pub­lish­ing com­pany, but he’d made less than $1 off ev­ery book sold,” Jon says. “With ArtOrder I’m work­ing to cut out as many mid­dle­men as pos­si­ble to re­duce costs, of­fer a wide spec­trum of ser­vices, pro­vide trans­par­ent pric­ing, leave artists’ rights in­tact, and put as much money back into the pocket of the cre­ative as pos­si­ble. I’m tak­ing my last 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, net­work­ing, and know-how to cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for all of the artists I know.”

Jon will only take projects where the pro­ject is owned and driven by cre­atives. “I have no de­sire to work with com­pa­nies that are run by a bunch of suits and just free­lance out art needs,” he ex­plains.

So far, ArtOrder has a num­ber of projects un­der­way, in­clud­ing ta­ble-top games, art books, a po­etry book, an artist/writer col­lab­o­ra­tion, and “some in­no­va­tive ap­parel/toy de­vel­op­ment.”

Cre­ative free­dom and a de­cent amount of money – is this the fu­ture of in­die pub­lish­ing for artists?

Th­ese artists are pour­ing their heart and soul on to the page and we be­lieve that should be rep­re­sented as beau­ti­fully as pos­si­ble

Above: Tommy Arnold’s cover for Hold-Time Vi­o­la­tions by John Chu, pub­lished by Tor.com.

Ma­dius Comics’ Paper­cut and Inkstains is­sue 2 fea­tures art­work from Jim Lav­ery and

Rory Don­ald.

Philip K Dick’s Vari­able Man, as vi­su­alised by Tommy Arnold for his col­lec­tion of the au­thor’s short sto­ries.

Il­lus­tra­tion by Ian Hin­ley en­ti­tled Scrolls From The Silent City, which ap­peared

on the cover of F(r)ic­tion is­sue two.

Pa­trick Mul­hol­land has cre­ated art­work for Todd Mitchell’s graphic novel Bro­ken Sav­iors.

Just some of the art­work by Neil Ford for Hor­rere Comics’ story, If You Go Down To the Woods To­day.

Be­tween his full-time as­sign­ments, Sketchy Mag­pie cre­ated this fan piece of The Evil Dead.

Com­mis­sioned cov­ers for F(ric­tion), as painted by Alyssa Menold (left) and Daniel Re­neau (right).

Is­sue three of F(r)ic­tion fea­tured Alyssa Menold’sWitch, by il­lus­tra­tion Chris­tian In­ter­stel­larAlz­mann, Space, who­forasaysshort­that­sto­rycre­ative­ofthe block same

name by Scot­tis “in­evitable.” O’Con­nor.

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