Close Enough for Rock & Roll

Eastman & Laird

One little self-published comic book was the beginning of a startling cultural phenomenon.

I have self-published music, comics and my writing. I am not wealthy as a result of it, but I am better for having made the attempts. These attempts were made with the best of intentions but with little heed for what was actually wrong with each of them. We had no producer for the music and I had no editor for the comics or writing. I thought I knew what was wrong at the time with all of it, and I was right.  But there was more.

Everyone’s heard the stories of the writer who pens a wildly successful book, the band who’s basement-recorded album hits the top of the charts, the writer and artist whose parody concept spawned a revolution in comics. Amanda Hocking. Collective Soul. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

These are the exceptions to the rule. These are the inspirations for people like me. (Well not Amanda Hocking in my case, sorry.) These are the cases that cause us to keep at it. If they can do it, so can I.

I’ve been in a professional recording studio and in ones in the homes of other musicians, always looking to make the best product I could. One band was really successful at it though we didn’t do an actual release of the record. We got two songs played on local radio (one seemed to have a regular rotation for a month or so) and had some very, very good shows. Didn’t make a dime off the record, but hey we had the shows and the beer and nice following locally. I’ve documented my comics ‘career’ elsewhere and don’t need to rehash it other than to say that I got some positive reviews and made some great friends. My writing has also been self-published on my blog and via the wonderful folks over at The Penny Dreadful website.

Each of these situations, projects – whatever you want to call them – creative efforts, would have greatly benefitted from a producer or editor to tell us what we weren’t able to discern for ourselves: they weren’t good enough.

Everything that’s independently produced (art, music, writing, whatever) needs to have a professionally-trained, uninvolved set of eyes to give it a lookover. The Beatles had George Martin, early science fiction writers had John W. Campbell, comics have Karen Berger and Axel Alonso. Editors are important, make no mistake.

I can see a day when authors who want to self-publish will seek out an independent editor who has a reputation for quality work. Authors will pay these editors or work out payment and be given credit inside the book – on the title page, even! – and readers will recognize the editors works on these authors and that will give self-publishing the reputation of quality that it needs.

This is still a number of years off, but it’s possible.

It’ll take a long time to shake off the bad reputation that self-publishing currently has. It’ll take big name authors jumping in feet-first AND it will take authors writing good stories that people want to read. And patience on the part of readers.

I don’t have anything against anyone who wants to self-publish. I’ll do it when I feel like I have the right story for doing it again. If I were to recommend any self-published comic book to someone who didn’t read comics, I would point you to Terry Moore’s two excellent series – Strangers in Paradise and Echo. Look ‘em up. They’re great. Because he had an editor who told him when he needed to change something.

And he listened.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

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