Cartoonist and self-employed bohemian Steve Lafler has a collection of his writings about his business past and present called Self Employment For Bohemians, available here from lulu. (Tiny book image and unrelated Lafler art above). As a fellow cartoonist/designer/businessman/one-man-operation I knew that I needed to get this book to see what Steve had to say. At $12 bucks plus shipping, my risk wasn’t that big if the book turned out a stinker. But it was an enjoyable book, written in a friendly informal tone just like the blog where I believe most of it was culled from in the first place. It has all the charming rough edges of most self-published endeavors—and believe me that isn’t a judgment on its value.
As someone who works both in professional publishing and self-publishing, I draw no line to differentiate the two. I came up cranking out zines with buddies through high school, photocopied comics, self-released 7″ recordings, screen-printed flyers, and eventually ended up self-publishing the first seven issues of Meathaus with the rest of the Meathaus crew. Who paid for the print job or where you got the thing printed has never determined the legitimacy of the content, and anyone hanging onto that snobby notion should get their heads out of their asses.
Another way of putting that is that you can find excellently edited and composed writing, book design and art in self-published books, and that the self-published stigma should die.
Back in 2005 when we did our first book with a print-on-demand service, GO FOR THE GOLD! 2, we hit some major obstacles during the production. The print ready PDF was over 200 pages of images, and the technology the printers had at that time couldn’t RIP the size of the first few files that I tried to submit.
Our experience with our new book, GO FOR THE GOLD! 3, has been much better. Lulu has been cranking out books sometimes within a day of orders. The file size limit seems to have been increased so there were no problems with the new book having 242 pages of images. Their service has been refined over the last few years, and I was impressed when I recently began using them again and trying out their full-color printing as well.
All Lulu has to do now is to increase the resolution of their black and white printed pages to use a finer “screen” or however you want to describe it. When Lulu achieves a finer black and white image reproduction and perhaps a cheaper color printing cost, they will be perfect solution for anything and everything. I don’t know if they’re working on that or when the technology will allow it, but maybe I’ll check in again in a few years when we’re ready to do the next GO FOR THE GOLD! issue.
Finally, there is always the option of using professional printers for your self-published project. As I mentioned, Meathaus issues 1-7 were all self-published by our collective, but we used professional printers that also serviced real-deal comics publishers and other businesses. It was always an exciting process, but inevitably we spent a high initial investment of cash and ended up with more stock than needed because of the printer’s minimum print runs. Still, the professional printer is the only way to get that professional printer look—in other words, those of you with exacting standards on how your work reproduces will still need to print with the pros.
A book that I received here at Meathaus falls into that latter category of self-published but pro-printed. It’s called Arcade of Cruelty and it is a massive, formally designed art-book-style collection of a variety of doodles, collages of underwear models, prints, single panel comics and defaced yearbooks from the hand of Joseph Patrick Larkin. It is a unique book in that I’ve never seen such a combination of unrelated visual material by the same artist compiled and presented like this. Each scrap of paper and doodle has a formal title, date and caption. A lot of it is funny, most of it is designed to shock, and a good load of it is tasteless stuff that I don’t imagine many readers enjoying on any level. The art is not the strong point in that most of it does not rise above a crude doodle style, so instead the book rides on the strength of each idea in each comic gag or image/caption combo. There are some funny and weird sections where the author parodies or just rips-into other well known comics creators with abandon. The subtitle does a nice job of summing up this self-aware, self-centered, bizarre volume: “A Tender Cry for Help in Words & Pictures”. All together it is an impressive effort, and definitely not boring. Check it out at Also Ran, Joseph’s publishing group that puts out music as well.