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Untethered: Why I Say “Small Press Publisher”


Untethered: Why I Say “Small Press Publisher”

People have taken notice, through interviews and podcasting, that I consistently refer to myself as a Small Press Publisher, rather than an indie comic creator. Let’s talk about why.

Does there exist a reason to differentiate oneself between titles? In an industry inundated with labels; (writer, artist, colorist, editor, letterer, etc…) we can often get thrown into the pile of “creators”, when that may not be the best fit to describe your efforts. Of course, this is when we fall into a bit of the battle between a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. Small Press Publishers are, more often than not, indie comic creators themselves. However, not all indie comic creators would fall under the aforementioned title. I will explain why it matters a bit later in this article.

Much of this has to do with the roles obtained by the creative teams on any given title. Most companies do not have in-house artists, colorists, or even editors. Instead, these roles are often work-for-hire, contracted positions. The company that is producing the book would be the Small Press Publisher. This exists even if you run a business yourself but write or create for another business. They are the producers of the final project, making them the publisher. 

What about self-publishing? This is a question I hear quite often. The reality is, every non-corporate, self-producing company is self-publishing. However, self-publishing is what you are doing, not what you are. If you are footing the cost of the production of your project, and not going through another publisher, you are indeed self-publishing. However, if you are established as a business, publishing a project, you are a small-press publisher. 

There needs to be a distinction in all of the terms mentioned in this article. Small Press Publishers are the production company behind a given project, but it goes beyond getting a product out. It involves establishing a business identity, pushing that identity, and placing it ahead of the personal goals that many set for themselves. Having personal professional goals, things you would like to accomplish as a creator is vital for development. Owning a Small Press Publishing company puts one in a place to grow that development, as well as, grow a business. It involves a lot more moving parts, and can sometimes feel like a balancing act. It is truly not for everyone, nor does it need to be. 

From the perspective of a Small Press Publisher, it is a business responsibility to hire teams of creators to work on the publishers’ tasks. That is teams with an “s”. We do not have the ability only to work on one project at a time, instead, we have multiple projects being worked on at any given time. This is a responsibility that any respectable Small Press Publisher is willing to take on. Keeping those teams happy, engaged, and productive is another beast entirely. However, it is necessary to begin moving the business forward as a whole. 

These are exciting times to be involved in indie comic book production, and the industry is thriving. Never before has there been such easy access to create stories that can see the light of day. Marketing those ideas is a different article, but an essential one nonetheless. So, do not be afraid to differentiate yourself between an indie comic creator and a Small Press Publisher. There is respect in the craft itself, how we approach growth and publication is more open to interpretation. #DoBetterBeBetter

Aaron Dowen is a comic book writer, ICD News Editor, and owner of Catalyst Comics Studio LLC

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