There are a few major advantages. The first being that it greatly reduces the element of risk. Amelia Rules! really didn't begin to grow until it was able to be sold outside of the direct market. In a lot of ways, it was the opposite of what comic shops really want, so I needed to take the book out into other arenas, but most of those arenas come with the huge risk of returnability. Compound that with the fact that at the time we were beginning to place Amelia into the chain bookstores, the whole IDEA of a kids' graphic novel section was a risk. Both Borders and Barnes and Noble launched their kids' graphic novel sections with Amelia as one of the core titles. Great to be sure, but literally NO ONE knew if a single copy of any of these books would sell, and if they didn't sell I would be the one responsible for the returns. Obviously, now that risk is assumed by Simon and Schuster.
Also, with this particular deal, because I had already published 4 volumes myself, and because there was already an audience to be tapped into, S and S was willing to make the commitment to not only license the existing 4 volumes, but also commission 4 new ones. That was great because, like you said, it becomes easier if you know how far into the future you can plan. Not just with the day to day stuff like paying your mortgage, but creatively as well.
There is a certain prestige and clout that comes with the name Simon and Schuster that automatically transferred to AR once the first book was published. This isn't really something that matters to the readers, but in a lot of the behind the scenes dealings it makes a big impression.
And lastly, there is a nice feeling when you get a package in the mail, and it contains a copy of your book with a note that says “Congratulations. Your book has been reprinted.” and that is the ONLY part of the process you needed to even think about.
I remember when we sold a “Best of “ collection to Scholastic Book Fairs. They ordered so many copies that we were able to OVERPRINT 10,000 to experiment with. An order came in from one of the library wholesalers for, I think it was 3,100 copies, and my father in law was at our house. He offered to help me ship them out. To reduce overhead I always filled the orders myself, which is insane, but that's me. When we got to the warehouse, and he actually saw what we were going to be doing and the size of the boxes, he went kind of pale. I said, “I know, but it keeps you fit. Can you imagine how strong JK Rowling must be?”
I'm glad I don't do that anymore.
As far as drawbacks, for a lot of people, I imagine there would be none to speak of. Especially if you came out of traditional publishing. But, when you self published for so long, it is difficult to get used to relinquishing control, and to trust others with the work you have put so much care into. I have had a very nice relationship with the people at S and S, but that's really just luck. It is possible we could have gone with a different publisher, and I wouldn't have had such an easy time working with them.
My editor Namrata Tripathi is a really great person, and very smart. She makes suggestions, but it is really up to me whether or not I follow them. I almost always do though, because one of the decisions I made before signing was that I was going to try to understand the system, and use it to it's greatest advantage. Part of that means trusting your editor.
There was really only one MAJOR disagreement. I wanted to call Volume 6 “Tanner Rocks!” No one else thought this was a good idea. Nami really fought against it. She tried to sell me on every other title under the sun. Finally, she took a line of dialog Tanner has occasionally spoken, and suggested “True Things (Adults Don't Want Kids to Know). This was a brilliant idea, because since I had written the dialog, it was easier for me to accept. Anyway, I grudgingly allowed the title change. Since the book has been out many, MANY people have told me they love the title, and more than a few have said they bought the book BECAUSE of the title.
Still, it's tough to give up control.
OK, Now I'll ask you one...
I worked in TV for years before quitting to be a cartoonist full time. You did Cerebus for decades before launching your own internet TV show. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to launch such an ambitious project at the same time you are producing Glamourpuss? And also, do you find producing Cerebus TV to be creatively fulfilling in it's own way?