Dave Sim's blogandmail #226 (April 25th, 2007)
Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist
1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.
2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.
3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.
4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.
5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.
6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.
7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.
8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.
9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.
10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.
11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.
12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.
13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.
14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.
15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.
One Dead Light Table
One Ticking Clock
Way Too Much Time on His Hands
And Dave Starts Obsessing:
"How Am I Going To SELL This Secret Project in
Today's Comic Book Market?"
[Oh, and by the way, happy 25th of the month:
Feminists Get a Free Ride
In Our Society
More on Friday]
Anyway, as luck would have it, my light table having died on Saturday, Monday Pete Dixon of Toronto's Paradise Comics and Paradise Conventions (check out both at www.paradisecomics.com) was coming up for a visit so that we could discuss how the auctions of the CGC-graded Dave Sim file copies of Cerebus were coming along (pretty good! One of the non-file copy Cerebus No.1's in the lowest grade we had, 3.0, went for $400 which is roughly what Overstreet has on it in 9.4) and go over some future strategies. We did that and then we got into some questions I had about "What works and what doesn't work in today's comic-book marketplace with selling new comic books?" I had been hearing a lot about incentive editions of comic books: basically if a retailer orders x number of copies of a new comic book, they get one limited edition copy of the same comic book with a different cover—essentially a rare collectible. Now, automatically most people are going to shut down having read that. That isn't a luxury I have, given that I have to figure out how to break what I see as a monolithic, largely unassailable and completely understandable indifference to independent comics in today's market. Just putting my secret project out there and hoping for the best falls under the heading of Wishful Thinking. To me, it makes more sense to deal with Reality. And, right now, a Comic Store Reality is incentive editions of "hot" comics.
The way it works is that the publisher guesses roughly what each retailer is going to order without the incentive and then makes the incentive dependent on ordering a number above that. Let's say the best guess is that the retailers will each order 20 copies. The publisher has to decide if the incentive threshold should be 30 copies or 40 copies or 50 copies. If you put the threshold too high you don't get enough retailers participating. If you set the threshold too low then you lower the resale value of the incentive copy because it's not as rare. I asked Pete how this works in practical terms with his ordering. It seems to work pretty well. Depending on who did the incentive cover (always a different artist from the one who did the regular edition cover and usually an artist with more comic store "cachet")(interesting), Pete can literally order 100 copies of a book that he's pretty sure he can only sell 40 of and, if he gets two incentive copies (at a one-incentive-for-every-50-regular-copies ordered threshold) he can make his money back just selling the two incentive copies on the aftermarket. In one sense he's "eating" 60 copies, but in another sense—a real world dollars and cents sense—the extra 60 copies are irrelevant. He can throw them out or give them away or sell them at a nickel each and he's still turning a good profit.
Essentially what the incentive program does is to make use of the Comic-Store Principles' Prime Directive:
Successful comic books immediately go up in value in the aftermarket
And uses that as "leverage" to get more copies of a given comic book into more comic stores. I asked Pete if there are instances where he had guessed he could only sell 40, he ordered 100 to get the incentives and he ended up selling more than 40. Yes, definitely. He could think of one book where he sold 75, other books where he sold out and had to reorder. Well, okay, that makes perfect "real world" sense, then. One of the big problems in today's market with money being universally tight in the stores is that you have to illustrate to store owners that they are not always right when they say that they know how many copies of something to order.
Which is tough because They ARE Good At It. Guessing how many they need of something, I mean. As someone said to me recently, quoting a Diamond rep, "Most comic-book stores are one bad business deal away from bankruptcy." If you've lasted longer than a year, you're entitled to be a little arrogant—like a Vegas gambler who never loses money at the blackjack tables. Whatever system you have, if you have a winning percentage you are the exception in the field rather than the rule. What someone figured out was that you need an effective crowbar to pry successful retailers out of that "I know how many I need" position and the incentive copy seems to be the way to do it.
But it doesn't work for independents or, at least, the track record for independents isn't nearly as good because there isn't built-in cachet—or the perception of built-in cachet—in order to get store owners to risk investment capital in ordering what they see as "too many copies". The key is that the incentive book has to go up in value immediately in order to offset even the possibility of losing money "over-ordering" books. The store owner technically pays 80 cents or a dollar for the incentive—the same amount he pays for the regular books—and then sells the incentive for, say, 75 dollars the week after it comes in. "Wolverine" or "Batman" or "Jim Lee" or "Michael Turner" (or, better yet, Wolverine/Batman by Jim Lee and Michael Turner) minimizes the perceived risk. And the rarity is only technically artificial. Do the math. If the incentive threshold is 50 copies and the total orders are 20,000 (which is actually high in today's market) then there are only going to be 400 incentive copies. 400 copies isn't as rare as say Action #1 but it is a very small number when measured against the combined audience of, say, Wolverine, Batman, Jim Lee and Michael Turner. Let's say 10,000 core enthusiasts chasing 400 books. That's what drives up prices and rising prices is Comic Store Principles #1 and 2.
So the question I'm facing is: is Dave Sim even remotely at the low end of that "cachet" category when it comes to his secret project? Given that the secret project isn't a super-hero comic and it isn't from Marvel (it's more of a Historical Polemic and we all know how white-hot Historical Polemics are with the crowd at, say, Wizard Los Angeles) it's difficult to know even what a reasonable threshold would be for an incentive copy. I asked Pete, having shown him the artwork I had done already, how many he would order for Paradise. 25, but mostly because he already knows me and because of the CGC file copy connection. How many did he think the average store would order? Five. Did he think an incentive copy program could push that number higher? He really didn't know but the way he said he really didn't know it seemed worlds away from WELL, GOSH I CAN'T SEE WHY NOT! I can make the threshold 10 but if my total orders are 3,000 that means there are 300 incentive covers and maybe only 1,000 core enthusiasts. I have a higher ratio of core enthusiasts but the hard numbers are smaller. And you have to factor in that my audience is probably 80% Reading Uber Alles types who wouldn't buy an incentive cover if their lives depended on it versus an 80% Investment Uber Alles percentage in the Wolverine, Batman, Jim Lee and Michael Turner camps.
And then he explained sketch covers to me. Sketch covers are to incentive books what incentive books are to the regular edition i.e. if you have to order 50 copies to get the incentive edition, you have to order 100 copies to get a sketch cover. Even Pete admits that it doesn't make sense. Presumably it should be the other way around, the sketch cover (being unfinished) should be less valuable than the finished cover on the incentive edition. But, again, you want to talk about Wishful Thinking (how things should work?) or about Reality (how things actually work)? Obviously I'm far more interested in Reality. Sketch covers: gold, Incentive covers: silver or bronze. Got it.
My best guess, mulling it over the next couple of days after Pete had left, was that this might be the Sketch Cover Era (which might only last for less than a year as the foil covers and hologram covers did in their respective "Eras") and if I could get a hot enough creator to do my sketch cover, I might be able to use the inherent cachet of the sketch cover (and the Pavlovian reaction it excites in most retailers here, today, at the end of the first quarter of 2007) to generate higher or slightly higher sales, my (entirely egocentric) assumption being my secret project will sell if the books are in the stores in quantity. No guarantee of that. Egocentric thinking—particularly in the independent end of things—is usually just Wishful Thinking called something else. If I had to place an actual bet, I think it would probably be more in the Wishful Thinking category, verging on the Severely Unlikely rather than a slam-dunk in the Reality category. And that was when I started thinking about ways that I might be able to get around that while I went about my regular office chores including weighing a package for mailing.
The weigh scale was dead. I couldn't believe it. I went over and checked the power bar. Yep, plugged in as tight as it can be plugged in. And that was when I looked at the wall socket the power bar was plugged into, and there the power bar plug was, the prongs mostly "out" rather than "in". I had obviously dislodged it while I was trying to extricate the 11 by 17 sheet from the photocopier.
A quick trip over to the small appliance place to get my light table back—"Heh! Turned out to be a blown fuse!" (you don't think I was actually going to admit to the truth do you?)—and I was back in business light-table wise with a couple of days left to go in Secret Project Week.
So that brings you all up to date and now I can actually get to the Mail Answering part of the Blog & Mail tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Smack! Bam! Pow! Hitting that old Mailbag!
There's MORE for you
In Today's BLOG &
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:
Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:
Or, you can check out Mars Import:
Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.