Dave Sim's blogandmail #390 (October 6th, 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.
Okay, we're talking about Print on Demand here. It's actually three weeks later for me, but the next day for you. In the meantime, I got in WIZARD magazine 192 (and thanks again to the folks at WIZARD Entertainment for keeping me on their comp list) and they've got an "Indie Gems" column in the back. Well, it turns out that before David Petersen of MOUSE GUARD hooked up with ARCHAIA STUDIOS PRESS who issued issue #1 in February of 2006, he did his own print run of approximately 250 copies with ComiXpress (the other big POD outfit) in May of 2005. Reportedly copies of that POD first issue are now going for $300 or so. Given that the new collected printing of the first storyline was one of Diamond's Top Ten Books last month I think the odds are that it will be going a lot higher than that. Should that be the motive for retailers to buy POD books? Not THE motive, but I think it makes a sensible A motive.
No one knows where the next hot independent title is going to come from but I think the odds are pretty good – and getting better – that it will be from the POD end of things. I'm guessing, but I would suppose that David did his POD run to send out as samples to different publishers and got a nibble from ARCHAIA. For those creators, like David and Jeff Smith, who have no great affinity for self-publishing or who don't see self-publishing as any different from being published by someone else – who are presumably the vast majority of wannabe's – it's a sensible course of action. Try to interest another publisher in your work, flog a few copies at the local conventions or one of the Small Press Expos or in the local stores and see which angle bears fruit.
If, as a store owner, David had come into your store and pitched you #1 of the original MOUSE GUARD in the manner I described yesterday, you gave him a slot in your store and took ten copies and by the weekend the ten copies were gone, so you got another ten copies from him and by Tuesday those ten copies were gone. Well, as a retailer you're going to know that you have a hit on your hands. Not an "Indy Hit" but a certifiable Any Classification You Want hit. Only instead of sitting there wondering if you can pry another 10 copies out of Marvel Comics or hoping that DC will do another printing – because if it's happened in your store, the odds are pretty good that it's happening everywhere in the Direct Market at the same time – in this case, you are pretty much the "sole access" retailer for MOUSE GUARD.
So, at that point you could have ordered, say, 30 more copies: ten more for the stands and 20 more that you just got your staff to bag and board and put in a long box somewhere in the back of the store. Let's say you had been buying them from David at 75 cents each (they had a cover price of $3.00). Two years later, you would now be up by roughly $6K. If you had said to David, "Say, how many of these first printings do you have left?" and he said, "I dunno. A hundred?" And you said, "I'll take all 100". At this point you would be sitting on $60 K and you would have cornered the market on MOUSE GUARD #1 first printings.
Is the scenario far-fetched? Well, yes, to a degree. There are variables. You would have had to have picked MOUSE GUARD as one of your in-store POD rack selections. Since it doesn't look remotely like a Marvel or DC super-hero revamp, there's no guarantee there. Far from it. Virtually everyone passed on the Beatles before EMI decided to give them a shot and that wasn't because everyone in the recording industry in 1962 was fundamentally stupid. But, like the comic-book field, they were locked into a specific way of thinking, and like the comic-book field, everyone "knows" what sells and what doesn't. "Four-piece combos are old hat." Everyone knew that, so everyone knew that if three guitarists and a drummer showed up, you laughed at them and kicked them out.
Most retailers, looking at MOUSE GUARD in 2005 would say, "It looks like a children's book. I don't sell children's books, I sell comic books" and would have passed on it, I suspect, even if every store had a POD section as I'm recommending. I would assume most stores would have given the book a week to prove itself and would have replaced it at the first opportunity with another POD book that looked like SANDMAN or BONE or like a mid-range Marvel and DC super-hero revamp. Somebody, eventually, would have seen how it was performing and could have been in on the ground floor, could have been MOUSE GUARD's Brian Epstein.
If the creator is working both sides of the fence at the same time, the race would be on as to whether Oni Press or Slave Labor on the publishing side or Jim Hanley's Universe or Krypton Comics, or whoever David's local shop had been on the retail side was the first to clue in and who would have offered David a fraction of the money that was sitting there on the table waiting for someone to take it. I don't know what ARCHAIA offered him as a deal when he signed up with them, but a lot of times in the indy press there isn't even an advance being offered and if there is it's not exactly Hollywood numbers. At least theoretically, those 250 Comixpress copies of MOUSE GUARD #1 are worth $75,000 at this point. And they're only two years old. If you had offered David $750 for them two years ago, his eyes would have bugged out and he would have said sure. He might've hung onto ten or so for himself, but with the $750 he could have bought 500 copies the second time out of the gate. He'd have twice as many copies to promote his book and you would own all of the MOUSE GUARD Comixpress #1's.
If you carry POD books and if you're selective about what you carry – using the same criteria that you do for everything else you give shelf space to in your store – the odds are that if the cartoonist is a local hero, you could have a good six months to a year of pretty much exclusive profiting from the title once you know that it's a hit before anyone even notices it in the avalanche of material in the back of PREVIEWS.
I would strongly recommend against trying to take control of the title yourself (although I'm sure that would have been a temptation) since that really isn't going to benefit either you or the creator in the long run. Harry Kremer at Now & Then bought 500 copies, Jim Friel at Big Rapids bought 500 copies, Phil Seuling at Sea Gate bought 1,000 copies. Had any one of the three of them actually bought the intellectual property and had become the CEREBUS publisher, I doubt the title would have made it to issue 20. As far as I know, that's what happened with THE TICK. It was published by New England Comics, the store chain, and they either own the trademark jointly with Ben Edlund or bought it from him. The result is that THE TICK did get his own cartoon show and live action series, true (briefly), but without the creator in the driver's seat, it's an intermittent success as an intellectual property at best whereas it really should be a monthly title and a box office powerhouse in the comic-book field to this day. I would assume that there's too much contention between NEC and Ben Edlund to this day to make any kind of on-going relationship workable. Word to the wise.
Tomorrow: Finishing up with Steve Peters and then on to Randy Reynaldo
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