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Hey Comic Artists!
Mark Waid is back with another buzzkill of an article. The trouble is, he's right. Is print dead for indies? Is it even worth printing books if you're not Marvel or DC? I struggle with this. I love seeing my books on dead trees, but yeah.
Some very harsh truths about comics' current existence and its future burrowed their way into my thick head about three years ago, back when I was Editor-In-Chief of a comics publisher called BOOM...
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Rune's profile photoKimberly Chapman's profile photoByron Wilkins's profile photoMartin E. “Mavlock” Brandt II's profile photo
22 comments
 
I went with print-on-demand for my first book (not a comic book) and I had to set a cover price based on their rates... ultimately I chose $9.99, of which a full $6 went to printing each copy. So every person that bought my book was spending probably like $13 with shipping, of which I was receiving $4.
 
I think the guys over at Comix Tribe are doing everything right as far as indie using print.
 
I'm buying fewer comics because the big names in comics are making crap. I'm more likely to buy old TPBs than anything now.
 
Printing books is expensive. In Japan, they make money by printing comics as disposable newsprint items and banking on merchandise for profits. (not to mention low, LOW wages for artists and a factory mill system that puts America's mainstream production line to shame).

Print on demand creates a luxury product, something people enjoy but is going to cost a lot if it's going to sustain a creator. When you're an independent artist it's one of your best bets on getting your book to the masses, but odds are pretty good your sales will never be enough to live off of. Granted, this isn't just true for comics publishing. Book publishers aren't even giving out advances anymore like they used to. The publishing industry on whole is suffering.

I honestly don't have a good answer. My plan is eventually print and sell my books as I complete each for chapters. I hope to do a kickstarter and possibly sell my books through an online store front and through conventions. I'll probably also get around to doing e-books. I don't foresee any time soon for my comic alone to pay the bills so I'm hoping to create other products for people to buy that tie into my work as well. Still, I'd love for self-publishing to be something that if enough effort was put into it that many artists could make adequate livings off of it.
 
As someone who makes a fair profit off print on demand, it isn't wonderful platform for artists who spend a lot of time on an image and need a large payoff on each sale to make it worth it. It's strength is to create a lot of designs (in my case) fast and easy and very niche oriented, so I get a lot of constant small sales that build up as I keep pumping out designs.

I wish I spend a lot more time and effort on what I put out there so I could have more pride in it, but it's just not worth it.
 
I've rediscovered comics in digital form personally.

I would think anyone could make a comic and publish it that way, but I wish they wouldn't be so tied to traditional print prices. I don't think people realize the average person (especially a kid) coughing up $3.99+ for a single book isn't going to buy very many. In that market a new indie tends to lose every time to an an old standby.

Honestly...I think most comics tend to price themselves out of the market, driving away their readers and then seem to think it's just waning interest in the character. It's not. Dropping 60 bucks a week on 12 books is not something many people can do, and especially when those book start having less pages. It get's whittled down and many great books lose out.

Anyway, very interesting read.
 
I think we all know this but don't always think to clarify: there's a difference between print books as a way of making a living, and print books simply as a way to preserve the work and make it available for those that still care about that format.
I'm planning to go PoD for my book simply because all I really care about financially is not going in the hole. I'm not expecting to make a living wage off of it, so it should be easy for me. As long as print still has an audience (no matter how small), it will never completely die. But of course, for some creators that is not nearly good enough.
 
I read that article and it just depresses me. I don't disagree with Waid at all. In fact, I tend to share his point of view in most instances. BUT the mathematics will never calculate the sheer joy of holding your very own comic in your gleeful little mitts!!
I know with my publishing, I'm trying to find the happy middle point of digital/print. It's tricky, but I'd like to think I'm getting there. But when I get suggestions of attempting distribution through Diamond, I think I'll point the person in direction of this article.
 
Many of you, I suspect, are too young to recall when Diamond wasn't the only distributor -- there used to be a number of them out there. Even as late as the late 80s, I had xeroxed minicomics being carried by several of them. Diamond made a concerted effort to buy out or wipe out all the others and no one fought back hard enough.
It was obviously healthier for comics as an artform when no one company could decide whether you were allowed to reach the shelves or not.
 
Clearly I'm still buying print comics for my kid. I specifically do not want e for her because I'm trying to reduce her screen time. We also don't own an ipad or Fire (we have an old Kindle that we were given as a gift).

But I recognize that I'm odd.

I figure those of us who go indie need to be digital for the obvious reasons, and if you can make money doing PoD or raise a kickstarter or something to do a bigger run, great.
 
PoD may have smaller profit, but it also comes with the lack of paying to house a bunch of prints. If nobody buys, you don't lose money on storage and shipping.
 
It's a better play than not printing at all, I'd say.
Just like having digital copies is such a low cost you probably ought to do it, too.
 
Great discussion!
I have mixed feelings over the whole thing. I try to be analytical and not emotional over this, but man it sure is a great feeling when I see somebody holding my goofy comic and enjoying it. For me, that's better than digital. But I see why it may not be practical going forward for many indie creators.

And yes, IMO Diamond is choking the industry to death.
 
Never even heard of them until now. Thanks for sharing, dude! :)
 
Drivethru is a great platform for getting your book out there digitally and they added a POD service as well. Though I have yet to take advantage of that portion. I'm seeing more and more that collected or graphic novels sell much better and easier to people in general then single issues. BUT I also see people buying singles as a sample and then showing up at the next show buying the collection afterwards. Getting into the retail space as single issues is hard for indies, but getting collections or GNs in is much easier. I agree with the Diamond comment.
 
The truth is, mass printing of floppies (or even trades for that matter) is not the most cost effective solution for reaching a specialized small market. You're almost better off putting together a deluxe version at a higher price point, and allowing the collector to make the purchase based on the quality of the book - story, art, presentation etc.

Comics get a bad rap because they're treated like a substandard throwaway purchase. But give a consumer something that has the appearance of a treasured item, and they'll think twice about passing on it.

+Jason Brubaker released ReMIND as a coffee table book. Beautifully bound, hardcover, with full colour illustrations on a stock with a nice finish. He didn't cheap out on the production - it cost a lot, but the end result is definitely something that you'd treasure. All things considered, the price point is VERY good considering the product received.

I am NOT a fan of print on demand for a long form work. Even though the technology and products are improving, there is far too little quality control in my opinion. Plus, the artist receives only a fraction of the value of their book, which they would get anyway if they fronted the money and produced it at a higher quality and shipped it themselves.

Floppies are a different story. If they are produced in a cost-effective manner via POD, you don't have to worry about overstock or paper quality, as they are meant to be cheaply produced and consumed. You give consumers the choice - buy a digital version, or a physical version.
 
As a Postscript to my previous comment - Indie artists have always had to hustle more than the syndicated/in-house artists to get their work out. So it may be upon us to pound the pavement and solicit brick and mortar shops to negotiate deals to carry your titles for a percentage.

Indie product creators have been doing it for years with retail chains. Our industry should be no different.
 
This is so heavily biased, but then I guess Mark is too. There are some valid points here when you strip away the heavy handed nature at which they are presented.

Sure not every creator or start up comic is great or even good. But only selling 5,000 copies of a comic isn't failure. That's 5,000 people who have read your book. That is more than the average novel gets read. So it's not really that bad a number.

Nothing wrong with niche market material. Loyal fans in these markets spend more money on average then those of mass market appeal.

Creators need to embrace what works best for their books. Some do better digital only. Others do great by joining forces with their local shops to help promote their work and grow their audience. Remember it only takes one fan to get your work going on the right track. Embrace that one fan and others will slowly move to the cause.

I disagree that it is the end of print. I also disagree that it is the time of digital. Personally I think it's the end of abused print, it started in the mid 90s and held strong for a long time. Over produced work being sold by large chain outlets. It created a market that was a wasteland of work for the majority. Now after the economy dip we are starting to see some better normalization and some people jump to assume that it is all because of digital.

Does digital play a part? Yes of course, every variable counts. But there is a lot more math here that is being ignored.

Anyways from my point of view print is still feasible when managed smartly. Just as digital is a nice market, but far easier to get lost in at the moment.
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