Sunday, September 23, 2012

Random Observations...sort of.

Just some random observations which were fueled because I figured I really should put up another blog post.  Mainly because I figure if you’re going to have a blog site, you should post at least once a month---ideally more, but minimum, monthly.  I can’t believe how many blog sites I go to and you find the last post from a year ago.  Just turn it off.

The reason I go to some blog sites is that I’m involved with Detroit Fanfare and we get a lot of creators sending in for an artist alley table.  We like to put them up on our facebook site as well as the website.  Well, you would not believe how many creators, mostly artists, are out there and want to sell their stuff and get hired (presumably).  Yet, so many have no contact information, nothing resembling a bio or resume, and nowhere to go to look at their stuff.  It’s almost like they want to stay hidden.  A lot of these are the same ones that complain that no one buys independent comics. They might not buy theirs simply because they can’t find any information on it.

Also dealing with conventions, and I think I covered this before, it’s amazing how many creators say they will do a convention if all their expenses are covered (travel, which is usually a flight, and hotel.)  Now, I agree that part of a convention is to provide a guest lineup that makes people want to come and that’s a necessary cost.  But to bring in some creators as a guest just isn’t feasible economically.   I think a potential guest has to look at the situation…are they going to bring in 25-40 “unique” customers to warrant the cost?  Most of them won’t so the convention (any convention) can’t pay the cost. I do realize that it’s hard to conceptualize who is part of the “guests” the con commits to as part of the overall convention and who are “extra” guests.  But generally, if the creator is someone who hasn’t been in a particular area in a long time, well, that person has a better chance of bringing in unique fans. 

Someone who does every convention, no matter the size, free comic book day appearances, and shows up at just about every event in the region---they just don’t have the appeal.  It doesn’t mean that they’re devoid of value, it just means their presence is diluted from all the appearances.  That’s the toughest part of being part of the convention---talking to a creator who wants, or even needs, their expenses covered and we have to explain that we can’t do it.  Again, it’s not that we don’t like the creator or that the creator does substandard work….simply a matter that they’re “old news” and pretty much any fan walking through our doors has seen this creator locally in the last few months .  Dilution is a word that has a weak connotation yet it serves as a strong definition of the situation.

My weekly series, Deadworld: War of the Dead, finished its run in August and the trade paperback was immediately made available in September for ordering (November release).  I know my job is to promote it, not just for me but also for the publisher (IDW) and the artist (Sami Makkonen) and I do try and push it.  But, man, I just can’t do the superfluous hype.  I love that it got so many great reviews because I can let that do the hype for me.  That’s something I can’t do on my own.  I see so many creators and publishers throw out such bullshit when hyping their books and I wonder if people actually buy into it.  Apparently, many do.  I read some of the interviews and press releases and I’m stunned at not only at the audacity but the deceit.  Claiming that the art is so good that people will buy it just for the cover…well, that’s pretty rare.  Or a Marvel creator talking about how a death of a major character will shock readers.  I mean that bit has been so over-used that I’m surprised that even the news sites that fawn over every little bit of information about Marvel and DC, still run those as headlines.

There are so many players (creators, publishers, websites, etc) that launch something to a lot of self hype and cast themselves as revolutionizing whatever aspect of the business they’re in.  A lot of them are proposing models that haven’t worked before yet they feel this time it’s different.  Why?  Because this time they’re the ones doing it.  I don’t mean to sound negative, and really, I’m not overall about the industry (that’s why I’m still here) but we have to separate viability from simple vainness. 

Right now, I truly think that there is an abundance of good stuff being released in comic form.  I can’t speak for the superhero stuff as I don’t follow that at all and my only good feelings towards those titles is simply nostalgia but that’s not enough to get me into the mess that they’ve become.  Whether its webcomics, self published, or the “independent” and “alternative” titles, there’s a lot of great material.  Unfortunately, a lot of it won’t be seen by most readers.  Just like most independent movies won’t be seen, or independent music, or the vast majority of books written.  It’s the way it is.  

Maybe because I’m closer to the comics market and therefore, see it more, but it sure seems that in comics, so many creators feel slighted when they’re not supported by the market.  It’s almost as if they feel they have a right to spend their life making comics and consequently should be rewarded with readership and support.  It doesn’t work that way and I know most of them realize that but sometimes you just have to shake your head when someone complains about it.  I’ve been there, I understand the frustration.  But when you make a choice, it’s your choice and you have to go in expecting nothing except what you make of it.

On the other hand, I am continually amazed by the success of some creators and titles.  Finding out a webcomic that has over 100,000 readers yet gets no attention in the comics media; a book that can’t sell in a comic shop yet is moving 100’s on sites like Amazon;  a title that isn’t carried by Diamond or comic shops yet receives multiple award nominations; and artists who make a living doing conventions without even worrying about actually putting out a book.

We’re in an industry that’s constantly changing (just like everything is) and while the comics market per se is diminishing (despite the glow about recent sales---they’re in comparison to the days of near death of the industry and not compared to when it was healthy), so many other avenues are opening up.  A lot of titles can be supported by crowd funding, internet store sales, ebooks and other digital platforms, and hand sales (website, conventions, etc) that the old model of Diamond Distribution is not the only road.  Sure, it’s harder to get the word out, no denying that. But there’s a lot more ways to get the word out then there used to be.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m just complaining because I’m not.  I just think that a lot of creators and companies need to take a different look at things.  Many already are and I am constantly amazed at success stories I hear about on titles I never heard of.  That’s great.  I mean, I’ve been on all sides of the biz…from publishing to creator to freelance writer to retailing and to convention organization.  I’ve written comics that have been nominated for awards and other titles that never made it to the shelf.  I have some titles that are used in college classes as literature and others dismissed as nothing more than quarter box filler.  I had a company in Caliber that produced some top selling books to a lot of books that got cancelled due to low orders.  I currently run Transfuzion which is a company that most people in the biz are unaware of yet we have over 50 graphic novels out and years after some books have come out, I’m still writing royalty checks to the creators every quarter.  Sure, the amounts aren’t huge, but the books continue to sell.  They just don’t sell in comic stores.

I think it’s important for most of the creators to understand exactly what it is they’re trying to do.  Don’t spend the energies on hype at sites that aren’t going to lead to support anyway.  Sure, it’s great for the ego perhaps, but it isn’t necessarily the audience that you need to reach so you have to outreach to other avenues.

Guess my randomness sort of centralized towards the end here but writing a blog is a lot like writing a comic story…you just start and see where it takes you.


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