Do I know?

Of course I don’t know exactly how the change in Speakeasy’s printing policy (as detailed in the latest LitG of about a half hour ago) will affect me. If you’re trying to get in and can’t read it (like me, only I’m just trying to snake it wholesale for quoting), it boils down to this.
Speakeasy now has order minimums that are above the wholesale minimums set by Diamond at this point ($1600 wholesale as I recall). In this case, Speakeasy’s minimum preorder is 1750. If they don’t get that number, they’re opting not to print the book. If you’re on the bubble, you could probably buy your way out of it (and get extra copies in the “bargain”), but that’s likely not wise in the long-term, unless you’re building those extra copies to build your audience through convention sales/reviews/swaps. If you fall short, you can choose to have your books “printed” on the internet via the Speakeasy site where they could be viewed for free. That way the work would be out there and not leave folks hanging if say your first two issues came in over the threshold, but your third and fourth came in under and you didn’t want to buy them up.
Rich seems to think this is brilliant. As follows:

Fortier acknowledges that some retailers may be put out by this, especially those who have sold the book’s previous issues and have ordered subsequent issues, with waiting customers. Fortier recommends for retailers with a desperate fan, printing the book out as a PDF as a gift for them. But the alternative was not publishing the book at all. And that this policy is aimed as “extending the longetivity of the product so it that one day it can be printed.”
And this model has other opportunities. Promoting comics. Completing series from other publishers, by putting already published issues online. This way they can continue the series and allow new readers to get on board. And also create a business model to pay to download comics that have been printed, if a reader has no local comic shop.
This will be a controversial move. Some will see it as a failure of Fortier’s vision, or a smack in the face by the reality of the industry. But with the current market squeezing out anyone who’s not publishing “House Of M” or “Infinite Crisis,”, it’s evidence that Fortier is living up to his Smartest Man In Comics TM tag by twisting in new and unpredictable manners.
Of course, he stole the idea from me.

Now if I were a retailer, and I knew about this, I’d be far less interested in taking any kind of risk on a couple issues of a Speakeasy book if I knew that my preorders were going to possibly evaporate. But that’s me. If I were a buyer and knew about this (which would assume I had to know who Speakeasy was as a publisher–and there are plenty who don’t), then I’d probably be wary of picking up that issue #1. Why should I buy what I could get for free later on (on the assumption that if you publish issue #3 and #4 of a comic on the internet, you’d make #1 and #2 available in that medium as well.)
Granted, if I knew that a book had a strong following on the internet (and that could be backed up), perhaps that would encourage folks to order strong on the print version, but there’s a hundred arguments against that, primarly the whole “just because they like it for free doesn’t mean they’ll pay real money for it”, which is pretty strong these days.
Maybe they’ll get a system where you can pay to download, and the creators can stand a chance of seeing some money on the deal. That would be great. Just as soon as you can stop one person from taking the digital copies and publishing them all over the internet (just like they do with comics they have to scan and clean up now–a non-trivial task.)
At any rate, I expect to see hearty discussion on this issue in the coming weeks.

9 comments to Do I know?

  • Rich Johnston

    No, the point is you don’t make 1 and 2 available online for free, because they’re in print. In this case, only 3 and 4 are online. So, for the reader, they’re guaranteed to get a full story one way or the other. As opposed to the so many series which start then get cancelled midway through the first arc.

  • Great. That’s now. What about in three months when the next batch of books is solicited and retailers decide to hold orders down because of the new system? Why should I buy into the first or second issue of a 4 issue series if that’s all I’m going to see, leaving my customers peeved that they’re not getting the full story in the format to which they’re accustomed?
    Without a lot more information on the plan, I don’t see this being a good thing for Speakeasy’s presence in the DM in the short, middle or long term. Yes, I’ve argued that things need to change in the DM, but I don’t see that this is a positive change.
    Your mileage varies, that I can plainly see.

  • markus

    I agree with Rich, the entire scheme makes no sense if you put up the printed issues as well, so one almost certainly wouldn’t.
    My problem is different: I don’t see the point for the author. He or she could just as easily provide a digital copy of future issues on their own website, with more direct contact and a better chance to guilt the downloader into buying the book.
    Moreover, if one is producing the unprinted issues anyway, why not simply make the whole thing into an OGN? After providing the full story to all those who cared about it in the first place I can’t see how sales on an eventual GN could be good. Conversely, if the issues that complete the story are offered in an OGN alongside the previous issues, early adopters are still getting the shaft but at least get their fix and there’s the possibility that someone new will pick it up.
    Then again, if one doesn’t see ones work making the Speakeasy minimum consistently, the best option is probably to avoid the company altogether.

  • markus

    > Why should I buy into the first or second issue of a 4 issue series if that’s all I’m going to see, leaving my customers peeved that they’re not getting the full story in the format to which they’re accustomed?
    Err, isn’t that a risk you’re taking with any new title absent a guarantee to publish 1-4 come what may?
    In fact, as I understood it, Speakeasy’s argument is that you can now recommend the title without hesitation as you can assure customers that they won’t be left hanging mid-story.

  • Sure, that’s a risk with any new title (much less so from Marvel and DC, but even they’re not immune from this.
    However, as a retailer, how excited will I be about buying half of a series and then making an order for the third book or fourth and have it evaporate in terms of real-world dollars to me? Things happen. Series sometimes don’t finish in the DM due to any number of things that can come up.
    But to go into it knowing that this is the expected plan of the publisher?
    What’s more, that’s just the books coming out now. What about the offerings from Speakeasy in several months? Retailers have a tough enough time selling new books, but there’s an incentive for them to sell as the real-world books are non-returnable. I can’t see many retailers spending time and energy on books that aren’t going to reward them with a sale.
    Yeah, I’m a pessimist, but I see this putting a massive chilling affect on Speakeasy’s orders from retailers. I could very well be wrong, but I don’t think that I am.
    As for readers shying away from mini series because they don’t think they’ll ever get finished, I’m not sure how much of that goes through a comic buyer’s mind. I’m thinking it’s more like “hey, this looks interesting” and they pick it up, not worrying where the next issue will come from. Besides, how do you tell your non-net literate comic fans where to pick up the last part(s) when they don’t come to the DM?

  • Whatever, I just hope that this does not fuck with Strangeways coming out. Speaking of which, when is it coming out?

  • Looks like the first issue is indeed coming out. How this impacts the second and subsequent issues is completely up in the air at this point.

  • Oh yeah, 12/21 is the projected street date. Haven’t heard different yet.

  • [...] Maxwell, another Speakeasy creator (Strangeways), has some thoughts to add, making this clever point about sales: Granted, if I knew that a book had a strong following on [...]

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