Of further note

Thanks to The Beat and Graeme at Savage Critic for linking back to this here humble blog. I’m sure that it’ll account for more traffic than I likely deserve.
It’s clear from the comments below that I managed to obscure my more important point with a far less important assumption (that people have gravitated towards commenting on), rather than the meatier matter at hand. I assumed that if issues 3 and 4 of a under-ordered miniseries were available online that 1 and 2 eventually would be, and that customers would merely wait for all of it to show up online so that they could read it for free. That may indeed be a mistake on my part. I’ll own up to that.
That said, it’s a minor point. The real point is that using Direct Market sales to lead to online reading seems like putting the cart before the horse. Yes, yes, we’re living in a time of paradigm shifts and all that. Online comics are the future, etc. But we’re not all strapped into our personal jetpacks just yet, are we? We’ve still got at least one foot in the DM, if not one and a half (or one and four toes and the heel). American (even Canadian companies) haven’t yet figured out how to monetize large-scale books.
Oh yes, I’m in it for the money. If that ruins your dreams of my aesthetic purity, so sorry. Luis and his studiomates need to be paid, and they are paid within two weeks of me getting the finished pages. Postage doesn’t grow on trees, nor do xeroxes of preview materials to be sent out to retailers. In fact, I’m the only one who hasn’t been paid at this point. Not a complaint. A fact.
My problem with this plan is it’s basically leading readers out of the DM, which is where Speakeasy is supposed to be making its money currently. No, the DM isn’t a perfect thing. However, the folks who are operating in the DM aren’t going to embrace migration with open arms. Particularly when they’re the ones selling the books in the first place. My problem with this plan (as it appears, right now) is that serialized books from Speakeasy will receive diminishing support *in their primary market.* The DM as it stands isn’t eternal. There’s already been a siginificant amount of change in the past several years (consolidation of publisher hold on the top titles, the rise of trade paperbacks, general shrinkage of circulation for books outside the big 2).
I’m not the biggest fan of serial fiction, but there’s a number of economic realities and audience expectations that keep the serial form at the top of the heap in the DM. This calls for a steady stream of resources, rather than the all-at-once costs associated with doing a singular, larger work. It also asks less money of the consumer, at least in the short term and means only a small investment on their part to get a taste of the work.
It also introduces all kinds of restriction in terms of pacing/structure. You can work around them, but there’s only so many ways to dance around the 22 page chunk format. But I’m getting far afield here.
The market accepts trades because it gives the customers something else, a different format for those who prefer to get the whole story in one sitting, everybody wins. Sometimes the singles lead to customers buying the trades, and even if that’s the case, the DM retailer gets to keep the customer. But if the note in the back of issue #2 reads “Go read the thrilling conclusion online for free”, then that trail doesn’t lead back to the DM at all. In fact, there’s no money in it, unless you’re selling banner ads.
Not yet, anyways. And who knows, maybe there’s a brilliant plan to make it work. But right now, that’s not evident to me.
Hope to Cthulhu that this entry is clearer than the last on the subject. And please, don’t think that I’m anti-internet distribution. It’s the next great thing (in terms of cost vs. audience), once people can figure out how to exchange goods for payment and keep pirates from stealing everyone’s content and publishing it for free (or worse, taking the money for themselves.) The whole NYC2123 project (detailed below) has opened my eyes to a completely different form (as has talking to a guy who’s writing scripts for handheld games and trying to tell stories in screens rather than pages). This clearly bears further investigation, but what I’m hearing right now about jumping from print to nebulous internet delivery isn’t lighting my fires just yet.

3 comments to Of further note

  • Rich Johnston

    It’s not leading readers out of the DM in the long term. It’s providing a place for the books to be finished, and then printed in collected or other forms. It extends the print life of a project rather than cuts it off at the knees, which is the current model.

  • You say “po-tato” and I say “I don’t think so.”
    But I think it’s safe to say that we’re not going to agree on this one, Rich. Or at the very, very least, online publishing is something that could be accomplished by the creative teams on their own.
    This is, specifically, leading readers outside of the DM. And since Speakeasy is in the buisness of making money inside the DM right now it seems a counterintuitive move at best.
    My, but it’s really too early to be doing this. Not even 7am…

  • […] elaborates in a later post: My problem with this plan is it’s basically leading readers out of the DM, which is where […]