Thursday, 20 September 2012

HARDtalk: The Virtual Tour #4

We're going to switch gears and get into a glamourpuss question from Dominick and Eric:

How will glamourpuss be collected? You have advertised a digital version of the first 25 issues and the series concluded (at least in print) with issue 26. Will the digital version include both the fashion satires and the history sections? Will each section be separate or will the collection closely approximate the issues as they appeared in serialized versions? Will the covers be included or any other supplementary material?

That's all very much up in the air right now. At the time that Kickstarter hit, I had cut all of the "Death of Alex Raymond" pages out of glamourpuss issues here in the office, that whole sequence, and mocked up what it would look like as a graphic narrative.  And then as I was reading it, I was jotting down notes of things that I needed to do with it.  There are a number of instances where I finished on the left hand page and then picked up the next issue on the left hand page, so there needs to be bridging pages or chapter pages depending on what was going on.  I was treating it as a reader.  Turn over the page, look at the following page -- what sort of page would I like to see in between there?  Jot that down in my notebook.  Threads of argument that I just alluded to as coming up ahead -- jot those down.  Strictly the "Death of..." material that started in #14 I think it was.  That done, I got issues 1-13 and tackled those to see how that would work as a prologue.  Didn't make it past issue #1 where it's all mixed up together -- the fashion parody stuff and the History of Photorealism.  There are a number of ways to take it.  Do a photorealistic Dave Sim page or two to set up what people are looking at -- "here's why this seems so weird" or just say, seriously, what is actually required here?  How much did I actually say in the first 3 or 4 or however many issues that wasn't covered later?  It's actually good that I had a break because I'm really two authors of the material, the "History of Photorealism" author and "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond" author, who, arguably, have two different requirements.  "No, you can't use the first issue AT ALL because it sets the wrong tone for 'Strange Death'."  That was definitely my initial reaction.  But the "History" author worked very hard on that stuff.  He has to have his chance to make his own case in the form of a mocked up edition.  Forget "Strange Death" completely and just put together the "History" book as if nothing follows it.  THEN read the two together and see if this is some really monumental problem or just a brand new way of telling a story.

It seems likely that it would only be digital.  There are many different models for "what's left of Dave Sim's career" at this point.  The safest assumption -- the assumption which is the least likely to do any damage -- is that everything has to start with Kickstarter or IndieGoGo or something similar.  The level of interest has to be gauged.  Having raised $63,000 for CEREBUS DIGITAL, what happens if I try to raise money for "Strange Death"?  $5,000?  $10,000?  Or maybe I get surprised and it raises $50,000.  Then you can at least solicit for it.  See what the orders are.  But I suspect a lot of times I'm just going to have to say, No, I can't do it for that level of interest.  I'd LOVE to do it but it costs too much to print books and ship them around the country.  Already with the Kickstarter campaign a LOT of money has gone into packing and shipping.  $63,000 becomes $23,000 is where we stand right now.  I've worked non-stop since the beginning of June and I've, personally, only gotten paid the $1,000 a month I pay myself and roughly $6,000 for Aardvark-Vanaheim.  Might take in a lot less money if the reward is a digital download of the complete glamourpuss from No.1 to No.26, but there's no overhead.  It's just 1's and 0's.  And it ends with Raymond and Drake headed for the trees in the pouring rain.  I assume there would be SOME repeat business.  But, it's 2012 -- who knows?
Okay, the Magical Virtual Tour Bus is now heading over to MILLAR WORLD for a question from Ron Mays, Jr.:

Welcome to Millar World, Tim Webber and Dave Sim.  Thank you for visiting.

Thank you for having us.  It's a pleasure to be here.  But, then, as Groucho used to say, at my age it's a pleasure to be anywhere.

I have never read a CEREBUS comic, but kicked in $1 for the Kickstarter project based on its reputation.  I intend to read my first CEREBUS comic on ComiXology once it is available.  As a new reader, why should I read CEREBUS and what continues to make it relevant?  

Head on over to MILLAR WORLD (and scroll down to post #20) for the answer to that question, and be back here tomorrow for more HARDtalk on A Moment Of Cerebus.

HAVE YOU GOT A QUESTION FOR DAVE SIM?
Already signed up for the HARDtalk Virtual Tour are Bleeding Cool, Millar World, Terminal Drift, Canadian Comics Archive, The Comics Journal, The Beat and Mindless Ones. Add your question for Dave Sim at one of these fine websites before 10 October and if your question is chosen (they'll need to be tough, interesting questions!) you'll receive a personalised, autographed copy of a Cerebus back-issue, with a Cerebus head-sketch by Dave Sim!

4 comments:

Eric Hoffman said...

Hmmm . . . I think STRANGE DEATH would raise a significant amount on Kickstarter. But maybe, just maybe, Sim could take up Groth on his offer to publish it? Then again, maybe not.

Now GLAMOURPUSS. In my ideal world, I'd see the fashion stuff in its own book, complete with covers and supporting material (you know, to maintain its sense as a fashion magazine satire).

The remainder of the photorealism stuff could be worked into the STRANGE DEATH volume as an appendices of sorts.

Just a thought. You know, if anyone is asking.

Max Southall said...

Max Southall here, CTO of CerebusTV --

OK, Tim Webber having written to me raising some concerns on how we did/are doing on CerebusTV, I'll weigh in with a few thoughts.

#1, double-or-nothing from a non-gambling man, any negotiations with Gary Groth or Kim Thompson will come to nothing. So Fuhgeddaboutit. I almost think this falls into "prolonging the unpleasant" - :-)

#2, the supposed failure of CerebusTV to be monetized, falls under what G.K. Chesterton opined: "Christianity hasn't been tried and found wanting; it hasn't even been tried." After 2-1/2 years, CerebusTV went from a thousand hits a month, to near a million a few months ago. But there was never any consistency in what commerce we promoted - no sustained and repeatable campaigns for the books and no direct link to where they could be ordered - certainly not online. John Scrudder did very well conducting the CerebusTV art auctions we promoted - but inexplicably, it would be in fits and starts and then finally dropped. Sadly, coordination with ComiXpress was poor - but we weren't allowed to take orders online at CerebusTV and shepherd that through, for fear of repercussions from Diamond and the stores. Quite frankly, Dave just didn't believe it could be done - and so, as per Chesterton, it was never tried. Now John Scrudder, bless his perspicacity, kept banging away, despite having had the auctions yanked from him, and single-handedly foced the issue with the Kickstarter campaign. Basically, promoting the hell out of it relentlessly (CerebusTV produced a cool video promo for it too) and basically through the "incentives" sold a whole lot of stuff online for the "pledges." Which brought in 64K minus the Amazon/Kickstarter emoluments. (And thanks Dave for passing on the CerebusTV donation to help cover production.) Really, something this aggressive is what we needed/need to do for CerebusTV to be viable considering all the years of hard work and investment that's gone into it. And anyone professionally involved in online business will be quick to tell you, that if you can't figure out how to monetize a million hits a month, it's not because it can't be done. Chesterton did append that trying Christianity is difficult; but that's not the same as not doing it.

Max Southall said...

#3 - that in this day and age, shipping comics across country is just too expensive to work. I have to say that, shipping them across a border from Canada could well qualify, if not in bulk. Companies like Diamond get printed books in bulk via tractor trailer from Quebec (last I heard, still part of Canada) but do not try to ship to various retailers in the USA direct from the printers there. The US postal service is incredibly cheap in comparison to the Canadian one - in fact, it's cheaper to mail first class from the USA to Canadian addresses than it is to mail inside Canada! And mailing to the USA from Canada is prohibitive for periodicals and art. Paying careful attention to costs for printing, packaging and mailing, we were able to make the various CerebusTV poster and print offers worthwhile to support the show - but Dave couldn't achieve that necessary efficiency from Canada. Additionally, working out of Oregon, there is no sales tax either locally or nationally, while a 15% tax charge is added to every level of activity within Canada.

ComiXpress even offered FREE SHIPPING on orders to retailers of the back issue glamourpuss and all of Cerebus Archive, so shipping costs were not an issue - and they extended that to Canada, too. The failure there was the lack of coordination with promotion on the show, and I argue, having personally involved myself to solve numerous customer glitches with the print-on-demand paradigm, could have been resolved by CerebusTV offering the books for sale online and guaranteeing a good customer experience. A good experiment would have been to divide POD duties with Ka-Blam.

I firmly believe that even though these books didn't have the mass appeal of Cerebus - comparatively speaking - that with the world-wide reach of the internet and the demographics, they had a believable sales target several times the circulation that was achieved inefficiently.

If you look at the demise of brick-and-mortar comic book outlets - probably a decline of 2/3 over the past ten years, quite simply even those who want actual physical books to hold and collect, outside of major cities can no longer conveniently do so - except by mail order. Mail order is just the way a lot of business has always been done in the USA and it's definitely not the Canadian experience, even inside Canada, so Dave's take is understandable, because from Canada, a business that's based on selling into the USA direct to end users is not gonna work. Typically, even with a Canadian dollar on par with the American, even items like packing, bags and boards cost double the US price. Which is why it only made sense to have the Kickstarter incentives sent from North Carolina.

So it's not that digital delivery is the only way - it's not - but very definitely digital ordering is - and it could just as well have made CerebusTV live up financially to its amazing demographics.

OK, those are some thoughts from a technology guy with 30 years of successful online experience, predating even the internet.

Thanks Tim!

-Max Southall CerebusTV CTO

Anonymous said...

Thanks Max, what's up with the downloads or (pray) the DVD?

Adam