Friday, 8 June 2012

Did I Have The Right To Do That?

Cerebus Vol 2: High Society, collecting #26-50 (1981-1983)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from a letter to Erik Larsen concerning creator's rights and publishing, 31 August 2005)
Well, clearly no one is saluting the Bill of Rights as it stands nor do I really expect them to. It came about because I wanted to know where my rights ended and Diamond’s rights began when it came to selling books direct. Did I have the right to do that? It expanded from there into trying to draw lines of demarcation as to where a creator-publisher stood within the market in terms of decision making. The point that I missed at the time is that you can establish that you have the right to do something, but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to like it and - very definitely - the stores did not like me selling the book direct to my readers. So the issue wasn't actually whether I had the right to sell the books direct (of course I did: it's a free country) as it was "Was I prepared to take the consequences of doing so? Was I prepared to trade the good faith that I had in the market for a massive infusion of cash?" The answer at the time was "Definitely". I was really tired of living on dribs and drabs of cash that came in on a book that was considered somewhere between a fanzine and an underground that I was busting my ass to produce. In retrospect I should've had more patience and realized that High Society would always sell and give the retailers time to figure that out: years, probably. Since then I’ve gone in the other direction relative to the initial question. We've taken the ads out of the back of the trade paperbacks and Following Cerebus so the stores are really the only place you can get the books today. We don't even sell to Amazon anymore. The stores aren't exactly falling all over themselves ordering the books but, again, I think that's where patience comes in. Give them time to see that everyone else is abandoning them for on-line sales and the mainstream book store market and eventually they will recognize the value in supporting something that supports them.

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