Friday, 10 October 2014

Weekly Update #52: The Direct Market Curse

Hello, everyone.

We are all just IN AWE of what Sean and Mara continue to deliver in the restorations.  Stephen Benson? "Fortunate" doesn't half cover what I am in this situation.  It's one of the reasons that I won't put any deadline on the HIGH SOCIETY restoration.  I don't want Sean and Mara to be caught in a nutcracker between what they know they want to do and any kind of arbitrary finish line.  They are definitely dancing as fast as they can and that's plenty fast enough for me.

Sean remarking on the border tapes on the "Election Night" issue:  yes, even at the time I knew that I was pushing the limits of what was sensible.  Basically making Preney's job a lot harder both on the pre-press and the actual printing.  I did think -- at the time -- that the story required it.  It needed something to differentiate itself from the surrounding story in the same way that Election Day (no matter what the election) is going to colour your world if you're a responsible citizen.  Not quite Christmas, but over in that direction.

There was a limited palette of options in the border tapes that Letraset offered, the same as with the textured tones.  Did it look POTENTIALLY hand-drawn?  Or did it just look like...Letraset?  The jagged border tape (220?) was the only one that really looked hand drawn.  Someone drawing the borders on "Election Night" would be working much deeper into the page than I was (or I was capable of doing).  And now, 30 years later, it's another headache for Sean and Mara. Sigh.


1. The Direct Market Curse 50% drop in sales between CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE and NUMBER TWO?  Is it here?  Evidently not.  We'll see as we get closer to the end of the campaign how steep the drop-off is.

2.  Current "Best Options" for scanning the CHURCH & STATE original artwork for Sean and Mara (and as-yet-unnamed Restorer X):  Plustek A300 Opticbook $1,834.84 CDN plus WINDOWS workstation (min. $500 CDN) OR Widetek 12 $5,000 CDN.  Good reason to watch and see how Stable the CEREBUS ARCHIVE KICKSTARTER campaigns are.

3.  Matt Demory, my Diamond Brand Manager, is at the New York Comicon this weekend until October 14, so that will probably be the earliest that I can get final numbers on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE the unsigned edition.

1.  I have to admit that I wasn't too surprised when CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO flat-lined there.  On the contrary. One of the big question marks for me even at the early development stages was: Is Kickstarter far enough away from the Direct Market to keep from their being a natural drop-off in orders by half between NUMBER ONE and NUMBER TWO?  In terms of Comic Art Metaphysics, it's an awe-inspiring prospect.  We had 261 Pledge Partners for CANO.  Would we drop to 130 on CANT?  I say "awe-inspiring" because it does have a Predestination quality to it.  No matter what you do -- no matter what THEY do -- 130 people are going to be leaving.

Funkmaster John is extensively restructuring his Graphic Edge Print Solutions business this month and I knew that. So, when he faxed me to say he wanted to cut down from two updates a day (morning and night) to one a day, I encouraged him to just eliminate the updates entirely and get back in touch if we moved substantially off the $17,845 mark.  Not hearing from him for about 72 hours, I was definitely anticipating the worst.  We were just stuck there.  Once I saw that we had moved up in terms of actual $ AND in terms of participation, it started to look less to me like Predestination and more like God's Sense of Humour (knowing that I was avidly watching the needle as we approached the 50% mark of our CANO total).

I can't say I was panicking.  But I was mentally plotting the same graph I had plotted throughout glamourpuss.  "On the current trajectory, where do we crash and burn?"

The additional $3K over the last week has definitely extended that timeline: on both criteria (both of which I'm watching:  number of pledge partners and total $ pledged).  We're definitely hoping that the bonus prints will give us an uptick at the end in the $ end of things.  But the Pledge Gap (to coin a term) is also important.  The closer that number gets to 261, the more sustainable this will appear to be.

On related fronts:

2.  The longer we go without making a decision on how we're going to do the scanning (that is, I'M going to do the scanning -- I'm the best deal A-V could possibly hope for since I make $5 an hour no matter what I'm doing) on the original artwork, the more the field narrows to x number of viable options (which is usually the way).  Sean included my Epson WF7510 as an option (and mentioned that the Epson website is offering them for $150 right now).  The problem there is that the scanning time for 600 dpi is pretty close to two and a half minutes whereas the scanning time on the two options cited in the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY are "10 seconds (plus five second reload)" and "6 seconds plus 5 second reload".  That's SECONDS as opposed to two and a half MINUTES.

Which presents a bit of a quandary when you're talking about scanning roughly 4,000 pages.  "6 seconds, 10 seconds. What's the difference?"  Actually Sean crunched the numbers and it came down to a difference between 12 hours and 17 hours. Which, of course, doesn't include transporting the pages to the house and then back to the storage site.

The situation is really one of getting out ahead of Funkmaster John who will be taking the negative/film scanner with him when he shifts his base of operations.  Sean is definitely more interested in the original artwork than in the negatives where he has a choice.

(And, as he explained to me, CHURCH & STATE should be a relative breeze because everything he gets will either be from my scanner of John's scanner.  Whereas on CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY, he's worked with pretty much as many scanners as he has pages.)

So, it really doesn't make sense for John to be scanning negatives for pages that are stored, off-site, as original artwork.  And it makes sense for me to get WAY (if possible) out ahead of him and make an inventory list.  So when he's cutting the negatives away from the oversized "flats", he can just check the negative against the inventory and either just store it between two sheets of paper in a "magazine bag" OR scan it first and e-mail it to Sean and Mara and Person X.

Right now, the reverse is the case.  We experimented with the first...four?...five?...flats so John could get the feel for how long it takes to cut the negatives free and then scan them.  So, right now John is on page ?? (we're not quite sure) but x number of pages into CHURCH & STATE while Artwork Scanning Guy (which would be me) is on Page Zero right now.

3.  I say "the earliest" because you HAVE to have a level of human empathy for anyone going to San Diego or the New York Comicon and leave a REASONABLE gap between when they will be back in the office and when they can be expected to be amenable to answering phone messages.  Truth be told, I think ALL comics publishing Execs and Diamond People should be tested for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after both shows.

How CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONE does in the Direct Market is important to us, but not really Critical.  What we'll all be watching for is a) do we sell enough to pay for the ad in PREVIEWS? (50 copies, remember), b) do we sell enough to turn a profit? and c) what does it look like the anticipated drop off of 50% between CANO and CANT going to do to those two figures?

Even that number I wouldn't describe as Critical.

John and I have already discussed a reasonable minimum number of unsigned editions he's willing to do to fill a Diamond order "going forward" (as they say).  That is, I want the unsigned editions to always be available, which means soliciting for NUMBER TWO, NUMBER THREE, NUMBER FOUR, etc.  Which, at that price point, is probably going to be very small numbers on reorders.  But the reorders will need to be available to the stores if we have any hope of maintaining sales (again, "going forward").  If only four stores want a CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO because they sold someone a NUMBER ONE and they want to keep the customer happy...Well, they can only really do that by being able to get NUMBER TWO (and NUMBER THREE and NUMBER FOUR, etc.) even if they can only sell one.

And the "knock on" effect from that is: Diamond isn't going to want to, necessarily, stock 20 or 30 copies (if that's John's minimum) if they're selling 2 a month.  And that we won't know until they've actually had NUMBER ONE and NUMBER TWO and NUMBER THREE and NUMBER FOUR come through which -- God willing -- won't be for another six months to a year.

And there's not much point in talking to Diamond about John's numbers until Diamond has numbers of their own to look at.

One possibility is making "Re-list" CEREBUS ARCHIVES into packages.  The first four are available shrink-wrapped together (let's say).  Which would probably work for John -- making up his minimum order on different "issues" -- and Diamond -- giving them a package with a hefty price point worth taking in onesies and twosies -- but is not likely to make the retailers happy.  You don't want to have to order the first four if you only have a single customer for a NUMBER THREE.

It all looks very straightforward until you look at where the bottlenecks are, eh?

Thanks to everyone who is sticking with us on all this.  John's even let me know that we are getting the occasional new Pledge Partner on CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO.  Big Transcontinental Shout Out to Mark N. of East Perth AUSTRALIA!  Welcome Aboard!

We are still in the VERY LOW single digits on damaged and missing CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER ONEs and I've asked John to get phone numbers from anyone still missing their promised CANO.  If you're one of them, please contact John with your phone number (with country routing code) and A Good Time To Call (in Eastern Standard/Daylight Savings Time) and I'll ring you up and we'll have a nice chat about whatever you want to chat about.

LOW single digits?  It's really the least we can do to keep everyone who is sustaining this Lurching Cumbersome Juggernaut taking its first baby steps Happy Happy Happy.

See you next week, God willing.


Anonymous said...

Does the Diamond editions of CANO have to be unsigned? Wouldn't they sell better if Dave were to sign them? I understand I am not doing the extra work required here BUT I know from my old Diamond days that signed retail editions sell and keep selling better than unsigned editions. My Kickstarter edition is still different because of the extras provided.
Chicago, IL.

eric fennessey said...

Has anyone in the UK gotten their CANO yet? We're just at the upper limit of the 4-6 week expected shipping time and I've not seen mine yet.

Travis Pelkie said...

Well, one thing about the new Kickstarter is that you've done 2 things to confuse people (ok, maybe just me ;) ) in that the shipping is now an add on to the pledge (for us non-Canadians, at least), and the bonus prints add in a new dimension as well. I'm one who's a last minute pledger anyway, but I'm also waiting both to figure out the shipping and figure out the extra bonus prints (and/or maybe some bookplates). I know to a certain degree you want people to order as many as possible as collector's items, but I'd be happier to know if the bonus prints will be available in future Kickstarters. If I don't get all of the bonuses this time, either because they aren't all "unlocked", or just because I don't want to/can't pony up all that dough at once, will I be able to get them in the future? With that knowledge, I'll be able to pledge with a sound mind (well, soundER, anyway).

Also, may I suggest that in listing the current Kickstarter Archive Portfolio in a future Diamond Previews that you refer to it not as CANT, but as something like "Cerebus Archive: High Society Portfolio 1"? You're not lying, certainly, and perhaps sales will stay a little higher with another number one.

Hey, it works for the big 2!

Tim said...

Hi, Eric. We're still waiting in Yorkshire.

Tim said...

Mines just arrived!!!! Hope you've got yours by now.