I have spent much of the last week when I should have been working on a novel doing a little bit of templating for a new bit of potential:
I don’t know how much any of you know about printing or self-publishing, but let me tell you from experience, it’s a dog from hell, outside of interacting with you fine folks. I’ve called probably thirty different companies to get quotes over the years, and the company we settled on for our trades is AWESOME in every respect, but they have the same problem that every company has. They can’t print in small quantities without the price going up, and if I print in quantity, I price myself out of the size of my reader base. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What I needed, and what I sought for years, is a way to be able to print as few as one book at a time, and have it cost a low amount. This is (logically) nearly impossible.
It was suggested years ago by the wise and awesome Rebecca Hicks of Little Vampires fame that I could use CreateSpace. Duh! Everyone uses it. And they do. I look around the cons, and they’re fantastic. The Truth (About Your Parents) will print through Create Space, and it looks like an all-around solid endeavor. ISBN numbers, potential distribution, etc. Great, right?
Except 6.625 X 10.25, the size of a comic book trade, is a custom size, and custom sizes aren’t able to be mass distributed. Gads, he said to ye. Other issues include the fact that I want to keep the trades consistent. If you get Year One and Year Two, it should match with Year Three, right? Common sense.
Enter Lightning Source/Ingram Spark. I found this looking around for options, and to be honest, I have no idea how it wasn’t brought to my attention before. Maybe because I do all my work in a quiet room, for the most part. Bottom line, they do trades on the cheap, and on demand. Ergo I’m going to have them print a copy of Year One, see if the quality and consistency matches with the present prints, and if it does, we will have a new, dramatically more convenient printer, and also, get this: potential distribution in stores.
The store has to agree to carry the book, and it won’t be returnable given the volume at present, which is a strike against it, but if you can tell your local bookstore, it’ll mean Cura can be on shelves without me having to walk or mail it in. That’s good.
The specs on the site indicate it will be the same or close in quality. I am optimistic. If they sit next to each other on the shelf neatly, or very close to neatly, I’m going to switch.
There are, however, potential hitches and issues, which I want to bring to your attention here, because ultimately this book services you, the readers, who fund the Kickstarters and motivate us to carry on this mad endeavor. They are as such:
1) Page count. With the first three trades, we have put a TON of time and energy into the backmatter, and there has been some, but not much response. Perhaps this is people saying to themselves “COOL!” and just not saying anything, or perhaps it is something that people can take or leave. Regardless of which it is, it adds page count, and page count adds to cost to print. I am trying to reduce costs in every way, so the Kickstarter can be lean and mean, and so I can get the hell out of massive debt I’ve put myself in to keep this ship afloat. Beyond that, my understanding is that color pages are impossible tucked into black and white, a special feature our present printer was graciously willing to do at the color per page cost, but a higher price per copy.
What does this mean practically? It means that, barring mass objection, my plan is to remove much of the backmatter for the last three trades in order to lower costs and in response to lack of response, if that makes sense. The lone exception will be the eight-page intro to Lakbay and her team, which will remain in the back of Year Two, as it is important (if ancillary) to the story.
As this may negatively impact someone’s first experience of the trades (I try to give newcomers in the Kickstarters everything if they buy in print, so that they can get a huge thank you for the faith), rest assured that the backmatter will not disappear, I will simply compile it into a digital file and send it along with the Director’s Cuts to all who want it. Ergo all the material will be there for people who pledge to the Kickstarter, but not all of the material costs.
For anyone objecting to this, I have modest reserves of the older trades, and will send them upon request, until supplies are gone.
2) Templating. One thing that will change between the trades is applying the knowledge I have acquired in the last few years to slightly tweak and improve the printing process. I have learned how to better service gutters in file prep, and make sure even pages are slightly more left, and odd pages slightly more right, and how to slightly tweak the art to be larger on the page. It is not much of a change, but it’s something my neurotic self demands if we’re to do a second edition. I have to emphasize strongly that I am NOT doing this to get people who have bought an original trade to buy another, improved version (this change will be practically negligible), but I note it so that people who may or may not experience collecting in their own particular way can have a say if that bugs them. I doubt it will, but I like transparency. It’s worked well so far.
Of course all of this is predicated on the idea that the printing looks up to snuff, but I like to communicate, so hey.
3) Patreon. I’ve brought this up before, and it was mentioned by a nice commenter briefly a week or so ago. Do we have a Patreon? No. And why not? Well, the short answer is that my preference would have been for Cura to slowly build and pay for itself in sales of trades. That was the goal, the plan, and I put enough faith in it to accrue more than twenty grand in debt. It didn’t work out that way. The trades have paid for themselves, and the Kickstarters have always overfunded slightly, which is why we have the aforementioned modest supply of trades, but given the high cost of attending cons, getting a hotel, getting a table, and then the fact that some cons just flatly bust in terms of sales, the reality is that it’s a horrible business model. This is not your fault. I would like to hope it’s not my fault. But the truth is that no matter how much gas, time, and life I put into conventions and salesmanship, the trades are not covering the cost of the art, the site, to say nothing of the fact that all of the writing is being done for free on faith. Is that a condemnation of you, or of Cura, or of my choices? Hell no. This comic has been the greatest experience of my artistic life. I would do it again, twice. I would do it until I went bankrupt. But I don’t want to, if I can avoid it, and i want to start doing this indie thing smarter, not harder, and I believe we can do that.
What does that mean? It means that I have to do a thing I am reluctant to do. Put my hand out twice. Once for the trades, if you want them, and once for art, which will have the express goal of recouping the costs I have expended in creating this work over five years with Dex. We hope to launch soon after the end of the Kickstarter. Dex deserves a raise, and half of what we make will go straight to him, half to me killing my debt.
I say this knowing that to say so is precarious. If I ask for too much, too fast, everything could fall apart. People could half fund the Kickstarter anticipating the Patreon, or overfund the Kickstarter and Patreon will be a dry well, because let’s face it, that’s asking people to give at the office twice, and we don’t have Penny Arcade numbers. That’s fine. We’re not Penny Arcade.
But, I have to hope, I have to believe, that if I am honest with you all, and if I point out exactly what my situation is and how it is progressing, that the response will be strong, as it always has been. I am not looking to recoup the financial loss of Cura so much as I am preparing to make a go at more indie work to keep the ball rolling. In debt I can only tread water, not move forward, barring support from a major company. Cura has one year of story left, maybe one and a half years of real-time, because the last year is extra long. That will blow by, and when it finishes, I want to have the next story for you that Dex and I will tell, and the story after that, and the story after that. I am coordinating presently with two other artists to create and start new comics, and there are pages in the can. We are working on faith in the hopes that people will respond, which, to put it succinctly, is to say that I NEED YOU. As an advocate. As a reader. To forgive the hand held out knowing that it’s not the profit motive so much as a sump pump to keep water off the deck. Does that makes sense?
In return, I will try and keep the Kickstarter goal as minimal as possible, and provide as much extra as possible for the Patreon’s contributors. I will focus less on frills and bonus materials, and more on a solid book and a continued comic. I couldn’t do anything less. My blood, sweat, and life are in this book, and it’s my calling.
I’d love to hear your comments or thoughts on this. Expect more from me as the Kick approaches.