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Brian Hibbs

I think I will have some reviews up Very Soon (maybe even today, if I follow the plan in my head), but in the meantime, here’s a little link bait of stuff that’s been sitting around in my browser and made me think a little or a lot:

The first link you’re probably already seen and read, since everyone else has linked it, but I was impressed by Jim Zub’s analysis of costs for printing comics. The reason I bring it up here is that I think that it needs to be completely underlined that most of the other legs of the chair ALSO make very small amounts of money from straight publishing in the kind of low circulation world that Jim accurately describes — publisher, distributor, retailer, none of US are making any money from 5k-and-under books either. In fact, you might recall that my last Tilting was about how even books selling under 30k are breaking the periodical market at this point for the big publishers. The problem is the same at the bottom end of the ecosystem — too many people putting out too much material that’s only marginally commercial, and since we don’t have any (good) filter for access-to-the-market, the stuff that’s actually got a chance (like SKULLKICKERS!), gets crowded out for anyone without the fortitude to play the Long Game (and, let’s be realistic, even then…)

A lot of people in Zub’s thread are going “hey what about digital?” and while this is not strictly the same thing, I want to make sure that people say this essay by Damon Krukowski of the band Galaxie 500 about what “streaming” services generate for musicians. I have to imagine that the economic picture on TV and film, be it through something like Hulu or Netflix or whatever, is pretty equally bad.  My favorite paragraph is this one:

“Or to put it in historical perspective: The “Tugboat” 7″ single, Galaxie 500’s very first release, cost us $980.22 for 1,000 copies– including shipping! (Naomi kept the receipts)– or 98 cents each. I no longer remember what we sold them for, but obviously it was easy to turn at least a couple bucks’ profit on each. Which means we earned more from every one of those 7″s we sold than from the song’s recent 13,760 plays on Pandora and Spotify. Here’s yet another way to look at it: Pressing 1,000 singles in 1988 gave us the earning potential of more than 13 million streams in 2012. (And people say the internet is a bonanza for young bands…)”

I also really liked this post by Hilary Smith discussing how an author or a work’s social media profile doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with its sales. PARTS of the promise of digital are clearly a chimera.

I suspect everyone who comes here is also a Beat regular, and has thusly read Grant Morrison’s response to the allegations that his work is derived from Alan Moore’s, was, I think, my favorite read of the week. If you haven’t already discovered it: you’re welcome.

Finally, I was mesmerized by this post on Rock, Paper, Shotgun of how video games can open you in astonishing ways to new worlds. I thought it was a powerful and touching piece.


13 Responses to “ Linkbait! ”

  1. I think Dave Sim said he could have made more money babysitting than publishing for the first…five?… years of Cerebus. It’s kind of sad that the industry had big ’90s highs and now these lows again. I’m beginning to see a lot of loss of Economy of Scale i hadn’t appreciated before in this as well.

  2. Brian — thanks for posting that Rock, Paper, Shotgun link. (It’s a truly amazing and surprisingly moving piece in their “Gaming Made Me” series wherein Patrician Hernandez talks about how stumbling across FALLOUT 2 at the impressionable age of 12 was a redefining experience in terms of her sexual identity and political awareness. Seriously)go check it out.)

    And I’m hoping Graeme & Jeff weigh in on the schadenfreude-licious spectacle of the Morrison / Moore feud-by-proxy that’s been going on over at COMICS BEAT. Wow. Just… wow.

  3. Comparing vinyl singles to comic books is apples and oranges. Vinyl singles are sold for years after they’re made. Bands sell them on-line, at shows, and through specialty shops that sell just vinyl. The business of selling floppy comics is designed around selling the floppies for one week only and then after that, the floppy may as well be made into paper hats. When an independent artist makes a 7″ vinyl, they generally plan on selling them for years and they’re pretty easy for interested people to find and buy. Independent floppy comics are almost impossible to find unless you pre-order them through a retailer.

    Does digital solve all the problems? No. Do brick and mortar stores have advantages over digital? Yes. But comic stores and record stores are not very much alike due to the vast differences in the product they’re selling.

  4. R.e. The Beat: Don Murphy sure seems like a nice man.

  5. @Chris Hero: As I’m sure Hibbs will attest, there used to be a lot of indy comix “floppies” that sold more-or-less perennially, like vinyl singles… EIGHTBALL, LOVE & ROCKETS, HATE, STRAY BULLETS, ZAP COMIX, ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY, etc. These all used to be stocked deep and frequently at my local shops, and some of them went through multiple reprints.

    The “perennial single” may not be as much of a possibility in the scintillating wait-for-the-trade future we now live in — thought I think there are some titles (e.g., TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE) that still have that potential.

  6. “The business of selling floppy comics is designed around selling the floppies for one week only and then after that, the floppy may as well be made into paper hats.”

    Except the monthly comic is going to be there next month and the month after than and the month after that, etc. It’s a constantly stream of new product that’s always there in front of the consumer. That’s the economic advantage of the periodical format that gets overlooked.

    And I don’t think interested people have any more trouble finding a comic than they do finding a 7″ vinyl.


  7. @Steve D

    I like the term “single” more than “floppy.” Good idea! It’s a much better description.

    The market used to support perennial singles, but I’d argue those days are long gone. Los Bros and Seth both moved to annual graphic novel sized formats to keep their material in a perennial format. Thrizzle is an interesting example, but I know from my own experience, if I’m not in Manhattan the day it’s released, I’m not going to find it anywhere. And Kupperman isn’t like an indie band in that he doesn’t go on tours playing his material and then selling stuff at a merch table afterwards. Yeah, he does conventions, but conventions are nothing like concerts, since conventions are like flea markets where the transaction is the main draw, not the performance. (I’m not trying to knock Kupperman in any way as he’s a very lovely man and I love his work.)

    I’m basically saying I don’t believe the market supports the perennial single anymore. I think the market has changed to only support the current week’s singles and graphic novels. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just the way it is.


    The monthly comic, sure, but not the one off floppy like Thrizzle or Optic Nerve. Independent creators don’t have the luxury of constantly producing a monthly book like the major companies do.

    I can only speak for myself, and I have the luxury of traveling a LOT, but I have a much, much easier time of finding 7″ singles from indie bands than I do singles from indie creators. Like, I know if I don’t special order indie singles, I’m likely never seeing those books and even special ordering them is hit and miss. On the other hand, I know if I walk into just about any vinyl record store in the country, I’m going to either find a new single I’m looking for or I’m going to get a good lead on how to acquire it.

    Brick and mortar stores still offer a lot of great benefits that aren’t available with digital stores, I just think trying to equate comics to vinyl singles, or music in general, isn’t a good analogy. It may have worked back in the day when we had perennial singles, but those days are dead despite the valiant efforts of Tomine and Kupperman.

  8. “Singles”? “Floppies”? Hey, Fat Stalin’s Cool Kids Club closed a decade ago, can’t we go back to calling them issues, like God Intended?

  9. Just for clarity’s sake, I wasn’t really trying to raise an equivalence between periodical comics and singles (though I think they’re much closer than Chris thinks… as would anyone with a back issue section !), more pointing out some of the risks of moving away from physical objects.

    For the proper comics equivalence to that article, it would probably be Marvel “Digital Comics Unlimited” — the $15 (?) all-you-can-eat monthly plan. Does the talent gain ANY money in reprint royalties from that?

    I stock at least 25 “perennial singles” that are 5 years or older, then there’s all of the things like individual issues of everything from ADVENTURE TIME to BATMAN that I continue to stock as long as they are available from the manufacturer — it’s not uncommon for us to have 10-ish series that we have the last 6-8 releases in open stock on the wall… (I mean, on purpose!)



  10. I don’t know if it still sells, but for a long time Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (and other Jhonen Vasquez series), were perennial sellers for many comic shops. Issue one originally came out in 1995 (selling about 3000 copies apparently), and the whole series was first collected in 1997, but by 2003 the first issue had sold over 100,000 copies. Impressive!

  11. I’m breaking the Deppey Rule here (one should never post more than twice in a thread), but I just wanted to clarify a few things.

    I think Mr. Brian has a lot of great knowledge and experience from running a comic shop and being a strong advocate for so long, so I’m not trying to imply I know better. He’s walked the walk with his money, I haven’t. However, I think looking at comics through the lens of music ignores a sea change that has happened in both. In music, the business has really changed and has gone back to being built around the single, whether it’s mp3s or vinyl singles. Comics have seemed to embraced the album with annual graphic novels being released by former perennial single guys like Los Bros, Chris Ware, and Seth. I think books from the major publishers like Marvel, DC, and Image are better served from the single approach as Mike wisely pointed out with the benefit being repeated exposure to the audience.

    I think the analogy has merit, I just also think an indie band can be a lot more successful in the long run with singles than an indie comic creator. Then again, in my travels, I rarely encounter comic stores that have comics older than last month on their shelves and they’re usually buried behind the new comics. I think the market is better equipped to handle indie graphic novels than indie singles.

  12. @Chris Hero: I don’t think Hibbs’ original point had anything to do with albums/singles — I think he was trying to demonstrate how a glut of titles with low print runs mean slim pickin’s for everybody in the chain; and the music parallel was only there to drive home the point that, no, digital doesn’t make everything better. As Zub points out in the article, the rates at Comixology and most of the other go-to digital distributors leave creators with about the same tiny piece of the pie as print; and if the industry starts following the all-you-can-eat subscription models of Pandora / Spotify / etc., that will mean even tinier amounts for the actual creators — whether its for “singles,” “albums,” whatever.

  13. @Steve D

    Perhaps I’m missing the forest for the trees. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I am.) An all you can eat digital model is a bad way to go for everyone in any entertainment field. One company makes all the money while everyone else gets nothing.

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