Format discussion continues

Will the future belong to the pamphlet peepers or the book buyers? The debate continues at Matt Maxwell’s blog:

So, just jump in and do pamphlets and not worry about the trade, since it’s all a sunk cost. Well, that’s great, only in this marketplace, monthlies tend to shed sales pretty regularly (assuming you’re an indie, and even if you’re one of the big guys.) Of course, you still have to come up with a way to pay for the initial content that you want to print up. Which leads us right back to the issue of paying creators enough so that they can keep the bounty of ramen and head cheese flowing (or tofu if you’re vegan…or hate head cheese, like myself). I suppose there’s a potential solution in creators simply being offered advances, but the publishers would have to make enough money to actually do that (and really, most of them can’t afford even the most basic advertising, he said, looking over Diamond’s rate sheets for pages in PREVIEWS.)

But we can’t grow the market until we have some money to spend to grow the market. Man, my head’s beginning to spin here.

ToonBrew looks at the Online Oglers:

Yes, this could be done online, but the ability of webcomics to gain a following by sticking to fairly traditional formulas seems to have enticed all but a few artists to do nothing pump out the same old stuff, perhaps with a “fuck” or two thrown in for good measure. That word makes their comics 26% better, after all. I don’t think I’ve seen a single full page layout on the web that was anything more than a mind-numbing extension of the already mind-numbing 3 panel talking head strips. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love to see more artists really taking advantage of the infinite canvas. The only other direct “problem” with pamphlets posed in the article, is that “no one seems to want to try it” in the United States. This obviously is not a compelling reason why no one should try it. The problem is that the comic industry has always been enslaved to tradition. That’s why webcomics are still not nearly as big as they could be.

More at Crocodile Caucus and The Comics Reporter.


  1. Hey, I can comment again! I posted the comment I wanted to post here to my own blog. Thanks for the link.

    In response to Matt, I wanted to again emphasize that I think part of the problem is that people are focusing on what is already being done as the only option when it comes to creating a comics pamphlet. I’ll take his word for it that “monthlies tend to shed sales pretty regularly,” but then those monthlies are probably doing something wrong if that is the case.

    There has to be more than one way to produce a pamphlet. My idea of free periodical was but one example (one which can and does work for other subject matter). Maybe we could take it even further and produce a periodical, or booklet, or whatever, that only gave each artist 2 pages, but had a massive selection of comics. That kind of book would be a collection of ads, more than anything, but the format would be small enough that artists could create their own special promo pages without sacrificing too much time. Perhaps a small bit of back story that wouldn’t be in the main piece. Or an example of a truly innovative section of their work.

    Or… another idea could work. My main point is that it doesn’t have to be one more of those booklets that fade into one another in the manga section at Barnes and Noble.

    I think it must be possible to get this done without huge support from a publisher, but that said, Matt is totally right when he says “we can’t grow the market until we have some money to spend to grow the market. ” That, and the difficulty in getting a lot of people to try something new based on conjecture will probably keep the industry progressing at its current stumbling pace.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I like good comics and think there should be more of them, so I sympathize with comic artists who find producing their best work in the current market difficult.

    But as a writer, I spent two years working on my novel while holding down a dayjob, another year “placing it,” and when all is said and done I _might_ see between $5-10K — and royalties are a pipe dream for most books in the midlist. No advances unless you’re a big hitter or the flavor of the moment. Very few novelists can afford to write full-time, even ones who might have a bunch of published books sitting on the shelf. This isn’t to say “poor, poor pitiful me,” but just to point out that this problem is not exactly unique.

    And as a reader, the pamphlets are simply unpalatable. Too expensive, too little story, impossible to store, difficult to loan, and not exactly durable. Not to mention the eternal conundrum of getting in on the ground floor of a story that looks promising only to have the rug yanked out from under you when it (almost inevitably, sooner or later) is cancelled. I spend enough cash on graphic novels and manga to feel like I’m doing my part to support the industry, enough so that I no longer feel the need to buy the first few issues — or first collection — of something purely out of charitable support. As a reader, I want to see a few collections on the shelf to indicate that the creator is invested in the work and the company is willing to support it (at least for a period time).

    So there’s an obvious tension here and I wish I had a brilliant solution. It’s possible that once color e-paper based-readers become popularized that new subscription-style models could become popular for serialized graphic stories. But in the meanwhile, the market seems to be shifting — maybe “lurching” is a better way to put it — towards collections/OGNs and bookstores. I think that’s just economic reality. Eventually both the industry and creators will need to adjust to that, at least until new methods of delivering and viewing content become available.

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