PvP leaves Image for self-publishing

toonhound PvP leaves Image for self publishing

Via PR, a story that touches the current comics business on so many levels. In short, Scott Kurtz is taking his print PvP collections of his very popular webcomic PvP and returning to self-publishing via his Toonhound Studios imprint. PVP has been published by Image since 2003, and Image will continue to sell his existing collections. However, future print editions of the comic will be sold online. According to the release, Kurtz won’t be selling them through Diamond at all, although he’ll work directly with retailers who want to carry his books.

pvpvol8 PvP leaves Image for self publishing

The new PvP collection (above) — the eighth in the series — will be available for sale from Kurtz at San Diego.

We have an email in to Kurtz for more info, but it isn’t hard to see that, as the release states, the pamphlet/floppy/periodical is just not a viable format any more for a comic that appears five days a week on your computer screen. And one would presume that holding on to 100 percent of the profits of selling collections directly to fans would offset any losses incurred by not being in the front of the Diamond catalog any more.

Scott Kurtz is releasing the latest print collection of his popular online comic PvP, but he won’t be doing it through publisher Image Comics. After 8 years with Image, PvP is returning to its self-publishing roots, printing all future collections under the Toonhound Studios banner and selling them online via PvP’s store at http://www.pvpstuff.com.

“Over the last three years our business has shifted,” says Kurtz. “Sales through brick-and-mortar stores are declining and online sales are increasing. Readers who discovered PvP in comic shops have shifted from monthly readers to online readers, and their buying habits have changed. The monthly floppy is selling less and the trade paperbacks are selling more.”

All existing volumes of PvP are still available from Image Comics through Diamond Distribution, including the PvP Awesomeology hardcover, a 600-page retrospective celebrating the strip’s recent ten-year anniversary. The PvP monthly comic book, which Image also published, has been cancelled and ended with issue 45.

“Image has been an amazing publisher. Jim Valentino believed in Webcomics before anyone else in the industry. Erik Larsen and Eric Stephenson were instrumental in helping PvP shine. I still believe that Image is the best game in town for independent creators. I’m proud to continue offering my existing trades through them,” says Kurtz.

Although Kurtz has no immediate plans to offer future collections through Diamond, he’s still eager to work with interested retailers.

“The retailers have always supported PvP and I want to make it as easy as possible for those who wish to carry our books moving forward. Any interested retailer can contact me directly via email and we’ll do our best to get them whatever they need.”

Comments

  1. Perhaps Kurtz is just putting his money where his mouth is “being a visionary and pushing ahead no matter who it pisses off” with regards to brick-and-mortar retailing?

    http://www.pvponline.com/2010/06/08/q-what-do-retailers-think-of-iron-man-annual-digital/

  2. Bill Simmons says:

    Great way to spin a book just not selling well, but There are plenty of Image books doing well and making $. The hard fact is it never really belonged at Image (cartoon strip collections you cab read for free). It will be easier & more profitable for him to sell direct to his readers online, but I won’t be one of them thanks to Scott Kurtz’s negative online outbursts.

  3. I don’t agree, Bill. It seems more likely that Kurtz is at a level in his career that it seems more beneficial to him to keep all the profits. I mean, sales are likely declining for the monthly comic along with sales of everything, but it sounds more like a move to consolodate and keep more profit. Not really a sign of weakness so much as a sign of the ability to handle more of a self-publishing burden.

    I don’t think that Kurtz’ online “outbursts” are relevant to this matter.

  4. It’s not accurate to state that he will shift from making a portion of the profit on each sale to all of it (however one wants to define “the profit”), because Kurtz is already selling books direct to consumers online. There shouldn’t be a substantial change from the money he makes from those who were already ordering directly from him. And while he will be servicing some retailer accounts directly, there shouldn’t be a huge change in income from those accounts – while he will get a bigger percentage of the cover price from not going through Diamond and Image, there are also very real expenses as well as the costs in time of handling that level of distribution one’s self. However, most comic book specialty retailers are likely not to order through him (most retailers don’t even set up an account with a smaller distributor like Haven, much less a one-man publishing house), so the question seems more whether the sales lost from the wider availability in the direct market and through bookstore distribution are made up for by some substantial fraction of those who preferred buying through retailers now switching to buying online when their local shop no longer carries the new trades (or, possibly, those who were ordering through Amazon or other online retailers for the convenience switching to ordering directly.)

    I hope this works out well for the talented Mr. Kurtz.

  5. So no deal with Diamond… does this mean PvP wasn’t selling to bookstores and libraries? Or does he want to avoid returns? If the stuff stays in print so long, that’s not a problem.

    Why not just stop printing the comic, and continue to keep printing trades via Image? Unless Image’s bookkeeping convinced Mr. Kurtz to make more money online.

    As for comicstrip collections at Image, they still publish Liberty Meadows. And isn’t this what Image is all about? Letting creators make their own decisions, whether it’s to print the comic independently, or even sell the entire line to a big conglomerate?

    What few issues I’ve read, I’ve enjoyed. PvP has decent artwork and some good storytelling. Would I read it online? No… I prefer the trades. Ongoing stories don’t fare too well online, where it’s one. page. a. day. (if you’re lucky).

    (Heh… compare and contrast with Dave Sim’s decision to sell Cerebus trades direct to consumers.)

  6. Eli Fischman says:

    You don’t end a deal because it’s making too much money.

  7. Kurtz was going to end the PVP floppy series at issue 50 anyway, claiming the comics only ever made “beer money.” I think he’s been moving in this direction for awhile.

  8. Nikoli says:

    I agree with Bill.
    If you look at sales numbers for the PVP single issues, the sales were dropping dramatically. Additionally, the issues were always SUPER late. Its unreasonable to expect to do well selling reprints of strips you can read online for free over a year later, and late on top of it.

    On a side note, I stopped reading PVP after C2E2 this year. I “met” Mr. Kurtz at his booth and asked him to sign my copy of “How to Make Webcomics”. He seemed bothered to have to look up from his iPhone and sign my book. He barely spoke to me at all, never looked my way, and dismissed me in very short order. However, his co-authors, Kris Straub and Brad Guigar, were both very nice and gracious. Their pleasant natures caused me to purchase a book from each of them. All in all, it was an unpleasant experience meeting Kurtz and I no longer wish to fill my time with any of his work.

  9. You’d be hard-pressed to find a situation where it’s advantageous for a webcomic artist to get picked up by a publisher. The dynamics have changed to the point where it’s (cheaper/easier/more profitable) to do the work yourself if you’ve already done all the work up to that point as is.

    For the average author / component of a comics team, getting picked up by a publisher still has advantages (assistance, editing, legwork, not having to come up with your own concept half the time, etc.), which they pay for in reduced profits compared to self-publishing. But when a comic is made by just one or two people who’ve already done all the conceptual efforts, legwork, marketing, etc., the publisher becomes just two things: A printer, and a distribution channel. Maybe a marketing team to assist you if you’re lucky.

    Kurtz may have plenty of other issues than just who’s publishing his pieces, but all this seems to prove is that he doesn’t think picking up a publisher was such a great idea either.

  10. Steve Horton says:

    Note to Nat: Kurtz uses a fulfillment house for all his merchandise, so opportunity cost for the increased shipping isn’t really a factor here. The DM stores that do well with PvP trades will simply go through Kurtz/the fulfillment house directly, similar to how they’d deal with a Jeff Smith or a Terry Moore.

  11. Some points of clarification straight from the horses mouth:

    The Floppies were going to end regardless of my staying or leaving Image. Each monthly issue of PvP contained 40 comic strips and I only draw 30 each month at most. In 2008, PvP moved from a 7 to 5 day a week schedule meaning I produced even less strips per month.

    The floppies were burning through my existing archives of material faster than I can produce them. Drawing more than 40 strips a month was impossible. Moving to a bi-monthly or quarterly schedule would probably kill all existing sales. Plus the book being habitually late waiting for me to compile artwork for it wasn’t helping matters.

    Make no mistake. The floppy PvP book did great at the beginning, brought me a lot of new readers and became a poor neglected stepchild after a few years. If anything killed that book I did.

    Regardless, I thought the monthly always did great. Considering how most floppies barely break even when the creators are pouring heart and soul into it each month. PvP always made a profit despite the Image fee and my poor organizational skills. I think that says something about the viability of a black and white humor comic being at Image.

    I really resent someone saying I didn’t belong there. Everyone at Image disagrees and I know that Eric and Erik both told me I was welcome back if I ever needed help again. I worked really hard to become an Image creator. I belonged there, sir. And I’ll fight anyone who says differently.

    Nat is right about the money I’ll make form the trades. I doubt this move means I’ll make a ton more money. More than likely I’ll make around the same amount or just a little bit more. Mostly I’ll regain more control of my business and some of my sanity back.

    The collections do really well but PvP has always sold more through online sales than the direct market. Diamond books refuses to place PvP in the humor section of bookstores and it dies in the graphic novel section. And being with Image means I can’t change who my book store distributor is. I asked to be moved to humor for six years and neither Image nor Diamond could ever make it happen for me. Whether this is Image or Diamond’s fault I neither know or care. I just want more direct control and this is the first step.

    Add on top of that the fact that I now do all pre-production on the books myself. All Image really does for me at this point is sent it to the printer. So every time I print a collection and do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to sales of the book, Image still gets a fee and Diamond still gets a hefty cut despite not working at all for the benefit of the book as far as sales in stores go.

    Doesn’t make a lot of business sense to stay with that deal. I never said I wouldn’t go back to diamond or maybe even another book distributor. I want to get PvP back into book stores and comic book retailers. But right now I’m still researching my options. And the press release had to say something, right?

    Regarding my treatment of you at C2E2, Nikoli, I’m sorry you felt slighted. C2E2 was a difficult show for me. Days prior my sister in law was in a horrible car accident and had a stroke recovering in the hospital. She didn’t know where she was, what year it was or remember most of our names. My family insisted I continue with my plans to attend the show.

    If I couldn’t be bothered to look up from my cell phone it was most likely because I was getting updates on her. My partners were probably even more inviting than normal because they were trying to make things as easy as possible on me that weekend.

    Now, I’m aware you had no way of knowing this, so don’t think I’m trying to guilt you or anything. But normally I try to be as friendly as Kris and Brad at cons.

    If you have any other questions, I’m accessible. Thanks for the post Heidi!

  12. Scott, thanks for stopping by and clearing things up. It is always interesting (to me at least) when a creator is able to take his/her business into his/her own hands with confidence, and such examples should be studied.

    I do want to add a clarification on one comment: re getting into the humor section. I think this may be in part due to the humor section having different buyers than the GN section, so this is up to the bookstores, not so much Diamond or Image.

  13. There are Diamond Book publishers who do manage to place items in the humor section. Generally, those are comic strip collections, although HarperCollins has the Simpsons shelved there as well.

    Also, Drawn & Quarterly’s Stanley library can be found in humor at B&N, so it’s not impossible to move a humorous graphic novel into the humor section.

    Looking at the PvP data in Books In Print, the BISAC subject code is a generic “COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / General”. So that’s either the fault of Image and/or DBD, who sends the basic bibliographic data to BIP and retailers. There’s no “humor” tag in the GN list. In “Humor” there’s:
    HUM001000 HUMOR/Form/Comic Strips & Cartoons

    Some companies automate title classification, initially linking BISAC codes to the store categories.

    So, Mr. Kurtz, have your Diamond or Image rep ask the various store buyers to move PvP from GN to Humor.

  14. Rob J. says:

    Given how awful Diamond’s service is at every level — especially reorders, where TPBs and HCs really make their money — I don’t blame him for withdrawing from Diamond in the slightest.

    And I’ve never even read PvP.

    — Rob

  15. I just want to vouch that Scott Kurtz is, in fact, normally quite friendly at conventions. He was very friendly when I met him at the Emerald City Comic Convention in 2007. Even though he didn’t want to appear on camera for a short video I wanted to make, it was still a very cool experience overall and it was a really nice encounter.

  16. Let me add that it’s not only a slight to Scott, but Image to say he didn’t belong there.

    Image is published by truly independent thinkers, many guys who could clean up in the main stream and make it their duty to help promote different types of books.

    Scott, I applaud the fact that you are pushing yourself, and maybe the industry with this move.

    Can’t wait for you to host the Harveys in Baltimore again!

  17. Synsidar says:

    Librarians don’t seem to know what to do with volumes of PVP, aside from slapping a “Graphic novel” tag on it. The British Library has all seven volumes. The subject headings for PVP LEVELS UP consist of

    650 0 |a Graphic novels.
    650 0 |a Young adult fiction, American.

    SRS

  18. Thanks, John that means a lot. I’m not sure I’m pushing anything but my own bottom line at this point. The industry is going to do what the industry does. I’m also looking forward to the Harvey’s. I’m not exhibiting at Baltimore this year and flying in just to MC.

    Synsidar, that’s interesting. I have a friend named Bill Barnes who does a comic called Unshelved. It’s about librarians. I was going to be picking his brain about getting PvP into more libraries soon.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh yeah,and another two things:

    a) Scott is normally a very friendly person IRL, and I think his explanations here more than allow for an off day.

    Also as for PvP not “belonging” at Image: like John said, that is an insult to Image AND Scott.

  20. The Beat says:

    Oops, that was me.

  21. Synsidar says:

    I was going to be picking his brain about getting PvP into more libraries soon.

    You’ll almost certainly have to make your books available through wholesalers to get sales to libraries. Joining SPAN will make your books available through Baker & Taylor. The Library of Congress doesn’t make its Cataloging in Publication program available to self-published books, although libraries can do the cataloging themselves.

    SRS

  22. Steve Horton says:

    First time I met Scott was the last time he attended Gen Con. He was having a rough time being under Dork Storm’s foot but he still managed to sketch me a giant panda attacking Brent on a comic backing board. I love that sketch. :)

Speak Your Mind

*