Thursday, December 21, 2006

Self Publishing 201: The Price is Right

Whether you are a fan, or a fellow creator, there is one golden rule to publishing and self-publishing, and that is: Printing ain't cheap.

I cannot afford to buy every book that I would like, and I keep that in mind in creating my own books. It's tempting to publish every little thing that you do, but to be successful, you should only put your best stuff out there. With that in mind, the biggest dillema for a Self-publisher is pricing.

I spent 3 years working on 3 Knights in India, and feel that I should be compensated. On the other hand, I want people to read the book, regardless. If I give the book away at cost, then the printer gets paid for my hard work. If I add some profit to the top for myself, then the book price gets higher, and fewer readers might be willing to give it a chance. The base price for printing is fixed, so any discount comes from the creator's pocket.

PLEASE keep this in mind when buying books, especially from self-published authors or small presses. These books are going to cost more, so if you like a book, or are interested in a book, and are feeling generous, then remember that the little extra that you are spending is going to a great cause. You are supporting the arts, basically, without the tax breaks. :0)

Some printers are greedy, and charge too much... some Creators are greedy, and charge too much, and some Publishers are greedy and charge too much. It's easy to do this for any business, where the slightest profit can mean staying in business... or not. Big companies have little excuse for greediness. Putting aside that comic books are full of advertisements these days, and focussing on Graphic Novels and other books, these companies get deep discounts for printing.

Golden Rule #2: The more you print, the cheaper the base printing cost. This means that when Big Comix has 10,000 issues of a color comic printed, they may be paying say... $1.00 or something for EACH comic. A similar comic will cost a Self-Publisher probably $5 to $6.00 EACH comic, with a print run of only 100 or 200 copies. A few minutes of your time can show you that the Self-publisher, if he or she could actually miraculously sell all of their comics at the outrageous price of $7.00 each, is still not going to make much of a profit. And chances are, only their mothers are going to pay $7.00 for a comic book.

Self-publishers have no excuse for being greedy, though. Sure, a huge profit is nice, but realistically, you are not going to sell a lot of books at high prices. To be perfectly honest, you shouldn't be self-publishing to begin with if you are looking for a profit. Heck, go work at Walmart for a week, and you'll earn a heck of a lot more than you will Self-publishing... in a year. Unless, of course, you have a lot of friends and supporters who really, really love your stuff.

Self-publishers have several options, but when it comes to printing, anything above and beyond photocopied mini-comics is going to be quite expensive. Your options include print-on-demand, vanity presses, and printing presses.

PLEASE do not go to a vanity press with any expectations of selling loads of books. The only good thing about them is that they will usually get you an ISBN number and may get your book into internet stores like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, which will get your name out there. The bad news is, they usually have outrageous fees in the realm of hundreds of dollars that you most likely will not recuperate.

Printing Presses are very expensive, although they do the best quality work. Unless you have unlimited resources, though, it's just not realistic. With higher base costs, your book is definitely going to be priced higher than the competition's. And you will not be able to get your book in bookstores because every bookstore requires a fee to carry your book, which usually is in the 45 to 65% of the cover price range, which sometimes is more than the printing costs, which means you are losing any chance at profit, and may even be losing money.

Print on Demand is your best option if you want qaulity books at reasonable cost. Some of these are ridiculously expensive, and some are not the best quality. I chose for my books because the quality is great. The cost, though, is still pretty high, although they do give discounts to you, the publisher, if you buy lots of copies of your own book. This is great if you are selling the books yourself, or need copies for book signings. If you keep your profits low, you can sell from their shop, assuming, of course, that you have an audience.

THAT is another topic entirely, though.

For now, keep in mind that Self-publishing is expensive. I try to keep my prices reasonable, and have even swallowed my pride for the Holiday Season, and am now offering discounts on all of my books. I said that I wouldn't do that, because hey, I've worked hard on these books!

Still, I want you to read them. I create because of an inborn need to communicate, and tell stories. And no story is complete without a reader.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Seat of Creativity, or To Sleep, Perchance to Dream :0)

This morning my Wife awoke me at some ungodly hour (It was still dark out). She had coffee but didn't offer me any, so, like an automaton, I somehow stumbled to the kitchen looking for a mug. As little gears in my head made tiny whirring noises in their search for 'mugs, coffee, where', I saw a strange orange glow forming in the sink.

It was the sun, and instinct nudged me to stand before it. I stood tall as the glow enveloped me and I thought 'I am Stonehenge'. For one moment I felt as one with that wonderous stone monument, and knew how it must feel each winter when the sun rises before it.

Did I say 'awoke'? Um, no coffee, remember? So yes, I can honestly say that creativity and inspiration reside in the subconscious mind. I am a vivid dreamer, and even remember dreams from my childhood in the same storage place I keep real memories. Many of these dreams have been the inspiration for stories, although I don't keepa dream journal or anything.

Still, like now, I find myself some mornings (or late nights) quickly writing down certain things before the moment deserts me.

And no, I'm not going to write a story about a guy who thinks he's Stonehenge.

I might, however, get a good blog out of this. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cartooning 301: The Eleventh Hour

A lot of people make jokes (or complaints) about seeing Christmas stuff for sale in the stores in August, sometimes accompanied by Christmas music, and the cry goes out "It's too early!!". I have to laugh, or at least crack a smile, because like other illustrators and Cartoonists, August is often when Christmas is on our mind. Why? Because that's a good time to begin working on Holiday cards, whether we are employed by the Greeting Card industry, or like myself, creating special cards from our studios.

Perhaps it seems early, but this year it almost wasn't enough! Creating a card from scratch is just soooooooooo much work. Most people look at a cartoon and, in it's simplicity, do not see the hours of work that may have gone into it. The same goes for Holiday cards, and before you ask, let me say this: I do it because I enjoy it.

Yes, I enjoy it, even though it may take 2 or 3 weeks, or even months, to create a Holiday Card. And I do it for my audience, as well as for myself. HappyGlyphs Comics is still a small studio, although we now have several books out. Being a small studio, there really isn't much that I can do to show my thanks for the support my audience gives me, so I create a special card that I send out each year. It really means a lot to me, and thankfully I do get a few responses from people, telling me that they enjoy the cards each year.

Interior illustration from my 2004 Holiday Card

Usually I try to have the cards written, illustrated, printed, addressed, and sent out soon after Thanksgiving weekend. This year? I just finished illustrating them!!
And it's December!!!!

It's been a tough year, and thankfully, I have been very busy with Freelance work. Yes, my Studio work has suffered by being placed on the back burner, and I may have lost a few casual fans by not putting out as many cartoons as usual, but hey, I have to pay the bills, and besides, I really do enjoy my Freelancing gigs. I have some great clients, who give me some great jobs. Also, this year's card was a real doozy to create.

I actually have a small file of ideas for Holiday Cards, each with a lot of potential. Each year is different, though, so I go with whatever mood I am in. Also, last yeas card was phenomenally successful, and I am still getting compliments on it. ( Thanks! ) So this year I have the difficult job of following up on THAT card.

So let's tally up the stress level: Busy with work, tough act to follow, and I came up with a heck of a card this year, both in the writing and illustrating. No, I'm not going to reveal the card here, at least not for many months, since I want those of you who get them this year to be surprised.

So here's what I came here to write about today: the Eleventh Hour!! That time when a deadline draws near, and panic sets in. Yes, panic. We all experience it at one time or another, and sometimes it's good for us. Others, it can be disastrous.

I actually flirted with disaster this year as I started to doubt the design I had chosen. I try to set aside at least one uninterrupted week to work on a card, but this year a lot of work came at me at once, so I've honestly been working on this card since August, which is a long time to be staring at one concept. Like my 2004 card shown above, this years card involves a large, detailed illustration. Because I worked on it here and there, I was having so many problems with it, and started to loath it after a while. I mean, I didn't have time for this!! I needed that card to come together!! So... I actually considered putting this idea off for another year, and do something else. Disaster!

Second guessing yourself can be a terrible time waster. It can also be reaffirming, so go with what works for you. I eventually came back to this, but still I just wasn't happy with it. So I sat down, looked it over, and stopped looking at the clock, stopped thinking about the calendar, and started looking at it like the great portfolio peice that it could become. And as the artwork improved, as details were added, the card finally came together, I made my peace with it, and began to give it the love that it deserved. Much like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. :0)

Then, of course, I started to doubt the front of the card.

See, this year's card tells a story, so the writing was much more important than per usual. Eventually, though, an idea came to me... actually, several, and I put it all together and with much rejoicing finally finished the card. Hooray!!

So today's lessons: To thine own self be true, and, if you bite off more than you can choose, breathe through your nose, and get a drink to wash it all down with.

And if you ever doubt yourself, take a deep breathe, and say "I can do this!"

And then do it.

Happy Holidays, JOHN :0)

PS If you would like a card, please email me your name and address, keeping in mind that your privacy is important to us. If you're outside the US, however, I may not be able to afford the postage. It never hurts to ask, though. :0)

This offer expires December 23, 2006.