Saturday, November 29, 2008

Slamming the Gates -- Or Opening them.

I just sent this email to a bookstore in response to their youtube description of another funnel site (keeping authors going through one gateway):

"Hi -- I'm joining at your Facebook (video) suggestion.

Now -- I love independent bookstores. But as an author, I can't afford to lock myself into one seller base. I use,,, Amazon -- whatever it takes.

Dimestore and Booksurge work to keep customer costs and carbon footprint down by direct ordering. A retailer can get POD books at near wholesale through Lulu or Booksurge.

However, any retailer that tries to funnel authors through one gateway -- and penalizes those authors for refusing to use only one gateway -- is going to find authors selling everywhere except that gateway -- and the one with the gate ends up being the only one behind it. Even Diamond Comics is figuring this out (say what you will about them, they're trying).

I WANT to keep small independent bookstores running. But can you use POD the way it was meant to be used -- without distributors, without returns and shredding?

I know Amazon makes you crazy -- but it fills a huge customer need. Indie bookstores worked with distributors to limit our customer contact and sales. Why go to your bookstore when they can only get it on Amazon? By using Lulu and Booksurge you can get the Amazon rates -- near wholesale -- without distribution or extra fees, or order limits. You can compete.

It's where it's going. Help keep indie bookstores strong by joining where the authors are going."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What a concept!

Another blog entry yanked out of an email. A reader contacted me about a children's charity book a colleague was putting together. I told the reader I had a few pages that had only appeared in a mini (I was going to say "very limited" mini, but that's a redundancy).

He wrote back saying the publisher would probably want original work, even if it did appear in a mini. I wrote back and said that if the guy wasn't paying, he should be on his knees to all the nice artists, crying, "Thank you! Thank you!"

The GALL of these people, putting together everything from charity books to 24-hour comics, and all of it riding on FREE work from artists. But do they ever think of putting together the cash first? Do they even look for an arts grant or get a LOAN?

The goddamn printer gets paid, and UPS, and everybody in the project -- including the PUBLISHER -- and who gets hung out doing it all for free? The people doing the most work! How the hell did THIS mess get started??

I'll give you one guess who's fault this is, for building the system -- even admitting it in his books -- but that would make too many little heads spin. Let's just say I get sick of being expected to paint bed-frames in a production line.

What a lot of people don't realize is you can get an author or artist to do ANYTHING -- if you just pay us!

What a concept! You get what you pay for! Are your heads spinning yet at such a revolutionary idea?

For example: Transformations (where I'm just storing the damn thing).

I don't LIKE writing TF -- but I get paid for it, and I'm good at it.

Here's another project I got paid for pretty nicely (but not enough for what they wanted) and don't want to do any more of:

Yaoi Hentai #4

Mostly because the publisher doesn't understand this: Artists' Rights.

So the next person who gets the idea to put together a nice little book, find a damn arts grant to pay the artists first, before making us do all this damn work, because you want to swan around at SDCC pretending to be a Publisher, with your own little stable of grateful scribblers.

Or are you just too butt-LAZY?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Loss Leaders

Dear retailers:

PLEASE put the left-over Desert Peaches and Stinzs and Afterdeads in the Bargain Boxes!!! Even better, if you get a damaged copy, don't waste time and money sending it back -- give it to a likely reader.

They run right back for $35 to $85 in books. But then, the savvy sellers amongst you already know that.

One of you had a badly-bound Desert Peach. You showed it to me and said you couldn't sell it. I quickly drew the Peach inside, blaming Udo for helping with the binding. On the white edge of the crooked page, I drew Udo saying it wasn't his fault, and he gets blamed for everything. A $15.00 book sold for $45.00 and the reader was happy to get it.

Don't be shy -- if you as a retailer get a damaged book, email me and show me a photo. I'll send you a nice big label with art on it to put inside the front cover. I'll send a personally-signed label to any reader who buys the improved book.

Readers, go tell your retailer about this.

No fair beating up the books just to get free art!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Keep The Artist Going

See the little "Donate" button over to the left?

Even if you don't plan to do anything with it, go look at it.

Future good things are coming, and that donate button may be the only way I'll get paid. I don't need a lot of money -- I knew this financial mess was coming, and I prepared for it with lifstyle -- but the less I have to earn running around taking pictures of local schoolkids or the dump or disarticulated feet, the more time I'll have to DRAW STORIES AND GET THEM TO MY READERS.

(Neat Paypal secret: mini-donations don't show up on the fee radar. Get in on it before they figure that out! They add up.)

Have I been Deluded?

I mean, more than usually.

There are at least TWO things my readers totally missed, or only just recently guessed:

1. When I was hinting like a mad thing that Udo was Jewish, NOBODY got it (okay, one friend in theater got it).

2. Only very recently has ONE reader (congrats!) asked me if I was extrapolating from Maus when I wrote Desert Peach #26, "Miki."

Spiegelman senior didn't tell Art the possible reason the girl might have told the officer to abandon the prisoners -- or the machine gun. Senior MIGHT have known -- he was around the German Army -- but we don't know, because he didn't seem to have told his son. A German girl came up to me at a show, tapped the figure of the girl on the cover and said, "This is my mother." Which wasn't very surprising; as usual, women and kids were in desperate situations at the end of a war.

I knew I wasn't far off a lot of repeated experiences when I wrote it; I've never been afraid of cliche. God is a lousy screen-writer, but It writes incredible comedy. I think It considers everything funny.

I don't really believe in Higher Powers, or if there is such a thing, it's as distant as Vishnu. I think I go with minor local spirits or daemons -- nyads and such. Ghosts, tutilary deities. A local boy who died, who loved to fish, I always invite along on fishing trips. It seems to make him happy. I get fish. I love spookiness and I hear things (it may just be mini-aneurisms, but leave me my nocturnal entertainment).

Spirits are very local, but they have influence and they talk to each other. You don't want to kill a bobcat in Washington State and then join the Army and get shipped to the Middle East, do you? Bastet will GET your ass; she lives right next door to the djinns.

The only things I know about the Spirits is: They either want Thanks, or Entertainment. So look up and say "Thank you" once in a while, or they will start to poke you, just to watch you squirm. They are like poorly-raised children, and we are their lizard in the road.

Another writer -- and dear friend and touring companion -- joins me in doing the aforesaid mini-prayer whenever something goes right while out traveling. We know it's either say "thank you" for the nice meal or the pretty trees -- or have both front tires go flat.

Because They love to hear us swear.

(Hey, I don't use my beliefs to keep anybody from marrying or stone anyone to death. And I help keep the incense industry going.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ve Know How To Make You Schtay On Schedule

This new schedule is working so good.

Computer: every day except Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Makes it easier for the solar panel and battery to provide more of the power for the laptop.

Tuesday: Other art-related stuff.
Thursday: All that household crap that piles up.
Sunday: Day off. PERIOD.

4:00 pm: ALL activities stop except for art and writing. Unless I've got a reporting deadline, and those go fast.

Last night, I tore through 12 pages of roughs, giggling to myself. Leutnant Winzig has proven to have an activist bone. But it's not GAY rights he's fighting for; talk about whose ox is being gored. Neither he nor Erwin Rommel get Pfirsich -- who they of course don't know any more. It is driving Pfirsich crazy no longer being able to refer to anything he knows about them -- or that they should know about him.

He just found out what exactly he's supposed to being doing with Winzig and he's called a full strike. One more chance to draw the Barr Girls -- and their costumes.

The Barr writing method: lock the characters together into small spaces and occasionally throw in things for them to fight over. Oh, yeah, I'm a real hard worker, I am.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nobody's safe

I remember how much fun I had with readers' ideas and suggestions.

I just swiped the phrase "a closet intellectual" from 2 posts ago for use in the story I'm working on now.

Working as a journalist up here, I always warn people they're talking to a reporter (I want a Borodino with a "Press" card in it!). But they still tell me everything and everything, and I have to ask them, "Is that a quote? Is that for the record?"

And no, we don't have to have your permission to print an interview. It's called "First Amendment." I try to be nice -- nobody's family needs to find out their 40-year-old secret -- but if it's relevant to a modern population's concerns or needs, in it goes. And yes, I have my biases and opinions. Anybody who claims they don't is just living in an illusion.

As I told a bunch of 8th-graders starting their own paper locally, when asked about the permission issue: "They're adults! Or your peers. They KNOW they're talking to a reporter."

The things people will say or do -- with a writer standing RIGHT THERE.

What economic meltdown?

A lot of artists are struggling now -- but when have we not? "Health care - what's that?" Fancy SUV -- LOL! We probably can keep our heads above water because we've always been up to our neck in it.

I've always kept a group of creators around me, who all depend on each other in emergencies. One of us -- a woman -- is "engaged" to me ("When everybody's gone, let's move in together and share costs, so nobody ends up alone -- which is dangerous for the old.") There are farms and communes and friends in this network.

The only social security an artist can have is the one we make for ourselves.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reader Tastes Confuse Author

Would somebody tell me why my character Kjars Winzig -- the Peach's unit's wanna-be Nazi political officer -- is so popular with my readers?

The guy was originally a walk-on foil, a b-actor who was on-stage for a one-time appearance, specifically to rant and make fun of those kind of people.

Then he (or his agent) got him bigger and better roles and he ended up taking over a whole book (Desert Peach #26, Miki -- still available at The Little Store over there in the left column of this blog).

The guy is damaged, obsessed, confused, internalized, has a horrible temper and is only marginally physically attractive.

Is this what makes the girls go for the vampires?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gay Marriage Trucker Hat

Oh, you KNOW you need one of these: The Gay Marriage Trucker Hat.

Just proclaim yourself an honorary gay, and poof! you're in an illegal marriage!

Overload the system.

And now we have shirts for the boys AND the girls at Cafepress.

(Yeah, yeah, so Germans already declared themselves Honorary Jews, so it's not an original idea, but that wouldn't be the first time.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

My characters are all Ignorant

Remember that story I was bitching about?

I think anybody who knows my work knows I love High Concept. That little hook, that connection between ideas, that has to be in a story.

"Inauguration" just threw the hook at me. This thing is going to get off the ground. A reader favorite -- Leutnant Winzig -- has a history that the Peach knows all about.

What the Peach doesn't know about is the wall they're both heading for. Winzig is one of the Unknowing Dead. He doesn't know, either.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stinz and the Barr Girls

The Barr Girls are hassling Stinz over at Webcomicsnation.

They're the Cow -- uh -- Boys of the AfterReich. Good with a lariet, and know they look good in a short skirt.

They can rope anything with four legs. Stinz has four legs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Will Eisner -- Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative

Denis Kitchen of Kitchen Sink Books always thinks of me when he's been producing handsome new books.

One of the handsomest he's been behind lately is "Will Eisner -- Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative."

It's a big, handsome, chunky thing, 8" x 10" and about an inch thick, with a matte two-color-style cover (dark red and black on a deep red background).

Eisner did a lot of anatomical drawings, including some beautiful, lively skeletons. Kitchen worked with W.W. Norton & Company to use pages from Eisner's stories to illustrate posing the human body, and expressing human emotions.

Christmas is coming....

$22.95 ISBN/EAN: 978-0-393-33128-8

You don't care about marketing, do you?

I know, I know, I should be writing about what I'm writing, but for at least two years now, I've been heavily involved in publishing.

AND I've been experimenting with my books to try to make them usable for webcomics and black and white and color books. This hasn't always been easy; it's been three steps forward and two steps back the whole way.

The brain is interested in what it's been doing recently. Cells involved in recent activities flood out cells involved in older activities. So the mudflats in my head are pretty much katrina'd over with publishing muck.

To try to get an art hurricane to re-flood the flats, I began doing a story practically freehand; more like webcomics are produced, than my old, careful, complex story-telling method. I wasn't really happy with it. I've always loved black and white better than color, but color looks so GOOD on webcomics! And I post everything now. So the nuts-and-bolts of producing books is getting in the way of my storytelling. I know too damn much about publishing now, and it's growing thorns in the mud.

I had a color story three pages in, and then Obama went into the White House. So this nasty little story that featured Leutnant Winzig kind of hit a brick wall. Which is probably a good thing.

My childhood love of bloody anatomy REALLY didn't need to get loose at a time like this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And Dinosaurs are Extinct

I've been having a conversation with a guy on Facebook. He put together an "independent bookstore" group, and I happily posted my sites for getting books, including my POD contacts.

First of all, I adore little privately-owned stores. The big box places just can't compete with the ambiance.

Secondly, I am not directing this at comics shops, because YOU get it. YOU're in the 21st century, and you already know how to do this. There's a reason why more and more shops are getting shinier and nicer, and it's not just the girls buying manga (okay, so a lot of it is girls buying manga, but how is that a bad thing?).

I figured it would make privately-owned bookstores happy that they could get the books at near wholesale, including for specific customers I would be happy to drive toward their stores in their town. I can send "official dealer" labels to them as I do to my show representatives, and frequently-asked questions lists, anything to help them move product and make money for all of us.

The group owner got very angry about my promoting my books on the message board. I didn't understand why they wouldn't want all the author input they can get. I mean, these are the producers of the product they're pushing. New product could get new customers. Don't they want new customers? I know I do!

Then I got this line:

"We do not seek authors, authors seek book sellers."

These are those little brick-and-mortar self-owned stores who are screaming about Amazon. I think the guy might have been angered because I have those Amazon ads on this site, and Amazon is eating their lunches. There's a reason Amazon is stealing their cupcakes:

These must be the people who want to sit in their little store and pick put lists from publications they know, and send books back to be shredded if they can't sell them. Never mind that this keeps book prices going higher and higher, as distributors demand huge markups and make both publishers and stores pay for shipping.

These prices are making POD competitive, especially when it makes it possible for a bookstore to order only what they need into their shop, to make any customer happy. The personal touch turns customers on. Why else do they come to signings and go to shows to see their favorite authors? Keeping the prices -- and the shipping -- down certainly would have customer appeal?

Wouldn't the very private nature of an indie bookstore make it possible for an owner to deal with the authors -- more of them all the time, including the biggies -- who are building on-line customer bases? With it so easy to make promotional materials, an author and a bookstore working together could shedule all sorts of wonderful events?

A breakdown between the stores and the authors -- there's the problem. Amazon makes it possible (well, more possible -- I don't want to give them THAT many points) for authors to move book on their site and talk directly to the customers. And drive in customers in the first place.

It can't be that hard for the indie bookstores to do that? Surely they have laptops and dsl?

Monday, November 3, 2008

States I've been to -- What about yours?

If you'll look in the left column, you'll see a map of states I've been to.

Want to help me fill in the map?

Get your store or gallery to fly me in for a show or a signing!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New photo

One of my readers sent me this cute little icon. I forgot where she got it -- but it's so CUTE! I think it's built with one of those icon builders.

Nobody does it but Lulu

Sadly enough, my work with the download site Wowio did not pan out.

The site stiffed Smashout Comics for several thousand dollars, and so Smashout couldn't pay me. This was not Smashout's fault. They can't pass on what they didn't get.

So far, the only dependable, cheap way to order downloads for my books has proven to be at Lulu. The prices are never above 96 cents for any download.

The update on downloadables:

Booksurge lost that ability several years ago.

Mobipocket is insanely complicated, and the downloads cost the customer as much as the hardbacks (what's up with THAT?).

Clickwheel and Magwheel have lots of enthusiasm, but they're not up and running yet, not really.

Wowio is unreliable and can't keep up payments.

I haven't tried loading comics on Amazon's Kindle yet. I'll have to get at that next. Maybe. I haven't even looked at their prices yet.

Sigh. The longer I spend working with distribution and getting it fixed for the future, the farther off goes my working on my books.

I wish I could exchange reliable help on that for books or art. I'm just going to concentrate on Lulu -- they're the only working site that never fails or changes, and pays every time, without fiddling around, or losing the banking or Paypal payment information.

(And don't come on here and argue with me if you've only ever used one site, and don't know from anybody else.)