Comics Revolution – The Insurgency

Saturday , 16, September 2017 15 Comments

Today’s guest post is the second of the Comics Revolution series written by David Lille about the gatekeeper of the comics market and solutions to the problems it causes. David & Liz Lillie create the Dreamkeepers graphic novel seriesYou can follow them on a variety of social media platforms including Gab.

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The previous Comics Revolution article sketched out the chaos barreling towards the comic retail market, and the corresponding possibilities available to cultural crusaders battling to reclaim the holy city.

All this opportunity in the comics Direct Market–for creators, retailers, readers, and subcultures–has one looming obstacle. Because it’s not enough to offer better content.

I elaborate more on Diamond Comics Distribution elsewhere, but for now it’s enough to know that Diamond is not a doorway. It is a wall fortifying the entrenched positions of Marvel and their cronies.

Anyone hoping to penetrate and claim territory in the comics retail market must find an alternate route.

And we can make one.

Diamond is a centrally controlled monopoly, so let’s innovate in the opposite direction.

The #ComicShopList is a decentralized modular ordering system that puts all the control in the hands of comic store owners, while exposing them to absolutely zero financial risk.

It’s such a simple system, not even Google can censor it.

The #ComicShopList will give retailers unlimited access to anything the crowdfunding and independent market produces, without any need to gamble on up-front inventory purchases, and without any draconian order minimums.

Just how difficult would it be to implement this #ComicShopList? What do comic creators need to do?

To jump in, all a creator needs to do is fill out a universal easy-to-use one-page template. Include your book’s cover art, a promotional blurb, and add your pricing & order details. Boom–you’ve just created a printable pre-order sheet for your book, including slots for customers to sign up.

Stores do have to risk a little something–they must buy a three-ring binder. Possibly a nice one.

Stores will print off any #ComicShopList sheets they like, and clip them into their store’s binder. Then, talk with their customers–and start selling pre-orders.

Every store can decide for themselves how many pre-orders are needed to make an order worth their time and effort.

Just like that, comic shops can offer their customers everything–with zero dollars at risk, and without sacrificing any shelf space.

Is this idea basic? Yes. Are there details to iron out? Sure. Should we try?

Imagine if the #ComicShopList caught on.

Customers could walk into their shop, and be the first to submit a #ComicShopList for their latest online discovery. The store owner could engage with his regulars, and show them what everyone else is signing up for. Readers would have an incentive to recruit their friends to reach the pre-order threshold. Store customers would be transformed into an army of talent scouts, with a stake in the performance of their local shop.

Face to face contact, incentivized outreach, engagement between the clerks and customers–it is precisely this kind of local interaction that a physical location can do better than a website. The #ComicShopList amplifies the inherent strengths of a brick-and-mortar storefront, and puts consumers back in the driver’s seat.

One drawback is that the idea catches on big-time, and shopkeepers are juggling orders placed to hundreds of different individual creators.

While I like the idea of a decentralized system, that scenario could pose a logistical challenge for stores.

So, what if a distribution company emerged within this system, to help filter the available content, and create a consolidated entity for retailers to more easily interface with?

As it so happens, Chad of the ComicsRKewel podcast is in the process of developing just such a distribution company.

These plans have been on the drawing board for a long while, but I think it’s time to make them public.

Because for this invasion to work, it’s going to take more than just me tilting at windmills out front. It’s going to take a unified contingent of authors, publishers, and especially consumers to lend force to the maneuver.

If we can finally breach this barrier, we’ll be staring at a bright field of new opportunities. A glorious future where it doesn’t matter so much if Marvel sucks balls, maybe comics can be geared towards what readers want again, maybe stores can benefit from serving a new generation of readers, maybe culture can have some fresh voices in it causing a stir, and maybe we can all have a hell of a lot more fun in a future like that.

So let’s do it.

Here’s the plan, and what you can do to help, today.

Chad is building the infrastructure for this distribution company now, and I’m prepping the #ComicShopList template for public access.

We need two things from you:

First off–the absolute best content.

Who are the top webcomic creators, the best independent authors, the most renowned names in the crowdfunding market? Whose work, above all else, deserves to be in comic shops?

Give me your personal top ten list in the comments. Include links, so we can get in touch and make those creators an offer.

One requirement for your top ten list–the creators on your list must have actual, physical books available to sell. Because that will be the next step-

We’ll strike an agreement with those authors who are ready to join the rush, and gather a sampling of inventory.

Cannons loaded with books, we’ll be testing the #ComicShopList with salvos in a bold comic shop or two.

That will be our moment of truth.

Armed with the best independent, crowdfunded, and counter-cultural content, we must release an onslaught of rampaging customers upon the testing ground.

We must pound them with pre-orders, destroy them with dollars. This is our opportunity to showcase what a store stands to gain when they open their doors to us. If we truly have something to offer, it is here that we can prove it.

When we announce our test store, we’ll be asking all of you to join in the effort, spread the word, signal-boost like the future of comics culture depends on it.

Because it might.

And obviously, we can’t rely on the comic book media to cover any of this–those clueless saps are busy blathering about the progressive (or problematic!) casting decisions for the next Hollywood flop.

Because Hollywood is following in the wake of comics culture, after all. I would love to see what happens if we can actually reclaim this landscape.

If it’s to happen, it’s up to us.

So mobilize your resources. Diversity & Comics–we’d love to know your take on this idea. Listeners–contact your favorite comic book YouTuber or blogger, your favorite webcomic author, your friends, anyone in the comic world who should join this coalition.

Because coalition it must be–we need all hands on deck.

If we pull together, we can take a piece of this market, save some comic shops, break the corporate stranglehold on pop culture, and put consumers back in charge, at long last.

Take control. This market once belonged to you. Invade it.

Hit us with your top-ten list in the comments, and spread the word.

Coordinate using the #ComicsRevolution hashtag, and watch for the next Castalia House update.

15 Comments
  • Trimegistus says:

    I hope the organizers of this project are prepared for dirty tricks, legal harassment, and outright criminal attacks by Diamond. The magazine/newspaper distribution industry has been Mobbed-up from the very beginning and if you look like a genuine threat these guys will not play by any rules to take you down.

    Among other things: be sure you can distinguish real orders from fake ones, so that they can’t bog you down in fake orders and burn up all your capital.

    Be sure your storage/shipping facility is well-guarded around the clock.

    Be ready for a barrage of legal challenges, up to and including bogus criminal charges.

    Be ready for negative publicity: “A gang of white supremacists are trying to take over comics distribution! We must fight them!”

    • David Lillie says:

      At the onset, we’ll be outsourcing our warehousing and fulfillment to insured 3rd-party companies. I think we can virtually eliminate fake orders with this system, as stores only order what customers pay for in advance- so at every stage payment comes first, then fulfillment.

      That’s not to say we won’t face a host of other dirty tricks- but I’ll be damned if that risk will keep us from trying. No guts, no glory.

  • GoldenEye says:

    I like this idea. Lot’s of details to iron out, but I think it’s a good start.

  • Anthony says:

    Lackadaisy is an incredible comic, probably my favorite. About St. Louis gin runners during Prohibition who alao happen to be cats.

    Website is lackydaisycats.com.

  • Anthony says:

    Oh, and Mark Bradley’s “Freefall”. freefall.purrsia.com

  • deuce says:

    Let the Insurgency roll on. It makes me sick to my stomach to see what has become of the American comics industry.

    • Xavier Basora says:

      Yup especially when you compare it to the European comic book industry. It still publishes many good quality comics for all ages

      xavier

  • Roffles Lowell says:

    This seems like a great plan, provided two theorerical problems can be addressed:

    1. Publishing frequency
    Indie comics made by individuals working as their own writer, artist, editor, and publisher, deadlines tend t push deadlines far more than the norm. There is, unfortunately, no reason to expect webcomic creators NOT to follow in this unhallowed tradition…. when a loyal customer subscribing to a book that ships 2/3 times per year only brings in around ten bucks of profit, it becomes hard to argue it was worth the fuss to bring to to shelves.
    [A potential solution would be to establish infrastructure to help creators work faster while maintaining quality; an emergent class of freebooting editors, colorists, etc would facilitate greater speed and efficiency from creators without necessarily compromising quality)

    2.Genre Represenation
    Internet publishing allows really niche storytelling to find its audience, which on one hand allows for greater experimentation to thrive, but on the other, it means that this talent is not trained to be as capable of speaking to a broad audience as they may need to. The great heyday of indie comics saw thought provoking work that any casual reader could appreciate, without some of tge more alienating peccadilloes of niche fandoms smacking them in the face. Let’s be blunt; anime and furry styles are off-putting to a lot of people, and if the top talent we’ve got is disproportionately tilted in this direction it’s going to be hard to expand readership.
    (I don’t have any brainstorms for fixing this one.)

    • David Lillie says:

      I think genre representation will sort itself out given time and market forces. Even if the vanguard toppling the wall is comprised of raging furries, once that breach is letting opportunity flow, supply and demand will take over.

      When it comes to publishing frequency- I think this pre-order system would optimize for backlist sales and collections, items with a longer shelf life. My personal feel is that monthly floppies (single-issue 24 page comics) are sliding out of favor with readers. For frequent updates they can hit the online updates, and then stores can stock the collected editions of work that has become sufficiently popular.

  • Scott Malcomson says:

    It’s about damned time.

  • BrownieMan says:

    I will freely admit to being woefully ignorant to the comic books industry as a whole, and I can say with reasonable certainty that it has been no more than 5 or 6 years since I discovered webcomics and the fan-built art/stories in general. I would be happy to compile a list of favorite artists who I am fairly certain all have physical books.

  • Godel Fishbreath says:

    Schlock Mercendary.
    Doc Rat
    (Elfquest?)
    Your pwm DreamKeepers
    Usagi Yojimbo
    Kevin and Kell
    Brewster Rocket?
    Xkcd?
    Girl Genius

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