Sunday, 13 September 2020

Visiting Denmark St, and other scribbles

Yesterday I was able to visit London's Denmark Street, for the first time since I wrote and drew a whole book (The Prince Of Denmark Street) set there, this Spring. I must say, it's possibly Earth's most disappointing street!

When you've spent 6 months picturing it in its heydays of the 60s and 70s, its present state (mostly closely down, knocked down, or in the process of being rebuilt) is very sad. If it ever does get revamped and turned into a music themed street, it'll be a Disneyfied version of its former self.

Still, it's immortalised in my book, truly the best way to remember the iconic location, only £5.99 on Amazon 

We've all done it. Just before you go to bed, maybe after a cheeky vimto, you have a string of brilliant ideas for your latest creative work. So, without turning all the lights back on, and scribbling on the only thing to hand (in this case, the back of this week's Private Eye) you jot down these gems of creative gold.

The following morning you have try and make sense of a jumble of "wghmftmwf" and "bzznrrsbee". (These are in fact the first tanglible notes for my proposed fourth book, whose title I shall keep under wraps for the moment, but whose initials are TT).

On which subject, I sounded out my fellow comic creators on Facebook with this:

Fellow comic creators, I have a proposal, and I’d like your opinion on whether it’s an indecent one or not. I am about to begin work on my 4th graphic novel and I need to produce the art to a tight deadline (so I can get it out in time for Christmas), so I would like to invite other artists to draw parts of it.

However my books, so far, don’t make a profit. Their successful campaigns have covered their print budgets and the postage of books and art to supporters, but no more than that. (That is to say, the 2nd book achieved this, the first book fell slightly short of this, and the 3rd book’s Kickstarter is still running).

So I propose paying my contributing artists in books. My books retail for £5.99 each and I would give each artist a certain number of books per page, which they would then be able to sell on as signed copies and make money that way. If the Kickstarter passed a certain pre-set level (I covering all the costs above, I would then offer a profit share).

Is this ethical? Has it been done before? And, if I did this, how many books would you think acceptable per page*? I look forward to your thoughts (and, if you’re interested in participating, in a link to your portfolios).

Responses were mixed, here is a key few:

Andrew Richmond
Very interesting. I like the idea of getting things done, by all means available. Kickstarter has allowed for all manner of ways of working. Some anthologies make enough money to pay the contributors. But people that contribute to small press titles are happy to receive copies. (I have)

Paul Jason Holden
It’s pretty common in small press circles to just give someone comps for the work they’ve done - it’s less common to claim that as some kind of payment in full or to give them a number of copies based on their contribution, which feels like it’s a good idea but does basically turn them into sales people for your book. (and say it’s 10 copies per page and you do 5 pages, now you’re saying *sell 50 copies* on top of drawing the art). I think it might be counter productive.

Gordon Rennie
As PJ says, I feel this plan is lumbering the artist with the onus of having to try and sell these books, on top of the free labour they’ve already put in. (And where are they going to sell them? At all the cons and comic marts that currently aren’t happening?)
Aren’t you also creating a range of competitors for your own attempts to sell the book?

Darren Stephens
I've done similar deals in the past and, in my case at least, I just get left with multiple copies of the book hanging around, cluttering up the place. ( I'm no salesperson...😉)

Cathi Rae
It's a really common practice in poetry publishing... especially with small presses....the author gets books to sell on, pays the production cost back to the publisher and keeps the remainder xx

Kev Sutherland
So far no one makes me sound like an exploitative monster, which is encouraging.

Gordon Rennie
Are you sure about that?

Paul Jason Holden
i mean i was trying to avoid the suggestion that theres a vague “pyramid” scheme nature to it...

i think send comps (and even offer a large number of comps if theyd like) but many people do small press stuff with no expectation beyond “this will be cool to do”. Saying “and you can sell the comps” feels like adding to their burden. If offer a cut of the kickstarter if it goes beyond the printing figure. Even £30-50 per page is better than nothing. (And infinitly better than comps worth £100 per page... since youd have to sell em all first)

Louise Fairbairn
I think if you're upfront with people about the plan, then that's the main thing. Other artists will surely have a few followers who could be made aware of the kickstarter and might buy a copy too, widening the audience anyway.

Craig Johnson
Perhaps something to throw into the mix is consider whether extra artists will boost KS sales (they bring their fan base) or decrease sales (I want a book by Kev F, not Kev F and friends)...

Kev Sutherland
Thanks everyone for your responses to this question. In conclusion, I think it is felt that it would be exploitative to employ artists on this unsatisfactory compensation basis. So, unless I were able to raise much much more from a Kickstarter than any of my previous books have, and thus pay artists a respectable fee, it's best if I continue writing and drawing the whole book myself. Hopefully I'll be too busy with proper paying work to do this book before the end of the year (even working flat out I don't think I could do it), so you can look forward to a cracker of a Christmas book for the end of 2021! 

Isn't 'Moonshot' an odd choice of metaphor, given that anti-masking covid-deniers don't believe the actual moonshot happened in the first place? Might as well call it the Final Solution.

Quick question: Patreon. Worth it or not?

Over on a comics group I've been hearing about the money some people are making from webcomics. eg one guy, Jeph Jaques, has 11,000 subscribers at a minimum of a dollar a month, but it's taken him 10 years of posting a strip a day to get there. Another, Krazy Krow, charges $7 a time and is pulling in $4000 a month for 'sexy nsfw pin ups'. The example I've linked to, Girl Genius, has only 990 subscribers, but generates £3000 a month from them. These all seem to be US based, doing very different comics from mine.

As someone who was doing a lot of visits to schools, which can't happen right now, but has produced three 120 page graphic novels so far this year, I'm wondering if I serialised my work as webcomics, would that work? Has any UK comic creator (or other creative type) used Patreon, and is it worth it?

Dave Nattriss
Our mate Mitch does and I believe it's his most steady form of income.

Patricia Russell
Amanda Palmer who was/is married to Neil Gamain, makes a living through Patreon and concerts. She puts a lot of time into it though. So does Christine McConnell who used to be on Netflix.

Ger Apeldoorn
As much of a fan as I am of our work, I always hesitate about 'subscribing' to anything. I mostly see this in charity, where I used to give more cash at the door than I do now, siimpley because they all want your name and address and an ongoing small monthly donation. I used to donate via Patreon to Dave Sim, but I stopped when I lost track of what I was paying for. On the other hand, our society seems to be moving in that way anyway. I have been told that in the future we may no longer pay for stuff (refrigerators, washing machines) but for actual use - so the manufacturors will be incentivised to build longer lasting household appliances (since they will be owning it themselves). But in that case, at least you have an influence by the amount of usage. A blind Patreon puts me off... although, if it is the only way to get your work, I may reconsider.

Laura Watton-Davies
...for pre-existing content, no harm in uploading it. Same as for Redbubble. I only have 2 tiers, digital and digital plus posted merch once a year, my comics get uploaded evert 8 pages once a month or two, behind a locked webpage for patrons, months before they go public. It pays for my print runs and merch production. I don't get much traction but it works for me and my few readers

Stephanie Ashford
I know a few bands who use the platform. They use their FB fan page for generic stuff and offer varying subscriptions on Patreon for VIP type things.

Rob Halden
I’ve got a modestly enjoyed podcast with around 400 to 500 subscribers. Not enough to make any advertising money from. We’ve managed to convert a good chunk of that audience into Patreon subscribers by giving them bonus episodes and early access. Very quickly the Patreon covered all the costs of the podcast and now it makes a small profit.

Kev Sutherland
Conclusion seems to be: if you already have an audience, because you were wrongly sacked from a major Radio 4 comedy show (which you were the funniest thing on) or are married to Neil Gaiman, Patreon works for you. If not, you have a big uphill climb ahead of you. Fair?

Daleks spotted on Rugrats! You’re welcome.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth and The Prince Of Denmark Street are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

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