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It’s been a while since anyone last issued an honest-to-goodness comics declaration, something Gladstone’s School For World Conquerors writer Mark Andrew Smith remedied this morning with the delivery of “The A to B Manifesto,” which challenges the current distribution system for (creator-owned) comics, which a characterizes as an upside-down pyramid “with the creators at the very bottom”:
In this upside down pyramid the creators are the last ones allowed to recoup from their work and they get the leftovers or scraps after everyone else is finished. (If there is anything left for them.)
The creators are the people who put in all of the time and energy into the very product that’s being sold. Even if you heavily promote your book, you’re doing it to make other people money.
It’s something Smith touched upon in his interview with Robot 6 about turning to Kickstarter to fund Sullivan’s Sluggers, the baseball-horror graphic novel he created with James Stokoe: “The Kickstarter model has room for publishers and also room for retailers. Comics are small right now and this is growth, and it helps the creators ,who should be at the top of the pyramid but are actually almost under it, to actually benefit and be rewarded for their labors.”
In “The A to B Manifesto” — “A” is the creator, and “B” the reader — however, Smith goes further, addressing the battle for limited space and attention, the need to lower digital pricing as a means of discouraging piracy, and calling on creators “to take the center stage as one of the retailers” and to cultivate “a spirit of entrepreneurship.”
“In order for comics to thrive I believe that the solution is to get comics out of comic shops. Well no, that’s not right,” Smith writes. “The solution is to keep comics in comic shops, AND to get comics out of comic shops and onto new soil. For creators to win they need to break away from the pack of other comics and find their own audience that they can communicate with directly. The success of creators selling direct will not affect shops or take from their audience, in fact I believe that creators selling direct digital comics will help comic shops when readers want to pick up copies of the books in print and that the print run will be healthier because the creator established an audience for the book first.”