Digital comics | Vertical Inc. becomes the latest manga publisher to take the plunge into digital, beginning with the release of three series: Twin Spica, Drops of God and 7 Billion Needles for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Fables creator Bill Willingham is the host of this weekend’s Fabletown and Beyond convention in Rochester, Minnesota, focusing on “mythic fiction.” He and organizer Stacy Sinner give a preview of what is to come. “I’m the host of the event, which means I get a lot of people to do the actual hard work, while I sit back imperiously on my throne and say ‘Yes,’ to this, and, ‘No,’ to that,” Willingham said. “The downside is, of course, I also have to write the checks.” [Rochester Post-Bulletin]
I touched base with Chuck Austen a few weeks ago, when Tokyopop put a selection of its original English language (OEL) manga up for sale on its revamped website. At that point I checked in with a couple of former Tokyopop creators, and I ended up having a fascinating e-mail exchange with Austen in which he said he made more money on one of his prose novels simply by selling it on Kindle than he would have made from a movie option. That caught my attention, and I asked him if he would write a guest post for Robot 6. Here’s what he had to say, and while all opinions are Chuck’s own, I think at the heart of it is some good advice for everyone who has ever done something they regretted later.
My name is Chuck Austen. Many of you have probably heard of me, and very rarely in a good way. But that’s one of the reasons I’m here.
Brigid asked me to address my fellow Tokyopop alums — people who created OEMs for that ill-fated company and, like me, watched their properties mistreated, ignored and ultimately thrown into ownership limbo, properties for which we will never retrieve our rights, worlds we imagined into being that we’ll never be able to create additional stories for.
The reason my past history is important is because I am probably the most extreme example of someone who “lost everything” and so am uniquely qualified to tell you this:
Once criticized for its role in the decline of local booksellers, retail giant Barnes & Noble is struggling in a shrinking print market that claimed longtime rival Borders less than two years ago.
The chain, which boasts 689 retail stores (along with 674 college stores), plans to cut that number by one-third over the next decade at a rate of about 20 locations year. That will leave Barnes & Noble with about 450 to 500 stores, down from a peak of 726 in 2008. In the past month or so, the company has shuttered locations in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
People will pay for content — but if they can’t get it legally, they will get it illegally. Holding content back ultimately hurts sales.
That’s the takeaway from Michael D. Smith’s presentation on piracy this week at the Digital Book World conference in New York. While he was talking mostly about e-book piracy, his insights should certainly transfer to the comics industry.
Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, launched his talk with some “myths,” including the notion that publishers “can’t compete with free.” In fact, they can; it’s just a matter of marketing. But they have to be willing to sell the book to begin with. This article by Jeremy Greenfield on the Digital Book World site summarizes one publisher’s experience that mirrors what is going on in comics:
Bob Kohn, the founder of RoyaltyShare, wanted to file an amicus brief in the Department of Justice’s e-book price-fixing case, but Judge Denise L. Cote told him his 25-page argument was too long and that he had to keep it to five pages. So he made his brief into a comic.
“I thought of the idea of using pictures which, as we know, paint a thousand words,” Kohn told The New York Times, but it’s a little hard to see how that made his argument more efficient. Drawn by Julia Alekseyeva, the comic consists mostly of Kohn discussing his take on the case with a female friend — a pretty common format for non-fiction comics. Perhaps breaking his thoughts down into single panels made it easier for Kohn to be concise. If you are fascinated by this case, or by narrative non-fiction, check out the whole comic here. Thanks to Judge Cote’s five-page limit, it’s a quick read.
Publishing | As the fallout mounts from the revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child more than a decade ago with a member of his household staff, plans to revive the Terminator star’s acting career have been put on hold — a move that now extends to The Governator, the comics and animation project co-developed by Stan Lee. “In light of recent events,” representatives announced last night, “A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have chosen to not go forward with The Governator project.” However, Entertainment Weekly notes the statement was revised two hours later, putting the project “on hold.”
Unveiled in late March, on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, no less, The Governator features a semi-fictional Schwarzenegger who, after leaving the governor’s office, decides to become a superhero — complete with a secret Arnold Cave under his Brentwood home that not even his family knows about. “We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life,” Lee said at the time of the announcement. “We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor.” But even before the couple’s separation became public, producers had backed off depicting Shriver and their children. [TMZ, Entertainment Weekly]
E-books | Amazon announced it will allow Kindle users to read e-books from more than 11,000 libraries, marking a reversal of the company’s policy. Previously library users who borrowed e-books could read them on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and other devices, but not the Kindle. “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” Jay Marine, Amazon’s director of Kindle, said in a statement. The Kindle Library Lending will debut later this year. [The New York Times, press release]
Publishing | Several DC Comics staff members laid off as part of the sweeping corporate restructuring — among them, editors Mike Carlin and Pornsak Pichetshote — have been hired by DC Entertainment’s newly formed Burbank-based Creative Affairs division, which operates alongside Creative Services. [Bleeding Cool]
Legal | Japanese police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of using Share file-sharing software to upload about 28,000 manga and anime files without the copyright holders’ permission. [Anime News Network]
Add a new holiday to your calendar: Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the long-running webcomic Girl Genius, have dubbed Jan. 12 Girl Genius Day. “We’re hoping you’ll do something suitably mad and/or steampunkalicious for the occasion,” they write at their site. In particular, they are hoping you will buy a copy of Agatha H and the Airship City: A Girl Genius Novel, which is based on the comic and officially went on sale yesterday. The idea is to give the book a boost in the Amazon ranking, a la Machine of Death, and hopefully bring it to the attention of booksellers.
In fact, the Night Shade Books site already shows the print version as “sold out,” but that turns out to be a good thing, as Phil found out when he asked:
Everybody thinks this book is going to do well, so everybody “ordered heavy”, so they’ll have a lot of books ready to meet demand. Great. Now there’s performance anxiety. And the publisher is still sold out, but they fully expect that they will have to reprint. The question is when. Thus they are now waiting to see how quickly the shops and wholesalers “sell through’ on the books they have in stock.
There are also two e-book editions, and this is where it gets a bit sticky. The Kindle version is $7.99, but you can also buy a DRM-free e-book edition from Webscription for $6. Obviously these sales won’t count in the Amazon rankings, though, so fans might want to consider whether it’s worth spending an extra two bucks to help give the Foglios that boost. If it helps, today is Kaja’s birthday as well, and if you’re in Seattle, you can wish her well in person, as the Foglios will be doing a book signing at Ravenna Third Place Books.
As we reported last August, Phil and Kaija Foglio have signed multiple contracts to adapt their webcomic Girl Genius into a number of different formats, including novels, audiobooks, and an omnibus edition of the comic. Now we’re seeing the first fruits of this effort, as Teleread reports that Baen Books is offering the novelization of the story, Agatha H and the Airship City, as an e-book for $6. This is $1.99 less than the Kindle version and a considerable savings over the print edition, both of which will be released on January 1, according to Amazon. Unlike Kindle, Baen Books downloads are DRM-free; if you’re a sci-fi fan, you might want to check out their site, because they offer the first volumes of a lot of series for free.
Phil Foglio is also blogging about the process of producing and promoting the book at his LiveJournal, and he is asking readers who are planning to buy the book through Amazon to do so on January 12, Kaija’s birthday, in order to push the book up the best-seller chart (a la Machine of Death)—and also give his wife a nice birthday present.
Publishing | Following its grim snapshot of year-to-date dollar sales in the direct market, ICv2.com has released a dreary analysis of the November charts: For the third time in 2010, the top-selling title failed to crack the 100,000-copy mark. Batman: The Return, priced at $4.99, sold about 99,500 copies, compared to the 144,000 sold by November 2009′s top title, Blackest Night #5. According to the retail news and analysis site, 20 of the Top 25 titles experienced a drop last month. As ICv2 noted last week in its initial report, dollar sales of comics were down 10.2 percent when compared with November 2009, while graphic novels jumped 14.84 percent, tied to the release of the 13th volume of The Walking Dead (it sold more than 19,000 copies). [ICv2.com]
Digital publishing | Google on Monday unveiled Google eBooks, a web-based e-book platform/digital storefront that boasts “the world’s largest selection of ebooks.” Dan Vado offers brief commentary. [TechCrunch]
Digital publishing | As expected, Barnes & Noble on Tuesday unveiled its Nook Color e-book reader, priced at $249. The 7-inch LCD touch tablet runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, and offers web browsing, audio and video playback, and basic games (CNET notes that Barnes & Noble is pushing the device as a “reader’s tablet”). The device ships on Nov. 19. [CNET, Salon, paidContent]
Internet | PayPal has announced its much-anticipated micropayments system, with Facebook and a number of other websites lining up behind it. PayPal describes the new product, available later this year, as an “in-context, frictionless payment solution that lets consumers pay for digital goods and content in as little as two clicks, without ever having to leave a publisher’s game, news, music, video or media site.” Scott McCloud is quick out of the gate with reaction: “This is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.” [TechCrunch]
Awards | The Xeric Foundation has announced its grant recipients for spring 2010: Margaret Ashford-Trotter, Thunder in the Building #2; Jason Brubaker, reMIND; Jonathon Dalton, Lords of Life and Death; Wei Li, Lotus Root Children; Jed McGowan, Lone Pine; Ansis Purins, Zombre #2: The Magic Forest; and Brittney Sabo and Anna Bratton, Francis Sharp in the Grip of the Uncanny! Book 1. A total of $32,761 was awarded for the seven projects. The next deadline for comic-book grants is Sept. 30. [via The Beat]
Creators | The Washington Post has named Olivia Walch, a 21-year-old rising senior at the College of William and Mary, as the winner of the America’s Next Great Cartoonist contest. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Despite indications that Amazon had blinked in its weekend-long standoff with Macmillan over the price of electronic books, by Tuesday afternoon some of the publisher’s major titles had not returned to the retail website.
On Friday, the Internet giant surprised everyone when it removed both electronic and traditional books from Macmillan after the publisher announced plans to raise the price of e-books from $9.99 to $14.99. (The titles were still available on the website from third-party vendors.) Macmillan and other publishers have been engaged in a pricing dispute with Amazon, which insists that all e-books for the Kindle be priced at $9.99. [Bits, Jacket Copy]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid round up publisher reaction to last week’s iPad announcement. [PW Comics Week]
Retailing | Jim Mroczkowski considers the state of the secondary comics market: “In my neck of the woods, unless your grandfather’s estate just found Action Comics #1 in his airlocked vault, the comic shop’s not buying your comic. The comic shop has plenty of comics. That’s why they have that shop.” [iFanboy]
Publishing | Amazon has backed down in its standoff with Macmillan over the price of digital books. On Friday the Internet giant surprised everyone when it removed both electronic and traditional books from Macmillan after the publisher announced plans to raise the price of e-books from $9.99 to $14.99. Macmillan and other publishers have been engaged in a pricing dispute with Amazon, which insists that all e-books for the Kindle be priced at $9.99.
As Johanna Draper-Carlson notes, Amazon’s move on Friday affected Macmillan graphic-novel imprint First Second Books and publishing partners Seven Seas Entertainment and Hill & Wang. [Media Decoder, GalleyCat]
Awards | French cartoonist Baru won the Grand Prix at the 37th annual Angoulême International Comics Festival, held Jan. 28-31. Tom Spurgeon has the complete list of winners, as well as a good round-up of coverage. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Retailer Brian Hibbs asserts that substantial shipping problems created by the move of Diamond’s Memphis, Tennessee, warehouse in February may have contributed to the 2-percent overall decline of comics in 2009: “More or less the entire month of February there weren’t reorders on any product shipping from Diamond. … Even once they ‘fixed’ that issue (which memory tells me stretched into early April on many titles), there were HORRIBLE cockups in fill rates, accuracy, damages, etc all through the summer and fall. It wasn’t really until 4th quarter that things went ANYwhere close back to normal.”
Publishing | Twenty-one major Japanese publishers, including Kodansha, Shinchosha and Shueisha, are forming an electronic-book association in an effort to counter the expected launch of Amazon’s Japanese-language Kindle. The group plans to focus on creating a contract model for writers and e-book stores, contract negotiations and legislation. [The Mainichi Daily News]