As a second Kickstarter campaign winds down for Sullivan’s Sluggers, this time to help cover international shipping costs for the oversized hardcover, artist James Stokoe has spoken out against the effort and requested that his name be removed from the graphic novel. Writer Mark Andrew Smith quickly responded with a statement to ROBOT 6.
Although the baseball-horror comic was originally solicited through Image, Smith turned to Kickstarter in May 2012 and surpassed his original $6,000 goal by a staggering $91,626, leading to the book’s metamorphosis into a “200-page Deluxe Omnibus-Sized Hardcover.” That success brought with it a little controversy, however, as Smith drew criticism for his decision to also offer the “Kickstarter-exclusive” Sullivan’s Sluggers through Amazon.com and other outlets. The growth of the graphic novel to 3.5 pounds also led to a miscalculation in shipping rates, sending Smith back to the Kickstarter well last month (that effort has generated $5,265 in pledges to date).
But on Wednesday, Stokoe took to his blog to distance himself from both Kickstarter campaigns, saying, “the writer and myself had briefly talked about working together on the KS, but due to some disagreements, I decided to remove myself from it completely.”
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.”
Mark Andrew Smith certainly isn’t heeding the advice on this sign from Sullivan’s Sluggers, his upcoming baseball-horror graphic novel with James Stokoe. As we noticed last week, the writer is moving forward and scouting out new territory in comics distribution through Kickstarter.
After that post appeared, I was reminded that Sullivan’s Sluggers was originally solicited a couple of years ago by Image Comics, so I asked Smith about that as well as his extremely successful use of Kickstarter. As I’m writing this, Smith and Stokoe’s book has raised more than $40,000 in pledges. Their original goal was $6,000, and there are still 24 days to go.
Michael May: Sullivan’s Sluggers was originally solicited through Image. What can you say about why it’s not being published there now?
Mark Andrew Smith: We know how many copies of Sullivan’s Sluggers retailers ordered. We were going to end up working for four years to make the book (working for free) and end up losing a lot of money to do it. Sullivan’s Sluggers through Kickstarter made more business sense, and selling direct from the creators to the readers. So it was a matter of stay put and don’t rock the boat or take a risk for once and change everything.
We chose the second option and I wouldn’t go back, not in a million years.
Mark Andrew Smith (Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors) and James Stokoe (Orc Stain) have been working on their baseball-horror graphic novel Sullivan’s Sluggers for a couple of years and it’s finally ready to go into production.
Rather than going through a traditional publisher, however, the creators are taking advantage of Kickstarter to distribute the book directly to readers. That’s different from the trend that Chris Arrant recently pointed out in which Kickstarter campaigns sometimes lead to traditional publishing deals. Instead, Smith and Stokoe are offering Sullivan’s Sluggers exclusively to Kickstarter supporters.
Prices start at $10 for a PDF copy, but a $30 pledge will get you the PDF and a copy of the 200-page, full-color hardcover. Other pledge brackets include T-shirts and multiple copies of the book.
Smith describes the plot this way: