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Death to floppies?
MasonEasley
post Mar 3 2011, 10:32 AM
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Is there ANY scenario where an indy publisher should be utilizing the 22-page pamphlet format? From a purely economic standpoint it seems to be a huge waste of money and resources, and also not a terrific buy for your consumer. I mean charging someone 3-5 bucks for a floppy when they can buy a TPB with 6 times the content for $10 bucks more seems a little ridiculous.


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ChadStrohl
post Mar 3 2011, 03:22 PM
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If the story is only 22 pages long, it might make sense. Other than that, I don't see any value to it at a small press/indy level. Too many middleman costs devour most of the margins.


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Tyler James
post Mar 3 2011, 06:33 PM
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Depends.

What do you mean by "indy publisher?" Clearly Image is doing just fine with their floppies.

What I suspect you mean though, is does a 22 page floppy make sense for YOU.

And that also depends.

Unless you're printing ~2500 or more, if doesn't make sense to print and distribute in the direct market. You'll lose money. But unless you're printing that many, you're probably not distributing in the direct market anyway, so it's probably not much of an issue.

So you're probably talking POD to sell at cons.

And in this case, there's still plenty of room for it...

The buy decision at cons isn't simply a cost-benefit analysis. If that was the case NO ONE in artists alley would ever make a sale, because the value in the $5 trade bin is clearly superior.

But what you don't get in those $5 trade bins is the chance to connect with the creator, have a chat, get a signature, try something new, and feel like you're supporting the arts. For the people who attend shows, this HAS value. Don't discount it. It's the thing that gives the little guy a shot.

Also, I think the 22 page floppy for #1 issues is usually a good idea. Let's face it, a 6 issue trade takes a long time in the indy world. If you decide to be disciplined and wait for the trade before you go to print, yes you will be able to support a higher price point, but you may go a year or two without having any books to sell.

I firmly believe having a book to sell helps at cons...even if it's just a floppy.

I also like POD for:

- Sketchbooks with a sketch cover, priced at a premium.
- Con exclusives (also priced at a premium.)
- Black and white...you can have a nice margin.

I hate POD for:

- Single issues (non-#1 issues.)



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wwi3313
post Mar 3 2011, 07:29 PM
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Much in the same way Tyler's said, I think a floppy IS still viable, particularly if you approach it from the same stand point that the Mainstream does. As small-press guys, we tend to get so married to our ideas that we can't accept or understand when they're not working -- keeping publication in the floppy stage (along with an open mind), can allow us to guage how well something is moving and if it's not -- DROP IT! Reformat for something else or tuck it away for another day. Either way, there is an inherent benefit just on the buisness side of things.



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Gonzogoose
post Mar 3 2011, 07:33 PM
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Yeah, Tyler summed it up pretty well. If we're talking POD, honestly it's not viable except for small runs to get the book out there and in some hands. To make a profit, no. Larger print runs from traditional printers are far more viable for single issues, if and only if you know you can move the product. If not, then that's not viable either.

Had I more time I'd explain why I do single issues of Wannabez, but I'll come back and do that later.


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wwi3313
post Mar 3 2011, 08:50 PM
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QUOTE (Gonzogoose @ Mar 3 2011, 08:33 PM) *
Yeah, Tyler summed it up pretty well. If we're talking POD, honestly it's not viable except for small runs to get the book out there and in some hands. To make a profit, no. Larger print runs from traditional printers are far more viable for single issues, if and only if you know you can move the product. If not, then that's not viable either.

Had I more time I'd explain why I do single issues of Wannabez, but I'll come back and do that later.


I disagree that POD can't be profitable -- its all in how you go about it. Everything about your formating of the project at hand will determine your specific cost brackets and timeframe for potential/eventual profitability. The ramifications for how the industry CAN work are untapped, and will remain that way, especially if the same old creation model is the one that is followed habitually.

Too many of us are speaking with the mind of how things CAN'T work, which is foolish. That's just a statement that we haven't figured out how to do it AND should no longer try, abandoning it as a lost cause. There's a way to make it work, we just have to find it.


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Tyler James
post Mar 3 2011, 10:07 PM
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I agree with Vic! (Bet you'd never hear me say that.) smile.gif

At least in terms of the how naysaying and can't do attitudes.

I made a nice profit last year on a number of POD books:

- BW Sketchbooks (Cost $2.00) sold for $15-20 a piece. (But includes labor of original sketch.)
- Artist Edition Covers (Cost $1.88 - 3.50), again sold for $10-$20, and again including labor of original sketch.
- Even my standard editions of EPIC #0, where I was only netting $1.50 a piece per issue, when you sell a lot, that can add up alright.

However, I will admit that no one is making big money off POD. And there's no cure for that, the margins just aren't there.

So, treat POD as a stepping stone. There's a big difference between being able to sell 10 books and being able to sell 100. And there's an even bigger difference between being able to sell 100 books and the 2500 or so that will make it worth leaving POD for offset.



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Gonzogoose
post Mar 3 2011, 10:56 PM
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Ok, a substantial profit then. Let's face it, the profit margin on POD vs. large print runs at traditional printers, providing you can move the product, is susbtantially larger. And I'm also talking about your standard 22 pager here, not sketch books, smaller page counts, other methods, etc. And that's what I meant.


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MasonEasley
post Mar 4 2011, 08:31 AM
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I can see Tyler's points, but in my situation, I'm finishing the fourth issue of PSK. I now have to print off issue 4, and I have to make sure that I have enough copies of the first 3 issues as well. Case in point, I'm currently low on issue 2, so now I have to make a judgment call on printing off more issues of 2 is worth it or not.

This actually ends up costing me quite a bit of money, because instead of getting one item printed off, I have to get two or three items printed off. If I have a great show, and sell through the majority of my inventory, I may have to print off issue 1,2, or 3 again, whereas if I just had the trade to worry about, I could look at my stack of 50-100 books and have a better idea of where I'm going to end up.

Another problem that springs up is reduced sales whenever the trade does come out. Now I have to worry about my readers being less likely to purchase the trade because they've already purchased the floppies. The trade is going to have some goodies in it, but I was considering maybe offering it to them for a lower price point. Also let's face it, more people are willing to buy the trade than the floppies, despite the higher price point of the former.

Honestly if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't use floppies at all. I'd do sketchbooks or artbooks with some type of merchandise to tie my product. I'd direct said merchandise to my website, and use that to advertise any shows or whatever else I'm going to attend. Floppies just seem like a dead weight that really serve no purpose other than drag us down. At this point, its almost like an obligation for me to keep using the floppy format because I have readers actively looking forward to the next issues, and I don't want to leave them hanging.

Don't get me wrong, I love having product to sell at shows, and the floppies are a profit maker for me because I went the b/w route, but I'm just not seeing its worth in the long run for us indie/small press folks.


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Tyler James
post Mar 4 2011, 10:04 AM
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QUOTE (MasonEasley @ Mar 4 2011, 09:31 AM) *
I can see Tyler's points, but in my situation, I'm finishing the fourth issue of PSK. I now have to print off issue 4, and I have to make sure that I have enough copies of the first 3 issues as well. Case in point, I'm currently low on issue 2, so now I have to make a judgment call on printing off more issues of 2 is worth it or not.


This is EXACTLY why I said POD printing individual issues #2 and up for floppies is no good. Because you're constantly in this inventory shuffling game, where you're putting all profits back into making sure you have the right stock, with the danger that that stock won't move, and relatively thin margins to book.

Here's a POD strategy for indies I think works well, if you don't have the resources or the confidence to go with a print run of 2500 or more for your books.

- Print the first issue POD, and make 2 versions. (A standard editions, and an artist edition.) Price the standard at about $1 above your costs (~3.99 or so.) And price the Artist's edition, which will include a sketch on the cover or inside cover, ~$10-$20.
- You may also want to create a special edition exclusive cover for a specific convention, and charge $10 or so for it. Print in small quantities...some people hunt these suckers down. (You can always lower the price on these later.)

Now...sell the hell out of this book.

And fight the urge to print ANY MORE ISSUES until the trade comes out. Sure, you could make available and POD with Indyplanet handling all of that, but you don't want inventory of issue 3 of 6. Those are tough to move.

QUOTE (MasonEasley @ Mar 4 2011, 09:31 AM) *
Another problem that springs up is reduced sales whenever the trade does come out.


There will be plenty of people who might buy issue #1, come back and see you have two more issues, and think, yeah, I'll just wait for the trade. Yet another reason not to print non-#1 issue floppies.

However, don't base your decisions over whether or not people who have already bought your book will buy the next one. I'm guessing that's way too small a market to worry about. You want to make decisions based on what has the most appeal to the broadest audience.



QUOTE (MasonEasley @ Mar 4 2011, 09:31 AM) *
Also let's face it, more people are willing to buy the trade than the floppies, despite the higher price point of the former.


This is ONLY true if they're already familiar with you, your work, or the series. If not, people will generally be more willing to plunk down $3-5 on a first issue than $20 on a trade. This is why I still recommend having #1 on hand...so you can still sell to people who maybe only have a fiver on them.

Another strategy that might work well is the "rolling editions" strategy. Here's how I'm using it with my book Tears of the Dragon:

2009: Produced a black and white, stapled TOTD ashcan, containing the first eight pages for the story. Sold for $1. Maybe sold 5 of these.

2010: More of the story is finished, released a TOTD Chapter 1, 16 pages, full color, POD through Ka-Blam. Standard edition sold for $4, cost $3. Sold 25. Artist Edition with a dragon sketch cover sold for $10-$15 dollars, cost $3.50. Sold another 25 of those.

Now, I let the TOTD #1 Artist Editions go out of print. There are no more of these. I have maybe 5 copies of TOTD standard left. I'll probably dollar bin these.

2011: A bigger chunk of the story has been produced, but still not enough to be a trade. But I'm going to release the first two chapters (~56 pages) in a new, Volume I package...somewhere between a GN and a Floppy. TOTD is widescreen/landscape style, so it'll have a unique look to the book size wise. I'll price it at $10 for standard, and $20 for Artist Edition with sketch inside. This will be the only TOTD book on my table at cons. I'll do an initial print run of 100 and see how sales do.

Instead of releasing "DEFINITIVE" issues, I'm releasing new collected products that get bigger (and more profitable for me) as more of the story is completed. When my stock runs out, instead of replenishing it, I create a new, bigger volume that has more of the story, and is even more attractive to the reader.

And in truth, people who love the story are willing to buy it again in the new volume.




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wwi3313
post Mar 4 2011, 10:30 AM
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QUOTE (MasonEasley @ Mar 4 2011, 09:31 AM) *
I can see Tyler's points, but in my situation, I'm finishing the fourth issue of PSK. I now have to print off issue 4, and I have to make sure that I have enough copies of the first 3 issues as well. Case in point, I'm currently low on issue 2, so now I have to make a judgment call on printing off more issues of 2 is worth it or not.

This actually ends up costing me quite a bit of money, because instead of getting one item printed off, I have to get two or three items printed off. If I have a great show, and sell through the majority of my inventory, I may have to print off issue 1,2, or 3 again, whereas if I just had the trade to worry about, I could look at my stack of 50-100 books and have a better idea of where I'm going to end up.

Another problem that springs up is reduced sales whenever the trade does come out. Now I have to worry about my readers being less likely to purchase the trade because they've already purchased the floppies. The trade is going to have some goodies in it, but I was considering maybe offering it to them for a lower price point. Also let's face it, more people are willing to buy the trade than the floppies, despite the higher price point of the former.

Honestly if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't use floppies at all. I'd do sketchbooks or artbooks with some type of merchandise to tie my product. I'd direct said merchandise to my website, and use that to advertise any shows or whatever else I'm going to attend. Floppies just seem like a dead weight that really serve no purpose other than drag us down. At this point, its almost like an obligation for me to keep using the floppy format because I have readers actively looking forward to the next issues, and I don't want to leave them hanging.

Don't get me wrong, I love having product to sell at shows, and the floppies are a profit maker for me because I went the b/w route, but I'm just not seeing its worth in the long run for us indie/small press folks.



You're already showing some great insight on this Mason, and I believe the answer is already apparent: Don't hardline your production practice.

I benchmark at 3 issues -- once I go to produce issue 4 of a series, then I won't showcase individual issues of 1-3 -- they take up too much space and consequently do battle with themselves on the table. I'll collect them into a trade that effectively promotes the whole shebang and use #4 as a "jump on" for individual issues. But don't give up on the floppies as a whole, because thats a way you can get someone to invest into your project, with a controlled amount of time and money. It's got to be all a part of your production plan from the onset, which ISN'T something we, as small-press, tend to think about.



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Carl Shinyama
post Mar 5 2011, 01:08 AM
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This is a great thread. I'm learning more as this thread grows.
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G-Man
post Mar 5 2011, 08:06 AM
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Floppies are a huge seller for us. Of course our print runs are small...the smallest sometimes only being 20 issues...the largest 250 issues and an average print run of about 40 issues but local comic shops support us really well (we do have the advantage of nine comic shops in our immediate area), we have a great fan base and actually have customers at two local comic shops that have all the books we produce on their file pull list which is awesome.

All of this without doing many convention appearances...we only do two a year preferring instead to make local in store appearances to support the shops that do support us and to allow our fan base a chance to interact with our creators without all the hassle and cost that comes with the larger shows and they seem to like that (The largest show we do is Gem City)

As long as we make enough money to produce the next wave of books we're good. We're having fun and enjoying the opportunity to have a creative outlet. And we're actually starting to make a profit (the first year of the studio's existence we were in the hole $185.00 when everything was said and done and counted up)....one fourth of the way through the second year and things look very good (we're ahead of the curve) and the three year plan looks very solid.

Occasionally the reordering of an issue #1 or #2 does pop up and sometimes unexpectedly...but hey that's a good sign....that means the books are selling and we're reaching more readers.

But this is an one sided train of thought for us seeing how we have yet to produce trade paperbacks and graphic novels..the first graphic novel comes out April 3rd at Gem City...can't wait to see how that goes over. Another 64 page original graphic novel is in production and in 2012 we will have at least three trade paperbacks that collect the first six issues of several of our books...can't wait to see how all this plays out.


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G-Man
post Mar 5 2011, 08:08 AM
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Also...shouldn't this thread be titled Death of Floppies?

Death to Floppies makes it sound as if you want them to die........KILL THEM THEY SUCK....that's why I first came in here. I wanted to see why everybody wanted to kill of the poor ol' floppy comic

This post has been edited by G-Man: Mar 5 2011, 08:10 AM


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MasonEasley
post Mar 5 2011, 08:26 AM
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QUOTE (G-Man @ Mar 5 2011, 09:08 AM) *
Also...shouldn't this thread be titled Death of Floppies?

Death to Floppies makes it sound as if you want them to die........KILL THEM THEY SUCK....that's why I first came in here. I wanted to see why everybody wanted to kill of the poor ol' floppy comic


Yes, I do want them to die. Like I said, if I could do it over again, I wouldn't even utilize them. I am happy to hear that you guys are doing well Bill. Look forward to seeing you guys at Gem City smile.gif

I do like the idea of using them for artbooks or specials, but I'll never do issue-based floppies ever again unless they're one-shots.

This post has been edited by MasonEasley: Mar 5 2011, 08:35 AM


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MasonEasley
post Mar 5 2011, 08:30 AM
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QUOTE (wwi3313 @ Mar 4 2011, 11:30 AM) *
You're already showing some great insight on this Mason, and I believe the answer is already apparent: Don't hardline your production practice.

I benchmark at 3 issues -- once I go to produce issue 4 of a series, then I won't showcase individual issues of 1-3 -- they take up too much space and consequently do battle with themselves on the table. I'll collect them into a trade that effectively promotes the whole shebang and use #4 as a "jump on" for individual issues. But don't give up on the floppies as a whole, because thats a way you can get someone to invest into your project, with a controlled amount of time and money. It's got to be all a part of your production plan from the onset, which ISN'T something we, as small-press, tend to think about.


Yeah, that's sort of the direction I'm probably going into Vic. If only because I'm sick of having 3 stacks of comics laying around, and as you've said, on tables it takes up a hellacious amount of space.

In retrospect, I should have pushed my website harder. That would have been a better way to get someone to invest in my project. Afterall, the web is global, and can get to places I can't even dream of getting to.

I learned a lot from my 2 years of self-publishing. Experience truly is the best teacher.

This post has been edited by MasonEasley: Mar 5 2011, 08:34 AM


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Lexia
post Mar 5 2011, 05:55 PM
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Well from what a friend at a comic store I get comics from said, the floppies as you call them are cheaper then the GN or TPB so it is easier to get new people to buy it since it is not as much as an investment then the floppies. Even if a tpb can go for 10$ 4$ sounds a bit better then 10$

That what he said and he kinda owns the store >> but that can just be for this area


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ChadStrohl
post Mar 5 2011, 06:44 PM
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It should be noted that floppies are not always the more expensive option. For example, printing four 24 page full color floppies is (or at least was) cheaper than printing a 96 page trade paperback in full color. Then again, full color books are even more destructive to the bottom line when it costs around $2.50 per unit ($3 per after you take into account shipping).

What I think is missing in the "to floppy" or "not to floppy" discussion is... "what is a floppy"?

Floppies have been and are (probably) expected to be periodicals and not books. They've also been an industry standard since the very beginning, so that's a mindset that's going to take some time to change. Imagine the horror if the big companies started selling a 6 page book that cost $.75 every week. Technically it would be no different other than in the mind of the consumer.

I'm sure even the big companies know that their methods aren't the most cost effective, but it's what the buyers have come to expect because of the periodical nature - every month they get a new book. Any small press that can't deliver consistently is, in effect, cutting across 80 years of grain. As Bill mentioned, Twilight Star is doing what the big guys do, but at a local level.

What's the practical weapon to bring to the fight. Floppies are a machine gun; trades are a cannon. Both can do the job, but each has a different kind of target.


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MasonEasley
post Mar 5 2011, 06:56 PM
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Well the Japanese put out a phone book size anthology every 2 weeks on cheap paper (Shonen Jump). They usually got for about $5 and can run well over 500 pages.

Later, people buy the trades of their favorites from that phone-book sized anthology when they come out.

That's a superior model to the floppies IMO.


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G-Man
post Mar 5 2011, 07:10 PM
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QUOTE
I am happy to hear that you guys are doing well Bill. Look forward to seeing you guys at Gem City smile.gif


Thanks...look forward to seeing you as well. Gem City is always a great show.

And just to add something here....three of the six on going books we have out are anthology books and only one them have a continued storyline in each issue (this may change from time to time). I think a potential customer would be willing to pick up a book like this knowing he never has to worry about a second issue because there's no more of the stories in that book coming...it's done. Complete.

Same holds true if a customer wants an issue #4.....but there's no #3 on hand. Doesn't really matter...he didn't miss any thing.


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