Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Make Mine "GORGON"

"I said GOR-GON--not GOR-HAM!!"
UPDATE: our old friend Uncle Goggle (don't call him "GOOGLE"!).

So what about this "Gorgon Magazine"?  How the heck can we make this happen??

All that follows is my initial attempt to grope our way toward some sort of viable business model given the resources available at this time. Just trying to pull it all into focus. Please post comments/reactions/corrections with the usual sense of TAG decorum....

I'm thinking horror with a humorous bent. It can be ugly, it can be macabre, but it should veer away from the gratuitous and the truly grim. Sort of in the E.C. style, with severed limbs and decapitation, but a sense of levity. I'd like to see some whimsy, like in Rick's great Creeple franchise. I'd like to see some mysticism, like in Tom Moon's Cosmic yarns. I'd like to see some dummies, like in Ellis's stuff.

I'm still trying to formulate the exact plan on this...My first though is 64 pages of high-quality stuff (probably end up fewer). We'll do it in magazine format (which will be a little larger than a comic--probably 8.5" x 11"); saddle-stitch (like most magazines and comics), B&W interior, color cover front/back. Stories of anything from 1 to 20 pages (or more if you got it). We can get a thousand or so copies printed for around $3,000 bucks (on PrintNinja, $2,267.62 to print 'em, $571.13 to ship 'em to us from China for a total of $2,838.75, all approximate numbers).

I will front the money for the printing and shipping costs.

But how will we make money on this?

A couple ways: first, after printing, each artist will get 50 copies of the mag (a random number--I'm open to suggestions, obviously--this is all "spit-ballin'"). You can hawk these at Cons and local fairs, sell 'em via the internets, unload 'em on unsuspecting local comics retailers, and pocket all the money for yourself......50 copies of the mag will cost $140 from the printer ($2.80 a copy if we order 1,000 copies total). These 50 copies should wholesale for something like $5 bucks--that's $5.00 from the retailer to you, (who will then mark up our gorgeous mag to $10--which is a pretty tall price for this kinda merch, but not CRAZY, don't you think? Love it if we could get the retail price down to about $8...just not sure how yet). Although I will bet that in reality, most of us will be selling these in person to friends and Con goers, and charging at least $10 per copy, therefore 50 copies could potentially bring each of us something closer to $500...probably less than that, but somewhere between $250 and $500. (...theoretically some enterprising someone could package their books with free crayon caricatures or such like and sell 'em for $20, $40 or even $100 each--BE THAT SOMEONE!)

But is that enough to make it worth yr while?

In addition to free copies of the mag, I believe everybody who contributes is entitled to SOME kind of page rate...but paying something reasonable quickly moves the cost of the  project way beyond my current capacity. I'm trying to keep the total budget for the project under $4,000, which means after printing/shipping we'd only have a little over $1,000 to split among the pages (I will of course skip any payment for my own stuff). How can we split that?

Here's some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Chime in with thoughts, please.

Page counts I'd love to see from people:
Ellis: 8 pages (of course I'd love more from everybody, but this is meant to be realistic :)
Rick: 8 pages
Tom Moon: 6-8 pages...???
Jim "Gore-Beast" Gorham: 6 pages...???
Jeff "Too Damn Good For The TAG Blog I Started" Ranjo: 6-8 pages???

Best case that's 38 pages (others are welcome to contribute, of course--I'm just going with the people I see posting here the most, and who I've already talked to about this).

Right now let's say we have $1,200 left to pay artists for pages. 38 divided by $1,200 equals $31.57 page rate. Paltry. But it's something...please let me know what you guys think, or suggestions you have. 8 pages at $31.57 a page equals $252.56 ....t'ain't much. But add it to the $140 printing costs for 50 copies of the could be a start?

The third "money-making" channel (and I put that in "air quotes" purposely) should come via actual sales of the book. I have no idea how many of these we can sell. I think we will all do OK selling our own personal allotment of 50--and whether we do or not, whatever money we make selling those copies does not go into the "company" pot--meaning, we don't have to pay out royalties to each other from the sale of our 50--nor does anyone have to pay back against printing/shipping costs.

So, after each artist receives their 50 mags (assuming the 5 of you contribute), and also assuming that I don't take a 50 book pay-out (which I think would just complicate things), there will be 750 books left over...let's call that the "company" inventory.

How do we split royalties on these 750 books...? And then there's the fact that I'd at least like to try and make back my $4,000 investment--at least as much of it as I can. How can we accommodate those two goals?

Looking at the numbers, assuming "the company" (me) is able to sell every single copy of its inventory to wholesalers for the full $5, (and excluding any extra shipping costs--y'know, for fulfilling orders to retailers), that will only bring in $3,750. On an initial investment of $4,000.  

Not exactly a money maker.

But "the company" (me) will be able to sell some of this stock at comic cons for the retail price of $10. Since I'm not taking that 50 copies for myself, I will instead be selling out of the company stock of 750....let's say I manage to sell 200 copies this way (a not impossible task, but that would be double my best annual Con sales record so far). That's $2,000, and I would only need to sell 400 of the remaining 550 to reach that break even point of $4,000, (and no, I'm not even gonna start to figure costs like Con table fees, travel, advertising, etc.--this isn't really about making money--at least, not yet--not on our first issue). 

So how do royalties fit into this picture?

Obviously we all want royalties. My first instinct is to split everything 50/50. The "company" gets half, the other half gets split among the artists. But does that 50/50 come out of the gross sales--or the profits?

Looking at our costs, I don't know that there will ever be much "profit" on this book.

Even if we sold the entire "company" inventory of 750 books at the full $10 retail price, that only brings in $7,500, which split 50/50 brings the company $3,750, still $250 short of breaking even. That's the best case scenario for taking royalties out of gross sales.

That won't work.

If we wait to break even on the printing cost + artist fees before paying royalties, we'll have to sell more than 50 copies at full retail ($10), and sell out whatever remains of the inventory to pass the break even point [50 copies @ $10 = $500 + (700 copies @ $5 = $3,500) = $4,000]. Realistically, I don't know how long that will take (to sell out). I don't know if we'll ever sell out the entire inventory.

But I do know it will be very fun trying!

Maybe there's a way we can do a reduced royalty scheme up to the break even point...only problem is the break even point is a pretty lofty target in itself, and only gets more so the more we split royalties.

You can see how this becomes a numbers game..."economies of scale" really come into play (we print twice as many books, our per unit cost drops by half, we can make more profit from each unit (still selling to retailers at $5, but with a cost of $1.25 or so....etc., etc.).).

It's enough to make you think maybe this is a bad idea.

BUT--this could be the project we need to get our own publishing imprint going. I know that everyone would like to be working for Marvel making $200 a page plus royalties....this sure ain't that. HOWEVER, if we put together a quality product (and hopefully keep making new issues--twice a year???),  this might be a big step toward getting us there (or somewhere closer...).

Tell me how this all sounds to you--please!

p.s. of course all copyright, ownership, movie rights, etc. will remain with the artist for his/her individual story/stories.


MrGoodson2 said...

The Bounty of Zone Z cost about 1500 bucks to print. 1000 copies If I remember right. Over half of that number into the dumpster at various times. My biggest sale was the initial solicitation using Diamond's trade mag with all the offerings. Ran an ad as well. I think that was 30 copies shipped out. It seemed like Quebecor actually sent those orders for me because by that time I already had the results of what was being bought by comic dealers. Something Quebecor typically did as a service for the publishers using their printers. So that was a positive experience.

That would be my big notion as to how to make money. Spend more money. Have some advertising. A Flash banner ad on CBR that runs intermittent for about a month. Link to a preview page that you construct. Have the fanfare of a roll out at some Con. If Jim Warren is still alive have a phone interview with him about your aspirations for a new horror / EC like comic. Print his advice it in the first issue. Use that as part of the pomp of the preview. Do a free book trailer on youtube as advertising. Stress that I'm in it.

And have a sketchbook section for Gorgon. Maybe that's all you can get out of J Ranjo. But Ranjo's recent dead astronaut series would be great "filler." I can always do extra sketches. Get Gorham to do a lot of Cult of the Crimson Altar head shots for the sketch section so he doesn't have to get outside his comfort zone either. Fans love the sketches.

I'll go $10 a page for 11 pages. Round it off to a c note. The dummy script is 95 panels. The art will be small but that will be a good style direction to make it very graphic, very readable for 9 panel layouts. If I really let the art breath it would take up 3/4s of the book. But I'll have the web comic version for that. I'll do it on Blogspot using the lightbox, feature to read it as a frame advance experience. Should in no way encroach on the sales of Gorgon.

Final idea. It's an obvious Kickstarter type of idea. Pay the backers with a comic. Big backers with garage kit versions of the Gorgon. (too complicated) Keep it simple. Make all the rewards just a step up from the comic. Send two issues with variant covers. Have a page for kickstarter backers. Don't offer a bunch of original art for anything but BIG donors. 100 bucks or more. Pay for the printing, make your profit, all in one fell swoop. Stress that I'm in it.

My notions. Let's do it!

MrGoodson2 said...

Marty, on the up side. There is nothing like a ton of copies of some pub that is all you. I love all my lulu pubs. Getting your work out and making any kind of splash is the kind of ego stroke that can't be beat. Makes you glad to be alive. That's what the web is to me. A place for painless publishing. Speaking of, web comics. Do something that has design overlap with a pub but make it a web comic. Do it like comixology. Tease it and then use comixology as the paywall for the rest. It would probably be the best how-to knowledge to explore.

Tom Moon said...

Marty! Great post, great subject to talk about on this forum. You have obviously put a lot of thought into this. Here are my thoughts in response:

1) I am continually touched by the fact that you want to see my stuff in print so badly that you would be willing to put up thousands of dollars of your own money to see it happen, with no guarantee of recouping your investment.

2) Sorry, but as your friend, there is no way that I am going to let that happen. If I don't believe in the enterprise enough to put up my own money, then I have no business letting you do it for me. That kind of thing sounds good, but in the end it can come back to bite us in a thousand unforeseen ways. It's the type of thing that can affect a friendship in the long run, and there's no way I'm risking that.

3) Starting a publishing company of your own is a GREAT idea. So is putting together a magazine like "The Gorgon". You can do it, and I WANT you to do it. If you do this, it will help me and inspire me more than you could know. But I think you are being too ambitious trying to get us all involved from the start. That's step 10 or 20. Step 1 is to simply publish your OWN work and build a really workable business model around that. Step 2 is to expand your business to include other people. And those other people should be seasoned, reliable, comic-book-producing professionals, not your friends, (unless by that time we have become comic professionals.) It sounds like a hard-headed-business attitude I know, but I don't think it will work any other way.

4) The most helpful thing you can do for me is to share those business experiences and... (here's the awkward part)... tell me EXACTLY how much money you made, or didn't make. Once I see that you can make money doing certain things, at some point I will say, "Hey, I want a piece of that. Show me how it's done." Then you will have brought me in line to follow your lead in all things comic book.

5) After reading those articles Ellis posted on how little money is to be had making comics (those articles were REALLY informative and helpful Ellis, thank you) it's clear that for now I have to run off of the SHEER LOVE of producing comics. Producing from sheer love sounds easy, but it's really not, which I think all of us know at this point. My feelings are fickle, but I have to follow their lead 'cause I've got nothing else to fuel me. So whether or not I'm able to produce a story for "Gorgon" is not up to "me", (my conscious will I mean.) I feel bad that I can't promise you an 8 or 10 page story of a certain quality on a certain date at this point, but I'm just not there yet.

6) You have already begun the process of making "The Gorgon" a reality by printing up your own work, going to conventions, sharing a table with Rick, and persuading Stuart Ng to carry your books. Keep it up and take your own work to the next level! Publish the All-Marty-Davis issue of Gorgon #1 and prove your business model.

Well, that's all I got, so let's hear what everyone else thinks now.

MrGoodson2 said...

Knowledge like formatting for the different apps. My thinking has been that my format would be landscape proportion panel- widescreen film ratio- turn the i phone / smart phone sideways all get a screen filler and have it be panel to panel story telling. That becomes something you can sell lots of places. iTunes mainly. You should dabble first. Just like you iterated your web page. Do a teen ellis app. I mean a fume app. Stress that I'm in it. Then you would have the solid gold knowledge. I'm going to do it by golly. Talking it up to you has given me a new goal.

MrGoodson2 said...

One tutorial. I bet youtube is a treasure trove of this kind of info
Sorry. You knew I was going to have multiple entries on the thread.

weezie said...

I would love to contribute to this in some way! Please keep me in the loop. I think it's a wonderful idea since I'm such a fan of everybody's work!

Davis Chino said...


Glad you found the post comment-worthy. I am up in the hills of Idaho for the week, so not able to check internet very often--therefore don't misinterpret any prolonged absence from the discussion as me silently "fuming." (tee hee)

All the posts present good thoughtful points. Let me address a couple:

Weezie, it would be great to have you involved!

Ellis, I appreciate what you're saying about a reduced page rate--beyond the dollar amount, good to know you are open to the idea that some kind of up-front pay is acceptable, but it needn't be big.

And yes, we will stress that you're in it!

Tom: I love yr thoughtful response to this. Let me address points 3, 2, and 1 in that order: it is by getting a few trustworthy friends to join me in this endeavor that I think I can get said publishing company off the ground. But what do I mean by "publishing company"? It sounds like I'm expecting you guys to pitch in your hard work and cool ideas to make me money--and that's now how I see it (surprise!). I don't see much (if any) profit in it at the level we'll be operating at...I'm looking at this as more of a "publishing collective" than a traditional publishing company. We would be a collective group, publishing both individual and group titles, but all released under the same banner, and therefore improving our ability to market and distribute our gear. We'd set up a website (I'm partial to the name "Digital Termite" for the imprint) where we'd offer our books for sale. And this goes for connecting with Comixology, too. We'd promote the catalog under one banner--but everyone could do their own thing within that. Maybe Ellis finishes his werelion story and gets the cash together to print a run--he could opt to put it out under the Digital Termite imprint. What advantage would that give him?? To me this is all about getting a page in the Diamond Catalog. That would mean Ellis's book, my FUME, our Gorgon, possibly a sketchbook by Jeff Ranjo, etc., etc. would be listed as an available title from Diamond. I do not have firm answers yet on exactly how much a group imprint will benefit us in the Diamond distribution ecosystem, but my understanding is any company with 6 titles or more enjoys warehousing and shipping with Diamond...that would be a big benefit, and to me is really 90% of the reason to try to make this work together as opposed to individually. If we can do that it will make all the rest worthwhile (including if I lose a few bucks creating something I am really proud of).

(to be continued)

Davis Chino said...


On this project (The Gorgon Magazine), I can provide the seed money. Going forward, funding issues can be sorted project by project.... This wouldn't be about building a company with a catalog that represents some kind of tangible asset that could then be flogged on (you know, sell our publishing company to a bigger publisher)--I think in this new digital world all I'm looking for is some kind of banner under which we can all market (and distribute!) our work to the public. Everybody owns their own stuff.

Yes, the sticky part will come with expenses for website, shipping, promotion, secretaries, etc. But we're a long way from that, and in the meantime I'm doing this for myself already, it can only amplify my efforts to add more.

But you're right to point out the major gap between my altruistic hope for some kind of group success, and the cold hard business reality...not to mention the difficulties (possibly painful, even devastating) that can result when attempting to mix all this up with friendship!!

However, I want to invert your argument in point 3--I truly believe a group book is a great place to start publishing. We can really get the ball rolling--look at the success of "The T.A.G. Annual Sampler"....OK, least we got the book out--and managed to find Ron Thompson. That counts as a sort of success, right?

But seriously, a group book would be a boon, and I mean that on a personal level--I find it a lot easier to get work done when I know a group of friends are counting on me. Plus it's a lot easier for me to do the sales pitch for a group book than for my own stuff.

I see "The Gorgon" as a sort of work for hire project--one with an extremely low budget, and semi-generous back-end possibilities (vis-a-vis industry standards). If I, as the publisher, make any money, you as the artist will make money--and even if I, as publisher, lose money, you as an artist will have made some money, even if it's just a few hundred bucks. The only thing I cannot guarantee is that your payment(s) for contributing to the project will be proper compensation for the work you contribute...but then, that's the case with most full-time comic book artists already. However, I can say with certainty you will at least be paid something for your work--and you'll retain all the rights, 'natch.

Tom Moon, now tell me, what could possibly go wrong?? (I know! I know!--lots!)

But wouldn't you be up for a few bucks to contribute a story to a fun group mag??

Maybe I am seeing this all wrong....?

Davis Chino said...

ELZ--maybe Kickstarter (or something similar) would be a good route--but I still feel like we need something tangible out there first....this could be a calling card for those involved? Raise your profile to entice even more backers on your own project??

On the negative side, anthologies are typically beloved by publishers and artists (for the bite-sized assignment they represent), but poor marketplace performers....

One last thought: if we really are devolving toward a world of Kickstarter for everything/everyone (and I would certainly be first in line to pony up "donations" for any project by anyone who posts here regularly....leaves Benefiel out. I guess), then maybe one way to look at this Gorgon book is as a big donation from me to the group--IN RETURN FOR SOMETHING TANGIBLE AND FABULOUS.

Another last thought: don't discount the fact that I'm looking to piggy-back my half-baked comic stories on top of your good names and work...and, should our Gorgon anthology ever become a reality and see the light of day, such a phenomenal occurrence would be (to borrow a phrase from the credit card business) priceless.

Rickart said...

Well, you can count me in as a contributor to the book. I think Kickstarter is an interesting avenue, if only that it addresses some of Tom's concerns around possible resentments over money... if the costs are all build into the Kickstarter and we reach the goal we need to move forward, then it's not money out of Marty's pocket to get the ball rolling.
For this first venture I'm perfectly happy to forgo any page rate and such. I'm happy to contribute to getting the publishing imprint off the ground and have a potential platform from which to publish in the future.
I think any comic business at this point, particularly a small press venture, needs to have a digital strategy. The book needs to be available online, perhaps a page update once or twice a week to keep people coming back. There would be a store there with merch to sell and a calendar of dates and locations of con appearances. And a forum for talking to the fans.
One way to get some notice and boost sales is if we can somehow tie into a big media event that is going to happen or perhaps a satire of something that I currently popular... think MAD magazine or Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. TMNT was pretty brilliant in that it took all of the current at that time comics and mashed them together into a single parody. MAD has owned this space for a long time... perhaps there's an opportunity to fill that spot with something that's a bit more fresh and new.

Davis Chino said...

CORRECTION: I wrote...But what do I mean by "publishing company"? It sounds like I'm expecting you guys to pitch in your hard work and cool ideas to make me money--and that's now how I see it (surprise!).

I meant "that's NOT how I see it"!!


Rick, so good you are interested and so right that we need a digital strategery. I'll work on that.

Tom Moon said...

Marty, I can understand how you want to have a group of friends all publishing together as it gives you motivation to see it through. I can also see the benefit of the economies of scale when a lot of people participate. Looks like I'm in the minority and everyone else is eager to do it. I'll keep an open mind as you go along. I'll want to hear all about what you learn when it comes to publicizing the book and bargaining with Diamond for distribution.

MrGoodson2 said...

First thing you could do is go to comixology and click the, submit your book, button. Go through those steps and make Fume an offering. Probably would teach you every thing you needed to know about using them as a paywall. I got done formatting a book for Ka-Blam and then then lost interest in the idea and went back to Lulu. I need to format something for comixology and do the steps. Now, they also reject books. They wouldn't reject Fume. They might reject what I come up with if it is too random.

Tom Moon said...

I wonder if Eric Shanower would have any helpful suggestions. He has surely been through a lot of this with his self-publishing Hungry Tiger Press.

Davis Chino said...

Tommy! Ellis! Great ideas!

Re: Comixology: Elz, our old colleague Stephen Townsend (producer at Heavy Iron) just finished a big graphic nove project called "The Hood" that he Kickstarted and has now placed on Comixology. I've emailed him a little bit about it and he said he'll give us whatever advice we need.

Re: Eroc Shannower--super idea, Tom. I'm gonna see him in a few weeks, and I will pick his brain on all of these issues....

Off to go hike in the mountains...I'll give a yodel for T.A.G.!

MrGoodson2 said...

Comixology may be rougher to get into than I thought. I especially reacted to comic sans as a font choice being a deal killer. So what the hip kids have decided they hate comic sans. It’s an overused font. It’s overused for a reason. It’s readable and looks vaguely casual and hand lettered.

Enjoy the bike hike Marty. Cool that Stephen is willing to help out.

MrGoodson2 said...

I understand my knee jerk reaction to the comic sans hatred after reviewing my Retro-Ellis pdf. Every-Single-Page- with any kind of lettering- is comic sans. Wow. Sub consciously I took that diss on comic sans very personally.

Rickart said...

I'm guessing the comic sans thing is an easy way to weed out hobbyists... If you aren't willing to invest in an "industry standard" font, or don't know how to get your hands on an industry font, then they don't need to bother looking any further at your submission. It probably saves them a ton of time and they don't really care if there might be a super-awesome comic somewhere in that pile of stuff that they miss because the creator isn't font-savvy.

Tom Moon said...

I sympathize with your reaction Ellis. I use comic sans throughout. Guess I'll have to go back and swap that out someday. But in the meantime there's so much more important stuff to learn, isn't there? How to write a really good story with at least some hint of sincerity and originality maybe?

I'd much rather read the good stuff that's rough around the edges, Fletcher Hanks for one, than so much of the slick, "professional" dreck that's churned out.

Rickart said...

Oh yeah, I'm not agreeing that it's this is a good practice, I just understand their reasons for doing it.
So what's the next step, Marty?

MrGoodson2 said...

Tom. There's no swap out without a lot of trouble for me. My early, early use of comic sans was printing it out and pasting it onto the art. My program at the time was deluxe animator. Photoshop was making baby steps back then.

I've just made comic sans my browser's default font. The blog now reads in comic sans. It's not often that the choice shows up. Only text that has interaction I guess. Other text choices have tags.

Tom Moon said...

I could tell by the wording of your comment that you were not agreeing with the practice Rick, rather you were just making an observation.

MrGoodson2 said...

Starting Tuesday I'll be working on the thumbnails for the Joined Together story.. I'd like to finish those by Sunday.

Tom Moon said...

Speaking of the TAG Sampler, what was the final upshot of the whole enterprise? How many copies were printed? How many were sold? How much money was lost or gained? Is someone warehousing all the unsold copies?

Rickart said...

I have a few copies left. I manage to sell a few copies at each con I go to, but I wouldn't call it a hot seller.

Davis Chino said...

"...I wouldn't call it a hot seller."


What did we sell, forty or fifty copies maybe? Of the T.A.G. Annual Sampler, I mean. I think I ordered twenty copies...all gone except my personal copy. So that's 100% sell-thru--awesome!

Sorry dudes, I've been traveling and now hosting family...Rick, as far as the next step, I think we can just start posting our work here as we develop it? That way we can all offer up comments/critiques and make the work as strong as possible before foisting it on the public. What do you dudes think? I am hoping to function more as an editor on this project--I'd like to bring all the disparate stories into a kind of harmony, if not in subject or style, at least in tone...?

I'll try to get some up in the next couple days--difficult as I've got my grandmother with us!

Rickart said...

Wow! I didn't realize you had so many copies of the TAG sampler. I take back what i said!
Random thought: Do any of you remember the horror comic of the 70s called PLOP? It had all of the DC horror comic host characters in it (Cain and Abel and the 3 Witching Hour witches). They had 3 humorous horror stories with the sound FX "PLOP" somehow incorporated into the story. The framing pages were all drawn by Sergio Aragones. Perhaps a model for us to work from?

Rickart said...

Color or B & W?

BDMontag said...

So-- much -- to -- read...

If anybody is still checking this thread--
This came across my Facebook thingy: Somebody else's company, so maybe not relevant.
Covers submission and prices. It works out that the 1/8 book a creator can buy, when multiplied out, is about the same money Marty is willing to put out.

MrGoodson2 said...

Put this back at the top for easy access. Interesting business model Ben. Anyone with an awesome promotional idea for Gorgon could make a lot of money for contributors if Diamond orders went through the roof. 30 thousand orders would be nice.

MrGoodson2 said...

Great new Uncle Goggle Marty. A dee-light! Saw you mention checking on reviews of the pub I suppose contained your Black Flag strip. Any luck on getting some reviews?

BDMontag said...

At the con, I was given a free giant size comic book by Red Giant Entertainment, Similar but already established business model. Claims to already have in-store dustribution. Instead of 8 pages per author, 5 pages of story, continued, 1 page intro by the host character (one picture and a page of lettered text), and 2 pages of ads. This is repeated 8 times, cover is 4 pages and 4 more of ads and editorial to make 72 pages,