The webcomics blog about webcomics

Intelligent Design Aficionados, Look Away

Those with no problems with evolution but who hold out a cheery view of publishing, you might want to avoid the third bullet.

  • A pair of webcomickers whose work I enjoy, whose drafting skills are exquisite, and who coincidentally happen to be housemates, are about to embark on a project that promises the awesomest creatures this side of old Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strips. Evan Dahm (sample critter: here) and Yuko Ota (sample critter: here) will be … let’s let Dahm explain the ground rules:

    Beginning with this creature drawn by me, we will take turns drawing future creatures, each one representing a visible step in a theoretical evolutionary process. We’ll play with the aesthetic of living things and the process of natural selection, and may or may not end up with a biologically plausible series of beasts.

    Future evolutionary leaps of The Exquisite Beast will take place on Fridays (Ota) and Tuesdays (Dahm), so be sure to check back tomorrow for what ol’ squidface’s genetic descendant looks like — and no cheating by comparing notes around the breakfast nook, Yuko and Evan! I’ve got my eye on you.

  • Just to throw out a number: US$3,512,345. That would be the total monies raised by Child’s Play in 2011, having obliterated what I thought was a stretch of a goal by more than half a million friggin’ dollars. For reference, this kicks the lifetime total for Child’s Play to a (frankly, staggering) US$12,510,909; I’m pretty sure that there are sovereign nations with budgets for child health services that don’t reach that number.
  • Found via the twitterfeed of Dylan Meconis, a link to an interview with Ellen Archer, CEO of Hyperion Books¹, wherein she discusses changes in the publishing world (some coming, some already here). The bit that caught my eye starts about three questions from the end, where Archer (who has already floated the idea of the end of advances as we presently know them) is asked by Jeremy Greenfield for an example of changes to the business side of things:

    EA: I’ve been looking closely at pre-orders and pre-order strategy and how that aligns with authors that we acquire and publish that have active blog sites and followers.

    We’ve got a number of authors who are really good with social media and when we acquire their books, three months ahead of time, they’ll do something really interesting for their audience, like a cover-reveal, and all of the sudden, you’ll see the pre-orders build. Then you take that information to retailers and that can impact their interest in ordering more copies.

    On the publication date, all of those orders release, and then it gets really quiet and euphoria dissipates because you get these mediocre daily sales for three or four weeks.

    Then sales start growing and building. The core fans buy the book, and then they start talking about it and sharing it with all their friends, and then you begin to see the results of it all paying off.[emphasis added]

    From discussions I’ve had with more than one creator who went from self-publishing to working with a traditional publisher, that expectation that The author will help promote the book has pretty much crossed the line into The author will provide a ready-made audience and do all the promotions and we can just cash the checks. Following up on that answer, Greenfield continued:

    JG: That’s interesting, but what if your author isn’t skilled in that approach?

    EA: That’s going to be a problem. That’s always been a problem.

    If they’re not promotable, then it makes selling their book challenging.

    If the work is extraordinary, it will be discovered, but it will be challenging. You have a much more cluttered marketplace than we did beforehand.

    Also, I will look to acquire media-genic authors and properties. [emphasis added]

    Catch that? There’s a couple different ways to interpret that last sentence. The more generous (based on a reading of an earlier part of the interview) interpretation is You have to have a property that will translate to other media and tie into other product types. Think of the book that can be referenced in the TV show (Disney owns networks, after all), which then shows up as a plush (they own retail stores) and decorate a peripherally-related amusement park ride (Disney owns … aw, you know).

    The less generous interpretation of that last sentence (one which a lifetime of observing media companies, along with a low and suspicious nature, tells me that I cannot ignore) is And you, the author, have to be pretty and have a compelling story of your own; survive horrific circumstances or get a disease that doesn’t show in the face and then we can talk Lifetime Original Movie. Think I’m too cynical? Let’s give it a couple of years and see how many more highly-hyped fake memoirs² make it to the shelves.

¹ AKA the publishing arm of The Mouse.

² I once saw David Sedaris read a short piece of mostly fiction that featured his lament that The fucked-up alcoholic whose memoir is keeping me from the shelves turned out to have made up the whole thing. Can you believe it? Goddamn fucked-up alcoholic.

Later that night, I fixed the printer driver on his Macbook and he paid me twenty dollars.

Well, I think that what the Ms Archer is ACTUALLY saying is that they’re looking for good self-promoters. Not that they’re pretty, or have an exploitable personal story, but that they’re good at getting people on the internet to be interested in what they’re doing, all the time, and can get their readers excited and engaged and talking about it, posting about it, etc. There are plenty of people in the webcomic community, for example, that I would not want to see in a thong bikini no matter how airbrushed they were, but damn it all I love to read their posts, twitter feeds, google plus comments, etc. And the publisher is looking for someone like *that*, because that helps sell books.

In other words, it’s a middle ground between the two options. The funny thing is, someone who is really good at all that would probably be just as likely to find success going off and doing it on their own than working through a publisher anyway, because *my* cynical outtake of that statement is “we’re looking for authors who will do all the promotional work for us so we can sit back and rake it in.” If I had those skills I’d probably be wondering what I’d get out of that publisher in return…

Also, I’m a bit amused that a “cover reveal” is considered a good promotional tool. “Here’s what the cover is going to look like!” feels a bit anti-climactic. That said, I’m hardly an expert.

Mr Wright already said it, but my exact thought when reading that was, “So you’re only looking to work with the people who DON’T need your services?”

It’s times like this I’m really glad Topatoco exists. If only we could franchise Khoo.

Re: “Intelligent Design Aficionados, Look Away”.

Wait, what? Dahm and Oto’s process is closer to intelligent design than evolution, whatever they might say in their artist’s statement (even if it is intelligent design with no purpose—except maybe aesthetic).

Weird how the meaning of the word “evolution” has been co-opted by religious and non-religious alike, to the point where now it often only stands to mark a divide.

Cool project, though.

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