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On The Value Of Artificial Scarcity

Leave it to Dave and Brad — sorry, I meant Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett and Brad Guigar¹ — to come up with a great new method to drive interest and support in their work. I don’t want to use the word scheme because it’s full of negative connotations, and this is actually completely above-board. But it’s got a hook, and it’s brilliant, and it’s got a means to extract more than the intended recipient is necessarily aware of, which is why the s-word is so tempting. Nothing else that’s brief and punchy that conveys those concepts, and so we’ll just have to do without.

Here’s the deal: join their Patreon at the US$5 level by [American] Thanksgiving, and get something awesome. In Guigar’s case, the full e-library of Evil Inc, ten volumes worth. It’s a great deal that costs Guigar probably nothing — the books are already produced, the back library probably sells negligibly compared to the latest volume, that’s five bucks he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and with a download code, it’s even on the recipient to provide the bandwidth.

Kellett’s come up with a more intriguing offering — a 55 page compendium of the non-story pages to Drive, all material that you could read for free, but scattered through the nine year archive (which is distressingly linear and offers no ability to find particular strips quickly) (get on that, LArDK). They’ve taken a similar idea, but put two different spins on the execution.

Guigar will give you the chance to pull down the books any time between now and Thanksgiving, then it’s back to purchasing them like a chump. Kellett is offering the material in a form that will be available on the day of only, then it’s taken down; I think this will do a lot to deter the jerks out there that would load a relatively small offering to pirate sites and undercut the people that want it, but are maybe a little cheap.

Consider, too: you have to be signed up in the next eight days. A person that wants the book (and oh my, I want it — but more on that in a moment) but doesn’t want to really lay out that much over time might join Patreon at the US$5 level (or increase their pledge) knowing that they’re going to get charged, but cancel or revert their increase right after they get the goods. But in the meantime, they’re getting all the other stuff one gets at that level of Patreonage and then they even have another week-plus after Thanksgiving before the next end-of-month charge to decide — I like this.

That’s why this is a smarter play than having a one-day sale on the book set or offering the book for one day only; up to two weeks to get somebody used to the idea of being a Patreon, and you don’t have to decide to stop until after you’ve read a goodly chunk of ten books, or read the ultra limited edition bonus material² and then get sucked back into reading the whole damn story again. It’s the sort of thing that makes you really well-disposed to the creator and figure Well, I’ll stay at the five buck level for another month. He deserves it.

Hook. Line. Sinker.

Except it’s entirely benign. The value you get is far more than the fiver you spent, and any continued support past that is voluntary. Once, I was talking with Howard Tayler³ about a particular piece of work that he managed to get paid for three different ways and witnessed the fabled I got paid three-ee-ee ti-imes dance. I think that Guigar and Kellett need to work up their own choreography, because this one is in a league of its own. What they’re doing is getting the less-committed fans the opportunity to try out being more-committed fans, and charging them five bucks for the privilege of doing so.

In fact, I’m ready to get that book from Kellett myself except — I’m not going to.

Understand, I’m a tremendous fan of Drive, and all that he is (and via Tales Of The Drive, his guest contributors are) doing with the story and the universe it occupies. But (and I think I mentioned this once before, but if not, here goes) I have to draw an ethical line.

I buy a lot of comics and graphic novels — including via Kickstarter. I accept review copies when offered the opportunity to request them. My reviews are based solely on my reading of the work, and not on whether or not I paid for whatever I’m reviewing (and I count myself lucky to have mostly reviewed work that I honestly enjoyed from top to bottom, because I really dislike writing negative reviews … whatever Anton Ego may say, I don’t find them fun to write). So I have no problem either giving money to creators4, or accepting something I wouldn’t have otherwise bought.

But I draw the line at Patreon, because that’s where you start getting into the territory that I get access to material that not everybody gets access to. I think it’s also possible to influence a creator by having a financial stake in the support a career beyond that of purchasing a specific finished thing. It’s possibly a meaningless, pedantic line to draw, but I’ve drawn it. I’m not a Patreon of anybody whose work I may discuss here. So if you do cash in on the 10-volume set, or the Secret Book Of Forbidden La Familia Knowledge, enjoy them for me.

Spam of the day:

Lil Elf Paper Cutter

I read that subject line and all I can think of is David Sedaris describing Santa Santa in his brilliant Santaland Diaries: Oh, little elf, little elf, come sing Away In A Manger for us. He had a name Santa, and it’s Crumpet.

¹ He’s dreamy.

² Never underestimate the nerd’s tendency to go for the exclusive premium packaging.

³ Evil twin, etc. Hi, Howard!

4 Often via the facilitation of the fine folks at TopatoCo, who celebrated an anniversary yesterday. Happy Birthday, you old building and loan marvelous collection of weirdos. ANd congrats on being the one 14 year old that isn’t terminally snotty about everything!

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