Short form — Cartoonist Studio (for all intents and purposes a syndicated cartoonists collective in the mutual non-aggression pact model¹) has a contest for up-and-comers. The details are thin on the ground at their website, but Alan Gardner filled in some of the gaps. What caught the eye of a lot of people was this bit:
The grand prize this year is being sponsored by Universal Uclick who will run the winner’s work on GoComics.com and the winner will be paid any money advertising money generated on their GoComics.com page. The Cartoonist Studio is also offering an electronic book publishing contract.
Which prompted more than one person to note that nobody needs to win a contest to achieve ad money from a webpage (just run some ads on your own page) or to publish and electronic book (if you need help, David Malki ! practically wrote a how-to on formats and readers via his Machine of Death blogging). All this this left me wondering if the value of disintermediation and individual publishing that we discussed on this page two days ago was really much less universally understood that I had thought.
[W]e are both clearing time in our 2012 schedule to act as paid consultants to the highest bidder. We have over 30 years of combined experience in monetizing comic strips online. But most importantly, we have built a well-deserved trust with not only the audience but also the talent pool you’re targeting.
We have what you want.
Wait, I’m sorry, let me rephrase that.
We have what you NEED. And we are willing to sell it to you, for the right price.
You think I’m joking and you might feel insulted right now. But in about ten minutes you’re going to be reviewing a memo about layoffs or some newspaper circulation chart that’s pointing down (still) and it’s going to sink in. You got nothing to lose and everything to gain. And we are deadly serious about this offer.
Which leaves me wondering if there’s a way that Kurtz & Guigar could have pitched their consulting idea in a way that would have satisfied Gardner; at least part of what’s involved in getting people considering the need for outside consultation is having this discussion put the issue front and center. Once it cools down (in the time it would take to put together a formal proposal, go through the channels to find the right people to pitch to), the momentum and interest are lost. Which only really leaves the legitimate question, Do Guigar³ and Kurtz have the expertise to say anything worthwhile to syndicates or anybody else that might engage them? Ryan Sohmer played devil’s advocate with Guigar on that question, without a specific conclusion.
The thing is, I think they are a legitimate source of consultation. Last I checked, in order to consult you needed to have enough experience in a field that you’d likely accumulated some specific knowledge that others were willing to pay you for. You don’t have to be the biggest, the most successful, or the most famous. You do have to show up every day, do the work consistently, and walk the fine line between serving your client’s interests and giving away all your secrets (add in the fact that Guigar has worked his entire career in the editorial offices of newspapers, giving a unique insight into that side of the business).
I draw this from my own experience in tech consultation, but more directly from the owners of my favorite restaurant & cocktail bar, who spend a lot of time sharing their experience in beverage programs — which when they are successful, makes their own world-class bar less special by comparison (and much like Kurtz, Guigar, et. al., they also drop knowledge for free via podcast).
So the thing to do now is wait, see how the consultations go (presuming that clients bite at the offer), and treat the whole thing as a not-entirely-double-blind experiment. Does a syndicate taking advice from K&G Associates (or possibly Dunning-Kruger Solutions) last longer or succeed more than one that doesn’t? At this point, a day after Gardner ran a report predicting the end of newspapers in five years (i.e.: the major customer of the comics syndicates), Kurtz’s take on the situation:
What do you have to lose? You’re all out of work in five years anyway. Pull the pin and count to three. We can’t put you in a position that’s worse than you’re in now.
… might actually, sadly, be the most true thing in this entire discussion.
¹ Although it’s probably a stretch to describe anybody in a group that includes Jeff Keane as “lowlife”, “emo-candyraver”, or “drug-addled”.
² I wonder if Brad ever gets his feelings hurt that people don’t call him an a-hole.
³ I figured it was time for Brad to get top billing.