PR: What Not to Do: Killing the Dog

Here’s a creative take on the “buy this book or we kill the dog” marketing approach first used by the National Lampoon. Writer Tony Lee set it up to ask for preorders on the upcoming Midnight Kiss collection from Markosia. (Unfortunately, link and content no longer available.)

Midnight Kiss cover
Midnight Kiss
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Imaginative and entertaining as his post is, this gives me a bad feeling. For one, Markosia’s site says the book was due out in August, while Lee says that it’ll only come out if they get enough orders. Ok, company websites are often out of date. But what about that? You’re committing to buy it, but they haven’t decided yet if it will even exist?

Then there’s the collection itself. It holds the five-issue limited series… of which four issues were only ever released. So those who have been following the miniseries are going to be asked to pay another $15-17 dollars to find out what happens. (I list a range because Amazon says $14.95 while Markosia says $16.95, which is another oddity.)

Then there’s the problem of Lee not bothering to say what the book is about or who might like it (beyond fans of Michael Moorcock, who wrote the introduction and allowed the use of his character Jerry Cornelius). He does talk more about it in this interview, though. Unfortunately, that has more bad news: the series was planned to be much longer and was truncated to a mini. Lee says:

Markosia allowed me to wrap the first arc up in book 5, which will then be collected into the trade that comes out in August. Hopefully it’ll be well received, and perhaps down the line I’ll be able to write the rest of the tale.

I do appreciate Lee’s humor in his plea for preorders, but I have to ask: if the miniseries is prematurely ended because it didn’t sell, and the collection isn’t being carried by Diamond and may not be printed due to low interest, at which point do you just cut your losses and move on to the next project?


9 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Killing the Dog”

  1. David Oakes Says:

    Not talking about the content is stupid, regardless. And asking people to front money for a book that may never be printed is also stupid – except that this is the web.

    While McCloud’s “micropayments” are still being worked out, the internet has (re)created new ways of supporting a project. Everything from web comics to role-playing games to even full fledged novels by established authors are being “held hostage” until the fan base ponies up enough money to cover costs, at which point it is “released” to be published.

    I would find the whole thing funny in a “self-depricating humour of fans” sort of way. Except that with mass media embracing viral marketing and iPod webcasts, I soon expect to see “If you want to see the season episode of ‘LOST’, send a blank check to…”

  2. Journalista » Blog Archive » Sept. 26, 2006: The late edition Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson wonders what Midnight Kiss writer Tony Lee’s recent plea for book-collection preorders on The Engine really says about the book’s chance of success in the marketplace. […]

  3. Tony Lee Says:

    Hi Johanna, everyone.

    First off, you’ve indeed hit a nail on the head – I did in fact not tell anyone about what Midnight Kiss was about. This wasn’t deliberate, but actually me for once not really believeing in the power of the internet, and writing a message to go on my LiveJournal, Myspace and a few people on Warren Ellis’s THE ENGINE board, all of which over the last few months have had a lot of information about Midnight Kiss passed to them, and were aimed mainly at people who had been asking me what was going on. I actually forgot to mention what it was about, as it was about 1am in the morning and it ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’.

    I can also see your reservations – yes, issue #5 never did come out and it is asking a lot for people to buy the final issue fot a TPB’s price – but as I’ve stated in several other places, I wouldn’t do that – and I sure as hell wouldn’t let Markosia do that. Owning rights in this, I have a say in what happens, and it’s been announced for a while now that when the final issue #5 is done and dusted, it will be available as a free PDF from both the Markosia site and my own one – http://www.tonylee.co.uk. In fact, the script to #5 has already been up for several months on my site now for people who couldn’t wait to see how it ended – scroll down my news page.

    As for what Midnight Kiss is about – one of the reasons I’ve not explained much is that it’s so sprawling it’s quite difficult.

    One thing I will state however is that although it was indeed originally an ongoing – the first Arc ‘Fallen’ was only expected to be a five or six issue arc – so the only ‘shoehorns’ was a couple of ongoings truncated without major affect to the story.

    If you want to know more, or are curious about it, I’ve got the first three issues online at http://www.tonylee.co.uk/sablebooks . Go have a read and see what you think.

    One final thing – I must address one question you ask –

    “if the miniseries is prematurely ended because it didn’t sell, and the collection isn’t being carried by Diamond and may not be printed due to low interest, at which point do you just cut your losses and move on to the next project?”

    The comic didn’t sell well because of delays with Diamond and with Ryan the artist, to get his best we had to slow the schedule – and because of the schedule it was coming out every two months, and this can often be sales death when not one of the big two publishers. Add DIamond delaying the book for a month here, another there, and we have long delays. It was never due to lack of interest. Every day I get emails asking whats happening with it – and nort just from relatives! people find it by chance in a store and read it and then find it’s almost impossible to get other copies.

    As for Diamond, Markosia would have to explain that one. All I know is I expected it to be published last month, but then Ryan had some delays and Kieran had some delays and then it was next month – Markosia cancelled the TPB with Diamond so that they could re-submit when it was 100%. Therefore, there haven’t been many proactive orders from retailers, which could be for a variety of reasons. So, I’m appealing to the consumer to kick start something, get some interest going for it.

    At the end of the day I’m not the publisher – I’m just a creator who wants his creation finished. I never received a penny for this as the book never made a profit – the art team were paid per page and a trade would be the only way for Markosia and myself to make any money back.

    And of course, I’ve already moved on to other projects – but this story has a soft spot in my heart. :-)

    Thanks for taking the time to read this, Johanna.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thank you for providing so much additional information, Tony. Making the PDF copy available once it’s ready is a terrific idea. I really appreciate you answering my questions, as well. It’s a tough spot you’re in, and you’re right, small press books can’t always withstand publisher and distribution delays.

  5. Harry Markos Says:

    Hi Johanna

    As the publisher I wanted to add and clarify a couple of things in addition to Tony’s comments above.

    We have made it known for many months now that we will be putting a free downloadable PDF on our website so readers of the first four issues wouldn’t have to buy the TPB in order to see the conclusion of the story. That, in our opinion and as you quite rightly pointed out, would not have been fair. We will be doing this as soon as the issue has been finished, which we hope will be within the next month.

    Unfortunately this series has suffered from some bad luck from the outset, but as the publisher we feel responsible for this regardless of who is to blame, and would like to apologise for this.

    The first stroke of bad luck was with the printing of issue 1, which was one of four titles blighted by a printer problem which caused the covers to curl. As a result we reprinted all four titles with another printer, with subsequent costs and delays as a result. Issue 2 went to print on time, and was promptly ‘lost’ by the printer who left the books in a dark corner for two months unaware of the need to deliver to Diamond! They were eventually found and delivered two months late! Issues 3 and 4 were relatively painless in comparison and delivered within a reasonable time without too much controversy.

    We then went through a restructuring phase due to the problems we have as a UK-based publisher in terms of getting the books to the US stores within an acceptable time. We generally print and deliver on time, but the books can take 6 to 8 weeks to get to the US stores, giving the impression that we are always late. We have to live with that, and before anyone says that we should print well in advance it is difficult when you have schedules running. We have also had typical difficulties with art teams occasionally not meeting deadlines or leaving for greener pastures. These things happen and we have to just get on with it.

    Issue 5, as you now know, still hasn’t been finished. We originally solicited the TPB with Diamond many months ago, but had to cancel it about two months ago when it became clear that it wouldn’t be ready on time. We also solicited it with our US book distributor for September, with a view to printing it in August to meet that deadline. Our distributor has it for a September 30 release, which we will not be able to meet.

    Things change quicky in this business and we have to adapt and evolve, it is as simple as that. We have no hidden agenda and simply deal with things as they happen. This leads to many changes in the life of a series, as has happened with Midnight Kiss.
    We will publish this as soon as we possibly can. It stands to reason that it has to be finished first! Then we have to fit it into a print slot conducive with our printer’s schedule. I am hoping that this will happen in November, give or take a month. I will not make any promises unless I am 100% sure something is going to happen. What I will say is that it will go to print.

    The price was changed soon after solicitation through Diamond, and we made public announcements to that effect on Newsarama amongst others. It has been priced at $14.95 through our book distributor and will remain at that.

    I agree that these issues should have been dealt with promptly and maybe more publicly, and I take full responsibility for the lack of information.

    I hope that this helps clear things up, and again apologise for the lack of information regarding what is, in my opinion, one of the finest titles we have published to date. Tony Lee is a great writer and is rightly proud of this woderful creation.

    Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to explain.

    Harry Markos
    Publisher

  6. Tony Lee Says:

    Harry loves Butch as well.

    Butch may get those tasty medicines after all… :-)

  7. Johanna Says:

    Thank you, Harry — I appreciate you responding so fully and in detail.

  8. Comics Worth Reading » Midnight Kiss Finally Ends Says:

    […] Back in September, I wrote about Tony Lee’s attempt to gather preorders for a Midnight Kiss paperback. It appears that the appeal didn’t work, since today Markosia […]

  9. Tony Lee on Hope Falls » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] sales suffer and the book is ultimately cancelled before then. Look what happened with Midnight Kiss — so many people waited for the trade, the book was canned and it took years to convince […]




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