It’s a Scandal!

My goodness, SUCH bad behavior going around!

Buying the #1 Slot

Dave Lewis is upset about Platinum buying high sales rankings for Cowboys and Aliens, their first (and to date only) comic publication.

1. Cowboys & Aliens was generally not sold for its $4.99 cover price. In many cases, including Midtown Comics, it was given away for free.
2. Entertainment Weekly chose this week and this location, for whatever reason, by which to gauge industry sales (not Diamond’s list, not Wizard, etc.). They chose to include promotional items in their tally and ignore price-point or sales in total dollar amount.
3. Platinum Studios paid retailers to order and sell the book. The company cut checks back to retailers for more than the cost of their orders as a ridiculous incentive to have it in stores.

[Scott] Rosenberg, credited as the creator of C&A, has pulled a fast one on us. On EW (perhaps), on its readers, on Hollywood, on comic shops, on comic creators, and on the industry. There may be some people who liked the book — that’s fine, there’s no accounting for taste. But to suggest that C&A is the top of the industry in any category other than sleaziness is absurd.

Update: Christopher Butcher has a wonderful suggestion: contact EW and politely express to them how they’ve been snookered or how misleading this coverage might be to their readers. He’s got all the addresses.

ADV’s Anime Awards

David Welsh finds problems with the American Anime Awards, saying that they seem like a bad fit for a show that’s billing itself as the literary alternative to San Diego. He points out links where Ed at MangaCast questions the nomination process and validity of the manga choices (an apparent afterthought to the anime-driven programming), and Anime News Network interviews organizer Milton Griepp, who may have revealed more than he intended about ADV’s backing of the whole thing.

Idiot Publishers Screw You Over

Chris Butcher recounts how Open Book Press screwed over a webcomic creator. The result is a must-read, as Butcher presents things every creator should consider when looking for a publisher.

Always remember that publishing comics is for fools. I know lots of fools who publish comics, and I love them dearly. They believe in the medium and are dedicated to craft and storytelling and Capital ‘A’ Art. They are beautiful, wonderful fools and I love them for publishing. The role of the fool is one that I personally enjoy, and it takes a bit of the crazy to try and force good comics into a marketplace that generally hates quality and likes… well, you’ve seen the top 100 list. However, it is important to know the difference between a fool and an idiot. An idiot uses his time on national television not to promote himself or his company, but to instead lend credibility to his competitors so they might more easily crush him down the road. You do not want an idiot publishing your comics.

Butcher returns to dissect How To Get Published The Open Book Press Way. I was snarky about one of Open Book’s early press releases back in March, when they tried to capitalize on Speakeasy’s demise.

Addendum: What’s a Professional?

The thing that struck me oddest, though, was when Elayne Riggs showed up at Heidi’s post on the story to rail against aspiring creators who want to be professionals:

I wonder how much of this POD rookery (at least for inexperienced writers and artists) is part and parcel of the “entitlement” mentality, where people think just because you believe you have the ability to write and draw you therefore have some inherent Right To Be Published (and to Make Money from it). Back in the days of fanzines, before printing became as accessible and relatively inexpensive as it is now, the line between fanzine-level and professional-level crafting seemed a lot clearer. Most fanzine creators (especially artists) would never begin to presume their stuff was good enough to be sold professionally. (I’ve started to see this happen with blogs as well, where many bloggers are confusing a hobby with a would-be profession. Just because you can type and now self-publish your words using blogging tools, it doesn’t make you a professional-level writer deserving of recompense.)

So wanting to make money or get paid for your work is bad? Or is it only bad if Elayne doesn’t think your work is good enough? Methinks jealousy at those who make a profit with their words or art is rearing its head. “Back in the day, I settled for crappy zine repro, and I never got to be a pro, so it should be good enough for you!” I’m surprised the mimeograph didn’t make an appearance in her recollection of the good old days.

11 Comments

  1. Chad Anderson

    I saw that EW mention, and I’m actually kind of surprised that Midtown Comics submitted the rigged sales chart, given that the EW exposure is a good thing to have (not that Midtown ever seems to be hurting for customers), and I would hope that if enough folks write EW about the manipulation, they’ll not be appearing again.

    Of course it also just points out the inherent silliness of bothering to print a sales chart for an entire industry that draws its info from a single store.

  2. Johanna, I wasn’t following comic in the 80’s, so how does the current spat of failed comic start-ups compare to back then? I’m getting the impression that comics are coming back into popularity and we are seeing a lot of people trying to cash in on the next hot trend. Unfortunately, a lot of up and coming talent is getting burned in all of this. Did you see a lot of these failures during the 80’s boom? (Is it deja vu all over again?)

  3. I’m sure it’s news to those who really do make a living blogging, Kos or Josh Marshall, or blog in a professional capacity, like the authors of Freakonomics or The Long Tail, whose blogs promote their books, that they are, in fact, merely engaging in a hobby. Weird.

  4. Chad: You can get some fun what-ifs out of it, though. What if TV ratings only looked at Atlanta? What if box office charts were based solely on your local multiplex?

    Ed: I don’t know, I wasn’t reading comics back then either. I have read that most of the failures of companies like Innovation and Comico were from overzealous expansion into the newsstand market, sometimes without understanding the potential downside of returnability. Currently, there seems to be more outright theft involved.

  5. The idea that you can only engage in an activity at a high level if you’re turning a profit on it is sad, really. I hate seeing pros so defensive–it really smacks of insecurity, judging work based on the status of the author rather than quality. Obviously there are aspects of the professional creative apparatus that can foster good work (being able to devote more time to your work, taking advantage of professional editing and other advice), but they’re hardly the sine qua non.

  6. What if TV ratings only looked at Atlanta? What if box office charts were based solely on your local multiplex?

    Many book bestseller lists are based on a selection of local shops.

  7. Yes, a selection. Not one single shop.

  8. Thanks for covering this, Johanna, as well as my rant. I have taken Chris B.’s suggestion of writing a (calm, level-headed) letter to Entertainment Weekly, since I doubt they were co-perpetrators in this. I’m not even sure Midtown is to blame, as I confirmed (before writing my screed) that other publishers nationwide were paid for carrying the book.

    This is not an illegitimate business practice, but it does constitute the book being “promotional material” rather than counting towards a sales item — neither Diamond nor Wizard, among others, would count this sort of product in their Top Sellers listings.

    Certainly, my feelings about the book creatively/aesthetically colored the tone of my blog entry: I did not like the book. But, that’s just my judgment, and that’s why that slant was only used on my blog. (I went guns a-blazing!) However, I respect others who disagree (and I even respect the creators, as I have written many things others don’t like). For me, though, it added insult to injury that Platinum was propping up a book that had not met its creative potential. That is solely opinion on my part but also a significant source of my ire in the Loose Pages posting.

    Thanks again!

  9. [...] Let’s check in with the latest on a variety of examples of bad behavior. Open Book Press: Former publisher Mike Gagnon sent an over-long defense to Heidi MacDonald basically saying “it’s not true”. He also shows up to argue his case in Newsarama comments, which makes him look desperate. He would have seemed more compelling if he’d bother to respond to inquiries while the article was being written. [...]

  10. [...] up on the Platinum Cowboys & Aliens brouhaha, Dirk Deppey does real journalism, talking to the principals involved and producing a [...]

  11. [...] years ago, Platinum faked its way to the top of an Entertainment Weekly comic bestseller list by giving away comics and paying retailers to order their book. Here’s more detail on what [...]

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