PR: What Not to Do: Excessive Pricing

Have you heard about the upcoming anthology volume Kramer’s Ergot 7 from Buenaventura Press?

It’s a deluxe original hardcover — which has been done before, most often with reprint material — but due to publishing it at larger-than-newspaper page size, they’re pricing it at $125. For 96 pages.

Kramers Ergot 7 cover
Kramer’s Ergot 7
Buy this book

That’s quite a chunk of change to lay out for an experimental anthology. Maybe I’m the only one having trouble with that format lately, but I’ve pretty much quit reading multi-creator anthologies because most of them are so uneven. One of the goals of such a format was traditionally to expose the reader to something they may not be familiar with, but at this price, the only people buying it will be those who already are pretty sure they’re going to want this project.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and the goal here is to express art in an unusual, larger format, and there are enough people who enjoy such things to make such a project viable. Judging from the discussion at Alan David Doane’s blog, though, I’m not sure. One retailer says he’s planning to order five copies, which includes two for shelf browsing, but he gets mad and calls names (I think humorously) when his decision is questioned.

This is the kind of project that comic store employees may be the target market for. They see a lot of what’s out there, so they’re often drawn to the different just for being unusual (much like media critics). Plus, they get significant discounts, which makes them less price-sensitive. Speaking of which, right now Amazon has it for over one-third off the list price, which puts it under $80.

Anyway, Alan used to say that the only comic that cost too much was a bad one, but he’s now reconsidering. I understand the sentiment behind that statement, but it’s a little too simplistic for me. Of course I’ll enjoy pulp entertainment more at $2 than $4 a copy. Especially these days, price matters. And as I mentioned above, so many of the tastemakers (whether critics or retailers or publishers) are insulated from price effects, since they get comics free or at a discount or through trade.

I’ve only done a quick overview, so I probably missed it, but I haven’t seen the publisher/editor give any rationale for the price tag. Are they seeing what the market will bear? Or just interested in getting this kind of free press for their project as people talk about the unusual price point?

My prediction: after it comes out, most of the copies will already be spoken for. It’ll quickly disappear from view, with few secondary market sales, except for the dusty shelf copies in out-of-the-way spaces in stores that want to support independent “art comics” but don’t have buyers willing to drop that much on one thin anthology.

Discussions on the matter also took place at Heidi’s blog. Tom Spurgeon appears to be waving the flag for letting creators do what they want and making fun of those who disagree. Some make the case that if you think of it as a limited edition art object (and what will the print run be, anyway?), $125 is entirely reasonable as a price point. Perhaps. If so, I hope they can successfully reach that art-museum-and-gallery audience.


143 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Excessive Pricing”

  1. Alan David Doane Says:

    My best guess through the direct market is orders of maybe 300 copies. Maybe an additional 200 to 300 through Amazon. I hope we get to find out if it’s a monster hit or a huge miscalculation.

  2. Jer Says:

    Tom Spurgeon appears to be waving the flag for letting creators do what they want and making fun of those who disagree.

    Creators should be able to do what they want – it’s their work and their vision. And if you’re putting out a piece of Art (as opposed to entertainment), then market issues are less of a concern (once you’re sure you’re going to at least break even on the costs, I suppose, but that’s their problem not really mine or any other customer’s).

    I think some of that discussion comes from frustration by people who see a $125 price tag and know they’re being shut out. Were I an avid fan of artcomix anthologies I’d probably feel a twinge of resentment as well, since there’s no way in hell I could afford $125 for a single non-textbook book right now, and even if I could my upbringing would cause me to rebel at the very idea of paying more than a week’s worth of groceries for my family for a single book. No matter how awesome that book might be.

    Fortunately for me, I only read comics for pulpy nonsense entertainment and I get my art fix elsewhere (mainly through museums, libraries, our local arthouse theater and music), so it doesn’t impact me much. Even the most artistic artcomix fall kind of flat for me. But I can see how fans of the form might be a wee bit perturbed.

    Alan used to say that the only comic that cost too much was a bad one

    Feh. Since I read comics purely for entertainment this is definitely not true for me. All of my entertainment purchases fall on a curve – there are movies that I enjoy for free from the library that would definitely have cost too much had I paid full price for a theater ticket. There are books that I’ve bought used or checked out of the library that would have definitely cost too much had I paid full price to read them. Same with comics. Since my entertainment dollar is limited, there are a lot of comics that end up falling into the “costs to much” category for me.

  3. Bill D. Says:

    The creators of this have the write to produce and price it however they want, sure, but going about it this way pretty much implies to me that they don’t want many people to buy it in the first place. Cherry picking your audience like that can lead to some pretty negative results, if not this time around, then possibly for future projects. If one thing has been proven time and time again, it’s that comics fans of any stripe can hold a grudge.

  4. Dave Says:

    Some of these publishers are clearly pricing themselves out of the market. I can’t justify $125.00 for 96 pages – even if it was of one of my favorite series. Even if I did have the money burning a hole in my pocket, I wouldn’t spend it on material I’ve never heard of. Books at this price point are begging for extremely low sales.

    Also, books in such a large format are very difficult to store. I even have a hard time with the “Marvel Treasury Edition” size.

  5. BobH Says:

    I don’t see the price as out of line, really. The Ignatz books are 32 pages of similar material, except pages 1/4 the size, two-tone instead of full colour, softcover instead of hardcover, and priced at $8.

    Okay, so multiply by 3 for the page count, 4 for the page size. Hardcovers are generally priced at least 30% more than softcovers (sometimes far more). Say the full colour is worth a 5% premium (would someone complain if the next NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR was full colour for 40 cents extra?). So $131. So the book is of a comparable price to the Ignatz books, slightly lower really, and you’re much more likely to be able to buy it at a deep discount with free shipping.

  6. James Schee Says:

    Good luck to them. I like some of the creators listed, but no way would I pay $125 for 96 pages. (or even $79 like on Amazon)

  7. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    I have to wonder: what’s on the flag that you wave on behalf of making fun of people that disagree with you? I’m thinking it’s a pair of dirty underpants and a tricycle.

    I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again:

    1) You have NO IDEA if this is excessive pricing. You personally have no knowledge of this. You really don’t. It could well be they’re pricing this at cost. If someone wants to show me BP’s balance sheet, and it indeed shows them raking in the cash per unit, I’ll apologize, but until then none of you not named Alvin or Sammy have any idea what you’re talking about and I’ll bet you would never want anyone to speculate in such a nasty way about the way you conduct your business. Johanna, Sammy and Alvin have e-mail — did you even e-mail them before speculating this is a publicity grab? Come on. I mean, you’re working off a gut reaction — there’s no history you’re basing this on, no knowledge of the balance sheet, no complaint by an insider that I know of. It’s not fair.

    2. Artists can price things whatever they want, and so can publishers working on behalf of artists. I think DC offers about 200 books a year that are probably not kick-ass bargains given figures I’ve seen and what I know about their production. You know what? I don’t buy them.

    3. You can second-guess people strategy wise, but all this supposition-making that drips out along the lines of “It used to be that anthologies were there to reach the people” or “I wonder if the artists know the work is going to be priced away from their supporters” that people make and the implication these observations have a moral weight is just arrogance. Flat-out. It’s swapping what you think their goal should be for what they’ve decided their goals should be.

    4. Harkham’s a retailer, which few seem to want to mention. He knows a lot about pricing for the market he’s intending to reach.

    5. I think these arguments are more of a pose after a gut reaction in that I can’t imagine them being extended into other areas where the same logic could be applied. If there’s some kind of imperative that people price things to a certain point for reasons that you find acceptable, I wish you a long and happy career of going after all those artists that won’t sell their original art for $100 a page or won’t sell them at all.

    6. As has been pointed out: Plenty of books cost more than $125. Several comics cost more. Plenty of comics are as expensive as this one using the same logic by which you figure that $125 is too expensive.

    7. You don’t get to answer any of these point until after you deal with #1. Because again, for all any of us know this is a really low price point.

    (There is actually a way to talk about this in a moral fashion that makes sense, and is even potentially critical, but no one’s come within a country mile of doing so.)

    Look, I think their book will do well. Other people don’t. I get it. I think this book will be worth far more to me than 26 issues of Trinity, so I’ve pre-purchased one and I won’t be purchasing Trinity #1-26. I understand if people don’t think it will be worth that much. I guess we’ll see. The end.

    You know, Bob Burden does exactly what you’re implying these folks are doing, and jokes about it, and although I believe even then there’s nothing wrong with it I don’t remember a single person ever getting pissed at Bob.

  8. Kenny Says:

    Tom,

    Your self-righteous tirade against Johanna’s article misses a huge point; yes, a publisher can publish a book for whatever price they want, but the market can hold whatever opinion of that price they want.

    $125, as a price for a single 96 page anthology, *sucks*. Even if it were 96 pages of my favorite indie guy, Kevin Huizenga, I’d still call the pricing stupid, because that’s what it is, stupid. It’s stupid to offer a book of all new material for $125. If that’s the cost Harkin had to go with to make the work profitable, then it was a stupid idea to begin with. I’m part of the art comics crowd that this is targeted towards and I roll with people who would buy this sort of thing and I can’t imagine any of us wasting our money on this.

    This book is going to sell to people who read only Marvel and DC but want to appear to have more depth. They’ll buy it to display on their shelves. You all are welcome to it. Don’t be surprised when we’re all talking Mome instead, though.

  9. Bill Williams Says:

    How much will the torrent cost?

  10. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    It’s really hard for an argument to be characterized as self-righteous when it admits it could be wrong on many of the points of contention. That’s kind of the opposite of self-righteous. And I’m not sure why my arguments have to be characterized before they’re countered, but okay. Whatever.

    Kenny, it’s Harkham, first of all. Are you really part of the art comics crowd? And how on earth do you know that it’s targeted towards you? The balance of evidence suggests to me that the $125 Sammy Harkham edited book is not targeted to the casual art comics buyers that don’t know who Sammy Harkham is. Then again, maybe it is and he was counting on that exact casual buyer. This would make him insane, but I guess it could be true.

    To be less sarcastic about it, people target different kinds of works at different audiences all the time. I’m a casual fan of Star Trek; I’m in no way interested in a deluxe DVD set. But the fact I’m not doesn’t mean it’s doomed to failure or they’re doing something stupid or they’re doing something crass or evil or cynical or greedy. It means that they’ll either have enough buyers or they won’t.

    The gist of my argument is hardly that one person can publish something at whatever price you want and that the other person can’t have any opinion on it. My argument is that people do this all the time, it’s arrogant to suggest your opinion supercedes that of the publisher in terms of how they should be conducting themselves and it’s HUGELY UNFAIR to make multiple insinuations about motive, especially when you don’t have anything to corroborate your conclusion except that gut reaction. “It sucks!”

    I guess we’ll see if it’s stupid or not. I admit it could be. If it is, that’s too bad for Alvin and Sammy and the artists involved! I think it will do well. I could be wrong. I’m wrong more before 9 AM than most people are all day.

    I don’t think many Marvel readers will spend $125 to appear to have more depth, seeing as this has never happened before and is crazy besides, but that would be hilarious. Usually that argument goes that alt-comics fans will spend $125 just to appear hip.

    I don’t think the price of any comic book sucks enough for me to complain about it. It’s just a price on a book.

    I can’t imagine people that don’t want a book will be talking about it when it comes out, but I look forward to this much time being spent discussing MOME.

    (You know, Darwyn Cooke had a limited edition art book out at San Diego that has to be similar to this in price point, if not much more expensive given its size. No one should complain about that, either. I couldn’t afford it on the floor, that’s for sure. But I’m sure it wasn’t a personal attack on me, and I hope he sold a ton.)

  11. Joe Chiappetta Says:

    $125 is about the same price as a giant-sized Star Wars Lego set and they sell like crazy. Three kids… I would know. So if someone wants to put out a giant-sized art comic, go for it. 16″ x 21″ is totally huge — that is bigger than a full page from a daily newspaper. It’s like you are getting a book of art prints… 96 of them. Wait, it is a book of art prints… that happen to be comics.

    I remember as a young cartoonist I would think nothing of plopping down $100 for a book of Japanese art prints (and that was a 1980s price). So this just may find it’s market. In fact the book may find a new market previously dismissive of comics as true art. If that happens, the entire industry might be grateful for the bold moves of an innovative publisher.

    PS. Now I am inspired. The next big Silly Daddy collection will be the size of a diaper changing table and cost $300!

  12. Alan David Doane Says:

    Taking Tom’s points numerically…

    1) You have NO IDEA if this is excessive pricing. You personally have no knowledge of this.

    I sure do. As a consumer, it is excessively priced for my budget, which is all I am concerned about in relation to this release. I don’t care and have not speculated about the publisher or editor’s intentions, bank balance or NetFlix queue. It’s all irrelevant to whether I can afford this particular book.

    2. Artists can price things whatever they want, and so can publishers working on behalf of artists.

    And consumers can buy them at that price, or not. And they can reflect publicly about their ruminations. And do.

    3. You can second-guess people strategy wise, but all this supposition-making that drips out along the lines of “It used to be that anthologies were there to reach the people” or “I wonder if the artists know the work is going to be priced away from their supporters” that people make and the implication these observations have a moral weight is just arrogance.

    I think claiming this book will be a “monster hit” is kind of arrogant, honestly, Tom. You’ve said you base that opinion on nothing more than that you think a lot of people will want to buy it. I see a lot of people saying they can’t afford it, with a handful of (extremely defensive) people claiming it will sell well. On what information do you base that claim? I hope it DOES sell well, because I like most of the creators in it. But I also hope, as someone hinted at above, that a torrent of it is available. Or as a compromise between the two, that the publisher made up to date information about the contents available, preferably with some preview art. I suppose that’s arrogant of me to hope for, though, and besides, you’ll mischaracterize it as a demand, rather than a hope, if your recent history is any indication.

    4. Harkham’s a retailer, which few seem to want to mention. He knows a lot about pricing for the market he’s intending to reach.

    You’d think by now he’d have given potential customers a better idea what will be in the book, then.

    5. I think these arguments are more of a pose after a gut reaction in that I can’t imagine them being extended into other areas where the same logic could be applied.

    I don’t even know what you’re getting at, here, Tom, so I’ll leave this one alone. I, myself, reflected quite a while before deciding to talk about this publicly, and if I’d known how very angry supporters of the book would be that anyone would have the temerity to open a polite discussion of budgeting issues as relating to one’s buying decisions, I might not have said anything at all.

    6. As has been pointed out: Plenty of books cost more than $125.

    Yes, and they usually are by one creator, whose work you can judge to be likely worth the expense or not. KE has along history of presenting valuable work side by side with a lot of baloney, sometimes more baloney than quality work, and so readers with an interest in some of the listed creators would like more information as to what to expect, none of which has been forthcoming.

    7. You don’t get to answer any of these point until after you deal with #1. Because again, for all any of us know this is a really low price point.

    Sez you.

    (There is actually a way to talk about this in a moral fashion that makes sense, and is even potentially critical, but no one’s come within a country mile of doing so.)

    That’s cuz we’re all retards, Tom. Otherwise we’d all already have ordered five copies of KE7 like Dustin Whatshisname.

    Speaking of which, Tom, how many comic book stores do you honestly think will order five copies? Or even one for the shelf beyond any regular customers ordering a copy? I’m guessing 100 stores in all of North America would be willing to risk the chance no one will buy it. Do you have a guess? If so, what is it? If not, why not? You know the comics market pretty well, and I would think that Sammy and Alvin, if no one else, would benefit from your educated guess. Mine, obviously, is a steaming pile of crap, and should be summarily dismissed. (There, saved you the trouble).

    Look, I think their book will do well. Other people don’t. I get it.

    But why does it make you so unhappy that there is a difference of opinion? Or even any discussion of the question at all? Are you afraid that asking if it costs too much will hurt initial orders? Funnily enough, I know people interested int eh book who had no idea it was even coming out until they read about these discussions over whether it’s worth its price.

    I think this book will be worth far more to me than 26 issues of Trinity, so I’ve pre-purchased one and I won’t be purchasing Trinity #1-26.

    Huh. I thought Kurt Busiek always won. I was misinformed, I guess.

  13. T. Hodler Says:

    Sammy Harkham got asked about this at a panel at Heroes Con this year, and discusses a lot of all these issues at length. It’s definitely worth listening to, I think:

    http://www.thedollarbin.net/heroes-con-08-the-new-art-comics/

    The relevant section begins around the 46:46 mark.

    One particular quote from Sammy’s answer seems especially worth nothing: “The only way [the book] can happen is at that price.”

    So if you take him at his word (I do), then the decision on selling it at that price is tied up with the decision on whether or not the book is worth making at all.

    Personally, I’m glad that it’s going to exist, whether or not it’ll be within range of my budget.

  14. Joe Rybandt Says:

    I have no dog in this hunt, but parsing the language here:

    “One particular quote from Sammy’s answer seems especially worth nothing: “The only way [the book] can happen is at that price.””

    That implies that the talent is commanding a page rate that forces the price point up into that range, OR the production of the book will push the price point up into that range, OR expected sales and a combination of production/talent costs push the price point up into the range.

    In any event, it does not answer the question at hand, but instead raises even more questions (to my eye).

    /joe

  15. T. Hodler Says:

    Like I said, Joe, Sammy H. addresses most of the relevant issues under discussion, and if you listen to the panel I linked to, you’ll know what he says about them!

  16. Joe Rybandt Says:

    yeah, well, you pulled the one quote and talked about needing to go 3/4’s of an hour into a recording of a panel and I’d rather do anything but, so I took the easy route and dissected the quote you pulled…

    /joe

  17. T. Hodler Says:

    Understood. There’s a fast-forward function at the link, just so you know.

    And to be fair to your initial comment, he doesn’t go into all the details about why the book needed to be at that price point — but it is made very clear that it’s anything but a get-rich-quick scheme. Like I said, I take him at his word.

    A lot of the speculation over this book has gotten overheated for reasons I don’t really understand very well. But I’m about to go on vacation, so I’m not going to spend any more time discussing it on the internet. I just thought it would be a good idea for some of Harkham’s actual thoughts on the matter to be out there.

  18. Alan Coil Says:

    “So the book is of a comparable price to the Ignatz books…”

    Yes, but we know the Ignatz books are good stories. This is unproven material.

    Spurgeon—lighten up a little. Anger does not lead to discourse, it leads to argument, and argument is a waste of time..

  19. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    ADD:

    “As a consumer, it is excessively priced for my budget, which is all I am concerned about in relation to this release.”

    Alan, that isn’t a counter-argument. I fully grant that anyone can say whatever they want and anyone can second-guess or make a personal decision without being criticized by me — and also that I don’t even get to grant this as permission, because that would be crazy, but merely grant that this is reality.

    My objections are limited to a few things I describe over and over again.

    And, of course, the right to criticize extends to a criticism of the criticism and so forth. Although I think that’s obvious, so I don’t even know why we’re talking about it.

    “I don’t care and have not speculated about the publisher or editor’s intentions, bank balance or NetFlix queue.”

    Nor has anyone said you’ve done this. Other people have speculated, though. In addition, I find excessive backseat driving in and of itself a bit insulting, particularly when done with partial information, and when it assumes a goal for that publishing effort.

    “And consumers can buy them at that price, or not. And they can reflect publicly about their ruminations. And do.”

    Again, not at issue.

    “I think claiming this book will be a ‘monster hit’ is kind of arrogant, honestly, Tom.”

    Okay.

    “You’ve said you base that opinion on nothing more than that you think a lot of people will want to buy it. I see a lot of people saying they can’t afford it, with a handful of (extremely defensive) people claiming it will sell well. On what information do you base that claim? I hope it DOES sell well, because I like most of the creators in it. But I also hope, as someone hinted at above, that a torrent of it is available. Or as a compromise between the two, that the publisher made up to date information about the contents available, preferably with some preview art. I suppose that’s arrogant of me to hope for, though, and besides, you’ll mischaracterize it as a demand, rather than a hope, if your recent history is any indication.”

    I have no idea what that last stuff means, but yes, I based my off-the-cuff remark that it will be a monster hit on my estimation that people will buy it. I think people will buy it because I think it will be awesome. I based my analysis of its awesomeness on the copies of pages I’ve seen and speaking to some of the talent involved and speaking to the editor and speaking to the publisher.

    This does make me potentially the most informed person on the Internet about the book by a wide margin, but I’ve admited over and over that I could be wrong — I guess arrogantly! — and I would question the standard to which you’re holding that kind of rhetoric. I once said a Michael Kupperman book will make you laugh so hard you’ll piss yourself, and I really probably didn’t have much proof there, either. I bet that comic made some people laugh, though. And I think this book will do well. And again, I could be wrong. It could be the bomb of the century!

    “You’d think by now he’d have given potential customers a better idea what will be in the book, then.”

    Where are these potential customers, Alan? The people that have said flat-out they’re not buying it or the people that said they’re flat out not buying it and insinuating some strange motive on Sammy’s part?

    Sarcasm aside, the book doesn’t debut for months, and I’m sure that Sammy and BP will have all sorts of information out there that will give consumers plenty of time to make their decisions.

    God help us all if publishers start scrambling to satisfy our curiosity so that we can argue things on the Internet when we want to.

    Although if that’s going to happen, I’d really like Norton to e-mail me some Crumb Genesis pages RIGHT NOW.

    “I, myself, reflected quite a while before deciding to talk about this publicly, and if I’d known how very angry supporters of the book would be that anyone would have the temerity to open a polite discussion of budgeting issues as relating to one’s buying decisions, I might not have said anything at all.”

    I don’t see anyone that’s angry, Alan. If I come across that it’s because I’m very busy and trying to spend as little time as possible here.

    Honestly, I don’t think a tone where many are ascribing motives, some of which are very unflattering, can be characterized as a polite discussion.

    “Yes, and they usually are by one creator, whose work you can judge to be likely worth the expense or not. KE has along history of presenting valuable work side by side with a lot of baloney, sometimes more baloney than quality work, and so readers with an interest in some of the listed creators would like more information as to what to expect, none of which has been forthcoming.”

    The book doesn’t debut for months yet, and may not be listed for a couple of months after that. I don’t know much about most books that far off. They’ll have plenty of time to give us enough information, or the publisher will fail to do this and I’ll agree with the criticism that you’re in a pickle and don’t have enough information to buy.

    “Sez you.”

    Well, yeah, I do. Because if you’re just making stuff up, why should anyone listen to all the stuff that’s based on your making stuff up?

    “That’s cuz we’re all retards, Tom. Otherwise we’d all already have ordered five copies of KE7 like Dustin Whatshisname.”

    Now there’s what looks like some anger! It’s Dustin Harbin, Alan. He orders for Heroes, a good store in a southern city.

    For the record, I didn’t mean to suggest anyone was mentally retarded, I was underlining how woeful I find this line of second-guessing, backseat driving and ascribing motives based on a hunch.

    “Speaking of which, Tom, how many comic book stores do you honestly think will order five copies? Or even one for the shelf beyond any regular customers ordering a copy? I’m guessing 100 stores in all of North America would be willing to risk the chance no one will buy it. Do you have a guess? If so, what is it? If not, why not? You know the comics market pretty well, and I would think that Sammy and Alvin, if no one else, would benefit from your educated guess. Mine, obviously, is a steaming pile of crap, and should be summarily dismissed. (There, saved you the trouble).”

    Again, you sound angry, Alan.

    I would bet about eight to ten stores order more than five copies. 100 would be astonishing, but I hope you’re right and I’m wrong.

    God help them if Sammy and Alvin need my opinion at this late date.

    “But why does it make you so unhappy that there is a difference of opinion? Or even any discussion of the question at all? Are you afraid that asking if it costs too much will hurt initial orders?”

    First of all, I’m not unhappy. Second, I wouldn’t be unhappy about a difference of opinion. I’m objecting to very specific things which I’ve characterized a number of times now. And I hadn’t really thought about the initial orders thing too deeply, although I guess that would be unfortunate and kind of unfair to the folks involved, so I hope that doesn’t happen.

    “Funnily enough, I know people interested int eh book who had no idea it was even coming out until they read about these discussions over whether it’s worth its price.”

    Hey, that’s nice.

    “Huh. I thought Kurt Busiek always won. I was misinformed.”

    Kurt always wins. He’ll win in two other ways to make up for this one loss.

    Best,

    Tom

  20. Joe Rybandt Says:

    why doesn’t anyone involved juts ask him why he’s retailing for $125 yanqui dollars? there’s people here that have “reporter” in their site name’s and everything…

    (Personal to Tom: Should I use this public forum to ask you about that thing we discussed in New York that I never heard back on since? seems the only way to talk to you aside from actually seeing you once a year.)

  21. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    Joe, give me until Thursday 6 PM and then you can embarrass me all you want if you haven’t heard back from me. I will more than deserve it.

    I’ll stop goofing off on message boards and get my shit together between now and then.

    Tom

  22. Joe Rybandt Says:

    your one exception is to get to the bottom of this $125 comic book price debate/gap! Put Harkham over the goals and let’s get some answers!

    ;) joe

  23. Leigh Walton Says:

    “I’ve pretty much quit reading multi-creator anthologies because most of them are so uneven”

    Have you read any of the other Kramers Ergots? Those would seem like the most relevant points of comparison — perhaps the ONLY relevant points of comparison. Those (such as Alan Coil) who are calling this “unknown” or “unproven material”… I don’t get it. It’s number 7 in a series, and the last two volumes got pretty wide distribution. Sammy Harkham’s given the world plenty of evidence about his tastes.

    #6 is $23 on Amazon right now. If you don’t want to drop that much, that’s cool, and you probably won’t want #7 either. If you read #6 and like it, you have a basis for deciding whether to get #7. If you read #6 and don’t like it, you probably don’t want another volume for quadruple the price. What is the issue?

  24. James Schee Says:

    Well, one positive thing is that I believe I’ve seen one of the earlier volumes of this series at a used bookstore. So next time I go there, I’m going to look for it.

  25. Christopher Allen Says:

    Tom, despite your lengthy protesting, I really have to credit BobH and his comics entertainment equation for convincing me. I will now be ordering 1/8th of KE7, and if I like that, I’ll order more pieces of it later. Seriously, Leigh has something of a better idea in recommending people try a cheaper earlier issue of KE, but it’s not like there’s many creators from those volumes carrying over, is there? Yes, Sammy’s tastes are established, but isn’t the format going to call for new approaches and directions and all that? I thought that was the point, and to that end I’m curious why not just call it something else rather than #7 in a series, but I suppose the branding may help a bit.

    Just my own perspective and not trying to prove any particular point, despite the fair amount of unsatisfying fare I found in those earlier volumes, I liked getting them not just for what I liked but the production values and just the idea and spectacle of them. And they’ve continued to get bigger and more expensive, so it’s not a surprise they’re going really big here, and to a large extent I think a price increase is justified by the addition of higher caliber and higher profile talent. But despite those factors, people like me who should be the target audience are questioning it, if not rebelling. It’s not like this book will kill artcomix or anything silly like that, but it’s becoming an interesting phenomenon. As much as I imagine the scant info released so far was calculated to whet the market’s appetite for the book, it has to be seen as a miscalculation. Given the stakes, I’m wondering how fast Sammy and/or Alvin move to get potential customers back on their side.

  26. ADD Says:

    I just posted some retailer responses to the KE7 price point at my blog, and I invite any other retailers to send me their answers to the questions asked…

  27. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » The Lightning Round Says:

    […] Good lord, people are still griping about that Kramers Ergot volume? Buy it or don’t buy it, just stop complaining about […]

  28. Johanna Says:

    I wish I’d been able to respond to this thread yesterday, because now I have to skim to catch up.

    Someone’s comment made me think that a significant portion of the buyers for this may be institutional (e.g. libraries), where budget is less of a concern where the historical archive is concerned.

    I’m definitely seeing some “shut up already about this” in response to people expressing legitimate concern about pricing — such as the Newsarama link above — which is odd. Why should they care if someone says, “wow, that’s expensive!”? How is this different from people talking about the $1000 iPhone app making the rounds? I think it’s a valuable subject to discuss for comics in part because of precedent. Any new higher price point makes it easier for other companies to raise their prices in the future, which affects everyone.

    I admire BobH’s hypothetical Ignatz math. I haven’t thought about the Ignatz comics since they were announced for a similar reason: cost too much, not enough interest.

    Tom, your venom is surprisingly out of line with your usual balanced reaction. I’m very surprised to see something so out of character from you. No, I didn’t email the creators — I never do for this recurring column, which is me giving my opinion on what I think are bad ideas and decisions comic publishers choose to make and trying to understand (or speculate) why. If you think the pricing is rational or a good idea, I’d love to hear why, instead of you saying “is NOT” loudly and unpleasantly. (And perhaps Harkham being a retailer isn’t mentioned because no one knows that? I didn’t.)

    Most of the similar products (and a fan-favorite TV show DVD set isn’t really similar) I’ve considered buying are known quantities to me. Yes, I own several $100 reprint books with upscale production and extra features. I don’t consider an artcomic anthology very comparable.

    Leigh, good point about previous books in the series. The only one I’ve ever seen in person was V4, I think, the light blue rainbow one, and it wasn’t to my taste after a flip-through. I’m much more polished craft-driven these days than I used to be.

    PS If Joe and Tom are going to do secret business deals here, I want an agency cut!

  29. Wide-Ranging LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] up on yesterday’s debate on Kramer’s Ergot pricing, Alan David Doane asked three retailers about whether they will carry the book or not. Good idea to […]

  30. Alan David Doane Says:

    Interesting to bring up the idea of flipping-through, Johanna; usually expensive comics hardcovers are shrinkwrapped. I’ll be very curious to see if KE7 is, and what effect that has on in-store buying decisions.

  31. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    Thanks, Joe.

    Johanna, please: “venom” is ridiculous. I’m being forthright and very assured in my argumentation. Just because you and Alan and whomever don’t like what is being said doesn’t mean it’s venomous, or it’s not balanced. That’s 1994 Internet argumentation.

    I’ve gone out of my way to say over and over again I could be wrong and to acknowledge/celebrate the legitimacy of other points of view. That seems balanced and non-venomous to me. I’ve said outright that I’m not angry, and that any urgency in my voice is the terseness of the busy rather than the rage of the angered, and I hope that I’ll be taken at my word on that.

    One thing I haven’t done is suggest motives for people — some of which would speak badly to that person’s general professional conduct — on information that’s less than rigorous. Another thing I haven’t done is assume that my goals are the same as someone else’s to the point or that I have all the information where I can assume to make business decisions for them.

    Therefore, I don’t have any opinion at all whether or not this price point is a “good” or “rational” decision. I’m not interested in that conversation, the same way I’m usually not interested in discussions over whether it’s a good idea for Marvel to do a Patsy Walker comic or if it’s a rational decision for DC to provide X amount of resources to the Archived editions and Y amount of resources to the Showcase editions.

    What I do know is that Sammy and Alvin have a fine track record in comics publishing, and that Sammy has other businesses including a bookstore. I also know from the fact there are several similarly-priced books, books in that ballpark, both on an overall basis and a per-page basis that this isn’t an absurd notion. I also know that there are any number of things that aren’t books that are made that cost what seems like an enormous amount of money to some people but are quite okay with others. I’ve also seen some of the pages and talked to the editor and publisher about some of the printing challenges with the book.

    As a result, I don’t see any reason to *doubt* this is a good or rational decision like I might with individuals with poor track records or a reputation for pricing things in an excessive way or were I to possess or have brought to my attention information that suggested some sort of goal other than their best publishing effort. And I certainly don’t see any avenue for not only doubting that decision but suggesting a reason why it was made!

    Again, as I’ve stated about a dozen times now, I could totally be wrong about my assessment of this project’s success, and this could be the bomb of the century, and I appreciate your and Alan’s opinion that this book will not do well and that it doesn’t interest you according to the information available to you. I believe it will do well, and I’ve purchased one, but I’m not invested in this project’s publishing success one way or the other. I merely think it’s unfair to ascribe motives, and that in most cases it’s unfair to backseat drive (especially without due diligence) past assessments to the point of strategy.

    I’m sorry that you didn’t know that Sammy’s a retailer. It’s not hard to learn that fact. You don’t *have* to know this, but if you’re going to make assertions about someone’s possible motivations or second-guess their business decisions, it might be good to do some research about them. You don’t have to do that either, there’s no nerd law or jail for not being fair in your assessment of someone’s publishing acumen, and I’ve certainly made statements about folks that were later shown to me to not include pertinent information, but I believe as I suggested above that you would not like it if someone did this to you and I hope that knowing information you didn’t know before will have an effect on your analysis.

    So that’s my say. I apologize if any of this seemed additionally venomous or arrogant or angry or however I’ve been characterized on this thread. Now I’m off to earn you your cut.

  32. Chris Says:

    Johanna- You and Alan are kind of out to lunch here. Not completely crazy, like several of your commenters here, but I’m kind of surprised that you would characterize a publisher pricing a limited edition book as “stupid” in the first place…

    And as for “venom”, I can’t tell if you just had your feelings hurt because someone called you out for a bad opinion, but Tom’s been pretty civil, particularly as compared to several of the responses I’ve been composing in my head.

    Seriously, this is just short of completely fucking nuts, this whole discussion.

    Buy it or don’t buy it. Realize that if you’re angry that you can’t buy it, that’s more about you than the publisher.

    – Chris

  33. Christopher Allen Says:

    Tom,

    No fair calling 1994 on other arguments and then using the 1995 argument that any perceived anger in the tone of your lengthy post is just because you’re in a hurry. However, if the book was subtitled Kramers Ergot 7: The Terseness of the Busy, I would definitely order it.

    Anyway, I don’t really disagree with your last post at all aside from not seeing much of this motive-ascribing you see above. I don’t think questioning a publishing or marketing decision is unfair based on available evidence, and I don’t see that collections of existing material at the same price point is very relevant. What are we talking about here? Absolute Editions or something? Those are hundreds of pages of material, most of it seen before. Totally different thing. New, limited edition work by one creator? Totally different than an anthology. The bestselling creators in this book like Clowes and Ware have never had to carry a book of this price on their own before, much less an anthology. Look, it’s really a bold move for BP–a really unprecedented project–and on that level I admire them. It’s just frustrating because you clearly have more information on the book than most, and I guess I’m just anxious for more of that to start coming out.

  34. BobH Says:

    “I haven’t thought about the Ignatz comics since they were announced for a similar reason: cost too much, not enough interest.”

    But clearly enough people who like that kind of stuff didn’t find the Igantz books too expensive for what was being offered, since they’ve done quite a few of them. This book is arguably cheaper than many comics that sell just fine.

    And this “only 96 pages” thing is nonsense, they obviously aren’t just blowing up pages drawn for 7×10 format to a bigger size, they pages are being drawn for that bigger size. And even if they were, a printer isn’t going to give them a price per page, regardless of size.

    The only sticking point seems to be that they’re asking you to drop the $80 all at once, instead of in a monthly chunk of $7 over a year, but how else could they do the book they envision? So they’ll find out if enough people are (and clearly there’s an existing market for such high-end books that it’s not an unrealistic hope). So the pricing doesn’t seem stupid, and doesn’t seem excessive.

  35. Christopher Allen Says:

    Chris,

    I think you meant to post this to Comments Worth Diagnosing?

  36. Leigh Walton Says:

    @Chris Butcher: In Johanna’s defense, Stupid Publisher Tricks is a recurring feature on CWR, with a tongue-in-cheek title derived from a recurring Dave Letterman segment.

  37. Joe S. Walker Says:

    Considering the price and size of it, you’d think they could come up with a better cover than a static, empty image coloured snot-green.

  38. Alan David Doane Says:

    Joe,

    To be fair, that image is likely to be much more impressive at full size and in your hands than it is at 72 DPI shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp on the internet.

  39. Johanna Says:

    This just in: the publisher refused to be interviewed at this time due to “working like crazy” to get the book ready for a November 1 debut date at APE and because of this post.

    Tom, words like “nasty”, “NO IDEA”, and “not fair” gave me the impression you were more emotionally involved in this. I didn’t get urgency, but ok, I understand now, sorry I misread you. Now I hope you will do me the same courtesy in understanding the difference between “ascribing motives”, which you keep saying is going on but isn’t, and “speculating on possible rationales”. You obviously know a lot about this project, and since my efforts to learn more were denied, I suspect that may account for our different opinions on the viability of a $125 art comic anthology.

    Chris, your erroneous psychoanalysis aside, I’m not angry I can’t buy it. (I make a good living, I could buy three if I wanted.) I’m just not interested, in large part because of the price point. I AM interested in talking about what this means for the publisher, the industry, and sales, just as you frequently do on your blog. I don’t understand why that’s “nuts” to do. (Leigh’s already explained the “stupid”, which isn’t meant literally. Although since significant numbers of people don’t pay attention to the recurring feature until I’m goring their ox, I might should reconsider that.)

    Bob: Fantagraphics continuing to do Ignatz comics doesn’t necessarily mean that they do well. Publishers may continue putting out prestige works for potential award-bait or because they have an emotional investment in them even when they don’t cover costs. (DC used to do this quite a bit, and may still do.)

  40. David Oakes Says:

    Kramer’s Ergot Four, 320 pages, Paperback, 8 3/4” x 10 3/4”, 1,200 color illustrations, $ 24.95

    Kramer’s Ergot 5, 320 pages, Paperback
    8 3/4 ” x 10 3/4″, 175 color / 750 B&W Illustrations, $ 34.95

    Kramer’s Ergot 6, 336 pages, Paperback, 8 3/4″ x 10 3/4″, 100’s illus., $ 34.95

    Kramers Ergot 7, 96 pages, Hardcover, 21 x 16 x 0.8 inches, $125.00

    Can anyone seriously look at those numbers and not feel a little sticker shock? Even if we accept the larger size (something that will not be evident on many order forms), and that those “96 pages” are really more like 384 “regular” pages, it is still more than four times the price. Rereleasing Kramer’s 4 as a “remastered” Hardcover a month earlier at only $39.95 only adds to the perception that the oversized format it just a gimmick, the “Art comics equivalent of a holofoil cover”.

    And yes, it is “stupid” for an Art Comics publisher to expect their fans to meekly accept stunt printing. But I guess they have learn their own lessons, like Superheroes did in the 90s.

  41. Joe Chiappetta Says:

    I think the term “art” in “art comics” aspires to imply that the product has something unique, universal, innovative, ground-breaking, eye-opening and/or incredible about it. Therefore in the context of art, the price of $125 is often considered a steal in the gallery world, even for something mass produced. That the art product in question is a tombstone-sized color hardcover book makes the “art” of it even more unique.

    Those concerned about the high price can always read webcomics for free online. There are plenty that if printed might be considered “art comics,” including my own.

  42. Ken Parile Says:

    I have seen all of the contents and I had chills just looking at the work — I’m not kidding — it’s amazing. It’s by far the best anthology I have ever read, with the best collection of cartoonists I’ve seen assembled. Even the table of contents is incredible . . . Some of the single page stories have so many panels that they are like a 5-8 page comic — there’s such incredible depth here . . .
    People make use of the page size in all sorts of different ways from hyper-dense to almost minimalist — and the fact that the stories are more narrative than many earlier Kramers pieces makes it more accessible — You like stories, right?
    My guess is that next to nobody here knows much at all about the real details of the project, such as what kind of paper is being used and what it costs, what the artists are being paid, what the printing and shipping costs, etc . . . I have some of this knowledge, but even without it, having seen the work the price seems hardly worth a mention.

    Joe is right on when he says: “It’s like you are getting a book of art prints… 96 of them”

  43. Ken Parile Says:

    “Joe S. Walker Says:
    August 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm
    Considering the price and size of it, you’d think they could come up with a better cover than a static, empty image coloured snot-green.”

    Here’s another example of not knowing details – that was a rough cover sent out in advance to bookstores and online retailers before the final cover is done, a common practice — the final has been up on Sammy’s “Family Blog” –

  44. BobH Says:

    “Kramer’s Ergot Four, 320 pages, Paperback, 8 3/4″ x 10 3/4″, 1,200 color illustrations, $ 24.95

    Rereleasing Kramer’s 4 as a “remastered” Hardcover a month earlier at only $39.95 ”

    So is a 60% premium for hardcover over softcover reasonable? Wow, KE7 sounds like more and more of a bargain every day. Pretty soon you’d have to be crazy not to buy it.

    The sticker shock is understandable, but the book isn’t over-priced in the context of high-end art books with top-notch production and any number of production issues that a standard cookie-cutter format doesn’t offer and a lower print run. I think the publisher should be applauded for trying something ambitious, even if it fails, not compared to “slapping a holofoil cover on it”.

  45. Johanna Says:

    Ken, is this the revised cover you mentioned?

    BobH, I admire your focus on the positive. Perhaps more will follow your lead once more details about the book (beyond the price) are available later on.

  46. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    “refused”!? Get a grip Johanna. I was just on the phone with the editor asking if he could correspond with you and others sometime next week just after we finish getting the book turned in completely, and right before we fly to Singapore to do the press checks for this book (another necessary expense unique to this heavyweight project, that most wouldn’t account for)

    When you emailed me I was not aware of your blog and only saw the title of this post and skimmed through it for a minute or two where I also caught that bit about “…or just interested in getting this kind of free press for their project as people talk about the unusual price point?” c’mon, seriously, that’s just careless and rude. Considering that, I thought my email was polite …and then I hear that you’ve posted a snippet from our brief exchange and that you’ve made me out to look like a jerk. So who’s the real opportunist here? You’re getting people going on this blog about a book it seems like you’re not even interested in as far as content, just this price issue where you admittedly don’t have all of the pieces, and then once you see people have a lot to say about it you try to get me involved to fuel this fire? Regarding the price all of our books, we start with how much it costs for us to produce it, and with this one there are a lot of unique factors including: 60 contributors that need to be paid, a book that can only be hand-bound due to its size, that it needs custom made mailers to protect each copy in transit, and an unbelievable freight charges (not to mention rising gas and paper prices), etc…. I just looked through these comments briefly and It’s baffling to me that people are so ready to condemn our motivations especially with a book they know little to nothing about. Unfortunately, Sammy works up until the last minute and we didn’t even lock down the final contributors list until just last week which is part of the reason we have not made official announcements on it, the little that we did get out there on Amazon is incomplete and even incorrect due to our book market distro needing to promote it 9 months in advance of the street date. We made this book because we love this format and as many of you have pointed are taking a huge risk with a project like this in this economy. But please carry on as I’m done here, until we get this project is in the can, as I said we can’t afford to promote or answer to this sort of thing until next week, the book comes first! (…and I got way too caught up in this posting and won’t be looking for responses, I just had to reply to the blogger accusing me of “refusing” to be interviewed which is a bit nuts.

    BTW, we’re really happy and excited about how this has come together, on every level and hope others will enjoy it as well. This is a one time thing, something we felt we had to do foolish or not.

    5 people have seen the complete PDF that I just finally put together Monday night and here’s what one of them had to say about it, thankfully he’s a lot more articulate than I am:

    “This is truly a comics milestone. Editor Sammy Harkham and the Buenaventura Press bravely asked the question ‘What if you gave fifty of the most talented cartoonists working today the single largest canvas they’ve ever had?’ And now, after countless hours of painstaking work you have the answer: an astonishing collection that is as epic in its creative achievement as it is in its size. Yes, the page is big; but the wealth of ideas, the visual virtuosity, and the sheer force of emotion are even bigger.”

    …and here’s the extent of our entire email correspondence below so if you interpret that as “refusing” then I think Chris Butcher’s “psychoanalysis” might have some validity to it.

    ——– Original Message ——–
    Subject: Seeking interview
    From: Johanna Draper Carlson
    Date: Wed, August 13, 2008 5:13 am

    I’m looking for someone to talk to about the upcoming Kramer’s Ergot 7. Is this the correct address?

    From: alvin@[redacted]
    Subject: RE: Seeking interview
    Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2008 08:08:28 -0700

    Hi Johanna,

    We’re working like crazy trying to finish up the book so that it arrives in time for APE on November 1st so that’s our only priority right now. We’ll finish this week and then immediately follow through with promotion for the book including a website, press releases, interviews etc…

    Thanks for your interest,
    Alvin

    P.S. Though I gotta say the thought of doing an interview with someone who launched a thread titled “Stupid Publisher Tricks: Excessive Pricing” aimed at this project and us as publishers isn’t so appealing for obvious reasons.

  47. Bill Williams Says:

    This book would be a sure hit if everyone with an opinion on the price bought one.

    I applaud Alvin and his pals for making such an experimental book.

    And I applaud the elite few who will go to such lengths to support their favorite artists. Maybe there is a small profit to be made with such a niche market.

    But I still don’t see how a 96 page comic book with a $125 price tag is any less problematic than a random middle issue of Final Crisis. This is certainly not a place for a casual fan.

    Bill

  48. Johanna Says:

    Alvin, I asked, you said no. That’s a refusal. I suppose “declined” would have been preferable wording, but I didn’t think of it at the time. I also didn’t think reporting that fact made you look like a jerk, just someone with different priorities (and putting them in the right place, the work before press). I wasn’t trying to “get you involved” or “fuel a fire”, just following up on Spurgeon’s suggestion that I ask you directly about my questions instead of speculating without your input.

    If you think wondering if you’d thought about the promotional possibilities of your price point is “rude”, it’s probably better we didn’t talk further. :)

  49. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    because you so kindly emailed me your above response:

    here I am again.

    So you think that considering a publisher would price a book just to get “free publicity” is reasonable? I find it offensive.

    “This just in: the publisher refused to be interviewed at this time due to “working like crazy” to get the book ready for a November 1 debut date at APE and because of this post.”

    Can you honestly deny that this isn’t mis-representative of our brief exchange?

  50. Johanna Says:

    If I believed that was a misrepresentation, I wouldn’t have posted it. I didn’t want to reprint your entire email without your permission, so I rephrased the key points with only a brief quote — you’re busy, and you mentioned not liking this post, so you said no at this time.

    I’m sorry you’re offended by my speculation. I think smart publishers think about how they can get as much attention as they can in this overcrowded market. Since others have played out the “cheap as possible” end of the market, it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone take the opposite approach. What’s wrong with considering publicity as one factor when determining the format and price of a product? Is this an indication that we’re in very different places when it comes to comics as art/craft/product?

  51. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    Is there no edit function here?

    If you take the time to actually read that email from this morning you’ll find that I never “said no”. So “refuse” and even the less potent “declined” are both fabricated. That P.S. bit was just my honest and immediate reaction to your terse request and a link to your blog that I had not previously seen and was surprised to see that title to that post etc… And again I was asking Sammy earlier this evening just before I got into this snake pit, if he’d be up for an interview with you next week (as well as others), and to my surprise he was. But it doesn’t really seem like you’re interested in what really matters, like reading emails properly or what this book is all about. If you are, lemme know.

    Also, because I couldn’t edit here, I wanted to credit that above quote (2 posts ago) to Chip Kidd.

  52. Johanna Says:

    Thanks, but I don’t think that I’m a good match for further coverage of your product. I suspect my questions would strike you as blunt if not rude, given the communication difficulties we’ve had so far, and I’m backlogged on other projects to cover.

  53. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    >>”I think smart publishers think about >>how they can get as much attention as >>they can in this overcrowded market… >>What’s wrong with considering publicity >>as one factor when determining the >>format and price of a product?”

    “smart publishers?” I’d call that mercenary.

    I’m not foolish enough to think that I’ll make any money publishing these sorts of comics. I’d be satisfied if I’m succeeding to get quality books into readers hands that appreciate them, and I’d thrilled if this business proves to be self-sustaining.

    >>”Thanks, but I don’t think that I’m a >>good match for further coverage of your >>product. I suspect my questions would >>strike you as blunt if not rude, given >>the communication difficulties we’ve >>had so far, and I’m backlogged on other >>projects to cover.”

    See that’s what I mean it’s just a cheap hook for you to latch onto this price thing, and sadly you just followed along with what the TCJ Board, Heidi, and Alan Doane already covered (and already proved that it’s something people want to gripe about, expensive book in a crappy economy, not exactly groundbreaking.) The difference is I actually respect those other forums and the people behind them because they have actually opened and read previous volumes of Kramers Ergot.

  54. Johanna Says:

    Well, that illustrates why I don’t want to pursue an interview — why would I bother asking questions of someone who doesn’t respect me or my site? (And why would you want me to?) I think any interview at this point would lack the necessary basics — including mutual honesty and respect — and wouldn’t be worth sharing. Hasn’t this wasted enough of your time already? (It has mine. Who knew the artcomic fans were more incendiary than the manga ones?)

    What you call “mercenary” seems more like “likely to survive”, in my calculus. I’ve seen too many publishers of all stripes with great intentions come and go. I want to see publishers thinking about the bottom line as well as the art because both are necessary to keep the business going.

  55. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    “I wasn’t trying to “get you involved” or “fuel a fire”, just following up on Spurgeon’s suggestion that I ask you directly about my questions instead of speculating without your input.”

    So this is all your fault Tom! If the book doesn’t make APE everyone blame him.

    I know, I know… I’ll stay away from message board/blog bait. I was successful for a good 6 months or so.

    More info for anyone that cares next week, I swear.

  56. Alan Coil Says:

    Alvin loses.

    “I’m not foolish enough to think that I’ll make any money publishing these sorts of comics.”

    Alvin, you can’t be a publisher if you are losing money. You can’t “take a loss on individual books, but make up for it in volume.”

    And no matter the quality, getting it printed in Singapore is relatively cheap. That’s why so many publishers are starting to get work done overseas.

    ==========

    And again, tangentially, here we have another case where someone wrote something a publisher, editor, or creator did, and the publisher/editor/creator responds in public like a 12-year-old emo kid.

    Whatever happened to “professional” behavior. Always the need to fire back with “Yer wrong, and yer ugly, too!”

    C’mon, professionals, respond with tact and politeness and you’ll have fewer long, unproductive hours on the internet.

  57. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    “Alvin, you can’t be a publisher if you are losing money.”

    What planet are you from? Hopefully we’ll make money someday but if you look into the history of “art comics” publishers you’ll quickly see it’s a rough road and I was well aware of this getting into it.

    “And no matter the quality, getting it printed in Singapore is relatively cheap. That’s why so many publishers are starting to get work done overseas.”

    didn’t get the point of this.

    and soliciting an interview with a publisher as suggested by a commenter with the title “Stupid Publisher Tricks: Excessive Pricing” is professional?

    And seriously Johanna have you ever even held a copy of Kramers Ergot?

  58. Johanna Says:

    Yes, Alvin, as I said in comment #28, I have browsed KE 4. I haven’t ever seen any of the other volumes in stores or at shows, but I wasn’t looking for them either.

    Someone who named their comic after fungus is criticizing my attempt at a goofy title? :)

    I’m beginning to feel like an enabler here. You said you were crazy busy trying to get the book ready, and I don’t want to get in the way of that — should I close comments to prevent being a temptation? :)

  59. Alvin Buenaventura Says:

    So why then would you open up yet another can of worms on this topic on a series that you know little to nothing about? What good does that do anyone? It’s hardly informative or worthwhile? and if things did start off on a better foot what could you have possibly explored with this project knowing nothing about it except the price tag?

    I am busy but as I said before this project means a lot to me.

  60. Christopher Allen Says:

    Alvin,

    Thanks for providing some more details on the book, and whether I order it or not, I wish you the best of luck with it.

    CA

  61. Joe Chiappetta Says:

    To celebrate this wonderful discussion of art comics, at the risk of sounding like blasphemy, I have made an art comic as a webcomic (gasp) to commemorate this conversation. See it here: http://joechiappetta.blogspot.com/2008/08/for-love-of-art-comics.html

  62. Joe S. Walker Says:

    “Ken Parile Says:
    August 13, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    …Here’s another example of not knowing details – that was a rough cover sent out in advance to bookstores and online retailers before the final cover is done, a common practice — the final has been up on Sammy’s “Family Blog”

    Thanks for providing the handy link to it! I’ve taken the trouble to go and find the final image, but if “Sammy” expects most people to see the snot-green version at, say, Amazon and not assume that that’s what the buyer gets I think he will be sorely disappointed.

    Re the point of how it presents at full size, a good cover should work at any size. The best old album sleeves don’t lose anything by being reproduced as CD covers (at the front, anyway: all too often they just slap an ugly track listing on to the back).

  63. Ken Parile Says:

    “Well, that illustrates why I don’t want to pursue an interview — why would I bother asking questions of someone who doesn’t respect me or my site?”

    You called him a stupid and tricky publisher who is trying to gouge readers price-wise. Can you really not see the inconsistency here? Try. It’s kind of hard to occupy the moral high ground when you dish the “venom” just as well as anybody . . . Saying your thread title is only “goofy” strikes me as completely disingenuous.

  64. James Schee Says:

    Gosh people really want to focus on the title of the thread don’t they? New readers of the site I can understand the attention. Yet I thought long time readers knew that it was a hyperbole title. Its always seemed to me to just be a label for Johanna’s commentary on some of the oddities publishers do.

    $125 for a 96 page comic book is going to raise eyebrows on first look. It is just an oddity, and Johanna felt the need to comment on it. If the publishers really didn’t think anyone would have questions or comments on the format/price, then that strikes me as rather naive. Heck honestly if no one asked or talked about it, especially with it being so unique, I’d be worried as a publisher that we were totally ignored. (especially at a time were prices of everything are being questioned)

    I myself went “wow, that sounds weird.” when I first read about the book in this thread. Does that mean I think “They shouldn’t do that!” ? No, it just struck me as an odd choice, yet as my original post WAY up top says “Good luck to them”. It has certainly made me aware of their work, and I’m going to make it a point to try something from them. I’m holding out hope that a library mine does interlibrary loans with might even get this one. (I can’t afford it, but hey I can’t afford a Porsche either)

    It is too bad there will be no interview, as I’d love to see their thought process on making the book. Alvin says they did this book because they love the format. Which had me wondering “Has this been done before?” Because if not, I wonder how they can love a format that had never been tried. (if that was in regards to size and not just the anthology format) More space hasn’t always meant better results for creative folk, so I’d be curious to see what it was that enthused them.

    I wonder how were contributors sought? Did he and Sammy, when they started realizing how much this book’s price would be, ever go “Wow!” or some such.

    Hopefully TCJ, or someone like Mr. Spurgeon, will do more coverage of the book as it gets closer to release. As darn if I’m not curious about it now.

  65. Alan Coil Says:

    Alvin,

    Asking me which planet I am from is hardly conducive to having a polite conversation. So I’ll be blunt.

    You, sir, are acting in a way that will cost you sales. Your braying is offensive to some. And for a guy who claimed to be mad busy, you sure are spending a lot of time here flinging whatever.

    Johanna’s post was about pricing of a book and how said pricing is likely to keep most people away from the book. That she files it under Stupid Publisher TRICKS, not Stupid PUBLISHERS, should have been a clue that she was writing about the price, not making a personal attack on you. If you don’t understand the nuances of language, you are going to be the poorer for it in life.

  66. Dustin Harbin Says:

    I can’t decide what I think of all this discussion over this book. Surely it must be a good thing, in terms of publicity for the book and publisher, etc. ESPECIALLY when it comes out and is incredible, and everyone says, “Well, yeah, it HAD to cost that much.”

    But with the exception of Alan “Whatsisname” Doane, who misses no opportunity to self-identify as a supporter of “art comix”, this seems to be a purposeless argument between people who are excited about the book and less interested in the price, and people who are less interested in the book but excited about the price. Cue semantic deconstruction of direct quotations, but still, I think that’s a pretty accurate description.

    I will say that I find the tone of some of these comments enormously off-putting, and would repeat my referred-to namecalling (“haters”, not a joke): I think that this is a case of people on the Internet needing something to talk about, something to sound clever about, an argument to win. I would suggest that the only winners here will be all those people who buy Kramer’s #7 and LOVE it, and the people who don’t buy it and save themselves somewhere between $75-$125 dollars, avoiding in the process what surely must be a bloated, self-indulgent, over-priced ode to the hubris of a “stupid publisher.”

    I mean really–is there anything else to talk about?

  67. Bill Williams Says:

    Over at The Beat, Heidi reminded us that Supergirl looks like Barbie.

    Newsarama brings us new Watchmen movie photos.

    Compared to that, getting a publisher to personally engage in a discussion about a controversial project seems like high art.

    Bill

  68. Ken Parile Says:

    “I mean really–is there anything else to talk about?”

    no — and well said –

  69. Johanna Says:

    Dustin, I do think price points set precedents. If this book is successful, then others may consider raising prices on comics — a trend I wouldn’t applaud. If it’s not, then the next prestige project that needs to set a high price to cover costs might have a bigger battle against it. So there’s a bit more involved here than just *this* book. (Bill: Ha!)

  70. Dustin Harbin Says:

    I disagree. But as I’ve said, I don’t think this is worth talking about anymore. I think the subject has changed in my mind to “Will The Comics Industry Ever Grow Up And Act Like It Deserves The Respect It Craves?”

  71. Robert Goodin Says:

    I wouldn’t worry about $125 books becoming a trend for small press publishers. It’s a huge risk to publish a book that big and expensive. It’s the kind of project that could sink a publisher if it tanks. I’m sure that Sammy and Alvin have looked at the risks and obviously decided it’s worth it.

    That said, if you think its too expensive for you, don’t buy it. DC and Marvel put out literally a ton of shit every year and I find it rather easy to not buy any of it. At least this $125 book won’t be shit. Whether I buy it or not depends on how much I like it versus how much disposable income I have at the time. If I think it’s a worthwhile buy, I’ll pick it up. If I don’t, I won’t. With all of the truly cynical and manipulative moves made by Marvel and DC on a daily basis, I’m surprised that this gets people so upset. If you really want to get outraged, Visionaire magazine retails for $150 – $750 and issue.

  72. frank santoro Says:

    wow, this is disappointing coming from you, Johanna.

  73. Johanna Says:

    The only people I’ve been tempted to tell to “grow up”, Dustin, are those who keep trying to shut up those who are simply expressing a different opinion. But we’ve already established we’re coming at this from very different places.

    Robert, I’ve never heard of Visionaire before. And that brings up a good point — some of those who don’t see any problem with the pricing are much more used to art books and such that are more comparable in cost. Me, I’ve never considered shopping for such things. If I had, maybe $125 would be less of a shock.

    Frank, sorry, you’re four days late for that — the statute of limitations has expired.

  74. James Kochalka Says:

    I loved the other issues of Kramer’s Ergot so I’m excited that the new one will be big and awesome. Besides, I’m always looking for a new addition to my GIANT BOOK collection. The cost doesn’t seem excessive to me, it’s priced the same as the gorgeous Sunday Press books which have sold quite well and which I’m sure was their inspiration.

  75. Robert Goodin Says:

    I’d agree that it does become difficult for a guy or girl on a budget to chose where their money will go. We’re living in a golden age of amazing reprint projects and graphic novels that compete for our dollar. At the same time that the new Kramer’s comes out, the new Popeye volume will be released, that Blazing Combat collection, a Peanuts book, etc… The question will arise do I buy Kramer’s or 4 or 5 other books that I want. That’s something that the Kramer’s guys have to ask themselves as well. However, it’s an embarrassment of riches and a pleasant problem to have.

    The thing I very much miss is being able to go into a comic store and finding one $4 comic that I want every week. I really miss that and Frank has touched on that on his blog. However, we live in a time that the market is able to support all of this diversity and although I don’t like most of it, I’m glad that so much of it exists. I think that’s healthy for the industry. We’ll all see if it can support a $125 anthology or not. Hopefully it can.

  76. Bert Teague Says:

    “Me, I’ve never considered shopping for such things. If I had, maybe $125 would be less of a shock.”

    Looking at your list of “indy” reviews shows that you have no interest in these kind of comics . . .

    That’s what makes this post seem like some kind of odd attention grab and not an attempt to begin an informed discussion.

  77. Bert Teague Says:

    How many BP, Fanta, D and Q, Sparkplug type books are on that list . . .?

  78. Ken Parile Says:

    “Dustin, I do think price points set precedents. If this book is successful, then others may consider raising prices on comics — a trend I wouldn’t applaud.”

    My concern is a little different:

    If this book is successful, then others may consider raising the quality of their comics — a trend I would applaud.

  79. Johanna Says:

    Looking at my list of indy reviews mostly shows which company comp lists I’m on or submissions I’ve received. :) And don’t forget to check the list of graphic novel reviews!

    I read a lot more books from the traditional art comic publishers (Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, D&Q, and so on) last decade, back when there were a lot fewer choices in the comic market. These days, there’s so much more to choose from! And I haven’t hidden that my tastes now tend to lean towards those works with more polished craft aspects and strong storylines, away from experimental anthologies. That said, D&Q published one of the books on my Best of 2007 list and several works from Fantagraphics, D&Q, and Top Shelf are on my list of “must-read comic classics”.

  80. Inkstuds Says:

    A couple of comments, so far only James Kolchalka has mentioned the sunday press books. which are in the exact same price range. The books are massive and great and well worth respecting. Over the last year and half, I have interviewed several creators that have been really excited about their work in KE7. The large page layout allows creators to be able experiment and try new story telling techniques.

    Adrian Tomine, Kim Deitch and Al Columbia have all expressed how much fun it was to be able to work on a page so vast as to change up the storytelling.

    As far as bragging that you have only reviewed stuff that you get as comps, that is crap. If you really want to check out comics, go out and hunt down the goodness. I am really appreciative when someone sends me review copies, but I don’t expect to get a free copy of something before interviewing that person. Review what is good, not what is sent to you. You aren’t serving the readers if you dont investigate what is out there.

    If DC can charge outrageous prices for their archive volumes, that 9 times out of 10, shows no sign of payments going to creators then why not Kramers, who, on the other hand, all of the folks in KE are getting something for their work and will on subsequent printings.

  81. Johanna Says:

    The Sunday Press and DC Archive books are all reprints, thus known quantities. If people are still reading the Kramer’s Ergot stories in 60 or 80 years, then that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. (And the comp JOKE wasn’t a brag, just a note that the lists here aren’t 100% congruent with everything else I buy and read.)

  82. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    The Sunday Press books are known quantities if you’re Bill Freakin’ Blackbeard.

    Not that I understand the known quantities argument. That’s just weird. I guess it would sort of make sense if you were compelled by law to buy an expensive book once a year and you had no control over what that book would be.

    More important question: Who’s the comic book version of Bill Blackbeard? Like who has the best collection? Who does Paul Levitz borrow comics from? Why isn’t this person better known?

    Also: I only review comp copies.

    Also: there may certainly be a mini-trend towards fancy, more expensive books if this one is a hit, but who cares? The market corrects or it doesn’t. I’m not the boss of them. If Bob Burden wants to start selling his comic books for $30 a page, who am I to tell him not to? Why must each and every one of us have a fair shot at all the comic books? Should Kirby original pages and mid-1960s Marvel comic books and going to San Diego con cost less so as to mitigate against trends I find personally inconvenient? This all sounds a bit loopy to me.

    Also, I will pay $125 for a really good “Alvin Loses” t-shirt.

  83. Johanna Says:

    Most people I know are more comfortable evaluating whether to spend money for entertainment if they know something about it. There’s a difference between, “oh, I loved watching that movie, I’ll buy the DVD” and “I don’t know if I want to go see the new Adam Sandler film without knowing the premise and co-stars — it could be good, could be crap.”

    I shall now watch people once again miss the point and get distracted by thinking I’m comparing Dan Clowes to Adam Sandler (which I’m not).

  84. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    A lot of people don’t know this, but Dan originated the part of Happy Gilmore on Broadway in ’87, opposite Tony Roberts’ Shooter McGavin.

    I still don’t get that analysis. Are DVDs really priced according to people’s familiarity with the movies involved? How on earth can the art-book end of comics be compared to something as uniformly priced as movies? Aren’t there a lot of arty films priced at high price points on DVD? Are movie critics mad that the Hou Hsiao Hsien box set costs way, way more than AMC’s Gary Cooper box set?

  85. Dustin Harbin Says:

    Johanna, I personally like you, but I’m starting to wonder if you’re purposefully extending this faux-argument. How is Kramer’s Ergot, as the enormously lauded uber-anthology of the last 5 years, featuring work by Clowes, Tomine, Ware, Harkham, and a laundry list of the most respected cartoonists working today, NOT a “known quantity”?

    These comparisons to the Sundays Press books work for size and price-point, but beyond that I dont’ think they have much to do with each other, except that the work was created originally to see print at that size.

    And the comparison to a DVD–not to mention Adam Sandler–just strikes me as willfully sophistic.

    I think your blog suffers somewhat from the arch tone you’ve taken, even as you take offense as those who need to “grow up”, etc. The fact that each time I (why? WHY?) return to this thread, the “Stupid Publisher Tricks” title at the top just makes it all worse. The fact that it’s the title of a recurring column IN NO WAY makes it any better.

  86. Ed Brubaker Says:

    I gotta say, having worked at book stores, a specialty limited edition art book going for $125 is not that big a deal. Limited edition hardbacks basically start in that price range.

  87. Johanna Says:

    Tom, I’m not saying they’re priced that way, I’m saying that it makes it much easier for a prospective customer to decide whether it’s worth spending the money. Wondering whether you buy should Absolute Sandman? Check one of the earlier TPBs out of the library to see if you enjoy the story and art. Look at one of the others in the product line, at least one of which is likely to be findable locally, to see the format. In short, there are cheap ways to sample the product before committing to buying. But with the way the comic market is, that’s not going to be possible here, because I suspect there are going to be very few potential browsing copies.

    Dustin, see above. The contributors are known, but the actual work — unless there are substantial preview pages available — is not. Even then, if the size and presentation are such significant factors, there isn’t a good mechanism to truly provide the same experience for sampling. A PDF excerpt isn’t going to be nearly comparable.

    As for previous issues, I keep hearing people mention how many of them are out of print. I’m sure your store has them available, as do a few other great ones, but I don’t live in one of those areas, unfortunately. (PS You’re inferring my tone, which isn’t what I’m intentionally conveying. And I’m thinking that a Letterman reference may not be as well-known as it used to be, which makes me feel old. But I like you too.)

  88. Dustin Harbin Says:

    I “get” the gist of the joke, but it still sounds super pejorative. I know if it were “Stupid Retailer Tricks” I would be insulted out of hand, as a retailer, no matter the number of emoticons tacked on for clarity’s sake. Ditto for “Stupid Crooked Teeth Tricks”, which would apply even more. Sigh.

    To the best of my knowledge, 4 and 5 are out of print, although Alvin will occasionally have some 6’s — I bought 5 from him six months ago, but I think he was near the end then. They also pop up on Amazon from time to time–I got a second copy of 4 for a friend a year or two ago. 4 and 5 are amazing, not only for the comics I “get”, but for the ones I don’t (which is about half in both cases). Highly recommended and a lovely addition to your bookshelf.

    Okay, having said something nice to someone, I will now leave this conversation again FOR GOOD! I hope.

  89. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    Johanna, your argument doesn’t even make sense according to the standards you’re selecting for yourself. There are no easy to browse copies of Little Sammy Sneeze. There are no easy to browse copies of Golden Age Starman comics — that I know of, anyway.

    You’re not being consistent in your demands, either — the paperback of Sandman at your library isn’t the same as the treatment the material gets in its Absolute editions, just, as you say, a PDF of this material isn’t the same as the actual material. There are no easy to examine giant Sunday Gasoline Alleys except maybe at Bob Harvey’s house.

    So given all that, I don’t know why you’re insisting that KE7 should have cheap, browsable, exact versions of itself for you to peruse. I’ve experienced art all of my life where I didn’t get “the same experience for sampling” before I made a decision on whether or not to buy it or consume it. Some of it was great and some of it wasn’t. Some of it I declined to pursue and some of it I jumped at the chance.

    Art doesn’t always engender a perfect consumer experience, let alone one that perfectly suits you.

  90. Johanna Says:

    Dustin, don’t leave yet — give me a better umbrella title for the feature! I’m open to changing it, because obviously more people are focusing on it instead of the content.

    Tom, I don’t want a perfect consumer experience. Heck, at this point, I don’t even want to see this albatross of a book.

  91. James Schee Says:

    Dustin, were/are you a pet owner? If so were/are you offended by the Stupid Pet Tricks category on David Letterman’s show as well?

  92. James Schee Says:

    Johanna, if you do change. How about Peculiar Publishing Plans! (try saying that three times fast)

  93. Bill Williams Says:

    Personally, I like the title.

    I think of it as an ink blot test since there seems to be no real way to measure a sense of humor or lack thereof on the internet.

    Bill

  94. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    Okay, something in my brain just died, so I have to quit now.

  95. Joe Rybandt Says:

    >Dustin, don’t leave yet — give me a better umbrella title for the feature! I’m open to changing it, because obviously more people are focusing on it instead of the content.<

    I like the title, we’ve even been placed under it and I would never call for it to be changed… keep it as is.

    (Personal to Spurgeon: the dolphins are in the jacuzzi)

  96. Johanna Says:

    The pearl is in the river. (Anyone get that one?)

  97. Bill Williams Says:

    Under the Rainbow.

  98. Johanna Says:

    We have a winner!

  99. Bert Teague Says:

    “Heck, at this point, I don’t even want to see this albatross of a book.”

    Was there ever a point where you were geniunuely interested in reading (not just “browsing”)Kramers, widely held as the most important anthology since RAW? Perhaps I’m wrong, but you seem to really prefer slick mainstream art with conventional plots – I wonder why all of these smart widely-knowledgable people are arguing with you (and winning), when you dont even like these kinds of comics or Art . . .

  100. Bert Teague Says:

    I mean, I wear clothes, but if I started a thread about the price of this fall’s fashion tunics for tweens I hope you all would ignore me . .

  101. Bert Teague Says:

    “It’s a deluxe original hardcover — which has been done before, most often with reprint material –”

    I must admit to trouble understaning you: what do you mean by original here? Can you have an original harcover that’s mostly reprints. Doesnt that make it not original?

  102. Johanna Says:

    I am interested in trying any kind of good comic, yes. I’d kind of expected to have a hard time reading KE 7, since I wasn’t going to buy it sight unseen and no shop around here is likely to have browsing copies, but I was hoping to see it at a convention or similar to check out. Now, though, I’m going to have a bad taste left when I see it, which is likely going to influence my opinion, unfortunately.

    Is “most important anthology since RAW” anything like “most important PBS news show since McNeil-Lehrer”? It just seems sort of a specialist distinction, and the only anthologies I hear people talking about are more things like Best American Comics.

  103. Johanna Says:

    Sorry, the phrasing you ask about, I was unclear. I was saying that deluxe hardcovers are most often reprints.

  104. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Quote, Unquote Says:

    […] The Comics Industry Ever Grow Up And Act Like It Deserves The Respect It Craves?’” – Dustin Harbin posing a question (of sorts) in the comments section for a post seemingly regarding the pricing of the […]

  105. Alan David Doane Says:

    Retailer Jim Crocker of artcomix-friendly Modern Myths in Northampton, Massachusetts has weighed in with his responses to my retailer questions about KE7.

    As for me, and the process of deliberation I’ve engaged in these past few weeks trying to decide whether to order the book was decided this past weekend, when I re-read Kramers Ergot #5 and #6. Both were priced about $35.00, both had far more than 96 pages, and both had more than 50 percent of their contents flipped quickly through by me as I realized that either they weren’t comics, or weren’t good enough comics for me to bother reading. The occasional appearance in the pages of KE volumes 5 and 6 by artists like Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch was not enough to offset the self-indulgent tripe contributed by alt-comix divas like CF, Ron Rege and Paper Rad.

    So, no, I will find better things to do with my comics-buying money this fall than spend it on KE7. And given the likelihood of a print run in the high hundreds to very low thousands, I’m guessing the creators whose work I do want to read, such as Dan Clowes and Chris Ware, will be smart enough to collect their KE pieces down the line in future volumes of their own work. And if they don’t, chances are very few people will ever see those stories. And what would be the point of that?

  106. Ken Parile Says:

    Alan,

    I love KE 5 and 6, but I think you’d be mistaken to base too much of your guess at what 7 will be like on those issues. This one is very different, more conventional in certain ways. In general, the work is far more narrative than that in earlier volumes.

    “Both were priced about $35.00, both had far more than 96 pages,”

    I think people still are not getting the effect of the size – Seth’s two page story, for example, is set up in such a way that it’s actually like 25 pages of comics, very beautiful comics.

  107. frank santoro Says:

    “the self-indulgent tripe contributed by alt-comix divas like CF, Ron Rege and Paper Rad.”

    You know Alan, I like you less and less as I get to know you online.

  108. Alan David Doane Says:

    It seems expressing an opinion about KE is a litmus test for not only one’s hipness factor but ones value as a human being. And if people feel that way, there’s not much I can do about it. I have the greatest respect for your work, Frank, but no idea at all what you’re like as a human being because I’ve never met you, as you’ve never met me. If you feel my writing about comics is without value, then you’re certainly welcome to feel that way, and you’re far from the first. I find it amazing how many people I respect are disgusted by the fact that I not only don’t want to spend $125.00 for KE7 but have the unmitigated gall (apparently) to say so publicly.

    I have supported enough artcomix (and good comics of every other genre) over the past decade that my conscience is clear on whatever modest contribution I’ve made to the online discussion on the industry and artform. My site speaks for itself. Anyone offended by my opinions is more than welcome to get their comics commentary elsewhere. God knows there are more than enough alternatives.

  109. frank santoro Says:

    you’re just such a jerk about it, man. ALL THE TIME. Knock it off for a couple weeks at least, will ya?

  110. Alan David Doane Says:

    I don’t recall calling you any names, Frank, and I’m sad to see you descend to that level.

  111. John Pham Says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but I just thought I’d give my two cents.

    I share a studio with Sammy. I got to witness much of the production of the new book first hand. I was privy to many of the discussions Sammy and Alvin had about pricing and I can tell you this: the book could NOT have happened at a price other than $125, retail. The book is priced as what it is because of how much it costs to print and publish. The end. It is NOT a stunt, or a “stupid publisher trick,” or a greedy grab for your dollars. This is an ambitious, unique, high-production-value project, and if they really wanted to cater to the museum art monograph crowd, they could have priced it even higher.

    For folks like Alan Doane and Johanna who probably won’t be buying the book after a careful reckoning of the relating costs-benefits, I think that’s absolutely fine. The book is an enormous investment, and definitely not a casual buy. And judging by Alan’s and Johanna’s tastes, their $125 may be better served elsewhere. If the book fails, sales-wise, then that is Alvin and Sammy’s problem.

    As far as being able to browse or sample the book before buying, this is a small problem easily solved. If you can’t find a library or friend to lend it to you, Alvin and Sammy do a variety of conventions every year, and they will definitely have reading copies available at their booth. There may even be a book tour. So an effort is definitely being made to have the book available for casual perusal.

    When Kramers 7 does come out I do hope there is as much discussion devoted to its relative merits as a work of art, and whether the heavy price-tag is thus justified. This seems to me a much more sensible way to argue the $125 issue, not this preemptive handwringing about a book hardly anyone has seen. Now that Alan and Johanna have stated that they won’t be getting it, I guess we’ll just have to rely on Spurgeon’s review.

    I’ve read most of what’s in the book and I can say that it’s well worth the $125. Hell, I’d starve for a month and pay $300.

  112. knut Says:

    Alan, would you mind extrapolating on your use of the term “diva” as it applies to the type of artists you’ve mentioned?

  113. Josh Simmons Says:

    People sure are excited about Kramers Ergot 7!!!

    SIXTEEN INCHES
    TIMES
    TWENTY-ONE INCHES
    is the size of this book. Same size as the huge Little Nemo and Walt and Skeezix books, which were 120$ and 100$.

    “I find it amazing how many people I respect are disgusted by the fact that I not only don’t want to spend $125.00 for KE7 but have the unmitigated gall (apparently) to say so publicly.”

    Come come, chum. Nobody takes issue with you wondering over the price tag, it’s HOW you’re going about it. A line like this:

    “Both were priced about $35.00, both had far more than 96 pages,”

    is really very disingenuous, because it leaves out the fact that the book is
    16
    X
    21
    inches.

    It’s kinda weird you’ve made up your mind not to buy it when you still don’t know much about what’s going to be in it! Alvin commented above that he’d be releasing the full contributor’s list and more information soon, so everybody just chill out a bit and wait to see what and who exactly is going to be in the book before getting all absolutist all-or-nuthin’ about it.

    God bless John for being a voice of reason in this maddening retard discourse. I’ve seen much of the book too, and it’s going to be one of the finest comic books ever, simple as that. Much of the work will be pretty much impossible to re-print and/ or won’t be re-published for years down the line.

    Have your wife buy it for you for Christmas, Alan. Is 80$ really so much to pay for a nice Christmas present?

  114. Bill Williams Says:

    Josh,

    The thing about buying a $120 Little Nemo book is that you know going in that it is a Little Nemo book. It’s not a $125 question mark.

    Bill

  115. Josh Simmons Says:

    “Alvin commented above that he’d be releasing the full contributor’s list and more information soon”

    If new work by Ware, Clowes, Tyler, Sammy, Tomine, CF, etc., etc., is really such a big question mark to you, I don’t know what else to tell ya.

    Besides, don’t you like surprises? I like surprises.

  116. Bill Williams Says:

    Actually, I prefer to have my surprises in the $250 range. Maybe I’ll buy two.

    Bill

  117. Hsifeng Says:

    96 pages / 1 KE7 * (16 in x 21 in) / 1 page * 1 ft^2 / 144 in^2 * 1 acre / 43560 ft^2 = 0.0051 acres / 1 KE7

    See http://www.cockeyed.com/inside/acre/acre.html for more :)

  118. Alan Coil Says:

    Johanna, keep the title as it is. Start a second section called “Idiotic Publisher Responses”.

    Or maybe not. I just got home from seeing Wall*E, and I’m quite angry and very cynical right now. What a horrible waste of my time just to see something that should have been an After School Special 10 years ago.

  119. Kioskerman Says:

    I live in Argentina, in Buenos Aires.
    For me 120 dollares is what would be 360 dollars for people in the states.

    I will buy KE7 because I cannot put price to something that INSPIRES and makes my life better (really).

    I really thank Sammy and Alvin this book exists and the effort they put in it. I´ve been thinking about it since I closed KE6.

    Keep on walking!

    Pablo

  120. Kioskerman Says:

    And if this book will be the same size as the Sunday Press books, I can understand the cost.

  121. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    “I find it amazing how many people I respect are disgusted by the fact that I not only don’t want to spend $125.00 for KE7 but have the unmitigated gall (apparently) to say so publicly.”

    Alan, no one on planet earth gives a shit if you don’t want a comic or if you say so publicly.

    I imagine people are reacting to your general disdainful tone, to your giving a platform to people that continue to make horrible and untenable assumptions of motive when it comes to people’s professional conduct (like that Crocker interview today, where he implies that Sammy and Alvin are pulling a stunt), to your loaded questionaires, to the general insult of backseat driving other people’s professional/artistic lives and the assumption of goals that this involves, and finally to the general histronics and self-drama and mis-characterization of other people’s motives and strategies in apparently attacking you that have arisen with your defense of same.

    I mean, Alan, come on! You just expressed dismay that Frank called you a name in the same thread you branded a bunch of artists he likes and admires and with whom he finds common cause self-indulgent tripe-creating divas. This woe is me/brave voice in the wilderness routine doesn’t really hold up.

    In the end, personal preference is great, personal preference that allows for other personal preferences is better, personal preference that actually considers contextual evidence that might not totally agree with that personal preference is better than a personal preference that doesn’t, personal preference that is used to backseat drive someone else’s enterprise is goofy after a point, and personal preference that leads to an assumption of motive is insulting.

    I look forward to seeing the book, although I understand full well I may be in a vast minority. I hope I like it. I applaud Sammy and Alvin for pursuing a project of meaning to them; I extend to them the courtesy they’ve earned not to make assumptions of motive on their behalf and not to second-guess their strategy to such an extent that it depends on such assumptions.

    That’s all I got. I apologize if any of that was unclear but I lack the moral clarity that comes after a viewing of Wall-E.

  122. Caesar Meadows Says:

    I honestly believe when the book finally exists out there as a real physical object for people to hold in their hands and be able peruse the pictorial density of such a massive tome that $125.00 or the $80.00 most will pay won’t seem that excessive. 16″ x 21″ is HUGE!!! Unless you’ve held a book of similiar size in your hands, I think it will remain very abstract as to what you’ll actually be getting for the price. I, for one, can’t wait to read it and will gladly paid $125.00 instead of $80.00 to support such an unprecedented comics publishing venture.

  123. terrywhalen Says:

    This is crazy. It’s like saying “I really like that new Cadillac, but they priced it out of my range, what is wrong with GM are they stupid, pricing it that much, I can’t afford it.”
    I don’t plan on buying this book, because I only really like a few of the artist in it, but that doesn’t mean I think Alvin and Sammy are some kind of carpet baggers for charging what they are. Anyone who say they are pricing this book at what they are because of any other reason then, THEY HAD TO TO PAY THE ARTIST AND MAKE A SMALL PROFIT, IF THEY ARE LUCKY, are the stupid ones, sorry.
    I really don’t understand why some of you are offended, in other area’s art this wouldn’t even be a issue. Like I saw a review for a new book of photos of Joy Division last night in RECORD COLLECTOR, 500 pounds for a book with less pages then this one, at a smaller size, every copy they printed sold out all ready. 500 POUNDS! No bitching about the price, it sold out.
    This book will be a work of art, even if I don’t like all the artist within, I know enough about Alvin’s and Sammy’s work to know it will be.
    So get over it all ready, buy it, don’t buy it, whatever, but stop whinny like a bunch of fanboys.

  124. knut Says:

    It’s also important to keep in mind that Buenaventura Press isn’t selling the majority of these books for $125 a pop, they’re probably selling them for somewhere between $50-$60 a pop (depending on what the distro deals are.) He might be able to move a small chunk of his stock at conventions or appearances for $125 a pop, but I’m sure they factored in direct sales as a minor portion.

    The real retail price of this book is $80 from Amazon.com. I think they are smart enough to realize that the majority of their sales will come from this. There would have to be a pretty damn good reason to drop an extra $50.

    Looking at the distro price in that $50-$60 range, then factoring in the overhead of the books ridiculous print specs, shipping, and a payroll of 50 or so artists, the price is legit.

    The real question is whether or not they should have done a book of this magnitude to begin with? Let’s say the book was 32 x 42 and 200 pages. The price would probably be over $500. Sure, it would be cool but there would be no markey for it, and these guys are smart enough to know that. They are flirting with the boundries of their market by releasing a $125 volume, but I think in the end they will sell through them. There couldn’t be that many copies in existence, I’m goin to guess around 2000-3000 (will the number be released at some point?)

    I think the argument that they are hurting the books relevance by pricing out casual observers is possibly legitimate. Casual observers are necessary to relevance (imo) but like Tom mentioned who are we to set this projects goals. Maybe it just wants to be a luxury item. There is always a market for luxury items in any business.

  125. Bert Teague Says:

    When I saw the Jonas brothers – who I love – on tv, they said the would be nothing without the fans. Ally David Dont is right. It’s people like him who made Alvin and Sammy what they are today, and this book is a cold slap in the face. You’d be nothing without us – how dare you! So until Sammy apologizes, I’m saving up for 26 issues of the maxi series Infinity Crisis. I’m glad i can just admit in public that I am hurt.

  126. Steven Something Says:

    Its oversized, which is kind of hot right now and interesting, therefore its more expensive. Buy it or don’t. Jesus.

  127. Alan Coil Says:

    Some posters keep stressing the size of the thing as if that justifies the price.

    It doesn’t, else plus-sized escorts would cost more.

  128. Tucker Stone Says:

    Alan Coil, you are the man!

  129. zack soto Says:

    hahahaha.

    sigh.

  130. Rick Bradford Says:

    This thread has been hilarious. Seriously, I want to thank you all. I never make it all the way through nutty discussions like this but here I am, at the bottom of this one. Heartfelt thanks for providing this free entertainment (although I admit I would’ve willingly paid $125 for it).

  131. Bill Williams Says:

    Rick,

    I’m sure some of us take PayPal.

    Bill

  132. Johanna Says:

    At this point, that’s less than $1 a comment!

  133. Dustin Harbin Says:

    I promised I was through, but this is actually relevant: I’ve said elsewhere that I thought I’d probably order around 5 for our store (although the more I think about it, that might be excessive; but at least 3 or 4). But today I was in the excellent (but sloppy, so incredibly sloppy) Bizarro Wuxtry comic shop in Athens GA, and brought up this topic with a member of the staff, who said he thought they’d probably order, “y’know, 6 or 7 at least.” Now, this is a shop in a pretty big college community, with a pretty wide stock (although sloppy, so sloppy), and is definitely a big indie store, but still–six or seven is pretty studly. I was impressed. Anyone around Athens Georgia should support their local shop and buy one of those badboys at B. Wuxtry if they can afford it.

  134. James Schee Says:

    Okay I’m ticked, House Season 4 came out on DVD today. That’s usually good news, but despite there being less episodes than previous seasons (writer’s strike) they didn’t lower the price at all! I mean dang, nearly 400 less minutes this season, and no price decrease?? Now THAT’S excessive pricing!

    Oh, what’s that got to do KE7, and its price? Nothing really, I just hadn’t griped about prices of stuff this week yet.:)

  135. Ken Parile Says:

    Sammy H on KE 7:

    http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/

  136. Alan David Doane Says:

    I read that, great piece that finally reveals what’s in the book. Definitely not on my must-buy list, but YMMV.

  137. News Story Followup: Webcomics, Middleman, Expensive Printing » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] the final word on Kramer’s Ergot #7, the $125 anthology: Supporter Tom Spurgeon talks with editor Sammy Harkham about its contents, […]

  138. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Creator Q&A: Sammy Harkham Says:

    […] volume of the Kramer’s Ergot anthology, the high price and format of which have caused some consternation in the comics blogosphere: SPURGEON: Sammy, I know that you’re aware of some complaints about […]

  139. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Quote, Unquote Says:

    […] – Sean T. Collins playing on the regular name of Johanna Draper Carlson’s blog series which recently focused on KE […]

  140. Baltimore Comic-Con 2008: News From the Front » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] to chat briefly with Kevin McShane about the future of Toupydoops and why people were talking about Kramer’s Ergot; Joanna Estep about a fascinating-sounding series she’s going to be doing for ComicMix; and […]

  141. 96 pages, $125. Wait, what? - irrg! orrrrg! Says:

    […] Some people can’t really find agreement with the publisher’s decision to make the 7th issue of anthology Gramers Ergot a $125, 96-page hardcover book. Plenty has been said and written about it but the follow up blog post on comicsworthreading.com tries to tone down the debate a bit by giving some explanation to why the book is so darn expensive. Last, the final word on Kramer’s Ergot #7, the $125 anthology: Supporter Tom Spurgeon talks with editor Sammy Harkham about its contents, contributors, and the rationale behind the price point. Among the factors: due to its size, each copy has to be bound by hand. Custom shipping boxes had to be made. And the editor wanted to do an on-site press check, so he had to fly to Singapore. […]

  142. Kramers Ergot 7: the minicomic? | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] anthology series from editor Sammy Harkham and publisher Alvin Buenaventura — was a famously, even infamously, grand production. And now…it's a […]

  143. Unfortunate News LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Buenaventura Press having closed at the beginning of the year (they were the ones who published the $125 Kramer’s Ergot 7, and weird, isn’t it, that they waited five months to say they were no longer selling?) into […]




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