(reposing the video above, as it seems relevant )
One of my biggest challenges to sharing on Patreon is wanting to wait till we resolve an issue before I write about it. Then I never do.
To heck with that. I'm going to write a couple posts about things were in the midst of. This is the first.
This is about trying to create matched sets of comics, and the trouble you can get in when doing so.
When Jesse and I started Incredible Doom we knew we wanted to make beautiful printed editions, but we had to solve a big problem to do that.
The way printing normally works is the more you print the less each individual copy costs to produce. You often have to print a lot to make the cost of printing each issue reasonable. Looking at my Patreon before we launched the series we figured we’d have about 15 folks that would want a physical book. We’d likely get more when we launched, but how many more? 5? 10? We didn’t know.
Obviously, a printing method that required we print 200 copies to get the individual issue cost down made little sense if we thought we may only sell 20.
Then there was the problem of keeping back issues in print. We wanted new readers, regardless when they discovered the series, to always be able to buy back issues and complete their set. But how many back issues would we need? We didn’t know.
So we needed a method of printing that would allow us to cost-effectively print, and re-printing e-printin tiny quantities.
Luckily, here in Portland, there are resources to help folks like us. By taking advantage of helpful organizations like the IPRC, and Eberhardt Press, as well as doing most of the work we would pay a printer to do ourselves, we could keep the cost low enough for the project to stay afloat, regardless how few people wanted print issues.
You might see where this is going.
Too many people wanted issues. Between the Patreon, the online store, and a couple comic conventions, we’ve sold almost 2,000 hand assembled issues each with their own hand crafted “feelie” in the back.
We were not prepared for this.
We were using a process we’d designed to make issues in batches of 10 to 20 to make hundreds at a time. A new issue may take a whole month of work to produce. Running out of a back issue might take weeks of work to reprint. All the while taking time away from writing and drawing the next issue.
Unfortunately, we were stuck. Since we were adamant about having each new issue match the one before it, we couldn’t switch to a less labor-intensive process without impacting something we couldn’t afford to change. One option would be less work and keep the new issues looking the same but triple the cost of printing. Another would keep the cost the same but require changing the issue dimensions. And on and on.
So, when season 2 came around, it was an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and re-design the process. This time, thanks to your support, we had more money to work with. We decided to hire a printer to do just about everything for us.
It would require spending about $1,000 per issue, but it seemed like a worthwhile investment. The books would be even nicer than when we made them them by hand. We‘d make a little more money per book. Since we’d have to order 5 times what was required for patrons, we wouldn’t have to worry about reprints as much. And having that many extra meant we could go to more conventions, and even sell some comic book stores!
First, the printer we planned on using, who I’d worked with and loved, is in China. Its future understandably unclear.
I’ve been looking into other printers, all of which are more expensive, and are now in the same boat as our first choice. They are locked down, and don’t know what future production will look like.
Even if our first choice printer were running smoothly, it was easier to justify a recurring $1,000 printing bill when comic shops and conventions were an option to help sell the extra copies. Now conventions are all canceled, and comic shops have shut their doors.
So now we’re back with a different version of the same problem we had with season 1. To make sure each issue of the new season will match the others in the set we’ve got to commit to a printer and printing method for quite some time. Possibly years. And now is a tough time to place long term bets.
So what options do we have?
- We could turn Incredible Doom into a web only comic. But I feel like we’d lose a bunch of patrons. The printed issues are our most popular reward.
- We could try to pre-fund the printing of the season by running a Kickstarter. But depending on how long season 2 will be, which we are not sure of yet, we’d have to raise six to eight thousand dollars, at a time when folks are hurting financially. Trying to launch a Kickstarter for a project that is only 15% drawn is not only a tough sell but usually strongly advised against.
So the plan right now is to wait. We don’t want to go back to the old printing method, as it’s not sustainable, and many of the places we used to help us are closed now anyway. I don’t feel safe hitching our horse to a new production method until we know more about when, if, and how reliably they will deliver.
Lucky, your support here gives us more options than a lot of creators have right now. So thank you.
While we wait, I’m sending everyone who I have an address for something else in the mail.
Then, once there’s a clear path forward, I’ll let you know when the next issue is on its way.
I love you folks. I’m glad you’re all here and staying as safe as possible. I’ll talk to you all again shortly with more behind-the-scenes news.