"Transition" now online!

Sun 4/26/2009

I spent some time this morning reorganizing the comics section of this site. It's now split up into five sections:

  • Currently Available Phase 7 Comics - All of the Phase 7 issues which are still in print and are available for ordering
  • Subscription Info & Phase 7 Collections - Subscription ordering information and links to my Lulu.com books
  • The Phase 7 Online Archive - Webcomic versions of old issues which are no longer being printed as minicomics
  • 24-Hour Comics - Webcomic versions of my 24-hour comics (I need to get my 2008 24-hour comic up!)
  • Miscellaneous Comics - Other odds and ends, like teaching notes and various other minicomics

As it stands now, my self-publishing "business model" is this:
1) Initially, I print stories as minicomics, in individual issues of Phase 7. My print runs at this point are 500 copies, which usually takes 1-2 years to sell out (and/or give away). I'm considering bumping this up to 750 for the next issue of Phase 7.
2) When the first printing sells out, I reprint individual issues as needed, until there is enough material to compile a new Lulu.com collection.
3) Once there is a Lulu.com collection of Phase 7 material, the minicomics go "out of print." (though I usually still have a few floating around, and I can print more if people want to fill a hole in their collection)
4) After a Lulu.com collection has been "new" at every convention (SPX, MoCCA, Stumptown, Heroes Con, etc.) then I place the entire comic online, for anyone to read for free.

"Transition" (Phase 7 #010 and #011) JUST reached that fourth and final step. Both issues are now online for anyone who would like to read them.

Most comics creators (and publishers) know that you basically only sell what is NEW. At a convention I will sell TEN TIMES more of whatever issue is new, compared to any other title. It's important to me, to keep my back issues in print, but they will never sell as well as new material (as it should be!) So I think that final step is really important.

Issues #001 - #004 of Phase 7 have been online for a few years now, and I can't tell you how many people come up to me at shows and say "I read a few issues online and really enjoyed them. Do you have anything that's new?" And you might think that since the material is online, the collections wouldn't sell. But online, you have to click through each page, and the .JPG files aren't the highest resolution, and you have to sit at your computer, etc. It's still nicer to hold a book. Plus the Lulu.com collections have nice color covers, and include all of the original minicomic covers, back covers, introductions and letters columns. I don't sell a TON of these, but like I said, it's not NEW material. Selling a few copies each month is better than the work just being out of print!

It's also nice because when someone comes to my table at a convention, they are often overwhelmed by the show (so many amazing comics in one room!) Sometimes they'll pick up one of the collections and sort of flip through it, but won't commit to buy it and I can just hand them a postcard (with my URL) and say "Here! You can read those comics for free on my website!" It also means that if someone can't afford to buy physical copies, they could read the comics free online. (I want people to read my comics, you know?!) It ALSO means that people can link to specific pages, or to specific issues, and thus spread the word about your comics.

All in all, I feel like it's a pretty good plan. Probably the best part about it, is that it keeps me thinking FORWARD. You get about a year to pat yourself on the back and say "Hey, I made this minicomic!" before it is old news. So you've always got to be working on your next project. And by constantly creating new work, you improve and learn and get better and better. Or at least that's what I'm TRYING to do!

10 comments on this entry

As always, your plan is thoughtful, inclusive, and fun.

I am looking forward to MOCCA (hopefully not as hot as last year). What will be "new" for MOCCA 2009 (if you're going)?

Bruce Apr27

Thanks Bruce! Phase 7 #014 will still be "new" for the rest of this convention season. I'm going to TRY to have Phase 7 #007 ready for SPX... fingers crossed!

Alec Apr27

Hey thanks! I'm going to check this out right away! I was going to purchase this one from lulu but the shipping was about as much as the book and I couldn't really justify it... so I appreciate the web version.

I think your model of doing things is really smart. I love some of your older stuff and it only makes me want pick up what's new. Without some of the web versions I don't think I could have had the chance to really dig into your work.

Anyways, I'll definitely have to get something from you at TCAF, though.

Jason Apr27

Jason- Ugh, sorry to hear that Lulu.com shipping is so expensive to Canada. For future reference, you can also get those books through Amazon.ca

See you at TCAF!

Alec Apr27

Alec, this is really great stuff. I've been meaning to write something about my similar business model for comics and the web, and I might take this as a jumping-off point.

Matthew Apr27

NOTE: Matthew did post an interesting response on his LJ:
http://reidsrow.livejournal.com/247313.html

Alec Apr28

Sir:

I always appreciate the transparency of your business system. You are a model for all of us. I have taken advantage of your online pages to link classes/students/teachers to examples of your work... It's good to be reminded that the wake (back issues) can still be used as a tool to help guide readers into the boat (new material), by cultivating an attitude of welcoming generosity!

-- M.

Marek Apr28

I have a question. In regards to printing the mini-comic, your formula is to print 500 copies and reprint as needed. However, by your model, how many of your collected trades do you personally purchase from Lulu to sell at conventions?

David Ano Apr30

David - I keep track of how many books I sell at each show and then I use that information to plan for the next year's show. At this point I bring about 10 or 15 copies of the Lulu.com books to each show. You can see some of my tally sheets here:

http://alec-longstreth.com/comics/comics_love/19/

Alec Apr30

Dear Alec,
This is very helpful information! I'm trying to get things together for SPX, so I am thankful that you have shared so many tips about how to prepare. I love Phase 7, and can't wait for the next issue! Every indie cartoonist should read issues 010 and 011!!!

Allen S. May04

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