Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: The Business of Comics is Booming

Sally and the girls aren't home.  I've got a beer open, and I'm watching the WWE's "The Ladder Match 2: Crash & Burn" on Netflix.  It's gratuitous violence, but I'm enjoying it immensely.
1.  Comic Sales Hit $870 Million in 2013 (Major Spoilers)
Captain America Promo Poster for
Avengers 2: Age of Ultron
This is from a base of $715 million in 2011 and $805 million in 2012, which gives us something like 10% growth year-on-year.  What’s exciting about that is that the growth appears to be sustained, that if we hit a billion dollars sometime in the next year, comics may no longer be a loss-leader for films and television but may actually become a standalone industry again.  That doesn’t suck.
From the article, the breakdown was as follows:
 - Comic Stores orders of Monthly Comics - $340M
 - Comic Store orders of Graphic Novels - $170M
 ------ Direct Market Total: $510M
 - Book Stores - $245M
 - Digital Comics - $90M

It’s worth noting that while the digital channel grew the fastest, growth on hard copies of comics sold in the Direct Market are also growing at a pretty good pace.  I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised to see the Bookstore Market performing so strongly.  I’d thought bookstores were becoming a thing of the past.
If you’re wondering, I personally buy nearly all my current issues from my local comic shop, Alternate Universe in Milford, CT.  However, I buy back-issues from Comixology.Com, mostly when they have sales.
While we’re talking about comics…

“The study… concluded that the regulation would cut demand for electricity from coal — the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution — but create robust new demand for natural gas, which has just half the carbon footprint of coal. It found that the demand for natural gas would, in turn, drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it, which, in addition to Oklahoma and Texas, include Arkansas and Louisiana.
The report concluded that the rule would hurt states where coal production is a central part of the economy — chiefly Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producer. States that produce both coal and natural gas, such as Pennsylvania, would experience an economic trade-off as diminished coal production was replaced by new natural gas production.”
This issue annoys me to no end.  I agree that it’s important to cut down on coal-fired power because of pollution, but by selling it in terms of Climate Change, they open the thing up to all manner of nonsense.  Some folks choose not to believe in Climate Change while others pretend that just getting rid of coal is gonna make all the difference that needs to be made.  Meanwhile, there are a zillion more pressing pollution concerns, and yeah, a lot of this also addresses those, but it does so in a backhanded manner that leaves issues open to debate that ought to be closed.
Reality is that this country has something like 200 years’ worth of natural gas in the ground, and regardless of all other considerations, the economics are going to drive us to use it one way or another.  If nothing else, all that gas is a magnificent natural hedge against the mass-market effects of failed states in the Middle East, and at least right now I get the feeling that most Americans would rather avoid getting involved in those places again.  Granted, there is some infrastructure that needs to be built, but that’s a hardly insurmountable problem.  We also need to fix our roads.
“A skateboarder and four young pals emerged Wednesday as the unlikely suspects who eluded around-the-clock NYPD security to scale the venerable Brooklyn Bridge and raise two white flags….

There’s still no explanation for the removal of two U.S. flags or the bizarre substitution of two bleached-white American flags left flying above the bridge’s two towers Tuesday.”

I don’t know if this made the national news, but it was the crime of the century here in New York.
4.  Rounding into Form
I’m not competing this year, but I still feel like I’m finally rounding into form.  My friend Ben and I rode fifty miles on Saturday last weekend, and I felt good for almost all of it.  Then I swam on Tuesday against one of the local high school kids and had no problem at all keeping up for several hundred yards.  Wednesday I ran 3.5 miles at 8:15/mile (aerobic pace) in 85° weather with high humidity.  All of those things were pretty good benchmarks of my current fitness level.  Granted, I feel like I’m about ready for a recovery week, but every time I go out and try to perform lately, I’ve been able to get into a groove and do well.  That doesn’t suck.
In some ways, I wish I was racing, but it’s been nice to take a step back from training and from the general intensity of triathlon this year.  Rounding into form has been a pleasant surprise, but that’s all.  We’ll see what next year brings when I (hopefully) get back on track in a more organized way.
5.  Writing Update
I also finished rewriting my book this week.  I still have a couple of little changes to make, but after we come back from vacation, I’m finally going to begin sending it around to various agents and publishers.  That promises to be an interesting—and by “interesting” I mean “incredibly frustrating”—process, but I guess it has to happen.  For all that I’d like to just put the book out there on my own and see what it does, that doesn’t seem like a smart way to go about it.  If nothing else, there’s a certain prestige to getting published the old-fashioned way, and that matters to me more than I wish that it did.
For now I’m happy just to have a finished story that (I think) works really, really well.  
If you’d like to get a review copy of my book, now’s your one and only chance.  I’m not looking for test-readers so much as I am simply happy with where the book is and eager show it off to people.  No one has read the whole thing yet, and frankly, I want to see what folks think of the ending.
In case you’re curious, the final draft came out to just over 300 pages with 133,000 words.  It has:
 - “Sneax and Elaina Emboo and the Fire Elf” (8 Chapters)
 - “The War Master”
 - “Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki” (13 Chapters)
 - “A Wizard of Wanderhaven” (4 Chapters)
 - “The Crown of Pluto”
 ---- War by Proxy (6 Chapters)
 ---- Retreat (11 chapters)
 ---- Beyond the Black Gate (6 chapters)
 - “Rags to Riches to Rags Once Again”
 - Afterword
 - Appendix: The Twelve and the Divine Mystery
When I started, I thought of the book as a Young Adult novel, but I’m not sure that’s how it came out.  Yes, the protagonists are teenagers, but as the book developed, I started writing more to the young women my daughters are becoming rather than to the girls they actually are today.  I’m not concerned right now with the book’s marketing, but this aspect of it is likely to confound reader expectations.  
Since this is now the second book I’ve written that deliberately confounds reader expectations, I’m starting to think that’s a basic part of what I do as a writer.  More than anything else, I suppose it’s this aspect about which I’d like to hear feedback from friends.
Anyway, if you want a copy of the book, you have to let me know somehow.  I’ll be happy to send it over, but if I do, you have to read it and let me know what you think.  And when it eventually winds up on Amazon (one way or another), you have to drop a reader review on the site.
That’s all I’ve got this week.  In less than a week, we’ll be in Maine!


  1. On the Carbon Pollution thing, I don't know why any state would be against wind and solar (as is Oklahoma since they passed regulations to penalize people who use those energy sources). The two industries are cleaner and bring in higher paying jobs with substantially lower safety risks. Seems like a win-win to me.

    1. A lot of renewable resources can't complete economically without subsidies, and I think there's room for debate about whether or not those subsidies make sense. Different states fall different places on the issue according to their best interests. That said, yeah, I have no idea why you would PENALIZE any non-polluting resource. That's just weird.

  2. I'm shocked at that comic industry news. I started reading comics more voraciously 2 years ago now (or so), but I found going to the Local stores immensely frustrating; comics come out on Wednesday and if I wasn't there on a Wednesday, I wouldn't get the issues I wanted. So I go pretty much all digital, and I do like not having to worry about storage...

    I'm not promising to read your book (yet), but in my blog post today, I did mention that I read your Centurion 6 short stories using the Pocket app on my Kobo e-reader...

    1. I think the idea of having a comic "collection" still resonates with people--even people who realize that modern comics will never have the kind of collectible value that the Golden and some of the SIlver Age books do. I'm a perfect example. If digital comics were cheaper than physical copies, I would switch tomorrow, but as it is, there's no compelling reason to go to digitial for new books, and I'd rather have the floppies since I will eventually hand them down to my kids. Even knowing that 95% of my collection probably ought to head to the recycling bin, I still have some few books in there that are lost gems--some old X-Men books from the early 80s, copies of Marvel's Star Wars #1, etc. Not thousand dollar books but books that have some value.

      Anyway, I keep a Pull List at my local shop, and over time, we've built a relationship with the guys that run the place. I wouldn't call it "friendly" necessarily, but it's well-lit and reasonably well-organized, and that puts it well ahead of many, many shops I've seen.

      What'd you think of Centurion 6? I didn't get into this in the story itself, but the idea came out of Marvel's Civil War, casting the son of Cyclops and Emma Frost as the protagonist.