I have been thinking about Top Shelf Productions a lot the last few days. A small niche comic book publisher with devoted fans that pick up everything that they release. Mostly black and white graphic novels. This makes a lot of economic sense. With Diamond Distributors increasing their minimum, having a small press "floppy-sized" comic doesn't really make sense. Diamond Distributes to around 3000 comic stores in the USA. To make a profit on a monthly basis one has to hope that each of the 3000 stores buy at least one copy of your $3 comic.
3000 stores buy 1 of your $3 comic= $9000
Diamond pays (best guess) 60% of cover price=$5400
Cost to print 3000 comics with print on demand Kablam-black and white $4755 color $7905
Cost to print 3000 comics with a four color offset printer-$3000 in China (minimum order and must be 6-8 months ahead of distribution schedule.
Now I am just flinging these numbers out at you knowing that I only know these things from research and not from actual experience. There are probably cheaper printing solutions including some of the Canadian four color print presses. But I am just learning and trying to check my logic.
So if you turn the basic bread and butter of your publishing company into publishing primarily Graphic Novels then you can increase the profit difference between what the printer charges and what Diamond (or any other distributor) would be willing to pay for your product.
This will be the tough part of course. Printing bigger means bigger printing bills. That upfront cash to begin the process of getting book to consumer is larger than anything we have tackled yet. We have been reliant on super low print runs and face to face distribution of our products. Lower amount of risk has translated to lower rewards even when we are having successful shows (or selling out of a print run!).
So why am I still awake and thinking about these things despite the fact that I need to be up early tomorrow? Good question.
I want to change the way I perceive CuddleFish. More as a brand. The work that we produce has, up to this point, been intense labors of love. We craft and create each of these books with such a dedication. The plan going forward (at least for The Carriers, HWID, and any other books I put out)- Collected Graphic Novels only. With ISBNs barcodes and distribution.
How will I produce the work? Well, some things have changed in my "day job" that will allow me to focus more on pushing pages out. This is all part of the plan. Scale back and build up. I will be looking to produce a ton of new pages and illustrations. I really want to run a black and white book at the same time that I run a color book. This will be double the production. The black and white book will be a bit more free form and not as precise or detailed as the color work but it will allow me to be more experimental with the art.
Are these lofty goals that I cannot possibly obtain? Possibly. I really don't know. The last year really makes me feel like we can possibly do this. All it takes is putting the time in to put out quality products. Now I have the time.
So this is a letter of purpose. While I may put out a few POD floppies out in the meantime, the goal is to do larger format books with full distribution. DIY all the way.