Note From The President, Cerebus 183, June 1994Copyright 1994 Dave Sim
Viktor Davis sat poised at his typewriter. He thought again of...
Ahem. Sorry about that.
This one is a bit more advanced again, intended for the once and future 'next Bone' folks. It is the single greatest benefit that self-publishing has ever experienced that all levels of the direct market are actively seeking the 'next Bone'. The greatest problem that a self-publishing creator whose book is 'taking off' is going to experience is cash flow problems. The money that comes in on your most recent issue ends up being less than the amount you need to live on and to pay your next printing bill. Even if you can get on top of the printing bill situation, once you get up around issue 5 or 6, the earlier issues are running low and you face the problem of going back to press, printing issue 7 at the same time that you have to do second printings of issues 1 and 2. Suddenly you have to pay three printing bills in one month just when your book is starting to be profitable. The best advice is to make some sort of arrangement with your printer or the bank where you do business. The major strength of the direct market is still the nonreturnability of the books sold (this assumes you are shipping on schedule, which you should be). When you get your orders in, use them as direct evidence of your viability. Show your printer. Here, I will have this much money coming in in thirty days, guaranteed. Ask for thirty day terms or a mix of a down payment on the printing job (most printers have to pay in advance for their paper, which is their largest concern when it comes to extending credit) and the balance payable in 30 days. A sympathetic bank is another option. If you can explain to them how the direct market works, the non-returnability especially, it is not outside of the range of possibilities that they will give you a line of credit or a revolving loan. Essentially, the bank just guarantees your cheques up to a fixed amount - in the case of a self-publisher, a few thousand dollars is all that's required. You don't borrow the money, it's just a safety net that is there as required. The bank will monitor how much of it you use, how long it takes you to 'make good' on your overdrafts and how your account is doing when the cash flow tides are 'in'. If you maintain a balance between two and three thousand (say) that slips a thousand into the 'red' for thirty days or sixty days and then rebounds up to four thousand - well, that's just the sort of thing that banks like very much to see. I most recently recommended this to Teri Wood (hi, Teri) who definitely has the pole position in the 'next Bone' derby. Her cash flow isn't the best right now, but she has received something like two hundred fan letters from around the world in a period of a few weeks. I suggested that she take a box of them to the bank with her along with her Capital and Diamond purchase orders. I would assume that a bank official with a bit of vision (there are some, there are some) could look at the two together and figure that a small line of credit wouldn't be a misplaced investment. Letters from as far away as the UK, Australia, Singapore, deepest darkest Canada etc. etc. are worth a shot. Always lead with your best shot.
I remember James Owen feeling quite put out when his Diamond orders were coming in at a fraction of his Capital orders. This is not unusual. Diamond is in a very dominant position and the 'next Bone' syndrome cuts two ways. No one (or very few people) were in on Bone at the beginning. Andromeda was, the Silver Snail, a handful of others. Now, of course, virtually every distribution outlet and retail store is doing very well with Jeff's book. For the aggressive ones, this tells them that there's a great deal to recommend looking for, supporting, and making the 'next Bone' happen. For the passive ones, they can afford to sit and wait until it is happening and then jump on the bandwagon (usually wearing an 'I was Here First' t-shirt). The same Andromeda that supported Bone from the beginning didn't carry Cerebus until around issue nine. Harry Kremer who was the only Canadian retailer to buy the first issue (bless 'im) was told by Ron 'let me know when he goes to colour.' To say I was determined to force Andromeda to carry Cerebus would be an understatement. My molars ached. I stayed in the game, I put the books out on schedule and made it impossible for Andromeda to not carry Cerebus. If one or both large distributors won't carry your book or if you get pitifully small orders from them, the ball is in your court. You have to put together a network of stores, subscriptions and individual sales and put your nose to the grindstone for months or even years until you can prove them wrong. If you can't sell enough copies with a colour cover on newsprint, then you go to mini-comic format and build interest and attention there by putting the book out regularly and getting better. Remember there are a lot of ballplayers who are drafted pretty high and still spend years in the minors before they're 'called up'. The ones who don't want it badly enough quit. The ones who want it badly enough play their hearts out game after game for months or even years on end.
How badly do you want it?
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