The Future of Publishing, or: is Amazon the new Diamond?

Before the internet existed, the comics world was ruled by Diamond Distribution, which controlled virtually all access to the retailers. Diamond was the king-maker. If Diamond refused to carry you, the best you could hope for was to be an indie fanzine publisher with at most a couple hundred subscribers.

The internet was supposed to free us from all that, but fast-forward twenty years and a new ecosystem of middlemen has arisen: Amazon, Comixology, Spotify, Apple, eBay…and guess who’s making 70 cents on every dollar? Right. Not the creators.

What’s old is new again. It’s now becoming clear to me that publishers existed because they were aggregators. Just as few people would send a money order to some fanzine publisher’s personal PO box, so today will few people buy things from some random guy’s web site.

Although I have deep misgivings about the way things are shaping up, to be fair, there are up-sides. 35 cents on a 99 cent book or song is a better royalty than creators ever got in the past. And also, let’s not forget that this new ecosystem only exists because big companies pushed the development of e-readers and portable music players. Developing hardware is expensive; it takes many man-years and millions of dollars.

So there’s the formula: be an aggregator, have a good mechanism for suggesting new things the site visitor might like, and ding the buyer for an amount that’s below the threshold of notice, like 99 cents. And that’s future of publishing.

If you liked this post, check out Hootie Comics every Thursday and Sunday

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Cambridge Art Walk in the Park

Cambridge Art Walk in the Park is this Sunday Aug. 24 near Central Square. University Park Common, 38 Sydney Street, to be exact. The Boston Comics Roundtable will be there, as well as dozens of local artists. So come check it out. Starts at 11.

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How to draw from photo references

Way back when I first started drawing hootie comics, my first stab at drawing backgrounds was to freehand them from imagination, without any reference. I was really struggling in those days, and the results were pretty lackluster:
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My second stab was to place a photo on a light table and draw over it:
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Aside from the dubious ethics of drawing over somebody else’s photograph, the result looks like a tracing; dull, lifeless, unimaginative.

I needed a better way, and I had my revelation while reading Colleen Doran’s excellent article How to Swipe Like a Pro. My revelation was this: in order to draw with references, you must first draw without references.

Here’s what I mean by that: no photo is going to have everything you want in it, for you to draw verbatim. Every photo is going to be from the wrong angle, in the wrong light, with some stuff you want but missing other stuff you want, and so forth. So be it. Collect a bunch of photos; one because you like the street, another because it has a police station you want to put on the street, another for a man in a pose, another for the folds and wrinkles in a man’s suit, etc.

Now start your drawing by drawing cubes in perspective. This will ensure that all these different elements from different photos stay on the same horizon. For the police station, for example, start breaking the building down into smaller polygons in your mind’s eye, and draw those polygons in perspective, as though you were inventing the building from scratch, which, in a sense, you are. Refer to your photo for the details, not the basic structure.
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For a good book on perspective drafting, I highly recommend Perspective for Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea.

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One week till Boston Comicon!

With so little time remaining, I had to hand-bind my books myself, because there isn’t enough time to do anything else. I used a method that looks like paperback binding but is actually stapled together, though the staples are hidden from view, for a durable and good-looking result. There’s a limit to how many you can do this way, but for now, we’re in business. I’m pretty excited about this. Last year, I attended the Boston Comicon as a fan, and the Mass Indy Comics Expo as a volunteer. Both were a good time; it’s fun top see the costumes, and experience the camaraderie. If all goes well, maybe next year I’ll expand my horizons and try Mecaf and RIPexpo.

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Bloozit Press at Boston Comicon and Mass Independent Comics Expo!

It looks like I will be exhibiting this year at BCC and at MICE. I have space at the Boston Comics Roundtable booth, along with my other roundtable compadres. BCC is Aug. 8-10, so I’ve been scrambling to get a book together. I’m quite proud of the results; the images are finally starting to look, on paper, the way they look in my head. I’ve even had to bind them by hand, because there’s no time to farm it out. They have a cool, handmade look to them. So here it is, the very first Hootie book, titled “You worry me, Mr. Rodent”
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So if you’re in the Boston area, come check it out. In past years I’ve gone to these types of events as a volunteer. They’re a blast, and a great way to connect with the local comics community.

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First 46 Hootie strips moved to archives

I’ve been doing Hootie Comics for three years now, and my…er…learning curve is clearly visible. When I go back to those early strips now, I think, “Yeesh!” Actually, the strips I’m really proud of are still sitting in the queue; they haven’t even been published yet (part of the reason I stepped the schedule up to twice per week).

I wanted to still have those old strips available, but I didn’t want to necessarily showcase them. So starting May 25, 2014, the “first” nav button will take you back to strip 47, which is the earliest strip that doesn’t make me cringe too much. To see strips 1-46, you have to go to the archives.

I think many new readers hit the “First” button and start reading from the beginning, because that’s what I do myself when I discover a new web comic. This change will prevent the rawest of my early stuff from being the first thing those new readers see.

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Hootie Comics goes to twice per week!

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Like most cartoonists, I tend to build up a queue because there are times I get busy and don’t have much time to draw, and I want to keep Hootie Comics coming out on a regular schedule.

Well, I’ve been getting faster, and now my queue is quite long. So starting Thursday May 1 2014 (that’s the day after tomorrow), I’ll be publishing every Thursday and Sunday. Also, since I’m constantly improving, my best stuff has yet to be seen, so this will get it out there a bit faster. Stay Tuned…

-Jonny

Check out Hootie Comics, every Thursday and Sunday

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