Good morning/afternoon/evening/night, people!
Taking centre-stage this week we've got an article from "No-More-Heroes" writer Gordon MacLean.
Waste Not, Want Not
By Gordon Mclean
Digital piracy – it’s the comic book industry’s biggest hot button, rivalled only by creator rights. To most it’s a nasty little troll eating the business from the inside out, drastically hurting sales, stealing money from everyone’s pockets and is all the more despised because it’s doing it out in the open without fear of reprise. There’s hundreds of sites offering the latest comics for illegal consumption the day they go on sale and like an electronic hydra if you take down one another two sites spring up on another server in the time it takes to read the latest Batman. In fact, maybe piracy is not merely a “troll” but rather a Terminator! It cannot be bargained with, it cannot be reasoned with and it will not stop until the industry is dead.
Some defend it as a means of reading out-of-print material (how else you gonna read Grant Morrison’s Zenith?), a way for poorer comic fans to get hold of their favourite titles or for others to see what’s out there before reaching into their pockets. How many pay for what they’ve already read for free? No one can offer solid numbers. Anyone thinking of investigating this matter might as well attempt to count all the fish in the sea – they’d probably have more success with that.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about piracy recently because the little troll came directly into my house and made a mess. The first issue of my debut comic No More Heroes launched a couple of weeks ago to a warm reception. Too warm, as it went on to become one of the “Top Torrents” on illegal download sites, nestled amongst the likes of Batman and The Walking Dead.
When I was alerted to this and visited these sites I saw that NMH had been downloaded over 2000 times and counting. My first thought was “All those sales!” You see, NMH was completely self-funded. I used a mixture of my redundancy money (having recently lost my job) and the cash raised from selling my collection of Playstation games to cover all the costs of getting the comic into print. If everyone who’d downloaded it had given us just one quid it would’ve covered all those costs and allowed us to earn a wage for all the work we’d put into the title. Surely that’s fair and something everyone is entitled to? Tell that to the pirates.
What to do? Curse and swear? Lament my loss? Pretend the troll didn’t exist? No. I was going to use this. I was going to get something out of this crappy situation. I brewed up a strong cup of coffee, blasted out some loud music and went to work on a press release detailing how a self-published small press title created by a couple of unknowns and with no advertising was now one of the most popular comics of the week: the numbers on the pirate sites proved this. I sent the press release everywhere!
And it worked! A number of comic sites picked it up and ran it. Emails came in asking for interviews. Best of all, when Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool put the article on his site it lead to a thread on the BC forum filled with messages of support and people encouraging each other to help us out and buy a copy. It was incredibly heartening and really showed the positives of online comic book fandom – there’s so much more to the World Wide Web than bitter creators and merciless pirates snarling at each other.
Here’s the moral of the story: everything can be used to help your comic book if you’re ready to put the work in. In this case we used all those lost sales and tried to get as much publicity from them as possible – not exactly a fair trade, but something at least. Now a lot more people know about us and No More Heroes, plus we got some sales off the back of it.
When you’re at the bottom of the industry ladder shout about everything until the people further up notice you.
No More Heroes website: http://nomoreheroescomic.wordpress.com/