Saturday, July 11, 2009

Re: reprints, print on demand, etc etc

The issue of the out-of-print Scary Go Round books has risen from the grave. Some people say "do print on demand", some say "do a pre-order, I'll buy one!" But this is a vexed issue, some might say the most vexed of my recent career.

A few nice folks have been in touch with me about different ways to do this. I was quite keen to do really cheap, junky looking black and white reprints of the early books with new, mystifying titles like "Methyl Beaks" and "A Bad Inveigler's Honky Snort" , but the early, borderless Illustrator art doesn't work in black and white. Necks join heads as one, faces vanish into walls, it's Hieronymous Bosch all over again.

I opened up one of the really early comics to see if I could fix up the old books quickly. It was like going back to homework you wrote when you were 14 years old to try and make it better. You'd just start again. You wouldn't do it once then find hundreds of other essays about aquifers to titivate.


Anonymous said...

Well John, obviously the choice is yours and yours alone.

But it seems to me from all the comments over the last few days that numerous people are practically throwing money at you, asking you to reprint the books in some fashion.

And you're saying no to that money.

If you were just doing this as a hobby, that would be one thing. But given that you're trying to make a living out of your comics, it seems to me the height of folly to refuse all the potential sales you'd get from bringing the books back into print in some fashion or another.

If there's a will, there's a way. People have printed books with far less money to start with than you have, and have done well.

As I said, your choice. You can keep sticking your fingers in your ears and saying "La la la, no books, no books, too much effort," drive off potential buyers, and live on crisps.

Or you can get off your arse, ask around, do research, comparison shop, and find some way to bring out the product that countless people are literally begging you for.

Your choice.

John A said...


your rather high-handed tone fails to take into account how much time I have spent trying to massage these particular numbers. I recognise that your indignation is due to the fact that I seem a complaining and ineffectual sad sack. Quite the opposite, I have spent so long chasing quotes and trying to make the numbers and logistics work on small scale projects that I am simply exhausted by it because they only rarely do.

arariel said...


I'm one of those people that would gladly throw gobs of money at John for reprints, or a fancy box set, or whatnot...

But I also have spent a bit of time trying to do that whole "Self publish" thing, and sometimes, sadly, the numbers just don't work.

I honestly believe Mr. Allison would gladly give all of us what we want, were it in his power to do so, and I'm sure he's tried a lot of different ideas to make this work. I suspect he feels quite sorry about that fact, too. However, if you think it can be done somehow, and think you know something he doesn't... by all means, share that knowledge, and provide a solution that WOULD work, instead of sitting on a high horse. I'm pretty sure you're just trying to help, but it comes across about as well as telling a policeman "Hey, I pay your salary!" when they pull you over.

autsa said...

I feel this whole reprint issue would be more feasable when your new comic takes off, and brings in another new audience eager to buy your older works. Like how Paul Pope's works were completely impossible to buy for years, but now can be bought fairly easily. New interest, new investment.

And besamim, if the internet is anything to go by, most of the people saying they'll throw money at John probably won't. The internet provokes such false promises too easily to ever take seriously when dealing with possibly bank-breaking issues. Ghosts, for example: people begged for an extra little story, and they GOT ONE!!

And no-one bought it. Even though it's a fantastic little book (and has a show-stealing letter from me at the end of it. I will sign issues if people wish to send them to me).

autsa said...

Plus, throwing money at people is pretty dangerous. Two pound coins can come quite sharp across the skin.

arariel said...


My only real suggestion would be take pre-orders, with the stipulation that if not enough were received by a certain date, or whatever, it wouldn't happen, and would be refunded. But that comes with plenty of it's own problems. I agree that perhaps once his new comic takes off, there would perhaps be more feasibility to such a project.

Oh, and I'd be throwing filthy Yankee internet dollars... they have a lot less weight these days :p

K said...

Hi John,

I am - slowly - trying to accumulate all the SGR books I can get. Please don't burn any! I can't afford to buy them all at once, but I won't be put off by not getting the full set.

Obviously it would be nice, but then lots of things would be nice.

I'll be reading whatever you do next. Unless it contains lots of severed limbs, because I have a phobia about those. But it seems unlikely.

Tom Nash said...

Mr. T's Leg Jamboree is probably not going to be the comic you were hoping it would be, K.

P.S. Mr. T's real name starts with BA so I am pretty sure that this is definitely the direction the new comic will be taking.

Amanda Davis said...

I'm guessing besamim doesn't understand this whole "cost/benefit analysis" thing.

Brodie said...

Out of curiosity, what would rolling together an omnibus from the first three books do to the economics of the endeavour?

John A said...

It would be an L-shaped book, 700 page book! It would be a catastrophe in all regards.

Bryan said...

I love the old art. The facial expressions on that page are so cute.

Boston said...

I would be more than happy to own the black and white editions as a "better than nothing" option.

That said I'm the guy that just wants to own things that he might not otherwise get to own, not the guy being asked to modify work he dedicated thousands of hours to.

A stressful plight indeed, but I'll keep crossing my fingers that someday I'll be able to own the whole collection!

Lucy said...

Why not make the pages available as PDFs for a downloading fee and people can make their own books in whatever colour, texture and sequence they like? Minimal effort, maximum reward!

(Kings of Industry like Besamin can begin a lucrative cottage business and use their natural charm and people skills to become the next Alan Sugar.)

Anonymous said...

All right, people, look. I happen to have purchased every single SGR book issued, from Looks, Brains and Everything through Peloton. Yes, I even purchased Scareodeleria, Ghosts, Heavy Metal Hearts and Flowers and Girl Spy. I want John Allison to do well.

I'm happy that he has in fact done a thorough cost-benefit analysis of different publishing options. But without his having said so before his reply to my comment, it sure didn't sound like he had. Nonetheless, I was factually wrong, and for that...I'm sorry, John.

And here is my apology for the rest of you who assumed I was some kind of meanie-face troll just because my well-meant advice didn't meet the Emily Post standard:


"What's on telly?"

Holly said...

Make Dark Horse print your stuff like they have been doing for so many other webcomics! Yes, MAKE THEM! At gunpoint! Or whatever weapons are legal in England...

Seriously though, I have no idea how Dark Horse does such things, if they approach the people or what, but it couldn't hurt to try to contact them and ask?

John A said...

Besamim, sometimes a person makes comments when there is the hot blood of heavy thought in their veins, fear not, fear not.

John A said...


Because all my books have been published once, there is not much impetus for a "proper" publisher to republish them. Early Scary Go Round is a bit stiff and rough looking for Dark Horse - they're the tops!

Holly said...

Hmmm, good point about Dark Horse... I suppose I had it on my mind because they recently (ie last week) put out a Sinfest book that actually reprints the first one and a half volumes of Sinfest's earlier books (which Diamond is out of but apparently Amazon isn't).
For background, I personally have all of your books, but I work at a comic store and would loooove to be able to make other people buy your books, like I get to do for Penny Arcade and Perry Bible Fellowship, and now Sinfest.
Having said all that, it seems to me like you have clearly given this all a lot of thought, and that "starting over" in a fashion makes a lot of sense as a way to gain new readership while hopefully retaining what you already have. ^_^ Maybe your future series could make its way into Dark Horse's hands someday...

arariel said...


You're alright, man. Sorry if I was a bit harsh on ya earlier.

I've decided to go ahead and get as many of the new books as I can, and hope to fill in the first ones as I can. So far, I've managed to find Looks, Brains, and Everything for $50, and Skellington for $100 (signed) The trick now is to convince the wife how thoroughly worth it the purchases are. I really do wish John would see a bit of that money too... but such is life.

I've also learned my lesson... new series: I buy every book while I've the chance!

John A said...

Arariel, drop me a line, I can help you out with the first book for much less than that.

$100? Really???? Skellington is the rarest book as a few boxes were damaged by water.

Scott said...


Sell the publication rights for the SGR collection to someone else. That way you generate some cash and don't need to worry about the risks of another run yourself.

arariel said...

John A,

Email sent! It's probably a bit awkward sounding... never quite sure what to say to folks I admire and respect. Just consider any awkwardness a compliment, I suppose!

John A said...

Don't worry Arariel, if I wrote a message to Robert Popper I think it would be the same situation.

Megan Rose said...

I really think you should do print-on-demand. You just send them the files, they only print books when people order them, they ship them. You really don't have to do anything besides make some extra money now and then.

You don't make as much money doing it this was as you would if you kept stock and sold them yourself, but you can just upload the files you had for the first run of books (a bit of reformatting might be in order, but probably not too much), and then the fans can have the books without you doing much at all in work, and with no monetary risk.

Win, meet win.

(I just can't bear the thought of having all but 2 of the SGR books. That will not do.)