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Saturday, March 03, 2018

Mailvox: eCONcomics and limited editions

Written by economist Steve Keen, one of the few professional economists to have correctly anticipated the global financial crisis of 2008, eCONcomics is a series of three satires explaining why the science of economics has gone so terribly wrong. In these savagely erudite satires, Keen highlights the lameness of the excuses offered by economists for their failure to predict anything from the financial crisis to the recent stock market highs. From "secular stagnation" to the "non-accelerating inflation rate of employment" and the "full employment real interest rate", Keen expertly mocks both the myths and the incompetence of his professional colleagues.

After reading eCONcomics, you will understand why no economist ever seems to be able to explain what is going on today, or tell you what will happen tomorrow.

Steve Keen is Professor of Economics at Kingston University in London, and an Honorary Professor at University College London.

I wasn't planning to announce this until next week, as it's still not in stock on Amazon, and there are some pricing/discount issues that we have to resolve, but since I know some of you are checking out the Castalia Books Direct store and it's as cheap to ship five comics as one, I figured I'd go ahead and make the print edition of Steve Keen's economics comic book available to those who are interested today: eCONcomics: Taking the CON out of Economics.

Which, I will warn you, even in comic book form is challenging. On the other hand, it is indubitably a unique collector's item from one of the great minds of economics. Imagine owning a first edition of Albert Einstein's first comic book....

Anyhow, this is a larger 10x7 32-page book that we did not originally plan on selling anywhere but through Amazon and the chain stores - the comic stores are hardly going to carry a highly esoteric educational one-off - so we set a low retail price and a low discount. The problem is that this means the $4.99 price on the Castalia Direct store is actually higher than the $3.99 retail price. We will resolve that somehow, but whether it involves raising the retail price and the discount or something else, I simply don't know. So, if you very understandably would prefer to wait for the retail price, it should be on Amazon by the end of the next week. While it is being published by Castalia, for the time being I put it in the Arkhaven collection on the store for simplicity's sake. You can even pick up a copy of Steve's Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? while you're there.

Also, a reader who is a former comic book store guy had an idea for how we could produce limited collector's editions to benefit the early supporters. He suggested that we do something to signify the first X number of copies printed, such as a gold Arkhaven logo or whatever, as this would potentially increase their value to collectors down the road. While I'm not interested in playing the variant covers game, or charging people more for mirrored reflective holographic covers, something like this that doesn't cost the reader any more and simply rewards those who were the first to support our new comics strikes me as a win-win situation.

So, is this of any interest to the collectors in our midst, and if it is, what should X be? Our goal is to eventually hit average issue sales of at least 50,000, so keep in mind that we probably want to establish a limited edition base that we will not change in the future. Also keep in mind that it costs us both time and money to make this change on every single comic, not much, but enough that we don't want to do it for 50 or 100 comics. My thought is that something in the range between 500 and 5,000 would be about right, but I will defer to the wisdom of the enthusiasts.

And finally, how would you like us to signify these collector's editions? The aforementioned gold logo, distinctive yet tasteful? A giant garish COLLECTOR'S EDITION stamp? Share your thoughts.

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22 Comments:

Blogger Nick Siekierski March 03, 2018 6:39 AM  

A gold or silver/chrome logo sounds good. You might also include a sticker(s) (of the cover for example) for the first 1000+ issues to get the visual of the comic out there, you would just slip it into the comic at the printers. Logistically it's more challenging, but I'd be interested in signed copies, maybe if someone buys 50+ issues at once they get a special signed copy later.

Blogger Fenris Wulf March 03, 2018 6:44 AM  

The variant logo sounds like a good idea. When it comes to vintage magazines, the most sought-after items are often the ones that were cheaply printed and sold poorly, but eventually acquired historical value. They certainly weren't designed to be collector's items.

Blogger Fenris Wulf March 03, 2018 6:46 AM  

And it should be something hard to counterfeit.

Blogger Jackson Peds March 03, 2018 6:46 AM  

Question Vox, does this book also goes away with the recent (((saviour))) of Eastern Europe, (neo)liberalism and/or Free Trade or is it more of where the economists of the world went wrong?

Blogger VD March 03, 2018 6:54 AM  

This is high theory. We are going to write a Free Trade one, starring the Alt-Hero characters, later this year.

Blogger VD March 03, 2018 6:57 AM  

You might also include a sticker(s) (of the cover for example) for the first 1000+ issues to get the visual of the comic out there, you would just slip it into the comic at the printers.

That's definitely not happening. We can't "slip" anything in or sign anything. Anything we do has to fit within the framework of a very large company's system. While they are very responsive and helpful, it can take days for them to dig through the bowels of their vast machinery to tell us something as basic as "when your system says X, what number does X actually represent?"

Blogger Man of the Atom March 03, 2018 7:20 AM  

Simple changes are the best. DC's "The Killing Joke" was very popular and went through several reprint runs. The different colors for the title signified the changes in the print runs.

If adding a logo on the first 500 is easy for the company, that sounds like a great option. First 500-1000 would be my recommendation if your target is 50K sales.

Blogger The Observer March 03, 2018 7:42 AM  

Agree with Man of the Atom. A small golden logo would be great.

Blogger NeoNietzsche: March 03, 2018 7:59 AM  

VD: "The problem is that this means the $4.99 price on the Castalia Direct store is actually higher than the $3.99 retail price."

Um, so what? This is NOT a run-of-the-(amazing Alt Right)-mill -- this is a highly esoteric educational one-off -- so, why wouldn't you price it accordingly.

Kids reading adventure comics are probably NOT going to buy an economics comic book -- people interested in what Keen writes are. Whole different demo! So long as it's not too large an administrative burden on Castalia to handle different pricing for wholly different animals -- price it for adults!

Blogger VD March 03, 2018 8:06 AM  

Um, so what? This is NOT a run-of-the-(amazing Alt Right)-mill -- this is a highly esoteric educational one-off -- so, why wouldn't you price it accordingly.

Well, I try to price things as competitively as possible. We never seriously contemplated the Direct store turning into something that would be a serious sales outlet, particularly in light of the unimpressive performance of Castalia's ebook store. But with Borders going under, Barnes and Noble on the verge of failing, and people becoming increasingly concerned about Amazon having a print, audio, and ebook monopoly, it's clear that we're going to need to take it more seriously and account for it in our planning.

However, we're working very closely with the distributor behind the Direct store, and so I expect many things will be changing and improving over the next 1-6 months. I've actually been working all morning on compiling a list of improvements we'd like to see and converting the print links in the carousel on the left sidebar to the Direct store.

Blogger Man of the Atom March 03, 2018 8:07 AM  

Followup on the "The Killing Joke": 14 softcover print runs, starting at about 40K for the first printing. Also one hardcover version.

Difference is in the title colors. Subtle, but enough for a collector to want that first printing.

Blogger phunktor March 03, 2018 8:23 AM  

I haven't supported the form since the playful Hughie Dewey and Louie days. The gamma at the heart of the superhero genre was always visible and always repelled me. I got big and trained instead of wasting my time on sublimated resentment.

Arkhaven is a big cannon in a war we have to win, so I support it. The thought of in addition turning a profit just makes me giggle. So OK, let's give it a whirl. SDL don't sell stock, have to make do.

Can anyone point me to a how-to on maximizing the "collectible" value? I imagine untouched, stored in the dark and bagged is just a beginning...

Blogger NeoNietzsche: March 03, 2018 8:34 AM  

@10 VD: Well, I try to price things as competitively as possible.

Understood. You're cooking (at least!) two wholly different kettles of fish though! Not suggesting you charge a 'lobster price' for Keen's comic, but I am suggesting you don't charge a hotdog price for lobster either!

With Arkhaven and Alt*Hero (etc.), you're (partly) competing on price (and winning masterfully)! With Keen's seriously deep book on economics -- I'm not sure you should be (and really: $4?! Hardly a bank-buster). And when you do a Van Crevald "comic" -- or a Lind one? They would fit into a graphic novel (or whatever you call serious matter put out in comic form?) 'kettle' -- not a comics kettle?

(I've been working with my SCORE advisor on product pricing, so it's top of my mind at the moment. Sorting by customer demographic is also hugely important...)

Blogger Bodo Staron March 03, 2018 9:07 AM  

4.99? I'm surprised that this is so cheap.
When will it be possible to order in Germany? Thanks.

Blogger seeingsights March 03, 2018 9:25 AM  

Something can be said for trying to explain intellectual subject matter--ranging from physics to history--in comic book form.

Trying to put intellectual subject matter in comic book form forces the writer to be understandable. And being understandable assists in reaching the truth.

For example, when we come across something presented in a complicated, obfuscatory way, our bullshit meter gets raised. Presenting ideas in a comic book form inoculates--though not perfectly--against bullshit.

Blogger Uncle John's Band March 03, 2018 9:50 AM  

I like the gold logo too. It's a nice balance between standout acknowledgment and doable on Arkhaven's end.

Blogger Looking Glass March 03, 2018 10:48 AM  

Looking at the Quantum Mortis & Right Ho, Jeeves covers, the baseline Arkhaven logo is quite appropriate for the look. Silver/Chrome alt-logo is the way to go, I think.

You'd want an identical sized one, to just replace on the cover. First 500 or 1000 copies, I'd think. Replace the white with Silver/Chrome and replace the red with Gold, then add 1 more star on each side, for a 4 Star pattern. (See, it's a 4 Stars!) When the print run is accomplished to the correct level, the updated cover is simply used with the normal Arkhaven logo. (The power of vector graphics logos, haha.)

Do we also need one for the DLC comics? He could hold a different tipped spear, I'd think.


@15 seeingsights

Vox understands how potent it is to put hard subjects in visual form. This is a very important outcropping of the Comics approach, but putting the insights into a visual frame of reference takes deep insight on the topic. That's not something easy to produce, which is why it'll be slow going for the topics yet very valuable.

Blogger John Sixth March 03, 2018 1:35 PM  

I collected comics for years. I always said I was a collector but I'm a reader. They only value my collection has isnt going to be realized till I'm dead and my children start selling off the collected detritus of my life for a quick buck to pay off the taxman.

But I still like the shineys. :-)

Blogger SmockMan March 03, 2018 3:47 PM  

Tasteful Gold sounds best.

Blogger Skyler the Weird March 03, 2018 7:09 PM  

Off Topic. Anyone else notice that the PIN to use in this year's Hugo Nominations starts with SJ?

Blogger roundeye March 03, 2018 7:18 PM  

Tom Doak has had great success with signed copies of his pre-sold Confidential Guides. If you knew what I spent for a first (printed) edition it would mark me a genius or moron. But the book is worth double now what I paid.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd March 05, 2018 12:28 PM  

John Sixth wrote:I collected comics for years. I always said I was a collector but I'm a reader. They only value my collection has isnt going to be realized till I'm dead and my children start selling off the collected detritus of my life for a quick buck to pay off the taxman.

I'd suggest that you either give stuff to your adult kids soon, or sell it when you're done with it. Put assets you need into trust, or set them up to transfer on your death. Your kids will not thank you for leaving them a mess to clean up.

I was able to structure my parents' estate so that we never even had to probate the will. It was still a big mess.

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