Kelly Sue: Oh, man! This is so tough to answer.
Okay, deep breath.
If you want to make crafts related to our books for yourselves, or your friends for free, we are SO DOWN. If you want to repurpose actual comics (not color copies) to make crafts that you then sell, we are ALSO DOWN. If you want to talk to our lawyers and set up a licensing agreement, we are SUPER DUPER DOWN.
If you want to make unlicensed products to sell, however… we’d prefer that you not. I know this makes us sound like capitalist pigs, I do. But here’s the thing: we are capitalist pigs. Though this project is a labor of love, it’s also how we pay our bills. This is how we pay our employees, who in turn, have bills to pay. We can sell the licenses to produce merch related our our books and it devalues the license if the licensor has to compete with unlicensed merch. Poorly worded, I know. Does it make sense, though?
This is a bit of ‘how the sausages get made,’ so if it doesn’t interest you, no worries.
::puts on businesswoman hat and rolls up sleeves::
The economics of comics are such that — unless you’re a SAGA or a WALKING DEAD, which is a beautiful but rare state — you shed readers and you never do better than you did your first issue. Take, for instance, Bitch Planet. Now I don’t want anyone to worry: Bitch Planet is a hit — it launched very strong, has gotten a ton of press and has a community strongly behind it. But even as a hit, the orders for issue 4 came in at 55% of what they were for Issue 1. That’s actually a pretty great retention rate (!!), but it still means our income for that issue, compared to issue 1, literally dropped by about half. Traditionally numbers level out at about the 3rd or 4th issue and, if you can keep the quality up and don’t jack the schedule up too much, you SHOULD be able cut your rate of decrease, but there’s seldom a reversal of numbers on a creator-owned book, where there are no crosseover events, or changes of creative teams to give the book marketing bump.
…We have 30-50 issues planned.
How are we going to get to fifty issues and continue to get paid?
Well, priority one: we keep making a book that we love and we hope that we are one of those rare books that does see a shift in the numbers.
We can also look for other ways for the book to bring in income — like sales of foreign rights, trade paperback collections (the first of which, at $9.99, will have a slim profit margin) and — you guessed it! — licensed merch.
Licensed merch helps us keep the book going.
[We do have charities that we support — I am very proud of the amount of money that we have raised for Girls Leadership Institute — but in the case of creator-owned books, this is part of our core business model, alas, and not found money.]