The Middle Ground #31: So Close, And Yet So Far...

Ever had a thought in the back of your head that just won't quite appear, even though you know there's something there? It's not something you can just force out, or try and fool into revealing itself; it's just there, prodding you occasionally to remind you that it's there and it's not quite ready just yet.

The reason I'm saying this, y'see, has something to do with James Stokoe and Meredith Gran, and to do with the failures of print against the values of digital. Or something. Like I said, it's not quite there... yet.

Probably the most depressing comics news over the past few days has been that Random House has passed on the option for a second Octopus Pie print collection, something that Gran revealed on Thursday:

This news has been hard to swallow on many levels. From a business standpoint, it’s the undeniable evidence that sales just weren’t what the publisher had hoped they’d be. On an artistic level, I couldn’t help but feel that the content was to blame.

(For those who haven't read Octopus Pie, it should be pointed out that it's definitely not the content's fault; the strip is really, really good, and it holds together well in the There Are No Stars In Brooklyn collection that Random House put out. Also, if you haven't read it, you really should. Just sayin'.)

More to my point, though, Gran says this in the same blog post:

It also occurred to me that I would resume full control of future books, a feeling I’ve missed. Which means the next Octopus Pie book, which will include some of the most beloved stories to date, can be published promptly next year. Had I been signed on for a 2nd volume, we would’ve been able to expect the next book by 2012. Instead, I’m hoping to have a new collection out this February. I’m very excited about this.

Now, cut to James Stokoe making more than 100 pages of an unpublished project available online. There's something about his explanation of why he's doing it - "I don’t think I would be a decent human being if I released this prologue in print without finishing the rest of the book, but the magic of free internet lets me share it with you now" - that stuck with me when I read it, and reminded me about Gran regaining full control of Octopus Pie, but... I don't really know what it is, just yet.

Is it just that the internet gives creators more power over their work? I'm not sure; I feel like I knew that, already, and that that wouldn't/shouldn't stick in my head as much. But it's along those lines, perhaps; a sense that print and digital aren't necessarily solely competing delivery methods, but complimentary, offering things that the other one can't, with the trade-off being the freedom to do what you want against a wider audience...? (Of course, I'm not sure if that stands up to investigation: After all, there's definitely a wider potential audience online, and for less cost upfront, too...)

I could be wrong - These might just be two entirely unrelated circumstances that just happen to share a link in my brain alone. But I can't help but feel as if there're lessons to be learned here for publishers, more than creators (who, I wouldn't be surprised to find, know them already)...

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