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Monday, September 22, 2008

A Question of Worth, Part 1

Arguably, prose novels can be seen as having more worth in terms of physical content vs. price. You get 400 pages containing tens of thousands of words, all for the price of, say, $8.00 for a paperback. On the other hand, you have to shell out twice that amount to get a paperback black-and-white graphic novel with only 200+ pages. By this alone, graphic novels are destined to sell far less than their prose cousins, because "worth" is determined by how much you offer for a certain price.

Worth is a function of cost vs. benefit. Price vs. Promise.

But worth is also subjective, as much as commercial success depends on an ounce or two of luck. In my experience, worth can be influenced, and it all starts with what influences people to buy.

In the real world, we know that physical content is not the only factor that influences buying decisions. Otherwise, everyone would be buying cheap but reliable mobiles and not care what Apple's plans are for the next generation iPhone. Moreover, the subjectivity of worth is evident in the simple Christmas gift. Give your music-loving friend gift certificates for digital downloads and she'll love you forever. Give that same friend a subscription to Organic Lifestyle magazine, and she'll wonder what you've been smoking.

In short, worth is also a function of what your market wants.

In Seth Godin's The Dip, being "the best in the world" is dependent on two factors--what "the best" means and what "world" means. Michael Moore can be seen as the "best in-your-face director" in the world of "documentary filmmaking." Donald Trump can be seen as the "best businessman" in the world of "real estate." Anyone who has no interest in these worlds would not care, because these worlds don't matter to them.

How many times have we heard young creators talk about their wonderful concepts for a graphic novel? They don't have much writing or art experience and yet they harbor secret hopes that their concept is going to rake them some success.

And how many times have we seen new indie comics on the shelves, waiting for someone--anyone--to check them out, betting their shelf lives on the curiousity of the random comic buyer?


Being "the best" is about your promise. The "world" is the market of your choice. The worth of your graphic novel is measured by how much you give against what is expected of you. These two have to be in sync. If you fail to deliver what is expected, then your work has little worth. If you give your all for those who don't care, then your work has little worth as well.

In the next post, we'll try to zero in on more helpful tips in increasing the quality and worth of your work.

1 Comments:

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