“There’s no such thing as bad publicity” is an axiom that is unfortunately absolute in tone. Ask Sarah Palin and her family if they think there’s a benefit to all media coverage, and you might find the language they use might not be as Christian as the Alaskan governor claims to be. Still, there is some truth to the expression, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than with the upcoming publication of Kramers Ergot from Buenaventura Press.
Slated for release in November, the seventh issue of Sammy Harkham’s comics anthology is breaking from its usual format. The new issue will be 96 pages long and retail for a suggested $125 US. The reason for the inflated price is the unconventional, oversized format with which Harkham has opted to experiment. It will be 16 by 21 inches; reportedly, the unusual format will require hand-stitched binding, and the project is of such import to those producing it that someone will travel overseas to oversee (heh, homonyms are fun) the printing process.
The high price point, despite the justifications offered by its editor, has resulted in a surprising controversy. Some supporters of indie/alternative comics craft have criticized the move, arguing the editor and publisher is putting Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 beyond the reach of many readers who have supported the anthology up ’til now. I’ve also read a criticism that the oversized format and niche-market pricing smack of self-importance.
Speaking as a media professional who’s observed the furor and some more reasoned discussions on the topic, I have to say the shift in format and cost to the consumer constitute a stroke of genius.
From a marketing perspective, the controversy surrounding KE Vol. 7 has paid off already for the book and Buenaventura Press. Thousands of comics enthusiasts who had never heard of the book are reading about Kramers Ergot online now. Even Newsarama actually covered the brouhaha, and its alt-comics coverage has been negligible in the past.
I have to admit that I’d barely heard tell of the book before the price debate among comics bloggers, and it’s the kind of work of which I really should have aware. Am I going to buy the expensive new volume? Hell no. It’s too much for me to plunk down on the comic-shop counter, even if it weren’t something of an unknown quantity for me.
However, when I see a past issue of Kramers Ergot on the shelves or perhaps a more affordable future issue, I will definitely stop and take note of it. I’ll check to see who the contributors are. I’ll thumb through its pages. I’ll pay attention. And therein lies the success of the KE Vol. 7 experiment. It’s got people talking about the title where there was no discussion before. It’s drawn ire from some critics, but it’s also fostered interest and curiosity.
Regardless of the potential sales success or creative success of Vol. 7, it seems to me that the venture will be prove to be worthwhile in the long run.
To quote Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”