So I was going to share some process and thumbnails regarding the cover, but then something else happened that I thought I might talk about.

If you hadn’t heard, which I wouldn’t really expect you to unless your finger is on the pulse of all things book and bookselling related large and small- Powell’s City of Books announced the Layoff of 31 workers this week. There are a bunch of articles in local newspapers and what not, but it also made it as far as the New York Times.

Yes, it affects me because I work there part-time [in case you're wondering, I managed to avoid the chopping block], but that’s not why I wanted to bring it up here. When Barnes & Nobles and Borders seemed to be tanking – not to mention independent bookstores around the country left and right – Powell’s, while still affected, seemed to be hanging in there. The flagship store in downtown Portland is THE largest tourist attraction downtown and although the store’s website pales in traffic compared to the likes of Amazon, it still has a fairly decent web presence. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the publishing industry is totally changing, and people are trying to figure out how exactly to adapt to that.

I wanted to mention this because this very website is an example of the industry changing and the influence that digital media has on the industry. [Not that I'm going to be going off my rocker with crazy theories, I would like to point out that today's blog post in no way represents the opinions of our publisher, First Second, or even MK. It's just me rambling and calling it how I see it.]

So here’s a fairly common way that comics get published nowadays – you serialize your comic online> your webcomic gets a pretty good following > you finish your webcomic and either self-publish it or it gets picked up by a publisher. Some examples of this that I can think of off the top of my head [though there are dozens more] are Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference [which was all of the above: a webcomic, self-published through the Xeric grant, and then picked up by Top Shelf], Kevin Cannon’s Far Arden, Drew Weing’s Set to Sea, Joey Wiser’s The Ride Home and Hope Larson’s Salamander Dream.

The interesting thing about this website and Americus, is that we were already picked up by First Second and later on during the editing process we were asked if we wanted to serialize it online – so we had sort of a reverse webcomic to publication experience.

Now, I’m not complaining about this in the least – MK and I were both on board because we had been working on the thing for like three year and the idea that people could be reading it before the publication date that seemed so far away was really great. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t scratch my head thinking, ‘If people can read it online, won’t that affect book sales?’ [This is also a question that was commonly asked by my family when I told them they could read it online]

There are lots of reasons I think that isn’t the case. I imagine that if it’s a common enough occurrence that webcomics are still being picked up by publishers that it doesn’t really affect sales that much, and also, I imagine that there are enough people that wouldn’t know where to find online comics / hate reading them online, but will totally dish out the money / love reading real books that it works out fine sales-wise. [I will admit that I fall into this category. I don't read any online comics because I stare at a computer screen all day enough - I don't want to read my comics on a computer and stare at a screen even more].

It’s just that the internet is a such an important tool for spreading word and drumming up interest, that you can’t really afford to not have web presence.

And I’m saying all this as I’m starting to work on my next big project and wonder what to do with it: Should I pitch it around to publishers? Or just serialize it online and hope to get published when it’s all done? How can I adapt to things changing because the old business model that has worked for other people maybe doesn’t work so much now.

I know that there seem to be two hyperbolic ends of the spectrum – you either think Kindles and iPads are the first step to Cyberdyne, or you think they’re going to usher us into the future of mankind, but I think we all know that it’s not going to be quite like that. The reality is that things are changing and people are having to adapt, whether that adapting means putting your comics online, or having to look for a new job because your employer had to give you the short end of the employment stick, it can be kind of scary.