Monday, 7 July 2014

Anders Nilsen, Zak Sally, more, to create new cultural exchange with readers

This sounds like one of those very cool projects that can only really happen within comics (and generally self-published work and projects): cartoonist Anders Nilsen (Big Questions, Rage of Poseidon) is conducting the release of his new comics in an intriguing manner: not only is he publishing 2 new comics- one of which is ostensibly a continuation of his 2013 panoramic concertina book, The Rage of Poseidon. Titled God and the Devil at War in the Garden, the book is a 24 page, large format 9" x 12 1/4" comic, with a fold out back cover. Nilsen expands on what it includes: 'The main story is a piece about the Devil that didn't quite get finished for Rage of Poseidon. It also includes a collaborative strip I did with novelist Kyle Beachy and a piece I did back in 2011 about a vacant lot near my old place in Chicago. It's got a few drawings from a show I did at the Elmhurst Art Museum in 2012 and elsewhere (the book's title refers to the cover drawing which wraps around and folds into the back).'

The second, other book is a 13 page mini-comic titled Conversational Gardening (which you can read for free here at Nilsen's site), which will be sent to the first 25 people who pre-order  God and the Devil at War in the Garden, and is about this 'experiment' (as Nilsen refers to it) that Nilsen is undertaking as part of the release- asking readers who buy comics directly from him or bookstores to engage in an interaction with him and other artists as a means of encouraging a more personal, creative exchange in lieu of buying from Amazon:
'The mini and the experiment it launches were prompted by all the bullshit Amazon has been pulling lately. Maybe you've been following it. The comic puts in a larger context why what they do fucking annoys me. The experiment is my response. And it comes down to this: I'm asking people who buy one of my books (any of my books, not just this new one) at an independent bookseller (or from my online store) to send me 1) the receipt, (a formality to show it's not from Amazon) and 2) a question or idea written on a piece of paper. I will then make a drawing in response on the piece of paper and send it back to them. I'm planning to do 100. Signed and numbered. 
I have a few other cartoonists lined up to be guest artists on the project, to be announced over the next several months as they have new books coming out. The first will be Zak Sally, with the release of Recidivist #4 later this Summer.
The idea is to start a series of symbolic "conversations" -- questions and responses -- in order to a) create an incentive for readers to buy my work from people who actually care enough about art and literature to make selling it their livelihood and b) encourage people to see their cultural exchanges as real, human level relationships. I wanted to do something that would amount to a positive response- creating something new. A boycott or an anti-trust case or vaguely shaming people for shopping on Amazon are all fine, too, but they are negative responses that try to keep something from happening. I wanted to make something new happen.'
I really love the idea of this, and I don't doubt that there will be a good number of people willing to take Nilsen and other artists up on the offer of some original art by buying books directly from them, although I have to wonder how cost-effective it would be to be sending out drawings to people around the world with today's postage prices. While buying incentives and art and print supplements are nothing new, the back-and-forth nature of this is note-worthy. Amazon have greatly cut back on the discounts they once offered, and I think it may be enough that cartoonists such as Nilsen and Sally (more 'indie' authors with niche followings) could draw those who may have bought from the retailer to themselves and their stores. It'll be interesting to see how this develops and who else is involved. I've put in my pre-order for Nilsen's book; I hope you'll look into it, too, apart from devising new strategies for selling, he's also an excellent cartoonist.