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One Cobble at a Time

Reaching 1000

Sandra Tayler's Journal

responsible woman

A cobble by itself is just a small stone, but when many of them lay together they create a path . My life is made up of many discrete parts. I have to find ways to fit them all into place so that I can continue to journey where I desire to go. This journal records some of the cobbles that create my path.

Reaching 1000

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responsible woman
As of this morning we have pre-sold over 1000 copies of Schlock Book #1. This is an incredible relief to us. It doesn't mean that I can loosen our tight budget, but it does mean that Howard doesn't have to start looking for a day job. Our financial state is still like that of a video game character using ice arrows to cross lava, but we just smashed a pot and replenished our supply of ice arrows. Not only that, but up ahead I can see another pot labelled "Schlock book #2." We get to keep going and that makes us happy.

It would have been nice if we could have gotten the book out sooner, but we simply didn't have all the pieces we needed to make it happen until this year. Because some of you may be interested in what I mean by "all the pieces" I'll post them below.

The first obstacle to book publication was Howard's early artwork. The stories in Schlock Mercenary have always been good, but distributors and readers would have had a hard time accepting that the stories were good when the art looked so unprofesssional. Howard gradually improved his artwork to a point where he felt like it was good enough. He even hired a colorist (Jean Elmore) to give Schlock Mercenary a polished look. When Jean had to quit because of a repetitive strain injury, Howard had to learn how to do the pretty colors himself.

The next obstacle was time. Howard was working 50-60 hours per week for Novell, 10-20 hours per week on the comic strip, and trying to squeeze in family and relaxation time. There was no time left for Howard to be working on putting a book together. When Howard quit Novell, he suddenly had the time, but our family had a serious lack of money. That first year was spent on commercial projects and learning how to live lean so that we could keep our bills paid.

Finding the right partnership was critical as well. At first we hoped that Keenspot would be the right partnership, but we found that we disagreed with the way that the Keenspot business was run. Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games offered to help us publish the schlock book. This offer was a godsend. The SJ team helped us see how the book needed to be formatted and had all kinds of useful marketing ideas. When we discovered that we couldn't afford to let a distributor take any of the book profit and decided that we had to self publish, Steve Jackson and his team didn't hold any hard feelings. More than that, they sent us all the files they had put together and gave us excellent advice about order fulfillment.

Joining Blank Label Comics was critical as well. I have to admit that I had reservations about Howard joining another webcomic collective so soon after we left Keenspot. I quickly realized that Blank Label Comics was a very different endeavor. The support from the fellow cartoonists there has been amazing. I watched several of them as they went through publishing books and I began to see how it could work. Steve Troop even volunteered to help us with the layout. Communicating with these other cartoon professionals helped us realize that we'd come to a place where we were really ready to publish and mail the book ourselves.

There were so many pieces that had to fall into place. I'm amazed that it has finally all come together. Schlock Mercenary is poised to fly and carry our family along with it.
  • Congratulations! It's good to hear of this success and I pray it leads to greater success.
  • I'm looking forward to getting my copy :) Congrats on breaking the 1000 mark!

    I've been very impressed by Steve Jackson Games. The Schlock t-shirt I got from them was of great quality, service was quick and I even got some bonus dinos and a Munchkin bookmark. I think it's very great that they helped you out even when you did the book on your own.
    • I cannot find enough good things to say about the people at Steve Jackson Games. We were very sad when we discovered that we couldn't afford to work with them.
  • Our financial state is still like that of a video game character using ice arrows to cross lava, but we just smashed a pot and replenished our supply of ice arrows. Not only that, but up ahead I can see another pot labelled "Schlock book #2." We get to keep going and that makes us happy.

    Been playing Zelda lately, have you? :)

  • As a long time reader of the strip, I was more than glad to preorder a book as soon as my paypal balance permitted. I can say without hesitation that I'll be ready to order book #2 as soon as it's available. Howard's strong grasp of "hard sci-fi", the mercenary/military character, and a sharp sense of satire make Schlock Mercenary one of my favorite strips and one I recommend to my friends.
  • Knocking on wood...

    This is certainly a great time to be a schlocktrooper. Watching this little webcomic gets its legs has been more than half the fun, and now it seems the long-hoped for future is finally arriving. I'll do my part to ensure that the Tayler kids don't starve!
  • Hoorah! Now I can't feel too guilty for not buying one. I have no money at the moment. It's depressing.
    • No one should feel guilty for not buy a schlock book. Schlock needs to be a viable financial venture, not a charity. I'm just glad it is proving to be one finally.
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