152. ANNUAL SIT-DOWN WITH NUMBERS 2006

EDITOR’S EXCUSES: FANS! Thus begins a series of diary entries which we want to stress are harmless, completely made-up fictions! We’ve employed such literary techniques as farce, parody, humor, exaggeration, and good clean fun, for mere purposes of fantastical entertainment!

See, we’ve created a “fictitious government organization”, to play the role of a “bad guy,” to give our diary entries a sense of drama and tension and excitement! How could a “real” government agency possibly be so despicable as the one you will see revealed before you??! Let’s call this fictitious agency the DSRS (“dip shit something-or-other service”) that is LOOSELY based on a government agency that is in actuality a bunch of loveable, fantastic, intelligent, hard-working and fair people whose work is essential to America! Enjoy! -Rob Oder! Editor-in-Chief!

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION!

Wow, fans, it’s interesting to look back at this entry, as it presaged (our own artistic hack) Chris Wisnia’s most desperate, most insulting and humiliating, most horrible events of his life: the intense “inspection of how Chris spent money as a comics creator” by the DSRS, which Chris battled for almost two years! He learned more as the battle raged, but here, so innocent, so naive, he sounds almost hopeful and encouraging! Take heed! Don’t fall victim to his naive encouragement! If you ever find yourself pitted against this vicious, maniacally evil organization, GET A LAWYER! -Rob!

Diary entry: February 1, 2007

I was worried, as usual, about taxes this year. It’s always stressful knowing it will take so much time aside to work on adding up all my receipts for dvd and comic book purchases, and I always dread it.

I’ve got a program to help me. I enter in dates and store names and costs, and then I have to choose if each expense falls into “office supplies” or “travel” or “meals” or “rent” or “professional fees” or “printing,” or whatever else it falls into.

I made less money this year as a comics artist, because half of my income was thanks to an enormous “Ojo” royalty check, and another quarter was thanks to my initial “Ojo” page-rate payments. So Sam Kieth’s “Ojo,” which he was kind enough to allow me draw for, provided three-quarters of my “comics artist income.”

So all things considered, when you look at it that way, I feel like I actually did okay.

The problem is, my payments to all my idols for pin-ups ended up wiping out two-thirds of that income, and then my printing fees for the three comics and two trade paperbacks I published cost about double what I actually made.

So I guess I’m no damn businessman…

To me, it makes sense to spend these kinds of monies on something I can put into my projects and which will enrich and provide opportunities for greater sales. I need books to sell books, and if the books have big-name artists in them, they should be more likely to sell. But naturally these kind of crazy-assed stupid numbers worry me, come “inspection of how Chris spent money as a comics creator” time. This will be my third year taking a SERIOUS loss with my “business,” and I read that the DSRS only allows you to have two out of five years worth of losses. That means, by the book, you aren’t ALLOWED a third year of losses. So I guess that could mean I’m pretty seriously screwed.

HOWEVER, I learned that the main thing the DSRS is concerned about is that it is a legitimate business, and not just a clown who wants to buy a bunch of comics, and is calling this hobby his “business.” So earlier in the year, I sat down and read the DSRS’s and made a list of all the reasons I feel I am a legitimate business. Here it is, potential comics creators, in case you have any run-ins with the DSRS, and think any of these excuses can help you too:

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t use this list, or this reasoning, as a guideline, fans! GET A LAWYER! It was literally the ONLY thing that stopped the DSRS from bullying, harassing, lying, and intimidating our artistic hack, Chris, even though they were in the wrong and Chris was in the right! As you will see in the following entries, our artistic hack, Chris, went through a year and a half of HELL with the DSRS, using the methods he chose to employ, and a lot of it was a complete waste of time, if he had only known to get a lawyer from the start! Although the DSRS guidelines list many of the items below as determinations regarding “professional vs. hobby,” Chris’s “inspector regarding how Chris spent money as a comics creator” wasn’t interested in any facts or documentation! He was only interested in telling Chris that Chris owed money that was in fact not owed at all! … UNTIL Chris hired a very expensive lawyer! And now, here’s Chris’s useless list, which he naively and uselessly compiled while making this diary entry! -Rob!]

A. Professional Training: I have a degree in art from UC Davis.

B. Time. I spend every available hour of my mornings (I work afternoons and evenings) writing, drawing, or scanning and preparing on computer my comics. Each page takes an average of one full day (6-8 hours) to letter, pencil, and ink. Books contain 32 pages.

Each time a book comes out, I package and send copies to reviewers and editors. This takes at least a day to get addresses together, prepare envelopes, write personal notes to each editor/reviewer, and get to the mail.

C. I have tried a number of techniques for selling books and formats of books, and am still trying to learn what processes work best.

1.    I tried advertising, which only minimally affected my sales numbers, but not enough to pay for the advertising.

2.    I tried books signings, which only made money from friends.

3.    I sell comics online, which generates business on occasion, based on reviews or mentions I get from various sources. I am learning which sources are most powerful in helping me generate additional sales.

4.    I regularly send out emails to fans, reviewers, and stores, to keep them aware of what work I am releasing or working on.

5.    I belong to and post regularly at a number of online comics-communities.

6.    Comic book conventions have been the best way to spread word of my product. People are there to buy comics, and usually say they haven’t heard of my book but enjoy it. In addition, stores and store owners, reviewers, publishing companies, editors, and other professionals who may become publishers or editors themselves one day, always attend, and I continue to make contacts every con we go to.

D. My activity is conducted in a businesslike manner. I keep active book records, and have hired or included the works of top professionals in the field on the pages of my publications.

E. I was able to get work-for-hire from one of the industry’s big celebrities, Sam Kieth.

F. I am working a minimum of hours at my “day job” (roughly half-time), so that I can make enough to get by until my comics career picks up. This gives me much needed time to devote to producing comics.

G. Even if I am losing money now, I am thinking in the long-term, building an inventory of my products, so that as my name catches on in the field, I will be ready to sell back-issues of my work to new fans.

What do you think, DSRS? Do I have a case for being a professional, and it just happens I’ve had bad sales luck for three years, and wouldn’t be surprised if the sales trends continue? If you have any doubts, feel free to give me a call, and we can set up a meeting to discuss it (That’s called an “inspection of how Chris spent money as a comics creator”).

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The DSRS thought little of this list! Admittedly, a lot of it was legally irrelevant and overexpostulatory, but even the relevant facts, such as Chris’s education, time commitments, convention commitments, and sales of product were ignored by Chris’s “inspector of how Chris spent money as a comics creator” … UNTIL CHRIS GOT A LAWYER! -Rob!]

Figuring out all the calculations for my annual forms, and getting everything entered went pretty smoothly and quickly this year (aside from me not understanding my program as usual, and adding up my profits by hand – since the program says I made a negative number for my gross profits), and I was able to pound out all the number crunching in under two weeks! For some reason I always think it’s going to be months and months (and I think it used to take me that long). It’s nice to be done and know I can jump into more Dick Hammer drawing.

Once I have all the numbers added up, my dad helps me with the forms. This year, the form-doing only took about three hours. It seems like it’s getting easier and easier, as we do basically the same entries each time. There have been times it felt like it took all day.

This year, as usual, the comics business did so poorly, that return is going to help make a nice down-payment on a house!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: You see what we mean, fans? What a kidder Chris is about a house down-payment! He makes it sound as if he’s not really legitimately working his ass off trying to succeed as a comics creator, and just goofing around ringing up a bill, so that he can dishonestly or unfairly snatch up free money that he doesn’t really deserve! But in fact, as the DSRS later had to admit, it was not only all money owed him, due to overpayments made by Chris throughout the year! Even more amazing, he would be owed remarkably MORE! But he would have to go through hell and the cost of a lawyer to see the money he was owed, and the year-and-a-half of HELL he suffered for it made him question whether he should just stop making art and give up his dreams! Thanks, DSRS, for doing everything you could to ruin your honest, hard-working American citizens’ aspirations and hopes, and encouraging them to be nobodies who despise themselves, their work, and their lives! And Chris had no conception of ANY of this yet, as evidenced by this innocent and light-hearted diary entry! CATCH FUTURE DIARY ENTRIES of Chris vs. the despicable DSRS … coming soon! – Rob!]

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