The Story Gains a Villain (Kind of)

Wow. It’s been an ingranzzible week. (Still have to make up new words to express this properly.)

Machine of Death rose to #1 on Amazon and stayed there for over twenty-four hours. We accomplished everything we set out to do. Agents, publishers, retailers, distributors, well-wishers and the press have been flooding our email inbox. I can’t stress this enough: It worked. We won!

Once we hit #1, I called an agent I’ve worked with in the past — one who’d tried to sell MOD before but just couldn’t find anyone who wanted it — and he sprung instantly into action. Doors that were once closed started positively flying open before us. Although some big publishers have now approached us about buying the rights and doing a new edition of the book, we have declined. That ship has sailed. We are the publisher.

We also realized that we had an opportunity here to gain a level. We could have struck a deal with a publisher, potentially even a lucrative one, that would have been nice in the short term and could probably have led to interesting places. But we have larger goals than just signing a book deal, and we realized we could play the long game here, not just for our benefit — but for the benefit of our friends and colleagues in webcomics as well.

And so in the last few days, using resources offered to us that previously would have been absolutely inconceivable, we have laid the groundwork for a complex but amazing publishing/distribution structure that, in the future, should hopefully allow us to get not just Machine of Death, but also all TopatoCo-published and TopatoCo-partnered books into regular bookstore/retail channels, both in the U.S. and abroad. Ryan, Matt and I are harnessing this amazing rising flood-tide to lift all the boats we can find, all the ropes we managed to grab hold of when the waters hit.

Much has yet to be settled on this front, so I will simply say it remains a carefully considered work-in-progress and I expect to make more important announcements about this in time.

And something else kind of incredible has happened as well! We didn’t know it, but apparently Tuesday was also the launch date for Glenn Beck’s new book, Broke. Our book at #1 (as well as Keith Richards’ autobiography at #2) prevented him from claiming the top spot, and so he called us out on his radio program Wednesday. Here’s the audio (about 3 minutes long), or if you like, there’s a transcription over on the MOD site.

If you don’t want to listen, here’s the executive summary: (a) His book is supposed to be #1. (b) The fact that it’s not, but ours is, is evidence of a liberal “culture of death” that is threatening to take over America and destroy everything sensible folks hold dear, a menace that can presumably only be stemmed by folks buying his book and making it #1.

Let me contextualize this for you, in the form of a parable in which all of the details are true.

A young entrepreneur, the son of a self-made immigrant small-business owner (a God-fearing Protestant who’d married a girl from a family of missionaries), had a crazy pie-in-the-sky idea. Having learned the rudiments of business by working since he was small in the family store, he struck out after his goal, investing himself into something he really believed in, inspiring both colleagues and strangers to join his cause even as “big business” slammed door after door in his face. For years he toiled long into the night, gradually growing his own small business by being as honest, kind and creative as he could manage. Ultimately, in a tremendous Rudy-like moment, he and his ragtag band of reg’lar folks — for one glorious day — accidentally made the twelfth book by the multimillionaire host of “the third-most-listened-to show in all of America” debut at #3 on one single bookseller’s list, rather than at #1.

I guess I can see his point! I am clearly the bad guy here. Part of “a culture of death” that “celebrates the things that have destroyed us.”

Now, listen. I honestly don’t begrudge Mr. Beck his book’s success. As Ryan put it, he asked his audience to buy his book, and they did! It’s the same thing we did, only his audience is bigger. His priority is selling books by any means necessary, and if we were a handy (if nonsensical) scapegoat, then that’s business. Like Ryan, I just think it’s tremendously funny that he got upset when all we did was bumble past him on our own merry way!

MOD is still under $10 on Amazon if you’re interested in joining the culture of death! I promise that every new sale is another tiny pea beneath Glenn Beck’s many mattresses.


Speaking of my own small business: as fun as all this continues to be, I really need to announce a few non-MOD events and items. For continued MOD excitement, please follow our machineofdeath.net blog (via RSS or email), or visit our new MOD Facebook page where folks are posting pictures of the books they’re starting to receive in the mail! What an exciting time for them! Because they have a big thick shiny new book to enjoy. And we’ve been gratified to see that, internet grassroots campaign or no, people really are loving the content of the book too. Hooray!

Now then:

It is not a new T-shirt, it is a sketch that I made in a book! Artist Editions are now available! (More examples here.) This is something I only do twice a year: I’ll create a custom unique sketch in any Wondermark book (or all the Wondermark books!) just for you. They won’t be available long: only through November 7. Then I’ll sit down and draw them all (when I’m at the TopatoCo HQ next week for the New England Webcomics Weekend) and they’ll ship out starting on November 8!

MOD is also now available on TopatoCo, if you want to bundle an order together. (MOD orders also won’t ship till Nov. 8.)

Lincoln smashSurvival smashHeart smash
Heart smash

TopatoCo is also having a clearance sale on T-shirts this week only: through Halloween (I know, not much time, sorry, I been busy) all discontinued items start at only $15. These are shirts that won’t be reprinted, so whatever’s left in each size is all that’ll ever exist. If there’s something you want, grab it now before it’s gone for good!

Finally, all this weekend, Friday through Sunday, I’ll be at the Long Beach Comic-Con, sharing a table with good-time fun-pal Dave Kellett! Friday (today!) at 2pm we’ll be doing a panel called Webcomics Lightning Round, in which we answer all of your questions about webcomics in 20 seconds or less. I’ll also have some new posters as well as Monocle Poppers greeting and holiday cards at the booth all weekend! Booth #407.

The MOD podcast launches next week. Next week you also get five Wondermark comics because you did some stuff right. If anyone knows how to make a Kindle .mobi file please email me. UPDATE: We’re set for now! If anyone knows how to make 30 minutes of sleep seem like a week please email me. You guys are the best and I wouldn’t have this any other way.


  • http://theczardictates.blogspot.com/ Carl

    I was in two minds about buying the book, simply because I don’t get much free time for reading these days. But now that I know it also annoys Glenn Beck… well, let’s just say my Christmas gift problems have been solved early this year.

  • http://everythingdiescomic.com Box Brown

    Oh man, congrats so hard. You guys rock! Way to give back too!

  • http://mylifeinperu.com Kelly

    Holy cow – if someone could make that (amazing but true) parable into a video on youtube, it would be awesome.

    Who knew the internet would be stronger than Glen Beck?

  • http://www.treelobsters.com Steve (treelobsters)

    Congrats! Something a bit confusing about Amazon’s reporting, though. It says ‘Broke’ was published 10/26 but has been in the top 100 for 21 days. Similarly, ‘Life’ has the same publishing date but has been in the top 100 for 18 days. Anyone know how that works?

    Also, if you’re planning on any more short story collections, count me in. I completely missed out on this the first time around. I’ve got a few stories lying around collecting dust that could use a new home (almost 100% lobsters-free, honest!). I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there are a lot of other folks in your readership who have existing material but no clear publishing path. Of course, if/when you put out the call, you could find yourself buried in manuscripts. :-D

  • prometheus

    Heh, I am tickled that you knocked Mr. Beck off the top of the pile. Purely tickled. :D Gratz!

  • http://wrymouth.com Wry Mouth

    Dave: Funnily enough, your description of your up-and-coming, Horatio Alger-type business success very nearly parallels Mr. Beck’s. I find him actually very entertaining — when he is remembering where he came from, and how he got where he is. Sadly, he doesn’t do that as much as he used to, before he hit New York. I suppose there is a moral in there somewhere.

    Congratulations to you and all the others involved in MOD — from some long-time Wondermark! fans,

    Wry Mouth and son

  • Dave

    @Steve, I think books can start hitting the Top 100 list as soon as they’re available for pre-order. I suspect those books that have been there longer than their publishing date featured a pre-order time period.

  • BeeGee in SB

    Hi David, your mom forwarded the link…and I find it truly fascinating…thanks for the humor

  • http://www.monicaraab.wordpress.com monica

    can we have a culture of death t-shirt, please?! ’cause this clearly deserves a t-shirt. no point being part of a culture of death if you can’t make sure everyone knows to run from you in terror.