If you also have a nagging “cool thing” that you need an excuse to finish, why not submit something to the Machine of Death Talent Show? We’ve pushed back the submission deadline to April 20, and we will accept video performances from remote participants (although if you’re in the Los Angeles area, we’d love to physically put you on the stage)!
More info here. If you can’t submit something, we hope you’ll at least watch the show on the evening of April 26, either live in Los Angeles or livestreamed at MachineofDeath.net. Here’s the Facebook event!
I will tease you with this as well: everyone who’s able to attend the show in person will go home with a very special item that we’ll be unveiling the evening of.
Admission will be free, so if you can’t make it, send your Los Angeleno friends!
Thanks for coming and saying hello at MoCCA last weekend! It was a fun show. I loved being in New York, and it’s always super encouraging and energizing to meet nice people who have nice things to say.
Some of you were clearly nervous, but don’t worry! It was adorable. I get nervous sometimes too. I did not think you were weird. This is the first time in a very long time that I can confidently stamp a show as “WEIRDO-FREE.” I did not meet a single weirdo all weekend! (Until I got on the subway, of course. But that’s a different story.)
As I normally do, I was offering Mediocre Sketches to all and sundry. As I normally forget to do, though, this time I had the presence of mind to take some pictures!
I usually ask the sketch requester for a suggestion of what to draw — unlike other cartoonists, I don’t have easy characters to just whip out a sketch of. Most people prefer to leave the choice to me (as in the above), which is fine, but I also got some good requests!
“Octopuss in Boots”
“Dignified Portrait” (click for bigger)
Machine of Death
I also managed to whip up a portable Machine of Death to administer mortality predictions on the spot. Normally this sort of thing is done in a van with an autoclave and a stack of waivers and a full counseling crew on-hand, but in a pinch I made do with a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie.
If you picked one up, thank you so much! I really hope you enjoy it. There is a team of people diligently hand-lettering the certificates as we speak.
If you haven’t yet, the sets will only be up till Saturday, or while supplies last, whichever comes first! I expect they will probably sell out before Saturday. TRIVIA TIDBIT: The hardcover edition includes 78% more sassiness than the paperback. This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to cure, diagnose, or treat any disease.
The point is that, if you simply look at the stats, we have done far better by following whims than by executing carefully-planned strategies, for the simple reason that the strategies eat up time. Matt, Ryan and I love discussing ideas. And letting all the steam out of an idea by talking about it means it’s harder to ever do it. Energy that could be channeled into action sometimes gets channeled instead into hand-wringing.
So we decided to just do some stuff. We now have a little money to play around with — not very much (we funneled most of our immediate profits back into printing more books), but since we all have other jobs and none of our mortgages are riding on this project, we want to play around a little, to buy ourselves a little adventure. Here’s what we’ve done… (more)
• We have created and releaseda limited-edition Machine of Death hardcover, packaged in a collector’s set with an embroidered patch and a personalized Death Prediction certificate.Update: These are all gone, snatched up at once!
Machine of Death is now available in Apple’s iBooks! This and other data-crunching ebook news are reported over on the MOD blog:
We heard from ebook publishers and distributors warning us what we’d be missing out on by turning down their terms.
“We reach thousands of ebook sales partners,” they said. “Even if you do a Kindle version yourself, that’s only one of thousands of sales channels.”
“Are there really thousands of ebook sales channels?” we responded. “Why have we never heard of any but about five?”
Also, if you are a member of the SFWA and thus eligible to nominate works for the Nebula awards (only open through next week!), and/or are a member of SciFi Worldcon and thus eligible to nominate for the Hugos, we’d like to present two works for your consideration:
“ALMOND,” by John Chernega, in the novelette category;
“LOSS OF BLOOD,” by Jeff Stautz, in the short story category.
@Willetton shares an MOD sighting from a bookstore in Calgary, Alberta! I'VE NEVER EVEN BEEN THERE.
If you’ve been following the Machine of Death blog or Facebook, you know this already: Machine of Death is now available in bookstores across the U.S. and Canada.
Our little self-published book has been reported in storesall across the continent. This is tremendously exciting! Booksellers can order copies through our distributor, PGW, and you can get probably find copies in-person at your local store — or if they don’t have it, you can order it!
ALSO, THE UNCONVINCED: Check out this great review we just received from The Onion AV Club:
…Machine Of Death is a marvelous collection, riddled with intelligence, creative reach, and a frankness that makes the best use of the central gimmick. While the seed idea seemingly lends itself to twist-ending stories about people who try to evade their predicted deaths, there are only a few of those; more often, the stories examine how the death-predictor machine would change the world. [...] Whether taken as an experiment in the new wave of self-publishing or as a proof of concept in the realm of artistic crowdsourcing, it’s a fascinating artifact and a really good read.
ALSO, BOOKSELLERS: If you stock the book, and like it, please consider nominating us for The Indie Next List! Being named to the list that goes out to indie bookstores everywhere would be a tremendous publicity boost for us. We’ve been so gratified to watch folks everywhere fall in love with our little project, and we’re trying desperately to use all the tools at our disposal to bring it before as many more eyes as possible.
SO FAR SO GOOD. Thanks for all your support so far!
This weekend I’m at SteamCon in Seattle, Washington! This is only the third or fourth steampunk event I’ve ever been to and they’ve asked me to be on a whole host of panels:
Cartoonists discuss their internet creations and the future of web cartooning. - Shawn Gaston (M), David Malki !
The Making of Wondermark
Thrill as comic creator David Malki ! builds a Wondermark comic strip out of 19th-century woodcuts and engravings! Gasp as he pulls back the curtain and delves into his delightful collection of Victorian-era books! Swoon as he makes them into strange comic strips that bear no resemblance to their prior state!
Researching the Victorian Era
How to find and use source material on the Victorian era to enhance your writing. - Gail Carriger (M), Michelle Black, David Malki !
True Stuff From Old Books
David Malki ! presents a slide show of fascinating, forgotten articles unearthed from Victorian-era newspapers and magazines. A man breathes fire! A steam-powered flying machine attempts its first flight! Racial stereotypes abound! And human nature remains unchanged through the ages.
Neo-Victoriana in Contemporary Comics
A discussion of the rise and growth of steampunk and neo-Victorian aesthetics and narratives in comics, graphic novels and the arts of the 21st century. - Kate Lynch (M), David Malki !, Cheyenne Wright
I’m super-excited about all of ‘em but especially Saturday’s set: I’ve been hard at work digging up some amazing artifacts for the “True Stuff from Old Books” panel and my challenge now is to condense it into the time allowed! So much interesting material!
In between panels, I’ll also have a table set up in the “merchant” area where I’ll have a neat spread of goods including some of my Monocle Poppers greeting cards — specifically, the holiday cards are mostly what I’ve brought with me. I’ll also happily sign Wondermark and Machine of Death books or really any book you like — from time to time people ask me to sign random books that I didn’t write and I can’t think of any reason not to. I mean, it’s your book, you can do (or have done) whatever you want to it. Happy to oblige!
Speaking of Machine of Death…yesterday we learned that we made it onto an Amazon “Best of 2010″ list (Customer Favorites, Sci-Fi & Fantasy)! We’re floored. Each day brings new wonders. Hooray!
I also, this week, wrote a brand-new Machine of Death story for our blog. The characters in the story are proofreaders who kindly combed the book for typos in preparation for a new printing, and in the story, their predicted deaths are related to the typos they each found.
Evan flinched at the sharp metal snapping of the kit-box clasps. Marshall lifted out the reader — a standard handheld, a little worn from a few years on the road, but familiar to everyone. Evan knew what was required of him. Marshall popped a sterile plastic thimble from a blister pack, fitted it to the reader, swabbed the handgrip with alcohol and Evan wrapped his fingers around it, resting his thumb in the thimble. He’d done this a hundred times, probably. Everyone had done this a hundred times.
I had fun writing it! Hope you like it too. And of course the book is still available as a free downloadable PDF if you haven’t checked it out yet!
TO RECAP: What will happen at SteamCon? Will I be wearing a bowler cap? Will I be pleased to meet you at the SeaTac Marriott and/or Hilton? We will learn the answers to these BUT NO OTHER questions — this weekend.
So thrilled to announce this! Machine of Death is now available in a variety of digital formats.Here’s the full rundown but I’ll just hit the highlights:
• FREE DOWNLOADABLE PDF. You hear that? Grab the whole book for free. We even got two versions of it, depending on the dimensions you prefer. We want you to have it. As we say on the site:
Why are we doing this? Aren’t we worried about hurting our book sales?
In a word: no. You have proven time and again that you are willing to pay for content that you find valuable. You have shown that you are driven to share material that you fall in love with. And we are committed to ensuring that you can experience our work whether you can afford to buy a book or not; whether you live in a country that Amazon ships to or not; whether you have space in your life for a stack of paper or not.
• NOOK/iBOOKS versions are in the works; not ready quite yet.
(And remember! You can get a free ebook version — meaning Kindle, ePub, or rich-text — just by forwarding us your order confirmation from a print version! The order can be from AmazonorTopatoCo, it doesn’t matter which. But you have to send it to info at machineofdeath dot net by midnight this Friday! The free-ebook offer will end after Friday.)
• PODCAST. That’s right! We’re recording audio versions of every story in the book and will be releasing them as a free podcast, about once a week. That means you have around thirty-four weeks of free entertainment to look forward to! Many of the stories are read by their authors, while others are read by generous and talented friends and colleagues. The first episode is available now and it’s great.
Or here’s the direct feed address if you want to pop it into a non-iTunes podcatcher. For iTunes subscriptions, though, please use the link above — that way the subscription goes through iTunes’ servers and lets them know that folks are listening.
I also spoke briefly with American Public Media’s John Moe — one of my favorite radio hosts — on today’s Marketplace Tech Report about our campaign of loading you up with all this free stuff! (The segment with me starts about 3:30 in.)
Thank you for all your support! We couldn’t be more amazingly thrilled and proud of the book itself and everything that’s happened — and continuing to happen — around it. We hope you love it too!
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 allTopatoCo-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!
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!
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.