30 March 2008

Convention Essentials: Rock N Roller R2 Micro

Convention sales are one of my many revenue streams as a comic book self-publisher. I try to hit at least 3-4 different conventions every year. Most are the same every year, but I always try to hit a new one every year. Usually, it's me and my significant other at every convention, but every now and then it's just me. With such a small convention force, it's important for me to minimize labor and the most important labor saving device is my Rock N Roller R2 Micro.

The Rock N Roller R2 Micro is a folding cart that can transform into 8 different modes. It can handle up to 350 pounds and weighs only 17 pounds. Most importantly, it folds down to be about 6 inches tall, 26 inches long and less than 18 inches wide. The cart functions as a standard hand cart, a dolly, a platform cart, and a stackable cart.

This is by far the best $100, I've ever spent and saved me from multiple trips to the car and from carrying 30-60 pound boxes across convention centers and hotels. My back and legs thank me.

If you are planning on establishing a convention circuit presence, then this little cart shold become your best friend. I've tried standard luggage hand carts and even the heavy duty hand carts. Between the carts and the bungee cords needed to secure the boxes on the carts, I spent at least $40-60 only to have the hand cart overturn and spill around corners at least once at every convention. Since I purchased the R2, I've had no spills and no worries. In fact, the only problem I've had was one convention center wouldn't allow stacked platform carts in the elevator. So, I unloaded the R2, configured it into a hand cart, and was allowed on the elevator with no problem.

Buy one today and save yourself injury and frustration.
In the off season, your kids (if you have them) can even use it to haul each other around (like mine do ... with supervision).

22 March 2008

Overnight Prints: 10% off all printing

Checkout code SKYHIGH will get you 10% off all your printing at OverNightPrints.com from now through 4 April 2008.

14 March 2008

From the Mailbox: Copyrights

When I began this blog, I didn't really have a agenda or even more than a vague idea of sharing my experience self-publishing. My goal is really to just hit topics as I deal with them. If you have a self-publishing question that you want answered then feel free to ask me. You can post at Digital Webbing (see my links), here in the comments (that I just enabled), or send me an email (ljamal@ljamal.com).

Today (as the title says), I'm going to dip into the mailbo. So let's jump right in....

From LG in Illinois
I came across your blog on making your own comic and the advice is great, especially on printers and scanners. I have a couple questions in regards to copyrights? A friend and If are making a series of graphic novels. I want to know:

1) Does the complete series have to be all done to get published or can we submit book by book?

2) Should I have an attorney handle the legal side?

3) Should I have my work copyrighted?

I'll answer these questions in the order they are asked.

1) This isn't really a question about self-publishing, but more pitching a series to publisher. However, I will answer this question in multiple ways.
a) If you are planning to submit to publishers, I recommend being familiar with the publisher's current body of work and finding their submissions policy. Once you know their, submissions policy, following it. Usually, you'll only need a premise, a synopsis and 5-10 pages of finished art.
b) If you're self-publishing and talking about submitting to a distributor, then it's best to have as much finished as possible before orders come in for that first issue, especially if you have a limited series planned.
c) If you're being published by someone else work at a pace that allows for editing. If you finish the entire series and then the editor wants to make changes in issue 3 of 6, then you've painted yourself into a corner.

2) Attorneys are not entirely necessary, but if you're not comfortable reading and understanding legalese, then you should have an attorney. If you're putting together contracts, then you can save money on an attorney by just having them look over the final contracts after you've written it. If you're lucky you know an attorney personally who may be willing to help you out. If you're not so lucky, then you should look for a contract and copyright attorney.

3) Once you put any information in a fixed format, it is automatically copyrighted (not copywritten because that's not an English word). If you want legal protection, then you need to file with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress (if you're here in the US) and pay the fee. This isn't a necessary step, but improves your chances of successfully winning a legal challenge (is you find yourself in such a position). There are many different forms to file, so be sure that you file the correct form for your work. The basic cost is $45, but if you file online you can save $10 (and the cost of a stamp).

11 March 2008

Overnight Prints: Get Brochures Folded for Free

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The offer code is FOLDFREE08

Offer is good for any quantity.

02 March 2008

E-Commerce Options: CandyPress

CandyPress is an online shopping cart system. It's ASP/VBScript based software designed to be used on Microsoft Internet Information System (IIS) web servers with an Access or MSSQL server database. If you didn't understand any of that chances are you're not a web programmer. I am, so I'll walk you through this e-commerce option.

In order to use the CandyPress e-commerce system, you must have a site hosted on a Windows based server capable of running ASP applications and have ability to connect to an Access or MSSQL database. If you don't have such web hosting, I recommend Hostexcellence.com (which I use to host all my web sites) or CrystalTech.com (which JLSMedia [my day job] recommends).

You can visit the CandyPress website it will detail everything that the software does for you. This is the software that I use for my store and for me it came down to the following features:

Payment Methods and Gateway Integration
A payment gateway is based how you receive payment from your customer. The Candy Press system ships with integration with all the major online methods including PayPal, 2Checkout.com and Authorize.net. This means all you need is to add your account information to the Candy Press system and BAM! you're ready to accept payments online via any of the available gateways. If one of the many gateways is not for you, then you can also add custom programming to integrate another payment option.

Inventory Tracking
Candy Press allows you to enter the inventory for any product that you place in the store. If you enable the inventory tracking feature, Candy Press will update your inventory as items sells and even send you emails when inventory levels start to run low. This is very useful if you are a self-publisher using Print on Demand.

Live Shipping Rate Quotes
Candy Press ships with the ability to allow your to calculate shipping by any method you wish. You can do it by price, by weight, offer free shipping etc. You can also enable live rate quotes from UPS, FedEx, Canada Post and the United States Postal Service (USPS). Enabling live quotes requires you note the weight of each item and then totals the weight for each item in the cart. It then fetches the correct shipping rate for each one of the services you have available.

In my store, I use USPS and my cart returns shipping quotes for Express Mail, Priority Mail, First Class Mail, Parcel Post and Media Mail. This coupled with PayPal allows me to quote rates based upon weight AND print postage without leaving the house.

Easy Modifications

Anyone with a little experience with ASP and VBScript, can easily modify the CandyPress cart to do almost anything you desire and wholly integrate it into any site. In fact, that's pretty much what I spend 40 hours a week doing at JLSMedia. This can be simple modifications such as changing the way that products are displayed to more complex modifications like adding a buy back program.

My buddy, Mike Hawthorne, has a web site that includes modifications that allow him to have a weekly updated feature (Dirty Girls) and weekday comic (Hysteria) and even a daily feature (Monster a Day). There is also his blog which is completed integrated with his Blogger.com blog and, of course, the fully featured shopping cart.

I've been involved in e-commerce since 1997 and have built e-commerce systems that have handled 300-400 orders a day. Candy Press is the most versatile and easily modified ASP shopping cart that I've come across.

If you're in need of an e-commerce consultation, contact JLSMedia and tell them that Jámal sent you.