Small Press & Comic Symposium

Spent all last night schmoozing it up at some small press convention. These are the sorts of things I have to (and want to go to) as owner of Nan Bu Nan Publishing. I’m a big wig and people gots to knows about it. There were two separate panels. The first panel had a handful of local small press dudes and ladies from right here in Chicago. The second panel featured 4 well known comic artists. I’m not gonna bore you with industry details, (or any of the insider dirt) but here’s my big take away:


Everyone of the artists and publishers had some story about struggling to print a 1000 books and then being crushed financially and emotionly when they only sold half, or when they had some sort of printing error on all the covers. I heard a few publishers talking about how they would go store-to-store hustling their books. Suffering through weeks of rejections just to pawn off a box of books. Some of those books went to places like Borders, now that they’re closing tons of stores, those books are just being shipped to some landfill, leaving the publisher to eat the costs. 

The answers that night…were few. Digital books were slightly disgussed but it was a lot of, “It’s such a new medium,” or “…but we love print books.” Now I love the feel and look of finely crafted print books myself, and I’m certainly not a huge fan of the restrictions that digital publishing demands. But, what I love is the ease and ability, to get the words and art that me and the rest of the Nan Bu Nan authors spend so many hours painstackingly crafting, to more people faster then ever before. What once was weeks of deals with the printers, missed phone calls, printing errors, and back pains from lugging books around, is now just a few clicks and litereally millions of people have access to our books. DIGITAL IS THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING. This is Nan Bu Nan.

Nan Bu Nan is on the bleeding edge of digital eBooks. Right now we are in the process of redesigning our digital store front to accomidate for our new initiative: A new digital book every month - most of which will be only 99 cents a piece. This is a feat that was never possible in the old publishing model. It would have been too expensive. But this is Nan Bu Nan’s time. A time of change. 

Overall it was a great night. Met a lot of great friends in the publishing world, and made a few new ones. I just hope they can get on the digital book train before the physical book reaches the end of the road. 

Vandermolen on the Digital Publishing Revolution

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There’s a video floating around the web of myself, allegedly drunk, lambasting digital publishing. (You can view the video here). As it stands now, guess what, epublishing sucks, dude. I love what Nan Bu Nation member Pat Kelly (and creator of Mashed-Up) wrote, “Epublishing is about as sweet as Google Wave. Boom.” As a publisher; owner and president of Nan Bu Nan Publishing, I’m sure many of you are taken aback by my stance on epublishing. “Aren’t digital books the future,” you ask? “Yes! Yes they are,” I say. But, not in it’s most current form. In fact, the current form, if not reformed, will be just a flash in the pan much like Google Wave, hype, but in the end, complete dismissal and termination.     

            Now let me clarify myself in the video. In the opening seconds I explain how I’ve been studying epublishing for a mere 2 month. This is not an accurate depiction, as how can this be true as Nan Bu Nan as been up and running for 3 month? To clarify, the two months I’m talking about are the efforts I’ve put in to converting some of our most recent titles (I Hate Chicago, Do The Speak) into a digital format readable on the Amazon Kindle, the Apple IPad, and other current digital text reading devices. Putting that aside, it should be known that I’ve been studying this future model of publishing for many years now. As far back as 2006 when my first book Lombardo Barnyard: Year 1 was published.

            In the video I was simply venting my frustrations of the current model. Now there are many critiques, finer points of design, that unless remedied, will ultimately claim either destruction for digital publishing, or destruction for an ease of reading only found in the “dead-tree” (print books) version of publishing. I highly recommend reading the articles of Craig Mod, if you want to learn more about this fascinating topic. But, I want to focus on one topic in particular, something I’ve dealt with rather personally, and what is one of my core frustrations about the EPub format: the use of scaleable text.

            Scaleable text is essentially the ability, as the reader, to manually manipulate the size of the lettering; sizing the text to an unreadablely large font for the visually impaired or microscopically small for the megalophobic. This may seem like the first logical step in digitizing text, giving the user control, but this completely eliminates the careful formatting and interior design work painstakingly crafted by the author of the work. For most books, those churned out by the machine of big publishing, scaleable text is not a problem, as the depth of the work is often times one dimensional existing only in the text and never able to expand beyond that confines of the ordered symbols themselves. Craig Mod calls these two types of text formless content (Content without well-defined form, from the machine of big publishing) and definite content (Content with well-defined form, from the careful stroke of the artist). Books like Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Mark Hamilton’s, The Book: God-Man/Neo-Tech Discovery, highly realized coffee table books, a vast majority of poetry books, and every single painstakingly crafted book in the Nan Bu Nan Library. These books, because of there highly stylized, boundary-pushing formatting, are now unable to be properly viewed on out current level of digital reading devices. This improper viewing not only diminishes the artists purposeful construction but also allows the reader to circumnavigate the artist causing damage the readers own value of the work they had just edited.

            I’ve seen first hand the ultimate end to this path. In 2008, I came up with what I thought was an amazing idea for a book. The idea was this: I would write a book, then when people ordered that book, if they so chose, they would be given the opportunity to create the title and send a picture for the cover. The book would then come in the mail to there house 6 to 8 weeks later with their design on the cover and name on the spine. In the opening pages of the front matter they could write their name in the written by portions of the book. From then on they could take their book, and present it to their friends and families as a piece they wrote, a book they designed, and masterpiece of which they were the artist.

            I thought I had pinpointed the market. Everyone wants fame; everyone pretends to be an artist at least for a little while, usually in college. And everyone says at one point in life, “I could write a book.” Well, here was their easy way out. I did all the heavy lifting and wrote the text. What did they have to lose? Word of mouth told me that this would be a great idea, and I even had a number of confirmed sales before I had written the text. When the piece was finished, and the first of the Your book about… project was ready for sale. Few people bought it. Interest and curiosity did not turn to sales. And after many months on sale, people started to resent the idea and become applaud, not at the text but the medium, the way in which this books potentially promoted plagiarism, diminishing the supposed talent of the buyer, making them look like idiots because they didn’t actually write the text. In the end I sold less then ten copies. A few years later I repackaged the text and put my own cover and title on the piece and called it, I Hate Chicago, a critical success and one of Nan Bu Nan’s fastest selling books.

            The text did not change, only the medium, the packaging, and most importantly the roll and relationship between the author and reader. What the Your book about… project showed is that as you bridge the gap between artist and viewer, and lessen the assumed superiority of the author’s skill (not personage), so too does the inherent value diminish. The same can be said about scaleable text. By asking the reader to be the controller of his own design, and change the format, the value of the piece lessens inherently because the reader subconsciously sees the author as less superior, less skilled, making them nothing special. The reader thinks, “I could do that.” But can they? It’s like a parent that lowers themselves to become a friend rather then a parent, in the end the kid becomes a butthole and ultimately grows to resent their parent. Though we see tremendous growth in the digital field, ultimately, because in-part to scaleable text, the readers will begin to resent and undermine the text. When this happens the readers will migrate back to the “dead-tree” format, or potentially, away from books entirely.      

            Now, I did show much frustration in the video. But, as I stated above, it’s only for the current form of digital publishing. Nan Bu Nan Publishing fully embraces a digital format, and we seek to reform the current, out-dated model of publishing and digital publishing. We are in the process of PDF conversion, a non-scalable text, picture and video all-in-one format the lets the artist retain the typography and arrangement of his masterpiece. If you were lucky enough, Wednesday you may have seen a live 2-and-a-half hour test broadcast from myself and Rick Boven. This just the first in a series of live on-going broadcasts. Even our digital storefront will be adding a few new features in the coming months to accommodate for our current foray into the future. The rest of the plan we are keeping close to our chest, but these are just a few of the actions that will propel Nan Bu Nan into a digital golden age of Publishing. We are in a Renaissance, no different then the age of Gutenberg, and Nan Bu Nan, with their beloved Nan Bu Nation is at the forefront. As we move to our new offices, stay tuned to this blog and our website for more on this pivotal moment in history.

Survival Week: Next Week!

As you know I’m under the wire right now trying to meet some Nan Bu Nan deadlines. Why? Because I’m going on another Survival Week. We’re going West. That’s all we know, heading into the wind…dicks out. Whirlwind tour. If you live West, hell if you live anywhere in the United States and want us to stay with you…we just might. Hit us up. We’ll be needing a shower.


Let us sleep at your place. 



I am so telling you stuff and answering your questions. I added websites that obscure the screen. It’s so awesome! I got a sleeve on my head. It’s CRAZY!



Last night’s party at the Nan Bu Nan building was a complete success. we ate a bunch of snacks, met a lot of new friends, projected my new short film/audio pastiche about Survival Week 6 onto the wall, watched the first 20 min of Keoma before everyone about left, watch 20 min of Pumping Iron before everyone about left, had an adult spelling bee (w/ Whiskey) then talked about raping dolphins, raping vikings, and prostitutes that hang around high dollar hotels…until 3am. It was a great party.

Now if anyone wants to really watch Django, Keoma, or Pumping Iron. Hit me up.  

Stay tuned for the full Survival Week 6 audio pastiche in about a week.

*Special Thanks for Rick Boven and Nancy Veltema for the pictures I ripped from their instagrams.