Patrick Crotty of Peow! Studios and Dan Berry talk about publishing and running a print shop, starting small, money and marketing.
Dan Berry: This is Make It Then Tell Everybody. I’m Dan Berry. Patrick Crotty of Peow! Studios and I sat down to talk about publishing and running a print shop, starting small and working up, about money and marketing. This is Make It Then Tell Everybody. Hello Patrick Crotty, how are you doing?
PC: Hi, I’m fine, thanks.
DB: Excellent! Now I understand that you run a… is it a comics collective? Is it a publishing house? What is it that you do?
PC: I guess I would call myself the boss of Peow!, because the other two people aren’t here to say anything about it. Can I go back and give a little bit of history then?
DB: Of course you can.
PC: Sort of, where we figured out what we were going to be. So a couple years ago, maybe more than a couple years ago, but me and two friends who had a lot of stuff in common, we were like, ‘Hmm, well, we all want to work as illustrators, so instead of applying for jobs separately, well we can just do this as a group.’ We never thought of ourselves as a collective, it was more like we were thinking of ourselves as our own illustrator’s agency. So we would be, like, trying to be professional and finding work. It was weird, I don’t think things ever panned out, and we were really bad at that. We had too much free time, so we were like, ‘Oh, let’s make a board game together!’ We ended up doing a bunch of stupid projects and eventually we fell more into also making comics. Also one of the things that brought us together was we all had the same interest in comics, and we were disappointed with what was going on in Sweden, in the Swedish comic scene.
DB: Can I ask you a question? What was disappointing about Swedish comics then?
PC: Well, the thing that we were not super duper happy with was… or maybe we’re not disappointed, but we felt that there was… it’s a really small scene here, so the stuff that you see, a lot of it is really, really similar. The main thing was that the main comics from Sweden are forgetting that comics are pictures and words together. It was focussing too much on the text, and the themes were always the same, it was almost always self-biographical, or politically correct comics springing up. I mean, important stuff, but it was just too much of the same, and we were missing fantasy and magic and sci-fi, and just goofy adventure.
DB: You wanted to have some fun.
PC: Yeah, and cool drawings too. There was even one point, we were saying, ‘Yeah, the Swedish comic scene is so boring,’ and then in the newspaper, one of the main strips in the main newspaper, it was just three panels of text.
DB: Oh wow.
PC: We were like, ‘Okay, ha ha. Wow. Yeah.’
PC: So we did this, and it’s not like we were trying to pick a fight. We were just like, okay, let’s just make what we like instead, because we can’t find it here. We started making comics and I think it worked better for us than making illustration stuff. We got a risograph and we started printing, and making comics, and I think that’s where we are today. So we were like, ‘Oh, are we a print shop, or are we a publisher?’ We still really haven’t figured that out.
DB: You have a diverse portfolio.
PC: Yeah. I guess there’s no point in putting a label on anything anyway, because it just makes you stuck.
DB: Yeah, that makes sense. Interesting. So what were the first comics that you started doing then?
PC: When we first started it was really bad. It was really, really bad! I’m really embarrassed, and I’m happy that we don’t have any of the books left, but I think we went to the Swedish comic festival, and this was before we had the risograph. I made some stupid sci-fi thing that I didn’t really like… or I though it was really cool then, but I hate it now, and I’m really happy that it’s gone. I think I also did a comic about a news article I read about some anteater that had a rampage in a zoo and killed eight flamingos.
PC: Yeah! It’s really extreme for anteaters! So I did those two things. Elliot had a sketchbook of his knights, which is, like, his thing. Olle also had a comic that he made, that he wrote with the same guy who writes Náva for him, Mikael Lopez. They had a comic called The Man with All the Answers. This is a long time ago. We did all the printing, Elliot and Olle went to a digital printer and had theirs printed, and I think I did mine on photocopiers. We thought it was really fun but… no, it was really fun. After that year, because we were buying stuff from overseas, we’re like, ‘Man, what is this risograph thing that other people are printing with? It sounds really cool.’ Our biggest mistake, like everybody does, we thought it was something that prints on rice paper, which is the most common question we get now.
DB: ‘Can we print on normal paper?’
PC: Yeah, like, ‘Oh rice paper, that’s cool!’ But we ended up looking around and we’re like, ‘Oh, it just looks like a photocopy machine. Wow, there’s even one for sale in our city. We should totally get this,’ and we got it. Then we started using that and we haven’t stopped since. That summer, because this festival was in the spring, and then we were going to go to a festival in Italy, Crack Festival, which was really, really fun. So we got the risograph after the Swedish festival, and we’re like, ‘Okay, so we have black and yellow, so let’s just make a comic really quick and just use these colours so we have something for the festival.’ Then just made a bunch of prints because, I don’t know, I think why not? So we made the comic called Flood City, which I think still looks cool. I actually look at that sometimes, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool looking.’ I even showed it to a customer today. We made that, and we went to the festival in Italy, and it was really fun. Then we made enough money to buy another colour drum, and I was like, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to spend all of my own money and buy more colour drums!’ Then we just started buying more stuff whenever we had the chance. Then we were like, ‘Okay, now we can use a new colour in our next comic,’ and the rest is history stuff.
DB: So for people who don’t really know what a risograph is, it’s sort of a cross between a photocopier and a screen print machine. So you have different colours, because you take out the front, and there’s a big cylinder inside that the paper gets wrapped around, and it squeezes ink out onto it, and each of these cylinders have a very specific colour they can use. It doesn’t necessarily do full colour printing straight away like a photocopier, but it has a nice aesthetic.
PC: Also one of the things that when we started, nobody in Sweden has been doing this at all, and when we were looking we would always find stuff… like in the UK it seems like it’s a big thing. There are a lot of printers, so we were reading on websites there, ‘Okay, how does this work?’ We got really, really excited because we also learnt about, at the same time, the summer after we got the printer, because we got it in the springtime, and then for the upcoming fall there was this guy called Hugh Frost who was coming to live in Sweden who is one of the guys behind Mould Map, and also Landfill Editions, which is I think maybe one of the coolest riso printers that has come out ever.
PC: I mean, it was really cool, and we had no idea, and we’re like, ‘Whoa, an expert on this is coming to Sweden! We should harass him and get him to help us!’
DB: [laughs] So you kidnapped him.
PC: We did, we met him, and it was really cool. But he couldn’t help us because he’d never had problems with his printer, and we were like, ‘No, you’re supposed to be an expert, and we have no idea what to do with our thing!’ I mean, everything worked out, and it’s cool, but they’re not doing so much riso stuff now anyways, they’re just doing next level printing, which is kind of what we want to get into soon, hopefully.
DB: So if you’re in Stockholm there’ll be a risograph available for sale.
PC: No, no, no, it’s not for sale! We’ll never give it up. It’s like, if you have an old car, a vintage car, and then you want to have a new car but you still want to drive both of them, even though the gas mileage is really bad on the old car.
DB: Because there’s a lot of love there.
PC: Yeah. There’s like, on the inside of all the risographs there’s a counter, so it’s kind of like a mileage counter, but it’s how many prints you’ve made. It’s always funny to look at those things, because it’s like, yeah, you can tell how old they are and stuff from that. Ours is almost up to 2 million prints, and I’m getting really scared.
DB: That’s a high mileage for those machines, isn’t it?
PC: Around 2 million they start to get older, you might need to have a check up. We’ve been really lucky with ours, and I know that since we started there are two other riso places that opened up in Sweden, but one of them, their machine is broken, I’ve read on forums, or it’s really messed up somehow. And the other one… I mean, it’s kind of weird, because it’s figuring out, ‘Oh, we should get into this oil business,’ already while it’s declining, because they’re not making new things. They’re old machines, and if stuff breaks you’re screwed. New machines, they’re really cool but they’re really expensive, and from what I understand, in the UK, if you want to be in that riso print shop game, you have to have one of the new two colour printers, and a bunch of colours and a bunch of stuff. We’re lucky in Sweden, because we’re so old school, and we’re the… I guess we have the most colours and we’re the most pro in Sweden, but we’re nothing compared to people outside of Sweden. I know recently… I don’t know what happens if you would do this, but we did a Google search for risograph print shop, or riso print shop or something, riso studio, and I don’t know if it’s on your computers, but we were the fourth result after a Wikipedia article and then Risograph’s website, and then this new article about risographs. We were the first print shop that comes up.
PC: It’s really weird, because I’m really excited about it, but at the same time I’m nervous because there are a lot of other printers that I look up to, in terms of how professional they are, and the equipment that they have, and how they can put together books. I mean, we’re alone here, so we can’t really… we’re not, I don’t know, like, being able to find this stuff. It’s just expensive, it’s really expensive in Sweden with this kind of stuff.
DB: So how did getting the risograph machine change the way that you thought about drawing, or did your drawing?
PC: I think the first thing that kind of changed was… a really obvious change, because if we were drawing for two colours on the risograph you would know how to set up your art. You’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s like screen printing, we’ll just draw on two layers.’ You would think, ‘Oh, I have this one colour, and then I can put this other colour on top of it,’ so it was really basic. We would do spots of colour on an image, ‘Oh, we’ll draw this person and then they’ll have a red hat.’ Then we got more into experimenting, and we’re like, ‘Hmm,’ because we actually, our printer is connected to a computer, which I know a lot of people who have risos that don’t have them connected to a computer, and it makes it a lot harder for some small specific things. It also, when it is connected to a computer, you have a whole lot of more options for how to print, and things can be a lot more precise. We started experimenting with four colour printing, or like, ‘Oh, let’s just do five colours, or let’s just do really weird stuff,’ and trying to figure out how to do artwork. Right now we’re really lazy if we do four colour printing, and we’ll print directly from the colour channels in Photoshop, but before when we first started we would go into the channels and copy and paste a single channel in another file. It was really, really stupid, and we would erase parts, like, ‘Oh, this part should be extra, so we’ll erase everything else on the other channels.’ I mean, it was good, because we were just figuring out what to do and just having fun. It’s nice being able to test things out like that, because I know if we just went to a print shop, we wouldn’t be able to do that. We’d be like, ‘Oh, this is expensive. We don’t have the time.’ So we played around, but I don’t know how it’s changed. I don’t know, it’s really hard to say if it has changed our style because I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have this machine. Now it’s just been there in my life.
DB: Oh, so it’s become normal.
PC: Yeah. And it’s not like everything we did would always be like, ‘Oh, we’re going to print this,’ automatically. We would just make stuff in general. I also feel like I’ve changed a lot personally because both Elliot and Olle have gone to art schools and they’re a little bit older than me, and I think they’re a lot better. They’ve always been really, really talented, and when I started I was just like, ‘Oh, I want to draw because you guys are so cool, and I want to hang out with you guys.’ I was really, really bad. I’m like, really bad! I really don’t like the way I draw. I think it’s really, really crappy, and I’m really embarrassed looking at the stuff that I did a few years ago, and I’m still surprised that they were actually friends with me, because it’s like, ‘Ah!’
DB: Yeah, but you’re not friends with the artwork, are you?
PC: Well maybe! I would. If we’re like, ‘Oh, let’s draw together,’ and stuff, and then there’s this kid who’s really, really bad and enthusiastic, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ Maybe they just never liked me, and they were just being friendly?
PC: No, but I don’t know. I just think for me personally, my art has changed in just the fact that I’ve just been getting better in general and drawing more of the stuff that I like. I feel like I’m faster and better. The printing doesn’t really have anything to do with a changing art style I don’t think, unless that was our thing. Like, ‘Oh, you guys only draw stuff that’s on the risograph.’ I don’t know if you look at my Tumblr, but most of the stuff is just digital things. I don’t have to print everything I draw.
DB: Okay, so I have a follow up question from what you said then. So, in this time where you’ve gone from being less talented to where you are now, what steps have you taken to make yourself better? How do you do it?
PC: I never went to art school or anything like that. I think maybe when I was 13 or 12 my mom made me take courses that were on Saturdays. Like, ‘You have to do something, because you don’t do sports!’ I took a course in model rocket building and comics, but it was really bad.
DB: Wait, is this one course?
PC: It was just like, at a community centre, courses over a few weekends.
DB: Oh okay, so it was rocket building, and another course called ‘comics’.
PC: Yeah, so it was like, the first week you build one of these small model rockets, and then the last time we got to shoot the rockets up. So that was the only training, but you don’t really need… you can’t train for everything, and I think comics is a hard thing to train for. It’s just like training in writing, or any artistic field. Of course there are some specific rules, but there really aren’t rules. There are just guidelines to say, ‘this is going to make things easier for you’ and ‘this is going to make things easier for other people to understand’. I think those are some steps that I’ve taken, just reading a lot of other things, and really going off on what I like, and not being afraid to feel like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to totally copy some things,’ or, ‘I’m just going to draw this thing exactly like this other person for a while, because I like it and it makes me feel cool, and it’s okay,’ because in the end, when you’re drawing a comic… before also I would think that every single picture was really, really precious. Like, everything has to look super duper perfect, and now it’s like, well, if I want to get something that’s 60 pages… like right now, I’m working on things that are a lot longer, and I’m going to be drawing so many panels, everything doesn’t have to be the most coolest, crazy creative thing. Before I was like, ‘Oh, drawing action is really fun, because this is the only time you can do really nutty shit,’ and now it’s like, ‘Mm, I really like just drawing people talking,’ because it’s kind of fun drawing the same picture a bunch of times, just with tiny, tiny changes. I think just figuring things out like that, which nobody is really going to tell you, but you sort of, have to figure it out, because it’s your own thing. It’s weird, this is just for me, but that’s how I feel. I’m learning that I need to tell a story, and it doesn’t really matter all the time, with everything. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.
DB: Yeah, so it’s about what you’re getting across to someone else, rather than making sure that every line is in the exact right place.
PC: Yeah, because it’s not… I would rather be fast and get stuff done, than not so fast and have a really amazing looking comic.
DB: Well this is it, this is a question I ask myself a lot, because I have to work quickly because I have no time to do anything else, and I have this need to tell this story. When I get bitten by a story, and it’s laid its eggs under my skin, and I’ve got to just get it out, I know that there are lines that are incorrect and the perspective will be bad, or something isn’t right, but I’m more interested in getting it done than getting it right at the moment.
PC: Yeah, I understand. I think another thing that I’ve started to do is, way back when I first started making stuff, I was like, ‘Oh,’ I would get these ideas and each idea had to be a separate thing. It was like, ‘Okay, this is a cool idea, and I’m going to put this on the side, and when I have the time I’m going to make this.’ Now it’s like, ‘Hmm, maybe that wasn’t a cool idea, but I can take some part of it, and put it in these other comics.’ I’m getting used to the fact of, ‘Oh I can have the same character that’s always in all the comics, because I like to draw this kind of face,’ or I can use, ‘Oh, but this is a really cool thing. I’m just going to put this in all the things, because I just like it.’ Or just disassembling old stories that I’m like, ‘That was cool when I was younger, but it’s not what I want to do now. I’ll take parts of that.’ I think that’s another thing in figuring out how… because I don’t have all the time in the world to make stuff, but I can at least try to get these things out that I want by squishing them together. I guess I’m being more economic with time.
DB: I think that’s a lot of the job, isn’t it? It’s a case of how much time do you have, and what do you want to complete in that time. I don’t know, I think there may be some people out there that can dedicate lots and lots of time to one enormous long project and spend nine years doing one thing, and I don’t feel like I’ve got that time.
PC: Yeah. Also another thing that has kind of changed also, figuring out… because stuff that would take a lot longer to figure out before, like figuring out, ‘Oh, in what style do I want to draw?’ or, ‘What brush am I going to use?’ or, ‘What, blah, blah, blah?’ Because the more time that’s passed, I’ve figured out, ‘Okay, I don’t like drawing like this,’ or, ‘I don’t like these things. These are things that I like,’ and now I don’t really have to think about it as much. That helps a lot because that can be a really, really annoying thing when you’re starting a project. You’re like, ‘I have no idea what I want this to look like.’ You think, ‘Oh, but I could definitely draw like that.’ You have a picture in your head, and you start and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is a lot harder than I thought,’ or, ‘Hmm, I don’t know if I’m going to have time to draw this cool in every panel.’ Now I know what works and I know what doesn’t work for what kind of thing I’m going to do.
DB: I agree. I have a similar thing. I know the pens I’m going to use, I know the paper I’m going to use, I know my watercolours, I know everything about the process, and I often… I find myself thinking, ‘I need to do something different. I need to change something.’ For me, it’s a sign that I haven’t got the story right, because when the story’s right I just can’t help but do it. I sometimes think as well that if there’s something that does need to be changed about the process or the way I’m thinking about it, I’m smart enough to change it. I can make a decision and say, ‘This is going to be different now,’ and I know how to do that. I know how to teach myself to do things.
PC: I’m excited, because I keep on thinking about other stuff, like, ‘Oh yeah, and this other thing is another thing I changed!’
DB: Okay go on, what have you changed?
PC: Also, before I used to be… whenever I was drawing something I’d be like, ‘Ah, this has to be perfect,’ and if I made a mistake I would get freaked out and be like, ‘Oh, everybody else is going to see this mistake.’ I’ve kind of figured out that nobody really cares if you make mistakes. I know that, I’ll pick up comics and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this look so cool, because it looks like they didn’t care when they were drawing this!’ I’ll be really impressed when things have mistakes in them and they’re published. I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool. How can they be brave enough to get away drawing this weird?’ I won’t do it myself, but now I’ve figured out that hey, it’s okay to do this kind of stuff, and it’s okay to draw really crappy, and hopefully readers will just be like, ‘Wow, this is cool, because he’s so laid back.’
DB: Look at the confidence on the page!
PC: Yeah! And I think that’s a really fun thing. When you feel that, it’s like, ‘I don’t care!’ Of course I care, but…
DB: But I don’t want anyone to know.
PC: Yeah, and when you make stuff and you put it out in the wild, and you’ll notice, ‘Oh, nobody really did care.’ It’s safe, and it’s okay. I think it’s the same things as people who really care about how they look and they’re like, ‘Oh, I have a pimple on my face, and everybody is going to hate me for it,’ and then you walk out and nobody cares. It’s the same thing with your drawing. What, is somebody going to hate you? You’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ you know? ‘You’re missing a finger on that picture, so you’re the worst!’ You know? It’s not going to happen. Being brave, yeah, just getting braver.
DB: Yeah, I think that comes from maturity, doesn’t it?
DB: I think so. So on the theme of bravery, you also publish other people’s work. Is that a brave thing to do?
PC: Is it brave to publish other people’s work? I don’t know, if somebody was threatening… I don’t know. Hmm, no. We don’t do it out of bravery reasons, we do it because… well, like I said earlier, we were kind of bored with the comics that were in Sweden. We were like, ‘Well, let’s just make more of this stuff that we like, and if we can’t draw it ourselves, then we should get other people to also make comics, so we can actually say, yeah, there are some Swedish comics that we like, because we’re publishing them ourselves!’
DB: I guess you don’t get to complain about something if you don’t change it.
PC: Yeah, and now we’ve kind of changed it. We don’t publish anything in Swedish though, but since we’re publishing from Sweden, I still think it counts as comics made in Sweden, or Swedish comics. I mean, we’re a Swedish publisher.
DB: How did you get into publishing other people then? What was the first step you took?
PC: The first step was also… I think that is because we never got invited to participate in anybody else’s comics, or anybody else’s zines. We never, ever got emails or invitations. It was like, ‘Uhh, this is sad.’ So we were like, ‘Let’s just make our own books.’ We were also thinking, ‘Let’s make a sci-fi anthology, because there’s not enough of that,’ and also we decided we wanted to do anthologies that felt… instead of doing 50 comic artists, and everybody does two pages, which it seemed like there was a trend, or felt like a lot of people were doing this type of short story anthology, just with lots of cool names. You can’t really get a cool story across in two pages, it’s really, really hard, so let’s just do an anthology of three stories each, and then each have a longer story. So it’s three 20-page stories instead, so you can at least get sucked into the story a bit more. That was the thing that we wanted to do, and we were like, ‘Okay, well let’s just start emailing people and see how this works.’ I think a few people were interested, and we got really excited because one of the first people we met and started talking to from overseas was Lando, because he was in Sweden, he’s been to the Swedish festival a few times, Lando and Stathis. They’re always the best guys to meet, and we’ve run into them at festivals. They’re super duper cool. But we were emailing with both of them, we’re like, ‘Okay, you guys are going to do stories with this. This is really cool!’ Then we just started going from there, because I think there were a lot of people that… we’re like, ‘We can’t draw as much as we want to, so we should make more stuff with fun people that we like also.’ I think also, we were just trying to show Sweden that there’s a bunch of other stuff out there, and we wanted to get other people that we liked to be part of it, so we could show off the rest of the world to Sweden.
DB: That’s good though. I like that.
PC: We would only publish people that we really like, because we can’t publish whatever, since we don’t have a lot of money, and we have to print all this stuff ourselves, so it takes time. It’s not like we’re just going to be like, ‘Oh, this person seems cool, we’ll publish their stuff.’ We would have to think long and hard before everything that we would make.
DB: Can I ask about money then?
DB: You mentioned earlier when you were talking about the riso machine, you’d start with the two colours, and then you’d make enough money to buy an extra colour and then an extra colour. Has this been a trend that’s continued then? So, starting small and then using… trying to make everything profitable, so that you can put it back into the company I guess?
PC: I’ve always tried to be open about stuff like this, about how we work. I’ve always thought about this, like, ‘People must think that we’re really well off because we can always go to comic festivals overseas and just do a bunch of crazy stuff, and we have a shop,’ but it’s actually kind of weird, because since we started we didn’t have that much money, and we got really, really lucky and we got to share a studio space for free. So we were there for half a year, maybe. We were supposed to be there for three months and we ended up getting to stay for six, or something like that. It was really cool. So first we had this space to work at, which was really convenient, and the more drums we got, the less we felt like we needed to get a new one. Right now we actually haven’t bought a new colour drum in a really long time. I’m picking up a gold one tomorrow, but that’s the first one we’ve bought in a really long time. Now it’s like, we have so many we don’t really need that many more. The books were selling a bit better each time, but it was never the main thing. We were actually getting… a lot of our income was through doing weird projects. The office that we were sharing with, was with Vice magazine, but they were doing a lot of PR stuff, so we would do visuals for cell phone companies, and just really weird PR, advertising stuff, and get paid a lot of money for that.
DB: [laughs] The dream!
PC: Yeah, it was a lot more than we would ever get through books. Then also just doing print jobs for other people, so that’s where we’d be getting money from, not from the books. In the past few months or something, it’s sort of been shifting over, so we’re actually getting a lot more money from books.
DB: That’s good.
PC: Yeah, which is really, really cool. But also the other thing is that we don’t pay ourselves anything. None of us get money for anything that we do, but we also made it… one of the main points is that we have to pay all the artists a lot, because the thing is, if you don’t have an artist that’s getting paid…
DB: If you don’t have an artist that’s getting paid, you don’t have an artist.
PC: Yeah, if you don’t have an artist though, if you don’t have an artist person, you don’t have a book. If your idea is like, ‘Oh, we’re going to sell books to make money,’ it’s really stupid if you disrespect the fact that… like, you’re dependant on people that are really, really cool and good at drawing. If you don’t appreciate that, then I don’t really know. I don’t know what’s going on. So from the start we were like, okay, we should try and give as much as we can to the artist without being super duper stupid, but I think we give about half of the book profits to the artists. This was really important for us. We’re like, ‘Okay, we’re going to give you as much as we can,’ and I think this is a fair thing, because we still have to print the books and whatever, and go around and do stuff with that. So they get half and we always try and pay it upfront, so it’s just like, ‘peow’ and they don’t even have to worry about sales, because that’s not their problem either. We’re not going to be like, ‘Oh, we’ll give you the money after we sell the books.’ I think we maybe did that with our first books, because we didn’t have any money, but it felt really cool doing that. We’re still not really able to pay ourselves for our own books, but we get to pay ourselves in airplane tickets.
DB: So it works out.
PC: Yeah. I mean, I think we’re okay. But it still is kind of weird, because it’s not like we’re super fancy people that have super glamorous lifestyles. It’s just that we like to go to festivals when we can, and because we do extra work on the side, it’s not like we’re 100% dependant on making books. I think that it’s really hard for a company just to get by on doing that. When I see all these other small publishers, I’m like, that’s insane? How does this work? I have no idea how it works if you’re just making books. I think it’s kind of good if people know that, because we wouldn’t have started making books from the beginning. That was never our plan. It was never something I felt like, ‘Oh, let’s start making books because it’s a good way to make money.’ It’s a horrible way to make money, but it’s okay. We’re doing a lot better than we thought we would, and our stuff is selling out a lot faster than we’ve ever expected. So, a lot of weird changes are happening really, really fast, and I think we’re getting up to these volumes where it feels like, ‘Hmm, maybe we should just try printing with other printing techniques,’ because we have to make that many books, which is exciting. It’s really exciting.
DB: So what’s the plan then, to expand?
PC: Our goals for 2015 are… okay, the first goal is, make an offset book. We want to print at an offset printer, that’s the first goal. The second one is, let’s make a book that’s over 100 pages, because that’s really cool if you have an over 100-page book. The last goal is maybe, I want to translate a book from French or from Japanese, because I think that would be really cool, because it feels pro. We’ll see. I mean, if we do one of those things this year, then I’m happy. I’m pretty sure… I don’t know, I’m pretty sure one of them is going to happen already, but I can’t say too much about it, because it’s… Olle is the guy who’s working that project, and he’s not in Sweden right now so I don’t want to steal his thunder.
DB: Okay, sure. Well let’s just not talk about that! So you guys have been to a lot of festivals as well.
PC: Yeah, we try.
DB: You mentioned you’ve been to, obviously the ones in Sweden but also Italy and the UK. We first met in Toronto, didn’t we?
PC: Yeah we did. That was really cool. It was really cool being able to say, ‘See you at Thought Bubble.’
DB: I’ll see you on a different continent!
PC: Yeah, and we did. And the UK festivals, it’s great because it’s super close by. For me, I think of Europe as our USA. Like how they have festivals in different States, like, okay, well we get to go to different countries, but it’s kind of the same, because of how easy it is for us to travel through countries. I mean, it’s really fun, and we try to go to a bunch of different ones, because we’re still trying to figure out which ones we like the best.
DB: Which ones are your favourites then?
PC: I haven’t tried them all, so I can’t say yet, but so far I really, really like TCAF.
DB: Yeah, me too.
PC: I really like that one, and we’ve also had super duper fantastic times at the festival in Oslo. It’s really weird, because it’s super tiny, but it’s also very cosy and fun, and you get to hang out, and the people who arrange it are super duper nice. I think also we have special memories from that, because it was the first time we actually got to meet comic people from outside of Sweden, and we thought it was really awesome, and we were pooping our pants the whole time during the festival. ‘Oh my gosh! Look! There’s Michael DeForge! Oh my gosh, there’s Brandon Graham!’ We’re like, ‘Whoa!’ Two of the people that we thought were really, really the coolest people ever, and they were there and we got to talk to them. I was like, ‘Wow, cool!’ We got to go to an after party in a crazy hotel room! Because they book… yeah, the festival arrangement is insane. We were at Luke Pearson’s… the place that they had booked for him as a guest, and I’m quite sure most of the guests had similar set ups. So it’s one person, right? He got to stay… it was in a two story apartment hotel room, with a balcony that was on the roof that overlooked a courtyard. It was just insane, and there was a fridge full of champagne. I was like, ‘What is this? It’s just one guy who’s going to be sleeping here! You guys are just way, way, way too generous!’
PC: At least not that year, we weren’t invited as a guest, so we were just in some poo poo hostel way out, and we were like, ‘Ugh, this sucks,’ because it’s the most expensive city in the world, but it was still really fun. Most festivals are great usually, because of the people that are there. I actually really like the one in Sweden more and more. I think sometimes we take it for granted, because it’s in our own city, but hearing from other people, why they like it, it makes me understand why it’s actually a really, really nice festival. I think it’s just that it’s super humble about being a festival, and they don’t scream and shout too much. It’s nice, we just see all the flaws because we’re from here. It’s actually really cool, and we’ve been helping out with them a little bit more and more each year, so it’s nice to be able to… because it’s state run, and it’s cool to be like, ‘Oh, we’ll help you guys, because you guys don’t have that much money.’
DB: So from your experience, what is it that makes a good festival then?
PC: That’s actually really hard! What makes a good festival is… I think there are so many things surrounding a festival that it’s really hard to tell, but I think having a good time outside of the table is really important. So, if you’re doing a lot of fun stuff while you’re there, I think that’s good. Because sitting at a table, it’s either going to be… I mean, if you’re hung over at a table it’s the same, no matter where you are.
DB: Yeah, that’s true!
PC: It’s always the case. At least one of the days you’re going to be like, ‘Ugh, I’m really tired,’ and just lazy, so that doesn’t really matter. I really do think it’s the stuff that you do outside of the table, or away from the table that makes a good festival. I was going to say, sales are maybe really important, because you can get really bummed out, like, ‘Oh, we’re not selling anything. Oh, this is no fun,’ but even if you sell really bad, and then you guys go to a really fun party in the evening, or eat a really cool food. I don’t know, it could be anything. It makes up for the whole thing, because I don’t think we’ve been on enough trips where we’re forced to go to festivals just because of business, so we haven’t really ran into that experience yet, of just being really bored. As often as possible we try to get all three of us to go to a festival, and if it’s in a cool country we’ll just be like, ‘Okay, let’s just take the whole week off, so we can be tourists and do fun stuff!’ So that is usually included in the whole festival experience, just goofing around.
DB: That’s valuable!
PC: Yeah, and also I think the people arranging the festival make us think about… I mean, if we’re going to talk about the festival, if they had good arrangers then we’ll be really impressed and be super happy, but sometimes if things are bad, or we don’t get what we… I mean, not like we don’t get what we want, but you think they’re a bit too strict, then we’ll be like, ‘Oh, they’re jerks, because they can’t chill out!’ and then it’s not as fun. I think there’s so much work involved in these things and so many volunteers and stuff, I don’t even want to say anything bad about any festivals, because they’re all… I mean, it’s a tonne of work, and it’s really cool that people put this together.
DB: Yeah, absolutely.
PC: If anybody’s listening who does do volunteer work, or whatever, then you’re really cool.
DB: You’re a saint. You’re going straight to heaven.
PC: You’re the best person!
DB: [laughs] One of the other things I wanted to ask you about was… I guess the term I’m looking for is marketing. How do you market Peow! as a company? How do you spread the word? You’ve obviously got the festivals that you go to, you’ve got a good presence at festivals, but how do you get more people to know about what you do?
PC: I’m actually really ashamed, because I have a bachelor’s degree in advertising and PR, so I should be really good at this, but we’re really stupid!
PC: After college I was like, ‘I don’t want to work with advertising and PR, really.’ I was like, ‘Oh, it’s disgusting! It’s horrible! It’s such a bad thing!’ So I think we just made it a thing that we’re not going to do ads or we’re not going to try. On Facebook, I don’t think I’ve ever posted, ‘Hey, look at my company! Like my company!’ or inviting people to that. No, we’ve never done that. I just feel really bad about being pushy and trying to sell stuff. We’re not super smart, we’re not market-y at all. I guess we would just would do stuff on Tumblr. We’ll just write, ‘Oh, here’s a little post,’ but we haven’t done giveaways, we haven’t done, ‘Oh, reblog us and we’ll send you free stuff,’ or anything like that. These is all basic things, and also because it’s not like we have a bunch of money in the world, so it’s not like we’re going to be doing some crazy ad campaigns to get people to know us. I think there are some things that we could do that we’re not doing well enough, like sending out review copies to journalists, or emailing press about things. Always at the last moment we’ll be like, ‘Oh, we could have written a press release for this,’ and we never do. At the same time, I don’t feel like we’ve had this burning urge to change it, because most of the stuff gets sold out anyway within a year or less. So it’s not like we’ve felt, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re doing really bad. We have to figure out our marketing plan.’
DB: It’s not broken, so you’re not trying to fix it.
PC: Yeah, exactly. Things have been a bit more crazy than we ever expected, so there are so many other things to take care of, I think that marketing is really low down on our priority list. Especially when you’re printing a book up until the last minute for whatever deadline you have. It’s like, ‘Oh, well the book is out, it’s too late for marketing. Grrr.’
DB: [laughs] So, as we draw this conversation to a close, would you like to use this podcast platform to try and sell some books then?
PC: I don’t know. We don’t have any books left to sell!
DB: So… no. [laughs]
PC: It’s the honest truth! Okay, so if I’m going to try to sell stuff… oh, I feel really bad saying this, because I don’t like to sell stuff. I think it’s the worst thing at festivals when people are like, ‘Hey, buy my book!’ I’m like, ‘Hmm, I would have, but you asked me to buy it, so I won’t buy it.’
PC: I guess I’m really sad because my favourite book that’s actually my own book that I actually laugh at when I read, it sold really bad. Nobody wants to buy the book, and I’m really, really sad about that. There are only a few people that have bought it, and they’ve said really nice things.
DB: Which one’s this?
PC: It’s called Devil’s Slice of Life.
DB: Okay. Oh, this is the small one.
PC: Yeah, it’s really small, and it’s in three colours and it looks like a kid drew it, but I’m really proud of that. I know that cool people have read the book.
DB: And they liked it.
PC: Yeah, yeah. It was even on one top best list of 2014 I think.
DB: Oh, nice!
PC: Yeah, I was like, ‘Whoa!’ But nobody really wants it, and that’s why I’m sad. So if anybody wants me to be more happy then buy the book at the web shop and ask me to draw in it, because I will. Other than that, I think we’re just making a bunch of new books, so you can pick those up. We’re going to be at MoCCA next month, in April. So New York people, or USA people if you’re in New York at that time, then you can pick stuff up, like a bunch of cool things. Right now, I mean, our stock is running low on most of the stuff. We have a digital… we tried our first digital book, actually recently.
DB: Oh yeah?
PC: Yeah, it was really fun! It’s Jane Mai’s book called Pond Smelt.
DB: That’s right, yeah!
PC: It was actually really interesting, because also we said that we would never do reprints really, but we sort of have, because when we’ve noticed, like, ‘Oh my gosh, we only had this book for a couple of festivals,’ and it felt really stupid that it sold out too quick. So we’ve done some reprints of our recent books, but for old things, we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to reprint this,’ but we decided to, because a lot of people will still ask for books, and we’re like, ‘Well, let’s just do a digital copy.’ And we tried doing that, and I don’t know, I think it’s really cool. I’m actually really proud of that version, because I talked with Jane and I got her to make a bunch of extra small stuff, and we put in scans, because when we first made the book we had stickers and a cool envelope and stuff like that. So scans of all the bonus stuff, and then we did a short interview… or it’s kind of long, it’s four pages long. It’s a cool interview. And just a bunch of extra crap that I think, like, if you’re getting a digital copy, just make the most out of it, because you’re not going to have to pay for print costs or paper, so put in as many full colour pages and just ridiculous stuff that you wouldn’t be able to print in a digital copy. It’s like DVD extras, and I think I get sad if I get a lazy, like, ‘Oh, I’m just buying the same book over,’ but it’s not.
DB: Oh I get it, yeah.
PC: It’s a bunch of extra stuff, and it’s not expensive at all. I think you can pay what you want, but it’s $3 or $2.
DB: Very reasonable.
PC: Yeah, for 80 pages… no, 60 pages. I don’t know, it’s a lot.
DB: So if people want to follow you on Twitter, or they want to visit the website, what are these things?
PC: The website is… oh crap! Twitter is @ppcrotty, and our website is peowstudio.com, that’s that. I think there are links to Tumblrs and stuff like that. There’s a lot of stuff on the internet, but most of the stuff on the internet is mostly me just writing.
DB: Awesome. So if people see you at a festival they should come say hello and buy some books?
PC: Yeah, definitely, or just come by and say hello. We’re not going to force anybody to buy anything. Ha ha!
DB: Yeah, your reverse psychology won’t work on me!
PC: No, I mean… I don’t know. We’re actually really bad at buying stuff at festivals. I don’t want anybody else to feel the same. I think that at Thought Bubble I bought two comics there, at the whole festival, and it was this six-year-old kid who was making comics and they were really cute and really silly, and that was the only thing I got at the whole festival. I feel, kind of, bad for not supporting people, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Ah.’ I think it’s just really easy to get too overwhelmed, because it’s like, hmm.
PC: Yeah, either you buy everything or you don’t buy everything.
DB: Yeah. Oh well! Patrick, thank you very much for speaking to me.
PC: Oh, thank you too! Thanks for emailing me and asking me to talk.
DB: Oh, pleasure!
PC: It was really nice.