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« The Contempo Trade Book-Publishing Biz, an Intro | Main | "The Housekeeper" »

July 20, 2003

Why Entrepreneurs Make For More Inspiring Reading


Thanks for the link in your posting, The Contempo Trade Book-Publishing Biz, an Intro to The NY Times Magazine's July 20 profile on Bertelsmann’s Peter Olson. The profile lays out the dynamics of consolidation and cost control in a “creative” business showing little or no growth. However, as I pointed out in a comment, the story was a bit long on personalities and a bit short on notions of how to promote growth. (Or, failing that, even an insightful analysis of why such growth wasn’t happening naturally.)

As a refreshing counterpoint, I would offer a link to a story from the L.A. Times (which you can read here) on a businessman in another creative industry suffering from static or even declining markets. Titled “Comics' Unlikely Hero” it profiles Mark Alessi, who has plowed a good deal of the fortune he made in software into a comic book startup. Mr. Alessi, a classic entrepreneur (in contrast to Mr. Olson, a classic manager) is bursting with ideas about how to bring new creativity and audiences into the fusty reaches of comicdom:

CrossGen, in a bland office park just north of Tampa, Fla., stands as a lifelong fan's response to what he thinks is wrong with the comics industry.

Alessi says there's plenty, starting with a retail network that in 50 years has shrunk from hundreds of thousands of newsstands and corner variety stores to 2,500 specialty shops, many of them "at the end of a seedy strip mall under a broken overhead light — no place any parent would want his kid going on his bicycle."

At $2.95 an issue, many of today's monthly books offer more lavish art, color and printing than their 10-cent counterparts of the 1950s. But the price and the often adult-oriented content are barriers to new young readers. And so, Alessi says, the industry increasingly tightens its circle around a core market of young adult males and collectors.

Beyond that, he notes that burnout is rife among the mainly low-paid and isolated freelance artists and writers who create the books, making for high turnover and a weak sense of professionalism.

The CrossGen founder has said all this before in numerous industry forums, winning himself a reputation as a scold out of all proportion to his longevity in the business or his company's 5% market share.

Wouldn't You Rather Be In Comics Than in Book Publishing, Anyway?

Who knows whether Mr. Alessi can shake up the world of comics successfully but he certainly is an example of why entrepreneurs with a unique business vision make for more inspiring reading than do the Peter Olsons of the corporate media world. I mean, you gotta like this guy's style:

"I am the worst loser you will ever meet," Alessi said during an interview this week in his cramped office at CrossGen. "You may beat me, and if you do, I hope I will be gracious. But we will play again."



posted by Friedrich at July 20, 2003


It is sort of inspiring, thanks for pointing it out. I hope the guy has some luck and shakes the biz up a bit. I'll note that Alessi is in a long publishing tradition -- the person's who's already got big money (made it, inherited it), and now wants to have some fun in an artier field. A lot of them bail after not too long, once they discover that actual work (and often losses) are involved, and that the glamour isn't what they hoped it'd be. Alessi sounds a lot more determined. I hope he sticks it out for a while.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 22, 2003 3:36 PM

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