Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Allegory of the Miniatures (part 3)

Which brings us to college...
And this is a much longer story, but I'm gonna cut to the part where I was working in a used book store in charge of the comic books. It was rather like a dream job at the time. Heck, it's still kind of a dream job. The owner of the place bought things, frequently, on whims, which was the state of things when I started working for him. For whatever reason, he had miniature sets kind of all over the place, but, mostly, he had Grenadier's Dragon of the Month kits.
During my freshman year at college, a bunch of us had started playing Battletech, so I had started painting again. And my boss had all of these dragons lying around. I started lusting after them. I couldn't afford them, though; however, all I really wanted to do was paint them.

Now, he'd had these sets lying around for, well, years, actually and never sold a single one, which is I why he gave me the job of being in charge of the comics and everything that went along with them, because, as evidenced, he was no good at deciding what to stock. But that's beside the point. Because he's had them lying around for years, I said, "Hey, why don't you let me paint a couple of these, and we'll put them on display and see if they sell." What the heck, right?

Just a note: I was still using oils, but oils had these great metallics that you couldn't get in acrylics at the time. Games Workshop rectified that sometime or other and, eventually, other companies followed with some excellent (acrylic) paints. [Just a personal note to any of you out there involved in this stuff: Games Workshop has what are probably the highest quality miniatures on the market if you're using them for gaming. They lack diversity, though, because their minis support their games. However, I don't much care for their paints. They tend to dry too glossy for my tastes.]

So here's how this worked:
These dragon kits sold for $10.00. They were lead, and they were heavy. He paid me $5.00 each to paint a few of them, and he put them up in display case (with the expensive comics) for $20.00 each. Remember, he'd been collecting these up for years and had never sold a single one (I think he had something like 3 dozen dragons. I know! He couldn't tell me why he'd kept buying them, either, but there it was). As soon as he started putting them in the case, people started buying them. I  literally could not paint them quickly enough. People started coming in just looking for the dragons. Even after he marked them up to $30.00. No, I didn't get a raise in how much I was being paid to paint them.

I still have one of them, though.
The only reason I have it is that my boss, the owner of the store, died, and it was the last one I had painted. That's not the original paint job. After he died, his son (or someone) boxed up a bunch of stuff that was mine (the dragon was mine because he didn't want it, I guess); he dropped it or something and broke it to pieces. Maybe that's why he gave it me. At any rate, that dragon had a hard life of having to be fixed over and over again. Eventually, I re-primed him and painted him with acrylics (you could never get a look like this with oils).

I do, now, have a large collection of (unpainted) dragons. Unpainted, because I've never had anywhere to display them if I did paint them, and they're easier to store in their disassembled states. One day, though...

In a lot of ways, this was like working for a publisher. I did the work, and he made the money. Sure, I got paid a decent amount for doing the painting, I suppose, and I got the enjoyment of doing the painting, but he made four times off of each figure what I did, and that was when he was selling them for $30.00, because there were certain of the dragons, like the Gold Dragon
and the Spectral Dragon,
that he would sell for $50.00. You could say that both of us got what we wanted out of it, and, in some respects, that would be true, but I was never happy with the disparity; there was just nothing I could do about it if I wanted to get to paint the dragons.

It's too bad miniatures cost so much these days, or I might consider going back into dragon painting. However, your general dragon miniature starts at around $25.00 these days, and the nice ones (the ones that are more along the scale of the Grenadier dragons) are much higher (like this one from Games Workshop that's more than $50.00).
So... I've kept it no secret about how I feel about traditional publishing and the way traditional publishers are just out to use authors for monetary gain, but, by my own experience, I can't say that there's not a time and a place for them. I would never enter into a deal, now, like the one I was in then, but at that time and in that place, it served my needs. I suppose what I would say about that in relation to traditional publishing, now, is that, if you're looking at traditional publishing, do make sure that it is actually going to serve your needs. Don't find out after the fact that you've been lead into a relationship that is only going to take advantage of you and give you nothing in return.

Next: how I spent years painting a Confederate army and how I came to hate the color grey.

Oh, and, just in case anyone is interested, that Green Dragon is still for sale. heh


  1. You can't sell your green dragon!
    Owners always make more than the employee. They provide the job and we sign up for the deal.
    I couldn't have done my books on my own, so I'm thankful for my small publisher. Certainly couldn't have sold as many!

  2. Awesome allegory.

    I find that the more I hear about traditional publishing, the more glad I become that I'm not going that route. But I'm still sad about it sometimes.

    And I agree with Alex... you can't sell your green dragon.

  3. I think I mentioned on my first blog that especially with a small publisher, what you're mostly getting is credibility. That's pretty much all I got from my publisher. I mean I wrote the book, Rusty did the cover, and Michael did the editing, so what exactly did the publisher do? Not a hell of a lot but yet they get to keep 60%.

    Still, if I want to query my next book, now I can say I have a legitimately published book so I might have a slight bit more credibility.

  4. Hmmm, lots to think about here.

  5. So awesome. Makes me miss my Ral Partha true pewter miniatures. I haven't played for years, but I was at a guy's house recently, and all his miniatures were plastic. Plastic. WTH?

  6. Alex: But I have another one! Unpainted, but I do have it. And I have no where to display the current one, so he needs a good home.

    M.J.: See the response to Alex.
    As for traditional publishing, it would take a pretty amazing offer to get me to sign with a publisher at this point.

    PT: I don't think small, independent publishers get any more credibility than self publishers. Big publishers look down on all of us equally.

    Ibdiamond: That's good...?

    Matthew: I was never impressed with Partha's minis, and I've painted a lot of them. The sculpts where always too muddled for my tastes, I guess.
    And, yeah, if you want cheap minis these days, you go with plastic. Especially if you're building an army. The pewter just costs too much. Metal is just for special figures these days.

  7. I came over from google reader just to check to see if anybody had made the requisite joke in response to this: "Next: how I spent years painting a Confederate army and how I came to hate the color grey."

    Answer: apparently not, so here it is...

    But, Andrew! Do you hate all fifty shades of the color grey?

    har. har.

  8. Callie: Oh... maybe that's why I can't bring myself to read that book...