Dirk presents his findings in the matter of Platinum buying the #1 graphic novel spot, and we recommend you just go over there and read it. Dirk actually spoke with participants at Midtown Comics and Platinum, and one interesting thing that emerged is that the Entertainment Weekly listing of COWBOYS & ALIENS as the #1 graphic novel may have been, as crazy as it sounds, purely collateral.
According to Gladston, Entertainment Weekly never actually contacted the store about its sales numbers for the week in question; rather, he believes that they went to the top-25 listing on the store’s website and pulled the numbers from there. The current listings are now different, of course, but as you can can see from the listing for Cowboys & Aliens reproduced above, it’s clearly marked as a free giveaway. Gladston speculates that whoever at Entertainment Weekly pulled the list from their website failed to notice this caveat.
Platinum’s Brian Altounian claims that the entire promotion was a co-op, and part of a larger marketing effort. As Dirk himself points out, shipping free #1’s is a time tested strategy that no one would think twice about; reimbursing stores to order more copies is a little more dubious, especially if it was a planned effort to reach the top of charts. Dirk presents some corroborative evidence, in the form of a now removed website claim that COWBOYS & ALIENS was the “largest selling graphic novel of 2006.”
I read the highlighted text to Altounian and asked him why it had appeared on his company’s homepage. Altounian responded by noting that the company had a wide and ambitious variety of plans for its properties in a number of media, and therefore, “because of all these efforts, we have a very aggressive marketing team.” He noted that unless one is intimately familiar with the workings of the Direct Market, one is unlikely to know the difference between non-returnable sales to retailers and retailer sales to customers, and that his team had likely seen the initial sales figures from Diamond and gotten carried away.
For his part, Tom can only shake his head at the lax standards that allowed all of this to happen:
In fact, I never thought this would happen, and kind of relegated what Platinum was doing to a realm of containable, correctable, common behind-mylar-doors behavior that might include things like publishers paying retailers back to order their material so they can make sales minimums, or companies publishing something at a massive loss in order to get a first-issue sales boost. These are manipulations of the system that everyone recognizes as such, with a clear cause and effect. I thought there were enough existing safeguards in how people counted comics sales and what legit press would run. Boy, was I wrong.