Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds weighs in on the pre-sell controversy, and manages to see both sides. Ultimately, however, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

The Direct Market is important to us and there’s no reason it won’t remain so. So I hope we all remain interested in working with each other to grow. I believe that our con sales serve to promote our artists and books more than those sales have an adverse effect on the industry’s bottom line. I can’t prove this, but no one can supply any hard evidence to the contrary, either. I really need to see some harder figures before I can really believe otherwise and start considering doing fewer shows or considering giving up much-needed revenue at those that we do attend. We debuted 50 copies of I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets at Comicon last year (to 100,000+ people!) because we thought it would be worthwhile beyond just the cash value (after factoring in airfreight from asia and other comicon overhead, it’s not all that) — there was an unquantifiable promotional value. Paul Karasik was there and did a hugely popular presentation. We sold out and everyone wanted a copy and blogs were writing about the book and creating demand. When the book hit stores a few weeks later, we had an immediate sellout of the 1st printing and have had two subsequent printings in the seven months since. How can you tell me everyone would have been better off if that book had not hit cold there and knocked people out the way it did?

Gary Groth chimes in at the end and makes a very persuasive case for the benefits of preselling a few copies at conventions far outweighs to costs:

This may be a case where we have to continue promoting our books in this fashion for the good of retailers despite their wishes that we stop the practice. Which is pretty damned weird, but there you have it.

When all is said and done, the retailers who vocally oppose the practice  — led by Robert Scott — have been asked again and again what would be the absolute, provable benefits of stopping the practice of pre-selling at conventions for the publishers. The answer almost always comes down to “Retailers will like you more.” We’re sorry, but given the very strong case that Reynolds and Groth make in the above linked post about the benefits for the entire medium, that just doesn’t wash.


  1. Con sales get people talking! I was at SPX, didn’t buy Perry Bible Fellowship, but sure heard about it from the people that did who were raving about it at the show. I bought one later, from a store. Also, there’s something, dare I say it, magical, buying straight from the hands of the publishers and often the creators at the booths. This can only strengthen bonds for future sales of works, say I only had enough cash on my to buy one book from the Fantagraphics booth, and chose Zippy, because Bill Griffith was sitting right there. Sure i bought that and noted others that I’d be buying in there future. Can’t be proven but i think there is an enormous PR/promotional boon for retailers from sales made at publisher booths..

  2. Attending at conventions is expensive. Often just breaking even is an impossible goal–especially at the bigger shows. If you don’t have anything new most people won’t even seek you out.

  3. A publisher should not look at a convention as a “break even” event. It is a promotional event. It gets written off as promotional costs.

  4. Yes, it’s promotion AND part of that promotion is having new books and creating a buzz around them which puts money in the pockets of publishers AND retailers. CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

  5. Oh, Alan, if only we lived in such a world where small publishers could “write off” huge expenses like those incurred in attending a convention as promotional costs! But, you know, we like to do pesky things like clothe ourselves and eat.

    Seriously, do you think that small publishers — the ones in question for the most part — have huge expendable promotional budgets like the big guys who don’t sell anything at conventions? We have to make money where we can; without breaking even at a convention, we can’t attend at all.

    Bravo to Eric and Gary; they make their point very well.

  6. Thanks, Jennifer. Any I couldn’t have explained the inability to write off cons as promo expenses any further than we already are any better than you just did.

  7. I bought my copy of I Shall Destroy the Civilized Planets at Comic Con and emailed a friend that night telling him had to buy a copy. He did and loved it.

    O course, I think he ordered it from Amazon, or maybe Powell’s so I guess my word of mouth didn’t help the direct market.

  8. I was a retailer for 6 years, as well as a self-publishing creator, so I completely sympathize with both camps here.

    Personally, any time I’ve purchased a copy of a book at a con, I’ve always honored the order placed with my retailer. I realize that’s just me, but it’s hard for me to believe any retailer out there is taking that big a sales hit on ANY indy titles as a result of this practice.

    Of course, I wish we could give our comics away FREE by the hundreds, as Scholastic does, because that is certainly an effective way to create new readers.

    So few shops actually order our books, and I appreciate each and every one of them. I don’t think ANY of us want to negatively impact the minority of shops that support us.
    At the very least, creators and indy publishers should always encourage con customers to still pick up the latest issue from their comic shop.

    Readers: PLEASE don’t leave your local retailer stuck with your pre-ordered copy! Especially trade paperbacks. That really stings.
    And listen, if you want to really help your favorite indy creator, or help promote your favorite indy comic, offer to pay the retailer’s cost on a book you’ve already bought at a con and then let them keep it as a shelf copy. THAT would help all of us.

    The bottom line here is that the more potential readers we can expose, the greater our future sales will be. And that’s good for everyone involved, especially readers.

  9. Having lived the starving artist lifestyle for many years, I can say that having an accountant pays for it’s self. I also work outside of self publishing, (as an art teacher) because I know that it takes along time to get the kind of fallowing that’ll put food on the table. Conventions are key. YOU HAVE TO PUT THE COMICS IN THEIR HANDS. I’ve got blogs, my spaces, comic spaces, deviantART, and God knows what else I’ve forgotten I’ve signed up for, and as much feedback (and it is great feedback) as I get from them, almost no one orders anything, because they don’t see it in front of them. When I do cons, I do great. You have to look at it that way, or else you’ll just start beating your head against the wall.

  10. Maybe this is too nitpicky, but Fantagraphics didn’t debut “I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets” at Comic-Con. They were at the Mocca Art Festival selling copies weeks before San Diego. I wonder why Eric Reynolds claimed it debuted at San Diego and that created the buzz?

  11. I see the release of 50 copies at a show, such as what Fantagraphics did, something a bit different than a wide release of a product at a show. An amount as small as 50 copies really is a promotion. It’s not about the revenue as some claim. But when a company such as Dynamite is selling stacks of Jungle Girl #0 and #1 at Baltimore Comicon, when #0 hasn’t even made it out to shops yet, I can’t imagine that didn’t effect local retailers a little bit.

    I honestly don’t agree with the Comicspro position paper, but I do see one problem with the publishers’ viewpoints. They want it both ways.

    On one hand, they claim that the convention sales are neglidgeable. Nothing to worry about, and not affecting retailers at all. On the other hand, the convention sales are a huge part of their bottom line, and they need them to pay for the con, and support the product…. hrm?

    I agree it’s hard to show publishers a benefit to not releasing early, but on the flip side, I have yet to see a publisher point out the harm in having the products in comics shops by the time they hit the conventions (for example, on the Wednesday the week of San Diego, the books could be in stores, and also at San Diego when the shows open). If it’s true that the publishers are selling to a different crowd, and not taking sales from local shops, then this should be no problem. But if the goal is to actually move the money away from the local shops, and into the publishers’ pockets at conventions, then obviously they wouldn’t want to do this.

  12. Fantagraphics had a display copy of DESTROY at BookExpo in May.
    Does their store in Seattle affect the comics shops in the area, or has it created a better indy market there?
    And while we’re discussing it, what’s the next Big Thing from FB?

  13. Tim, you’re right, I completely forgot about the Hanks book at MoCCA (which I didn’t attend last year, maybe that’s why), although my points remain the same. We were able to bring a few advance copies in for MoCCA at the last second, but Paul Karasik had been planning the big trip to Comicon and that was the big show we were aiming to have the book at; this was an extremely rare example where the book was done a little ahead of that schedule. But I think my larger points extend to whichever debut example I would have chosen. Our other big debut last year was Jordan Crane’s Uptight #2, which has been one of our most successful floppy series of the last few years, and the first issue sold out soon after Comicon and has had to be reprinted. His being there, us having them freighted in at the last second (we had to move heaven and earth to get them there Friday, two days into the show), was a worthwhile promotional endeavor. Jordan’s a consistent presence in San Diego and has also been one of our most popular new authors of recent years. Coincidence? His Clouds Above debuted at Comicon a few years ago and was our most popular book of the show, hands down – then it sold out immediately upon hitting stores a few weeks later, and is through three hardcover printings since with a softcover on the way. I think it was two years ago we debuted Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting h/c. She was unstoppable. The book again sold out immediately upon hitting stores and is now in something like seven printings (it might be out third best-selling graphic novel now after Ghost World and Palestine). From my point of view, this approach, with a willing author, is a surefire way to launch a solid book. But you are right about Hanks and MoCCA.

  14. Torsten, BEA was first weekend in June, but did we have a Hanks book at BEA and not a mockup? I don’t remember off the top of my head, but if so, maybe that was a poor example, because if that’s the case then the book may have even been in stores by Comicon. And perhaps it was. But I thought of it for the example because it was such a clear example of a con creating buzz.

  15. P.S. The immediate Next Big Thing will be, quite literally, the Bill Mauldin WILLIE & JOE book. March. Thanks for askin’.

  16. Tim is indeed correct.

    “I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets” was even sold out at all comic distro before the show. I remember trying to reorder some from FBI, and you were down to the fifty you”d reserved for Paul’s panel and booth time.

    What is it three printings now and a forth coming?

    Vijaya had an excellent point this morning when she pointed out the Complete Bone has sold 105,000 copies for retailers. Okay, actually 104,500. :)

    Not too shabby.

    Back to Castle Waiting, we had a good quantity, and when late on Saturday a major industry figure needed one for his daughter, I traded with Bud Plant to get her one; as CR had sold out on Friday.

  17. There is a simple compromise solution, though since it is not being suggested by a vocal retailer or a prominent blogger, it will almost certainly be ignored:

    The publisher allows returnability of initial orders of convention debut books after 90 days from the direct market shipping date and only for publishers within a 100 mile radius from the convention.

    Why 90 days? If a retailer can sell through their initial orders then they suffer no real harm. The most they would have lost is potential re-order sales which for the purpose of determining whether convention debuts sales cause loss is not a loss at all.

    Why 100 miles? If there is any loss to be had, logically it would be suffered most by stores who are local or within a moderate drive from a convention. A store in San Diego or Los Angeles is more likely to see a greater percentage of its customers attend the SDCC than a store in Boston or New York. Similarly, a store in the greater DC area is more likely to see a greater percentage of its customers attend SPX than a store in San Francisco or Arizona.

    Perhaps this can be arranged through the distributor. If not, it would probably not be very difficult as a one-on-one transaction between the publisher and the individual retailer. The retailer sends the publisher a letter letting them know that they are within 100 miles from a convention where the book debuts and they were not able to sell through initial orders in 90 days. They send the book with a copy of their invoice to the publisher. The publisher sends the retailer a check.

    At first glance, this might seem inconvenient for all, but that just means it’s a good idea. In practice, retailers will probably sell through the bulk or entirety of their initial orders within the 90 days and the publishers would be able to continue to debut at conventions while offering an olive branch to the retailers who are most likely to suffer any harm to be had from the convention debuts.

    This is a fair solution that would address retailer concerns and publishing realities.

  18. my memory of the fletcher hanks book at mocca is that there were a very few copies, they immediately sold out, there was resultant incredible buzz about the book at the show and folks were fervently beating the bushes (i.e. comic shops) the following couple of weeks to snag copies. my convention going habits are to make notes of books i see at conventions and buy later. support your local comic shop! and support great “art” (and “arf”) publishers like fantagraphics and their promotional efforts!

  19. btw, i had a booth that year at mocca right next to fantagraphics and witnessed the hanks book sellout and saw and heard first hand the attendees salivating to getting copies. and then i saw paul karasik at san diego soon after as i was signing “arf” books right after him at the fantagraphics booth and saw the exact same thing happen again. and i have an idea about what might be the next fantagraphics comic book artist bio/compilation that might have the same kind of buzz as the hanks book, but i ain’t tellin’ …

  20. As I’ve said before, as a fan, I do not lug books to cons because I need the space for items I will buy and discover at the show. Many times, I’ll comb the dealer bins for books to get signed, like Sergio Aragone’s Solo issue. As a bookstore employee who godfathers the GN section at one of the largest Barnes & Nobles, I also attend to see what is new and interesting. My 30% discount means I’ll buy it at work, unless the author is there to sign it, or it is an edition not available to my store, like the Caniff hardcover, or a foreign edition.
    Another question: before, during, or after a convention, how many stores hold store events where the creator signs books? Do the authors stop by to sign stock? (When I worked in DC, my store would get calls from publicity agents with authors who had some time between interviews.) That is probably the best way to appease the retailers: hold store events parallel with the shows, and offer signed copies and other incentives to the best accounts.

  21. I posted earlier on this topic but wanted to add:

    When we self-published fans only bought books from Kyle (Baker, my husband) at a given con if he was at the booth. While away at a panel or meeting nothing would sell. Fans want to meet him, have him sign the book, draw a sketch, etc.

    Also: When I was in business school the professor would instruct students, working in small groups, to analyze case studies wherein a given business entity was having difficulties and offer effective solutions. Why not put this problem – that direct market retailers are opposed to indy publishers/creators pre-selling at cons – to business students and see what suggestions are offered? Would they make the same recommendation as the White Paper?

    This is off-topic, but another observation:

    A wonderful, well-managed comic book shop has a “suggested reading” rack. They always have Kyle’s books there (or maybe they are hastily placed there when they see us coming!). Kyle’s books are intelligent, funny, and there is something for everyone: SPECIAL FORCES for super hero fans, WHY I HATE SATURN for hipsters, PLASTIC MAN for kids, and everyone loves THE BAKERS.

    With that said, what I see as an inherent flaw in the direct market business model: customers buy the quality books – like Kyle’s – at a given store. So you are ultimately left with shelves of unwanted, non-returnable books.

    If someone knows what book they want, they will generally buy it on Amazon because it is cheaper. If they want to see what is out there and what looks cool, they go to a book/comic book store and browse. But if the inventory is lame why bother?

    As Torsten commented earlier, DM retailers need to be crafty to survive in the current competitive comic book market.

  22. i can’t stand the vast majority of the retail system
    95% of comic books stores i’ve walked into just makes my skin crawl.
    i hate that most of the nation feels unwelcome in the primary outlet of the medium because the retailers have tried so hard to make them into caves for geeks.

    if i can’t buy it from the cartoonist or publisher in person or online, i usually don’t bother. i got tired of pouring my money into a machine that’s not only broken, but makes all of us look pathetic.

    we need someone to represent fans like me, who side step the LCS system and the Diamond monopoly.
    Lord knows i’m not smart enough to do it.

  23. Torsten’s idea for more con-timed store-events is a fine one. We would be happy to try and arrange, for example, stock signings in cities that we and any of our authors are attending..

  24. The reason I remember the Hanks book was at MOCCA was, of course, because I walked by the Fantagraphics booth, saw a few copies and said to myself, “oh, I’ll have to pick that up on my next lap,” and only a few moments later all the copies were gone. So I absolutely experienced my own personal sense of buzz–the buzz that, “oh crap, I missed my chance, I won’t let that happen again.”

    I ordered it (or pre-ordered) it somewhere online as soon as I got home.

    The sale didn’t go to my local comic shop, but, you know what–I’m 99% sure my local shop never ordered even a single copy of the book. If it isn’t Marvel, DC, Image, or Conan, it’s not likely to be on the shelf where I live. I could have asked the guy to order it, but it’s a lot easier to point and click.

    Just to weigh in: I think the benefits of Con promotions and sales far, far outweighs any theoretical damage to the direct market. Based on what I’ve seen in other towns, my local shop is pretty typical in its lack of diverse selection. I don’t realistically see the majority of store owners losing money when Fanta sells a book in San Diego or elsewhere.

  25. I was another saw it at Mocca, wanted to buy it at Mocca guy too. I bought it off Amazon as well–and Amazon had sent me an email prior to Mocca, the standard “you bought this, you’ll like Hanks” email. My local comics shops gets my super-hero business, and they’d get more too, but they don’t carry Fanta or D & Q on a regular basis. There’s a limit to how much “support your local comics shop” works for me–i’m willing to lose the online discount to buy a copy of a Doom Patrol trade, but i’m not willing to stand around every month, looking through Previews, helping a local comics shop place their order, and then, on top of that, paying more than I would online.

    I certainly don’t expect the comics shop guys to help me make money at my job, just because some of it trickles down in the end. My guys are great–sometimes they catch something they think I’ll like in the catalogs and mention it to me, and usually I end up buying from them. But they don’t catch them all. That’s not on the customer. That’s on them.

    In the end, if something happened in a bad way to comics shops, it’s not going to be consumer, first and foremost, who’s most responsible. That’s a title that will be shared between Diamond, Publishers, and yes, Retailers.

  26. I don’t know how this adds to the conversation, but…

    A few years ago, Brock Rizy and I did a signing at Robert Scott’s store in San Diego (Comickaze) on the Tuesday before Comic Con. There were a lot of out-of-towners who came by to check out the store, and we sold a lot of books — or at least, a lot of books by my standard. We were happy.

    In Dallas, the convention guests will usually do store signings with local retailers the night before. Kevin O’Neill was at Titan Comics, and Greg Pak was at Lone Star Comics, before Wizard World Texas. Steve Niles was at Zeus Comics, before Dallas Comic Con. We’ve got great retailers in the Dallas area.

    I do a lot of local conventions, and I bet 90% of my (small but faithful) audience is from Texas. I think if an indie creator comes into town, they should also see about doing signing direct with the retailers, build a relationship.

  27. This issue has been in the air for years and it’s good to see it getting discussed in a place with the exposure of PW. I’m sympathetic to the retailers pov. Some of my best friends are retailers (really) and I worked retail for years before I got into publishing. It is true that some publishers that sell books in advance of publication at cons reduce the sales of local retailers. Jim Hanley in NYC has been saying this for years and hasn’t been quiet about it when talking to publishers.

    When he and I get on this subject, I always counter with the argument that Eric and Gary have given — that those con sales create more readers, through buzz, increased visibility, and because there are people at cons who don’t shop at comic shops very often or at all. I meet more and more people who buy only graphic novels and get them at Borders, Barnes & Noble, or on the Internet (which almost always means Amazon). When they go to a con (and they do) they’re buying books that wouldn’t be bought at a direct market store. But many seem to find comic stores eventually, which the direct market benefits from. If the person finds a store that has a good, diverse, selection, they’re likely to come back. If the store has only Marvel comics, DC comics, and (ack!) statues, they may find B&N a swell place to shop.

    But perhaps the most important point that’s been raised here is that the retailers may be right, but there is no solid evidence of their opinion. Why? Because we’re in an industry that has almost no hard evidence about anything! I’m as guilty as anyone of giving my opinion as if it’s backed up by real evidence (see earlier in this post), but we all do it because we *can.* No one can conclusively contradict us — where’s the stats and the numbers to do it with? Sales? Icv2 comes up with estimates that are probably close, but those numbers don’t include newsstand sales (even if they’re small they count), or sales in bookstores. So you’d need their info, data from Bookscan, and newsstand sales numbers to get an accurate count. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

    Marketing and advertising? When I was at DC people would clap each other on the back and say, “Good ad, Barney. Good ad, Fred.” What they meant to say was “pretty ad.” Because the book the ad was for sold like a big, wet dog. And when a book did sell well there was no real attempt (that I ever heard of) to find out if the ad had anything to do with it.

    Instead of people getting together on an issue like this, I’d love to see a coalition or group try and get some real market research done (figuring a way within trade laws). I say a group because it’s usually pretty expensive. I know Marvel and DC have undertaken it on occasion in the past, but it might be with a frequency similar to Halley’s comet.

    How many girls read comics? Bet it’s a lot more than we think. Or maybe not. What percentage people buy mostly trades and GNs (not just say they want them more)? How many are adults that have started reading in the last three or four years?

    Apologies for getting off topic and rambling. But hopefully there’s some food for thought in there.

  28. Joe said:
    [I bought my copy of I Shall Destroy the Civilized Planets at Comic Con and emailed a friend that night telling him had to buy a copy. He did and loved it.]

    I wonder what Joe would have done had he first happened upon the book at a comic shop? If he wouldn’t have been less inclined to buy or espouse its values to his friend, then he kinda proves the point that many retailers are trying to make.

    Pre-sales are not necessary to sell books or generate buzz. Also by making it harder for retailers to sell a book by grabbing the early adopters first, they compromise the value of that work to those retailers who are supporting them.

    There is absolutley no logical way to claim that a sale removed from a market, can be replaced. If I could’ve sold 15 of a book ordered and come to find that 4 of the customers who normally would’ve bought it from me bought it at a show, it doesn’t matter if I eventually sold those 4 copies to other customers, I will always be down 4 copies.

    Furthermore, while waiting for those copies to eventually sell, I am also unable to spend the money tied up in those books, on restocking other books, so now that publisher is not only harming me but they are also harming other publishers (many small press publishers accuse Marvel and DC of monopolizing retailer buying dollars in similar ways).

    Some have said that I’m not allowed to count on any sales that aren’t pre-orders, I don’t have ownership of those customers, which I can somewhat understand but then I already order so much of my product (at least 95%) without preorders, in order to give my customers an opportunity to experience the work BEFORE commiting to buy it. I guess I could revert to being a store that orders 95% of my product based on preorders and then place reorders for any books I see buzz on AFTER conventions. I don’t see that putting more small press books into comic shops but publishers are clearly arguing that it does. What is it that these publishers know that Marvel and DC don’t?

    Basically we have publishers who are claiming that because of poor sales in the marketplace, they absolutely must sell at conventions. Not only sell but sell first, before any other channel. But if you add just a dozen or so higher profile titles available at major conventions before they are available through the DM or BM, and say they generate enough sales to help cover the tens of thousands of dollars spent setting up at conventions it is impossible to then claim that they are not taking sales away from retailers.

    OK, so it may only be 10% or so of the retalers, the so-called enlightened 300, but that is because 90% of shops have found no relevance in stocking this work. Are publishers going to continue to behave in a way that eventually makes them irrelevant to every last shop that is supporting them or are they going to find ways to reward and grow that support?

    Retail tends to be the whipping boy for so many of these posts but while I can clearly show how and why pre-selling damages more than just retailers (hurting other publishers, consumers and even the pre-selling publisher) there is absolutley no proof that releasing books to all channels even weeks before a convention, harms the publisher. In fact one example here actually came back to prove that it didn’t hurt that book or publisher at all. Another publisher mentioned in another blog that they actually found that buzz increases for books that are released the week before a show.

    I understand that publishers, like retailers, are not sitting on piles of money. I understand the fear in cutting off a “guaranteed” revenue source. But unfortunaltely for them, I also understand that the less profitable a product or vendor becomes, the less venues you will find it in. The less venues you find it in, the less awareness you will find for that product/publisher and finally, you will see even lower sales.

    Now if anyone here can show me that they’ve gained marketshare and/or
    are selling significantly more copies of books year over year, it will be the first I’ve heard of it. If they want the marketshare that continues to elude them, they need to figure out ways that don’t marginalize the efforts of the folks that are commiting a lot of money in support of their work(s).

    Rather than usurping sales, work with us in promoting your work. We’ll be happy to share (not dictate) ideas, really. The more retailers believe in the way you do business and can believe that working with you will benefit them, the more that will want your product. Putting 3 more copies of a book in 100 new shops will net you far more in sales overall than selling those same 300 copies at a show. It makes you a valued partner and gives you a sales team who wants to promote you 365 days a year to every other publisher’s customer.

    Don’t lose your single greatest resource, a group of folks who are specialists in your product and are working their butts off everyday to encourage new folks to take a look at what’s available in comics today.

  29. Hi Heidi:
    [When all is said and done, the retailers who vocally oppose the practice — led by Robert Scott — …]

    Led by moi? I’m not even a CPRO voting member not sure how I’m the leader other than making a lot of sense, but OK.

    […have been asked again and again what would be the absolute, provable benefits of stopping the practice of pre-selling at conventions for the publishers.]

    That’s a bit disengenuous when, by federal anti-trust law, retailers cannot guarantee any such thing but then Eric Reynolds used the example of “I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets” which not only showed no deleterious
    effect but actually sold extermely well despite being released well in advance.

    [The answer almost always comes down to “Retailers will like you more.” We’re sorry, but given the very strong case that Reynolds and Groth make in the above linked post about the benefits for the entire medium, that just doesn’t wash.]

    I’ve never heard that answer let alone given it. To put it a bit more succinctly then the previous post, more venues equal more opportunity for sales. This is why the book market and internet are so exciting to publishers, new previously unexplored venues. So while they seem to recognize the need for more venues and greater saturation, they aren’t paying attention to history which shows that hoarding product and usurping sales actually reduce venues, reduce sales and ultimately must change this pattern or die.

    Look at some major merchandise companies that went from licensing and mass market sales to creating exclusive product for sale through company Megastores. Been to a Disney or Warner Brothers store lately? The beginning of the end for the Pokemon CCG phenomenon? Wizards of the Coast shunting product to their company stores fully stocked and taking advantage of incredible consumer demand developed through the specialty market, while telling specialty retailers that there was no product available.

    WotC made a lot of money, short term but not enough ultimately to make up for the the loss of a number of specialty retail venues who moved on to other products and vendors and forcing WotC into major layoffs and Game Keeper/Company store closings when Pokemon burned through.

    It’s always going to be a tough go to convince a DM retailer that it is in their best interest to support a publishers ability to break even at a con while they also watch their own ability to sell that product be diminished. BM retailers, what do they care, Comics are a niche product for them, one they can afford to dabble in while they are cute and cuddly but one that they make virtually no effort to support via depth of product or knowledge like the DM stores for whom this product is the lions share of their product offering.

    And if the DM is forced to diversify (or contract) even more to mitigate damage from specific vendors, I wonder how long it will be before the small press finds itself referring to the current market as the good ‘ol days.