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.