The surprise announcement of the new Fantagraphics store in Seattle drew some interesting internet chatter. With well-founded fears of anxiety from traditional comics retail stores, Eric Reynolds was in an explaining mood over at The Engine.
I believe this store can only be a good thing for the health of the comics market in Seattle and beyond. We have some 1000 items in our warehouse. According to Diamond’s own data, fewer than 40 percent of their accounts stock any given book we publish (and it’s just as often fewer than 25%). There are maybe 50 truly great comic book retailers in this country that actively support us, and as much as I remain ever-grateful for their existence and wish we could clone them, they are the exception to the current rules. For most of the new books we publish these days, the direct market accounts for about one-fourth of our initial sales. Over the last five years, our sales have gone up everywhere but the direct market. We are not costing the direct market sales — the direct market is costing itself sales (whether it be due to Diamond’s increasing inability to stay competitive with the rise of wholesalers and book trade distributors also selling graphic novels, or the 3000+ Diamond accounts out there that still don’t have any interest in diversifying their inventory and customer base by ordering outside of their own narrow tastes for the usual mainstream stuff). Interest in literary graphic novels has grown just about everywhere (in general bookstores, amongst the public, amongst the media, on the internet, etc.) over the last five years except in the direct market. We simply can’t afford anymore to make decisions out of fear of alienating such an increasingly small segment of our market. We could not survive in solely the direct market anymore: Marvel, DC, Image, et. al. ruined that possibility ten years ago with the exclusivity wars (which we fundamentally were opposed to from the get-go, a position which has probably hurt our standing in the d.m., but I have no regrets on that front. it was the right position to take).
There’s more at the TCJ board, with comments from Kim Thompson.
Ex-Seattleite Tom has an inside perspective, and the news that local legend Larry Reid will be running the store:
Reid had Reynolds’ current marketing and PR job with the company in the early 1990s, and is an outsized, larger-than-life character. Reid’s a Seattle multiple-scene fixture going back what I guess would be a couple of decades now, and an extremely enthusiastic proponent of cartooning both when he’s worked for the company and when he hasn’t. Reid was the first PR guy that Fantagraphics had that was there a significant amount of time and that didn’t seem forced into the job. He had a bonafide affinity for those Fantagraphics comics of the late ’80s and early ’90s that had connections to the growing “alternative” culture that Seattle spearheaded and of which he was a part (Hate, Eightball), and more than anyone gave the company a foothold with those kinds of fans. He’s also an experienced event organizer and art show curator. His running a company-backed store could be pretty great. Or at least it could mean a few more Larry Reid stories.