Who invented the phrase “our retail partners”? At every presentation at yesterday’s Diamond summit, publishers over and over again spoke about “our retail partners” and “working with you to sell more comics.” I asked a veteran of the book industry if people at book conferences ever made reference to their retail partners and he just laughed.
Here’s how everyone spoke to their partners:
Diamond, Tokyopop, Action Labs, Jazwares: Missed these because I overslept (after falling asleep at my keyboard at 1 am.)
TITAN: Chris Thompson made his Diamond debut for Titan! Everybody liked when Rickey Clayton did it but Chris is a bit more high energy. He also is the first person to mention “retail partners” a lot, noting they want to sell books together. Titan always has excellent pop culture books, and lots of good original comics as well. The 13th Doctor is coming. Most interesting to me – a comics imaginary biography of Winsor McCay.
PULLBOX: Diamond’s new online ordering system. Reliable Chris Powell delivered a reveal of the features. Lots of mixed opinions among retailers but I’ll get back to that.
DC: Dan DiDio and Jim Lee did their well honed road show. A very full room, but most retailers noted later that it was all stuff that they already knew about. The big news was the sales figures.
VIZ MEDIA: A short and sweet presentation about their top 20 selling manga series, and why stores should carry them.
PAIZO: Lots and lots of info about Pathfinders. I’m sure this was important, as gaming is increasingly a part of stores’ mix.
PENGUIN/RANDOM HOUSE/QUIRK/DK: Its nice to hear female voices at the summit. There were definitely more this year than in the past but it’s still a minority. Penguin, Random House, Quirk and DK all have lots of books that they present to the DM now, and some very fun looking innovative projects. Love those X-Files Little Golden Books.
KODANSHA: Ben Applegate did a longer presentation with some stats weaved in. I tweeted a few of them, but his observation that manga readers now also read “regular” comics was a bit of an eye opener. Want to find out more about that! He also observed that streaming of anime is driving manga sales once more, just like the Naruto effect sold a lot of books when it aired on Nick.
SD TOYS: Spanish toy maker previously unknown to me. They showed off a Chuck Norris statue that had the room cheering.
1FIRST/DEVIL‘S DUE: Ken F. Levin talked about First stuff coming and a subdued Josh Blaylock gave the Devil’s Due talk. Blaylock has put on some hilarious and pointed multimedia presentations in the past so this was a little disappointing, but maybe it’s good to skip a year, too.
NAVAL INSTITUTE PRESS/DEAD RECKONING: Gary Thompson of this new GN line came out and showed their first four projects. I haven’t had time to write these guys up much but they are on point with four very interesting looking books. Also one of the publishers affected by the vast amount of personnel changes in the industry as Sven Larsen, who was just returned to Marvel, was NIP’s publishing consultant. Thompson told me that several people have approached him to help though, so more of that team changing going on.
VALIANT: A bit of a tough show for them with all the recent changes, but they persevered. Newly promoted Atom Freeman came out to give the rundown on mostly already announced projects, and Mel Caylo who just joined helped out. Valiant had a bit of an A/V problem with a video that didn’t play – this happened all day. You’d think that in a world where you can stream live video around the world on your phone that B-to-B trade shows can manage AV but that is not the case and I see this over and over and over everywhere.
MARVEL: Wrote that up already but talking to retailers after, everyone thought it was better than last year’s which was under lock down because of some Inhumans footage. Also the room was absolutely SRO. Retailers really want to see Marvel make a comeback.
DINNER: I live tweeted this but a few more notes There were 12 presentations and it was a long evening as usual.
BEST PRACTICES AWARDS: I forget where this was but Diamond’s Andrea Purcell came out to announce the winners. A rising star at Diamond and a welcome note of diversity for the evening.
CBLDF: the fund wisely brings out all time retailer favorite Bob Wayne to deliver some notes. He always gets a great reception.
FUNKO: they didn’t try very hard but they don’t have to.
ONI: Don’t remember seeing them at too many Diamond presentations. James Lucas Jones and Melissa Meszaros presented and it’s good to see things like Tea Dragon Society working and getting spun off. The Long Con – a comic in which a convention has morphed into an entire society after a disaster – got a good response.
ALBATROSS: aka Eric Powell. Everyone LOVES Eric Powell for his wacky videos and gonzo humor. He came out this time and said in an affected gloomy voice “Oversaturation of product and too many variants are killing the business.” Then he showed a video in which an old woman goes ham over a soggy pickle while substituting an Albatross logo. Then it was a video of him putting on red lipstick for a long time while dressed as a member of Kiss. You had to be there.
AFTERSHOCK: Mike Zagari, Lisa Yu and Joe Pruett came out. Mike spoke a LOT about retail partners, and had a full array of ways that AfterShock will help retailers, sending them gift bags, including individual stores in promotions and so on. The presentation included several videos from Donny Cates – a rising star, maybe even superstar – and video testimonials from retailers, which I thought was a good touch. They stressed visiting stores, which is a really good way to make that personal connection.
DYNAMITE: Owner Nick Barrucci gave a short speech thanking everyone for ascending to Premiere publishing, while Pat O’Connell ran through some of the product. I do believe that retail partners were mentioned.
LION FORGE: Disclaimer this site is owned by a sister company of Lion Forge. This was a much longer presentation than they had done before, and founder Dave Steward II came on stage to talk, along with Devin Funches, Jeremy Atkins and creator Gene Ha. Steward talked about having diversity behind the page as well as on it. Funches ran through a bunch of changes to the Catalyst Prime superhero universe line, including books either going all ages or getting a more Vertigo-y look. There are some very sharp looking GNs coming out from Lion Forge, including Sheet and Upgrade Soul.
DARK HORSE: Marketing main man Matt Parkinson and editor in chief Dave Marshall came up. I really like a lot of the periodicals Dark Horse is doing, esp. all the Black Hammer spinoffs and anything by Mat Kindt. Dark Horse talked a LOT about offering returnability, which they offer on even potentially blockbuster projects like the new Frank Miller book. Once again working with retail partners and making it better for them was a theme.
I should note that by this point, attention in the room had begun to deviate a bit. It’s hard with a THREE HOUR DINNER and 12 presentations AND an open bar to keep everyone rapt. Impossible, in fact. That said, despite the open bar, retailers were very respectful for the most part and gave each presentation attention.
BOOM: Filip Sablik is always a very polished speaker and he brings a new branded presentation every year. This time he ran down million selling Boom properties – Mouse Guard, Lumberjanes, Adventure Time – and noted “We did it together with you – our retail partners.” He also said “What this industry needs is hits and to generate passionate conversation inside and outside your store.” Which is a sentiment I heard echoed many times in many conversations. Sablik didn’t do much product info but instead focused on Boom’s many retail incentives like a LOT of returnability and an across the board 20% discount to celebrate their becoming a premiere publisher. At one point Sablik noted that “We don’t want to sell comics to you, we want to sell comics…with you.” If you could sum up the theme of a Diamond summit, that’s it in a nutshell. Sablik also brought out Boom’s retailer liaison
whose name i didn’t write down Morgan Perry and she’s very high enegry and clearly very popular with retailers. I think there is a lesson here.
By now, I cannot lie, I was waiting for it to be over. No presentations were bad, it’s just a loooooong evening.
IDW: Dirk Wood, another retailer favorite, was joined by publisher Greg Goldstein to talk about how they are helping THEIR retail partners. Returnability, top licensed books. Hilariously they had to pull four big announcements from the presentation because the deals weren’t quite ready, but Wood made a running gag out of it and saved the day. IDW has been racked by a lot of departures of late but maybe they’ll pick up some of the people who are out there changing companies?
IMAGE: The final presenter is now Image and people were gritting their teeth for a grueling slog, but mercifully, Jeff Stang (who announced a new job title for himself which I didn’t write down) just brought out Skottie Young and Dennis Culver (separately) to announce new books and it was a fast, snappy presentation that excited retailers by bringing out actual creators.
Boom had also brought a very very rare Mighty Morphin Power Rangers variant (I guess people like them) which retailers lined up for, for half an hour.
Despite the issues that everyone was talking about, the sales slippage and the industry upheaval, the mood was good and not doom and gloom by any stretch of the imagination. As I noted in my first report, I think a lot of people who shut their shops down were just done in general. Those who are still here are scrappy survivors.
The problems are real, but making retailers partners seems to be part of the solution.