Sometimes we forget that comics isn’t just an industry of self-publishers, it’s an industry of SELF-RETAILERS. Thus, everyone is still chiming in on the whole pre-selling at cons thing. Colleen gives a little historical perspective on how folks in artists alley used to be FORBIDDEN to sell their comics . She also explains how that had to change. Johanna has a big wrap-up post that includes the Boom! North Wind matter.
In a follow-up to his many posts on the topic, Brian Hibbs explains why returnability isn’t really an option.
You know, on the face of it, we’d agree whole heartedly, but we were reminded of something interesting the other day. Remember that “Think Future” panel we co-moderated back in November? On it, Diamond’s Bill Schanes said that publishers might want to start thinking about returnability. We don’t remember the context — it was surely no more than a passing comment — but our pal who recalled it said it made more of an impression on him than anything else said on the panel. So…who knows, maybe it’s not as impossible as it seems.
Steven Grant steps in and looks as possible solutions to the Pre-Sell Problem We’ve cut his answers a bit for space:
1) Publishers make all comics sold unannounced at conventions first returnable – but returns must go directly to publishers and not through Diamond. The publisher only has to refund what the retailer owes Diamond, while comics at cons are usually sold for cover price and upwards, so I don’t see where anyone loses. …
2) Publishers should package all “for introduction at conventions” copies under different covers, or in some other way make them distinguishable editions, i.e. effectively not the same comic going out to stores, and a collectors’ item. …
3) Retailers could establish bonds of trust with valued customers, ensuring to the best of their ability that if faced with the possibility of buying the same comic elsewhere earlier, they’d wait to buy at the store instead. Because comics fans are just that trustworthy.
Actually, there’s another solution, suggested here in a comment: let retailers at show buy in to the early shipping copies.
This last one is done sometimes, actually. We can see flaws with all three plans, especially since books are usually just shipping late to begin with. As long as folks think the drop dead deadline is for comics reaching the booth and not Diamond, it will continue to happen.
And retailers will continue to complain about what amounts to nickels and the very occasional dime. Don’t believe us? Take an example proferred right here in our own comment thread. Jackie Estrada sells 60 copies of the new issue of Wolff & Byrd. at a show. At a $2.95 cover price and 50% discount (let’s say) retailers are missing out on a grand total of $88.50 in profits.
Even the notorious one- volume Bone comes out to 400 x $40 x .5 or $8000. Okay a little more change. Let’s divide that up by the 2000 or so comics shops in the US and it’s $4 a store. Admittedly, we’re just hvaing fun with numbers, but as publisher Viyaja Iyer points again ONCE AGAIN IN OUR COMMENTS, the retailers have sold an additional 104,500 copies of 1-volume Bone since then, so everyone should be smiling by now.
This is on another topic entirely — although the blog in question does comment on the matter of the day– but Sean J. Jordan has a site called Story of a Small Publisher which has some very interesting links and info of a technical nature for selling and marketing. (Also a nice plug for this blog, so thanks Sean.) He also has some wisdom:
I remember one year, I was at WizardWorld Chicago visiting a friend in the Artist’s Alley, and the guy sitting next to him was pathetically begging everyone who walked by to “Please buy my book.” I felt sorry for the guy and wanted to help him out, but his book was $10 and it looked awful. It was around 32 pages, Xeroxed, and stapled by hand, with edgy artwork that had lost some of its definition by being copied and letters that we so small I could barely read them. Buying the book would have been a disservice to the guy, because it would have encouraged him to produce a product like this again instead of forcing him to wonder whether or not this comic book thing was really for him, or just a pipe dream.
You nailed it, Sean! DON’T ENCOURAGE PEOPLE! Tough love. That doesn’t mean you can’t give advice, but when people clearly don’t know what they are doing, just say no.