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TGI-FOC // Adventures in Marketing

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Welcome to TGI-FOC, a weekly feature at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. I changed the name, for reasons. It’s a thing now.

RECOMMENDATIONS

It’s come up recently, so here’s the quick rundown of how I sell and recommend comics. First rule? Every comic is someone’s favourite. From AXIS to Tarot to Lumberjanes and beyond, there’s someone out there who is going to be blown away by the contents of a random comic. The goal, as always, is to match the comic to the audience, and to offer as little commentary as possible – unless asked point blank for an opinion. There’s a huge difference between “what’s this book about” and “what do you think of this book” – though in my experience, very few retailers and readers realize this. The amount of times I’ve heard people answer “what’s this book about” with “it sucks” is staggering, and it makes me sad. What if the person is the type who’d enjoy something you wouldn’t? When giving a recommendation or warning a potential reader of the dangers of reading, context is always key – which brings me to the second rule: always, always, always find out what a person likes before handing out recommendations. Do this by asking about their likes outside of the medium. It’s the best way to get the full range of a person’s likes, and it does a hell of a lot more for you than “I like Batman” or “I guess Saga is pretty good”.

Something to avoid? Recommending comics because you over ordered, or ordered lots. When you’re asked for a recommendation, someone is trusting you to help them out, not yourself. And sure, you might move a few copies of the book you over ordered, but at what price? If the customer doesn’t like the book, you’re going to have a harder time trying to sell them books in the future. Forget about the short term gain, and build a relationship that will help sustain your business. This is the reason why I never recommend books like AXIS to new readers – even if they’re looking for a book that has “a little bit of everyone in it”. A book like AXIS, you recommend to the folks who live and breathe Marvel, and the smattering of others who would be interested in the kind of bombastic story presented within. By and large, this kind of customer has a working knowledge of comics and a bit of the history – or at least enough to get them through the story with little incident. You would never, ever toss a new reader straight into the deep end, unless you knew they liked a bit of a challenge and like to troll Wikipedia (I have a few customers like that).

Anyway, there’s something out there for everyone, and little is accomplished by tearing down without context, at least as a retailer.

MARKETING

I’m not sure what the deal with October is, but I’m pretty sure the comic companies are trying to drown me in product. The first two weeks of the month have been weighed down with a lot of product, and after going through the FOCs for the last few weeks, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see lighter weeks any time soon. The one good thing? The torrent of product gives me a lot of material to work with when it comes to talking about comics and marketing.

First, a big thumbs up for IDW’s push of V-Wars.

What you have there is a picture of the first trade (just $9.99), a value priced rerelease of the first issue ($1), and the clearly marked start of the second story arc. That’s a pretty good way of making sure anyone can try and continue to buy the series with relative ease.

Elsewhere, DC’s digital division hit the nail on the head by having the print editions of Flash: Season Zero #1 and Arrow: Season 2.5 #1 hit the stands just before and on their premieres respectively. People who were already excited about both shows found additional product, and others who didn’t know the shows were on or coming back were made aware. DC went the extra mile with Arrow by offering the first issue of Year One for a dollar, and having a great jumping on point in the character’s regular DCU ongoing (with one of the show runners acting as co-writer). As for The Flash, a solid effort was put in, but man, having a “Year One” story available for Barry Allen in the DCU would have been a great move, even if it was just the start of a mini set in current continuity.

As it stands, DC has been having a digital sale on a bunch of great <em>Flash</em> reads over at ComiXology, and has been doing so since the show premiered, so that’s pretty cool.

On the other hand, I’m not exactly sure what DC’s plans are for Constantine. I know they’re going to have a dollar book available when the show hits the airwaves, but where’s a good place for new fans to drop in on an ongoing? As it stands, my go-to is going to be recommending the newly minted Hellblazer trades and move things from there, but it hurts that I can’t point new readers in the direction of something currently in motion. The most recent issue of Constantine was an Earth Two tie in, which would only beget more questions than answers, and the collections of his current series throw him headlong into a big, messy crossover in the second trade. That’s not really an ideal situation, but it’s what’s there.

Though hey, points for the digital team for once again noticing a good marketing opportunity and plugging Constantine into the first issue of Injustice: Year Three. Again, the more ideal thing would be to have something with less baggage, but adding the character to one of their biggest digital successes certainly can’t harm things.

INCOMING

A couple of things to look out for on this week’s FOC for both retailers and readers alike:

Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C is on the list this week for shipping in late November. The reason for the big gap? Fraction and Ward are opening the thing with an eight page fold out. They wanted it to be larger, but apparently they’re jutting up against the edge of what can be done. Anyway, if you’re interested in a psychedelic gender-swapped version of Homer’s Odyssey – or know of anyone who might be – make sure your orders are placed sooner rather than later. (Spoiler alert: this is going to be crazy and wonderful and why wouldn’t you want such a thing?)

Also: Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey’s Tooth and Claw #1 is on the list. 44 pages of stunning artwork, digging deep into an anthropomorphic fantasy world filled with magic and gods and all sorts of wonderful things. People who have read Astro City and things like Arrowsmith know that Busiek puts his all into his creator owned book, and the man’s imagination left unbridled is a sight to see. Ben Dewey’s art is some pretty next level stuff, and they’ve got the Eisner award winning Jordie Bellaire handling the colours – which means it will also be one of the best looking books on the stands at the beginning of November. Oh, and it’s just $2.99. A bargain!

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TO BE CONTINUED…

And that will have to do it for this week. Real Thanksgiving is happening this weekend in Canada, wherein we celebrate the fact that an explorer didn’t freeze to death. Seriously, that’s why we celebrate it. And what’s more Canadian than celebrating the fact that you haven’t already frozen to death?

Anyway, prep for the holiday and the various festivities means this is short and late. Such is life. Until next time.

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