Vado on IO

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A few more links of note on the specifics of the WARLORD OF IO situation: SLG’s Dan Vado clears up the facts of the matter and gives it some perspective, which we’ll quote at length just so no one misses it:

While James and I are both disappointed with the turn of events, I for one was not surprised. I had hoped that perhaps 23 years in business and the previous success of Rex Libris might buy us a little grace on this project, but I am not stunned, as the marketplace has been telling me for years that the only thing they want from us are comics by Jhonen Vasquez. The funny thing about that is that the first issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac would not have made the current Diamond purchase order benchmark, so the subsequent issues would never have seen the light of day. The same can be said for Milk and Cheese, whose first issue barely sold 2,000 copies. We have always depended on being able to build circulation and readership on our books; the current climate seems to indicate that that is not going to work anymore.

Only James can tell you whether he plans on completing Warlord of Io. My guess is he will at some point, but that he will focus his current energies on something else and will continue to work on the Warlord project in his spare time. We will continue to offer Warlord as a download and we will be printing a small quantity of the declined book for sale on our website and at conventions.

Lastly I want to say that, again, this is to me is not solely a Diamond issue and that attempts to vilify them are off base. I have enjoyed a long and productive relationship with that company and I would expect to work with them as my distributor to the book market in the event that we publish a Warlord graphic novel and I do not wish them ill. I have said before that the issues and problems facing comics as an industry today had their seeds planted a long time ago and are just now coming to the surface. I have to take my share of the blame for some bad decision making in the past five or six years as well which no doubt have contributed to the fact that it is harder for us to bring work by someone like James Turner to market.


More commentary from pundits: Sean T. Collins, Dirk Deppey, Charles Yoakum, Jennifer de Guzman. Greg Burgas over at Comics Should Be Good has a very long and detailed post recounting most of the history of the internet debate on this topic which you may want to refer to.

I think I’ve had just about enough say on this for now, BUT….I can’t help but bring up two points…because…the Hand of Zor commands it!

#1: I disagree with the Hibbsian view that trade collecting is somehow harmful to the overall audience for comics. It’s the broadcast vs DVD argument over and over again. Movie/TV studios, for all their faults, repackage their material into as many formats as possible in order to squeeze the very last nickel out of it. There is no definitive format any more. 52 turned the weekly comic format into an exciting soap opera. People line up to buy the new SCOTT PILGRIM book no matter how many years go by. This is a function of the “Satisfying Chunk” theorem, and it is up to creators and publishers to find this golden mean.

#2: in a comment right here, Tom Spurgeon wrote something much quoted, so I’ll quote it too:

“[S]ome things have value even if they only sell 4000 units, both in terms of one day potentially selling many more than that but also in and of themselves and, perhaps most importantly of all, by adding to a varied and rich and unique experience that involves stringing together multiple titles.”


Which I agree with wholeheartedly, but just so everyone knows, 4000 is not a bottom of the barrel number but a middle of the pack number. Several Marvel and DC titles sell below that, including some critics’ darling creator-driven books. (And Marvel and DC will not have to deal with any questions of benchmarks or the like.) It is, sadly, a typical number for a periodical in the comics marketplace. According to John Jackson Miller’s numbers, the rough order level to be in the danger zone for a $2.99 book is 2100 copies, still WAY into the actual circ of lots of books people like.

Aside from pointing out that we really are working with very small numbers here, it’s even more accurate to say that some things are valuable even if they sell 400 copies. That’s the scale we’re working with.

#3: What we need is a new method of distribution. Let Diamond be Diamond. 4 or 5 more Tony Shentons could change the industry.

  1. “I disagree with the Hibbsian view that trade collecting is somehow harmful to the overall audience for comics.”

    That’s not exactly my view, however.

    I’d break it down like this:

    a) OGNs have a much harder/steeper hill to climb to reach their proper sales level. This would seem to be evident in looking at, say, Vertigo’s OGN sales versus its Collected Edition sales. SERIES (can) build audiences, one-offs seldom do, and when they do, in many (most?) cases there’s some other factor that is functioning as a “series” — generally people following a creator, or, maybe “good Batman stories”, whatever.

    (This can be substantially deflected by becoming a “buzz book”, but I’d argue this is difficult to manufacture, and it generally needs to happen naturally)

    b) “trade waiting” appears to be causing some periodicals to under-perform from what they “should” be doing. Yet when those same works are collected, they, too, appear to be under-performing because the “urgency” has gone away. Or in some cases (HOPE FALLS?) being denied access to the market BECAUSE the periodical under-performed.

    c) Without something else (creator, series, buzz, whatever) to drive sales, once your item-with-a-spine moves to spine-out-only display (Week 2, for most things), your sales will tend to drop to zero, or near-zero, very very quickly.

    I’d say these three things are both evident on the macro level (Diamond charts) and the micro level (my individual results in my individual store). You’ll have to trust me on the latter though!

    Serialization breeds rack presence and consumer awareness in a way that spine-out-only has a very difficult time creating.

    “Movie/TV studios, for all their faults, repackage their material into as many formats as possible in order to squeeze the very last nickel out of it.”

    I think this is a great analogy, and a very applicable one, but I think we’re on the verge of breaking that paradigm. Is there a TV show DVD boxed set that found a greater audience in “trade” than it did in “serialization”? Are there TEN?

    There’s probably more, but I’m too bust today selling comics!

    -B

  2. “Is there a TV show DVD boxed set that found a greater audience in “trade” than it did in “serialization”?”

    Firefly. But I’m not aware of too many others.

    I would very much agree with all of your a,b and c points, especially a.

    I like to try new series and have often done so in the past…for $2.99 or $3.99. For $24.99 or $29.99? That is just too much money (imo) unless I am already very confident in the creative team.

    Going back to the Television industry comparisons, how often do consumers purchase a $40-$60 Season of a TV series that they have never before seen and know little to nothing about? Not very often I would guess. At the least they would probably wait awhile for others’ feedback, but it would probably take even more than that to convince a potential buyer to make an OGN purchase.

  3. “Going back to the Television industry comparisons, how often do consumers purchase a $40-$60 Season of a TV series that they have never before seen and know little to nothing about?”

    I wouldn’t purchase a Season of a TV series for $40-$60 regardless of the circumstances. I wait until they’re $20 or below. Black Friday sales are good for this.

    I’m all for supporting a work, but I’m not gonna spend money on something now when I know I’ll be able to spend a lot less money for it later.

    The biggest difference in the TV/DVD-Comics/Trade comparison is that most comics and TPBs offer their best discounts for pre-order while DVDs offer their best discounts once initial demand disappears. If you want big pre-order numbers for new OGNs and TPBs, offer them for 50% off and never offer them at a lower discount at any future date and I bet sales would go way up. Some backlist items are sold at greater discounts when they’re “Offered Again” to help clear out some space in the warehouse (I assume), and that’s one reason I’ve backed off of buying TPBs when they’re first released. I realize this somewhat contradicts what I said previously, but with TPBs and such it’s more of an occasional thing whereas with DVDs it’s standard procedure. Everyone wants the best deal available.. especially now.

  4. One big problem — as far as I’m concerned — is that most Friendly Local Shops aren’t set up to deal with people willing and wanting to buy just one comic; the traditional market seems to be either folks who come in every week (and, ideally, buy lots when they do), and folks who browse and buy whatever’s in front of them. Even if publishers -do- manage to create a product that lures in people who aren’t buying weekly, I don’t know if comic shops will manage to actually capture that market.

    I wrote about this on my blog — http://waitingforgo.livejournal.com/46674.html . Short form — WEDNESDAY COMICS has me jazzed enough that I actually want to buy a comic book again (I’ve been buying trades or nothing for the past five years), but I can’t find a local shop who’s willing and able to sell (and guarantee) just one comic title. I’ll prepay for the whole series; $48 in cash, right now! But I can’t get a local shop to take my money. I don’t want to drive the 30 minutes to my comic shop every week to semi-guarantee a copy. I don’t want to spend $5 in shipping per comic to order online. So, near as I can tell, I’m basically hosed. Sorry, DC… I guess I’m back to waiting for the trade!

  5. “Is there a TV show DVD boxed set that found a greater audience in ‘trade’ than it did in ‘serialization’?”

    Firefly. Family Guy. Futurama. Arrested Development. Freaks and Geeks. Invader Zim.

    I’m sure there’s more.

  6. I’ve watched plenty of TV shows on DVD that I didn’t watch on their original run — Peep Show, The Wire, anything from HBO, etc etc etc.

  7. “Family Guy.”

    I’m pretty sure Family Guy got more viewers from being picked up by Cartoon Network than it did from DVD sales.

    Mike

  8. FAMILY GUY appeared to have a “serialized” viewership of about 6.3 million in y2k, when it was canceled the first time, while the first DVD box set (that lead to the “uncancelization” of the show) sold about 1.2 million copies.

    I can’t find a # for ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT’s DVD sales, but it was being watched by 4.2 million people

    I decided after that to not go on looking.

    -B

  9. “while the first DVD box set (that lead to the “uncancelization” of the show) sold about 1.2 million copies.”

    The first week or total?

    ““Firefly.”

    So, where were all those people when the movie came out in theaters?”

    Sitting at home watching their Firefly DVDs over and over again I would imagine. It should have never been a film. It worked better as a show. Serenity did surprisingly well for what it was… just not well enough.

  10. “FAMILY GUY appeared to have a “serialized” viewership of about 6.3 million in y2k, when it was canceled the first time, while the first DVD box set (that lead to the “uncancelization” of the show) sold about 1.2 million copies.”

    If your metric is “number of warm bodies,” the free version of anything — and broadcast TV is free — will beat the for-cost version of the same thing except in very, very unlikely circumstances.

    But businesses are only rarely trying to purely maximize the number of eyeballs; they’re generally more interested in revenue. The numbers to compare would be profit — of course, those numbers are generally proprietary, so I admit we’d be reduced to making unsupported claims.

    But the conversation has wandered pretty far from the main point into this comparison, particularly since the medium we’re ostensibly talking about (print comics) has a model that requires payment for the parts of the serialized work as well as a payment for the collected work. I’m still unconvinced that numbers of warm bodies means anything at all in this case, particularly when those warm bodies aren’t paying a cent.

  11. “I’m still unconvinced that numbers of warm bodies means anything at all in this case, particularly when those warm bodies aren’t paying a cent.”

    I don’t think it’s a bit stretch to point out the bigger an audience, the better it is in a whole bunch of ways. A comic that sells 100,000 copies at 50 cents an issue is better than a comic that sells 50,000 copies at $1 an issue, for example.

    Mike

  12. D’oh, above, try two:

    “The first week or total? ”

    First I mistranscribed, that should have been 1.6 million, not 1.2. Took it from this link:

    http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2004-03-24-family-guy_x.htm

    Which is sort of generally “last year” (that was in ’04)

    Either way, Andrew’s right, this is digressive, and free versus pay is a hincky comparison at best. But, while TV is free, it is still Monetized!

    Now, all other things considered, I think cheaper smaller chunks of content (scaling all the way down to “free”) are going to reach more people in most cases.

    -B

  13. “I don’t think it’s a bit stretch to point out the bigger an audience, the better it is in a whole bunch of ways.”

    Okay then… point out these bunches of ways please.

    “A comic that sells 100,000 copies at 50 cents an issue is better than a comic that sells 50,000 copies at $1 an issue, for example.”

    This isn’t one of those ways is it? To a business, they’re the same. Bottom line it’s the same amount of money and that’s what they care about. This is why prices go up every time unit sales go down, and why prices don’t go down when unit sales go up.

    “First I mistranscribed, that should have been 1.6 million, not 1.2. Took it from this link:

    http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2004-03-24-family-guy_x.htm

    Which is sort of generally “last year” (that was in ‘04)”

    Fair enough. Thanks. A dedicated audience of 1.6 million was likely enough to fund what was probably a very cheap series to produce.

    Sucks that comics can’t survive as ad-supported content like television shows.

  14. Well, I’ve been watching this debate, and I did go purchase the downloads. but I’m also a bit perturbed. I like Turner’s work. I bought Nil sight unseen because I trusted Slave Labor as a publisher when they said it was innovative and interesting. I’ve purchased every issue of Rex Libris (no trades, yet) and even bought the statue.

    but, and this is someone who reads Previews each month and spends much more time on “the back of the book” than the major publishers, I don’t remember even seeing Warlords presented for order. I’m not doubting that Slave Labor promoted it, but I am saying that I was just about the perfect consumer for this product and I missed the announcement that it had been offered for purchase. Now, selling 901 copies instead of 900 isn’t going to change Diamond’s mind, but …

    I was reminiscing the other day about when comic shops used to get a packet of individual flyers from publishers instead of the Previews catalog. The sameness of the listings in Previews really does cause overload on the part of the consumer unless the publisher also ponies up for a display ad (maybe that’s the goal).

    Again, I haven’t gone back to see how the Warlords one-shot was promoted (probably don’t have that Previews available anymore), but whatever the promotion was, it missed this willing consumer. and that surprises me, as Vado and Slave Labor are usually very good at promotion — so the problem was probably with me — maybe I was in a hurry that month. But then Diamond deciding that things can’t be re-offered as often kind of hurts the ability of publishers like Slave Labor to build a title.

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