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  1. #1
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    Default CBR: Tilting at Windmills - Jul 14, 2011

    Selling trade paperbacks is like printing money for comic stores, right? Brian Hibbs explains why that's not really the case and why publishers should probably be cutting back on the collections.


    Full article here.

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    Interesting article, and it shows one of the benefits of digital. If companies follow DC's plan they will be able to keep all the back issues available digitally so people can catch up on series (and the web portals will allow DM stores to benefit) without the stores needing to invest in slow-turning TPs.
    Anyone who thinks DC is bringing back the Silver Age doesn't know what the Silver Age is.

    There is no such word as "persay," it's per se, two words, from the Latin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
    Interesting article, and it shows one of the benefits of digital. If companies follow DC's plan they will be able to keep all the back issues available digitally so people can catch up on series (and the web portals will allow DM stores to benefit) without the stores needing to invest in slow-turning TPs.
    Will second you on that. I don't normally check out old comics but Comixology, with their various promotions, makes it so easy!

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    Brian,

    You mention limited display space. Have you ever considered investing in a reasonably sized flat screen. That you could then display slideshows with. You could then do a display for a lot of books that are now spine out (among doing stuff for any special monthly series you may want to promote at a given time). In fact, you might even be able to use that as a way to display certain trades that you don't stock but would be 'happy to order for a customer'. The slide show could give some blurb information, show the cover and perhaps even a few interior pages. And if you want to go so far as to comment on the book in question (or include some excepts from reviews) in the slideshow, it might help nudge someone to buy.
    Obviously it would require a time commitment to put together the slideshows, but once created, it is a virtual salesperson.

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    Slow iPad double-posted.
    Last edited by skullduggery; 07-15-2011 at 07:51 AM.

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    While a lot of this article is directed to the larger publishers who are flinging out hundreds of new book titles per year, there are some vital lessons here for the small and self-publishers out there.
    • Your book is probably not going to live forever. Even if your book is seen as great at the moment, there are thousands more books coming that year, and unless your book is part of some ongoing stream of greatness, it is apt to be forgotten in a few weeks time. I can come up with some exceptions, some one shots that still have life... but then I realize that the ones which come to mind are more than a decade old, and thus came out at a time where they could establish themselves against less noise. Overprint with care; you do not want to have a warehouse full of these books a decade later (he says, knowingly.)
    • The difference between getting zero copies into a store and getting one copy can be a lot more than one copy. Do what you can to get that first copy on the shelf of each shop, because that's the only chance you have of selling fifteen copies in that shop. If you find yourself in a shop that didn't get that first copy of you book, give them one (and remind them to enter it into their stocking system, so that they will see when it sells.)

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    A lot of trades really are just a new kind of periodical. Marvel and DC may put everything into trades but many of those trades are just one-off printings. All those Final Crisis and Dark Reigns minis may come out in trades but they aren't kept in print. It's as disposable as the individual issues. They're looking for the printed money too, and they've probably been surprised in the past by titles that exceeded expectations, so now they throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. They don't have to pay the talent again barring royalties that are probably deferred enough that they risk only printing expenses. And they're jockeying for shelf space in the Barnes & Nobles of the world, as much as (or more than) the ComixExperiences. Your store (and all bookstores, really) also have to deal with a competitor that is selling the same books for 35-40% off.

    Finally, as I'm sure you're well aware, order those books from Baker & Taylor instead of Diamond and they're returnable... to a point, anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
    Interesting article, and it shows one of the benefits of digital.
    Er, what?

    Slow-selling material is most likely to remain slow-selling material whether it is in a physical package or a digital package. We have an absolutely perfect "long-tail" sales mechanism at the moment (Amazon), who reports their sales to BookScan, and even THEY can't sell slow-selling material in any meaningful numbers.

    Especially with digital a significant part of the problem is that the haystack is getting larger and larger every day -- it isn't easy to find the needles!

    -B

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    Quote Originally Posted by skullduggery View Post
    You mention limited display space. Have you ever considered investing in a reasonably sized flat screen. That you could then display slideshows with. You could then do a display for a lot of books that are now spine out (among doing stuff for any special monthly series you may want to promote at a given time). In fact, you might even be able to use that as a way to display certain trades that you don't stock but would be 'happy to order for a customer'. The slide show could give some blurb information, show the cover and perhaps even a few interior pages. And if you want to go so far as to comment on the book in question (or include some excepts from reviews) in the slideshow, it might help nudge someone to buy.
    Obviously it would require a time commitment to put together the slideshows, but once created, it is a virtual salesperson.
    Yeah, I don't see that working for logistical reasons.

    Let's say that the minimum time to make an impression is... 30 seconds? That means you could cover a grand total of 120 books in an hour. What do you do about the other 21,880 SKUs?

    And that's assuming that people want to buy books by looking at a TV screen, which I don't think they do.

    -B

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnson! View Post
    Finally, as I'm sure you're well aware, order those books from Baker & Taylor instead of Diamond and they're returnable... to a point, anyway.
    It may be because my roots are in the DM, but I literally can not see the wisdom in trading roughly 15% of margin for (very) limited returns.

    Returns are a shitty business -- you're paying for the material to arrive (shipping), all of the myriad of handling and ordering costs in the middle, the loss of opportunity on the investment, and the shipping costs BACK, and, after all that expense, you don't have a product to sell any longer.

    I'd much rather blow the excess copies out at or near my cost.

    And, yeah, a lot of TPs *are* periodicals in impact, true. This was first noticeable really with manga.

    -B

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Hibbs View Post
    Er, what?

    Slow-selling material is most likely to remain slow-selling material whether it is in a physical package or a digital package. We have an absolutely perfect "long-tail" sales mechanism at the moment (Amazon), who reports their sales to BookScan, and even THEY can't sell slow-selling material in any meaningful numbers.

    Especially with digital a significant part of the problem is that the haystack is getting larger and larger every day -- it isn't easy to find the needles!

    -B
    Digital allows the periodicals (at least the digital versions) to remain "in print" perpetually. With a system such as the one DC is planning, there's less of a need to collect every book because things remain available.

    Publishers can thus just release print collections of the books that do sell well - so retailers don't have as much product competing for space. Retailers can focus on stocking things they can sell, without having to take so many gambles.

    If a book becomes a surprise hit, or a surprise perennial, in digital it can always be reissued in print.
    Anyone who thinks DC is bringing back the Silver Age doesn't know what the Silver Age is.

    There is no such word as "persay," it's per se, two words, from the Latin.

  12. #12

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    I can scarcely think of one of these essays by Brian that I disagree with, but - at least on measure – this one I do disagree with.

    I’ve worked a lot of retail, so I can assure you that I have seen the bad side of ‘customer is always right’ mentality or ‘consumer comes first’ ideology, but some of his central ideas here are kind of flawed, and I don’t think he gets that ultimately comic book publishers should be doing all they can to address the wants and needs of their consumers, while also trying to entice people back or entice new people in. Other than doing all they can to ensure that Comic Book retailers have all the resources and means to sell their – the publisher’s – products I don’t think the publisher has any other responsibility (apart from fairness and honesty in their business dealings) with comic shop retailers.

    My local comic book shop keeps a pretty decent assortment of TPB and HC’s on the shelf, and he and his staff do a fantastic job of making any of us regulars aware that he can bring in anything that is in print. My guy Aaron seems to be the only comic shop in my city that is actually thriving. Some of that is that he’s got a small retail space (comparatively) - but man has he got a lot of toys and comics and books in that space as well as comics – and almost all of that in a really organized manner.

    Al lot of his success is that he seems pretty darn smart too. To us regulars with a pull list we pay US prices (we’re in Canada), and US prices on all graphic novels too. He recently brought in the Brubaker/Fraction Iron Fist Omnibus for me, and because he needed to add it to an order sizeable enough to save on shipping, I had to wait a few weeks to get it. Big deal.

    What Brian seems to be missing here is that there are many people that (1), he doesn’t need to bring a TPB unless someone requests it, and (2) There are some of us that even if we own the comics in question will still want to have a more readable copy on hand. I own the entire run of the Watchmen, the TPB, and the Absolute Edition. I’m not even a fanatic collector.

    Now last fall I began to get back into buying back issue comics – from the 1960’s and 70’s mainly. I can tell you that I may sit down at a thoroughly clean desk, and gingerly read some of the classic 1960’s Avengers and Sub-Mariner issues I’ve been buying, but I sure as hell am not taking them to bed to read before turning in, or taking them on a road trip and throwing them in the back of the car.

    It’s also highly unlikely that I’ll ever be in a position to buy any Avengers issues below #10 in the condition I want, and for a price I can afford, meaning if I want to read these, or own these, a guy like Brian is never going to get my business for these back issues.

    He will get my business in buying the Omnibus or TPB editions available.

    I think something that is bound to happen soon too – like in the next two or three years – is that the publishers, certainly DC and Marvel, are very likely to move towards a print-on-demand system for certain back-catalogue items, and this may ease some of what Brian is talking about.

    So, unless there is something I am missing in the comic book retailer equation, but I don’t understand exactly why this issue isn’t as simple as Brian simply not brining in TPB’s or collections that he doesn’t want to bring in.

    The final random thought to respond with is that I think digital is going to be Brian’s and other retailer’s real threat, because now that I have re-discovered the joy of collecting vintage comics, there is a strong chance that I will either look to moving digital with new releases or stop buying new comics altogether.
    Last edited by Schnitzy Pretzelpants; 07-15-2011 at 10:21 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
    Digital allows the periodicals (at least the digital versions) to remain "in print" perpetually. With a system such as the one DC is planning, there's less of a need to collect every book because things remain available.

    Publishers can thus just release print collections of the books that do sell well - so retailers don't have as much product competing for space. Retailers can focus on stocking things they can sell, without having to take so many gambles.

    If a book becomes a surprise hit, or a surprise perennial, in digital it can always be reissued in print.
    Digital sales are LITERALLY meaningless numbers of copies sold. And while that could potentially change at some point, I think there are six dozen structural things that stand in the way of that happening.

    Unless and until digital is the MAJORITY of dollars being sold, there is less than no chance that a publisher like DC will produce fewer TPs *because of digital*

    I was talking to a publisher the other day about their digital sales on a new hot-ish book, and the sale figures they've achieved so far? They'd make more money in looking for loose change between their pillow cushions.

    -B

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
    Digital allows the periodicals (at least the digital versions) to remain "in print" perpetually. With a system such as the one DC is planning, there's less of a need to collect every book because things remain available.

    Publishers can thus just release print collections of the books that do sell well - so retailers don't have as much product competing for space. Retailers can focus on stocking things they can sell, without having to take so many gambles.

    If a book becomes a surprise hit, or a surprise perennial, in digital it can always be reissued in print.
    I think your point has more relevance with Marvel’s online system where they seem to be putting their entire back-catalogue online for $60 a year – a friend who has gone this route has been very pleased at the cost-benefit analysis.

    The thing about new releases as digital though is that at present – to digitally ‘recreate’ the comic book reading experience – you have to outlay at least $200 dollars for a tablet of some kind, and more for a good one. Of course if you have no issue with simply reading them on your computer then sure.

    I think what may happen is that the Kindle may soon offer a color version of their electronic ink.

    As a side note, it is weird, but I would rather read a print book – like a novel or history book – on a kindle, but if I start reading comics on a reader, I want it to be something like an ipad – shinny and glossy. Maybe if comics were still printed on newsprint I would feel differently.

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    The big problem with comparing print and digital sales numbers is simple: Most of the print sales in any given week come from books that aren't available digitally. So anyone who wants "Hot Book X" while it's hot, pretty much can't buy it digitally.

    It's not hard to understand that you don't make as much money when you aren't selling what people want most.

    This is why I'm looking forward to DC's new digital initiative. Going line-wide with day and date will mean we can get real numbers for the digital market - at least on DC's side. I've no idea how many people are likely to go digital - I'd be surprised if it starts above 10% - but with the same product at the same time at the same price, it will be possible to isolate the digital factor and see what the demand really is.

    Once the figures come in for September 2012 (assuming we get digital figures) then we'll be able to get an idea of the size of the digital market.
    Anyone who thinks DC is bringing back the Silver Age doesn't know what the Silver Age is.

    There is no such word as "persay," it's per se, two words, from the Latin.

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