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  1. #1
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    Default Tilting at Windmills - Nov 14, 2013

    Brian Hibbs contributes to Fantagraphics' Kickstarter campaign, even though he's leery of it. Plus, the value of the OGN versus serialized comics.


    Full article here.

  2. #2

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    Hi Brian, I always enjoy reading your thoughts on comics retailing. I agree with a lot of what you say above, but in my experience a store like yours is few and far between in the marketplace -- really few and far between. Most comics shops won't touch "alternative comics" with a ten foot pole, and they haven't for years and years, if ever. Because of this, these shops have lost out on a few generations of potential customers. Nowadays, most alt-comics readers don't consider their LCS an option for getting the books they want, and it would take a lot of work to turn that around, work that, frankly, I don't see most shop owners being willing to take on. Couple that with the difficulty of getting alt-comics "pamphlets" even accepted by Diamond, and it becomes even more hopeless for the publishers.

    This is a topic I think of often. I love comic shops, and I love comics. I wish the solution could be found through the existing comic shop infrastructure, but I don't know if it's possible at this point.

  3. #3
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    I think that, a) the nature of the market and the willingness of new retailer entries has changed the character and the openess of the market in pretty dramatic ways since 1993 and b) that sometimes WORK has to be done (marketing/education) for harried owners to actually understand what it is that they might be selling. It isn't an effortless prospect, John, and I think that too often the "art comics" contingent Relies On The Kindness Of Strangers, if you know what I mean?

    -B

  4. #4
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    It's not always true that fixed costs outweigh project-specific plant costs; I've done several P&Ls in which the overhead was lean and efficient and maybe a single digit percentage of the millions it costs to produce the book. Of course, the scale is lower in alternative comics than it is in corporate comics, etc., but sometimes it really isn't worth it to turn on that particular machine. And even when it is, if you have a situation where the additional format is break even or marginal, it brings the overall project's profit margin down so low that some margin- conscious publishers would understandably shy away from it. Spending $1M up front to create and print everything only to earn $1.1M when it's all said and done is very dicey, and a lot of effort for very little return.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesse Post View Post
    It's not always true that fixed costs outweigh project-specific plant costs; I've done several P&Ls in which the overhead was lean and efficient and maybe a single digit percentage of the millions it costs to produce the book. Of course, the scale is lower in alternative comics than it is in corporate comics, etc., but sometimes it really isn't worth it to turn on that particular machine. And even when it is, if you have a situation where the additional format is break even or marginal, it brings the overall project's profit margin down so low that some margin- conscious publishers would understandably shy away from it. Spending $1M up front to create and print everything only to earn $1.1M when it's all said and done is very dicey, and a lot of effort for very little return.
    I didn't mean to suggest it would "always" be true, and I always will defer to actual-publisher-experience rather than my at-a-slight-remove perspective.

    Having said that, it would seem to me that $1m+ projects are a rare and elusive things? For a 300 page book, that would be nearly 3k/page which 1) almost no one is doing 300 page books and 2) sub $500 per page would seem like the WFH norm?

    -B

  6. #6
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    Right, the scale is lower for a smaller project; that was just an example of how adding a format can throw your margins out the window. But actually, it's not unheard of to spend $6000 on even a smaller comic book print run (if you want to get the unit cost under $1.50 anyway). Multiply that by five issues over 20 books a season, plus the additional marketing, and you've got yourself a whopper of an investment which may just wind up eating away the margin on the eventual GN if sales don't pan out.

    I should have also emphasized that it's always smarter to consider all these options rather than discarding them out of hand, which I think is your main point: don't NEVER publish comic books just because you habitually default to original graphic novels. In many cases it can help, or maybe be a loss leader for the rest of the line.

  7. #7
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    I would think that the other flaw in the OGN format would be obvious to all: narrowing the market.

    A $25 OGN = 6 $3.99 monthlies. If you push OGN, then you are going to sell ONE title instead of up to SIX titles to that customer. That's not conducive to expanding the market. That in fact NARROWS the market.

    In an environment where the market is ALREADY dangerously narrowed (thanks to turning publication decisions over to the Marketing offices), that seems to me to be a prescription for disaster.

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