- Posted by Johanna on January 31, 2006 at 12:51 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel News
I recently came across a duplicate copy of a first printing of a comic collection from the early 90s. The title was one of my favorites, a well-done, unique vision that had received lots of critical praise. Judging from prices for used copies on Amazon.com, the book was legitimately rare, since it was listed at over cover. Unfortunately, since the series hadn’t concluded in a satisfying fashion, and since new issues haven’t been published in the last ten years, when I offered the book for sale, I had no takers.
No one knew about it, you see. The fans the title had back then likely either had copies or had given up on the series years ago. Without new material coming out, no new readers knew how good it was. And given the way the creator had drifted out of public sight without at least pausing the title, story-wise, no one was talking up the book as a classic.
Now, I’m not posting this to complain about not making money. (I ended up trading the book for a collection I wanted, making two people happy.) I’m posting this as an example of the advantage serial comics (pamphlets, floppies, whatever) have over book-format collections: visibility.
It takes a certain amount of chatter for a reader to notice a new title. One exposure isn’t enough, especially if that exposure is a one-time shot (like a listing in Previews). One review isn’t enough, either. There’s a critical mass that needs to happen in order for a reader to decide a sample a book, made up of praise and availability and friends’ recommendations and chances to browse.
Even if the book is fabulous, if the author and the publisher aren’t still producing, then it’s likely to be forgotten. There are just too many great choices that are new to spend time and money wandering through last decade’s favorites without the promise of more.
There are authors who can maintain a regular TPB release schedule, bringing out a graphic novel every year. That’s terrific. That allows the audience to plan for new good comic reading on an expected schedule. If the release happens in spring or early summer, it also allows creators to spend the summer promoting the book at conventions, keeping their work in front of both existing and potential new readers.
There are authors, however, who turn out something every half-decade or so. They (or their marketing partners) will have to work harder to make a splash and gain some of that reader attention. There’s a natural attrition in readers, and being known once doesn’t mean you’re still worth paying attention to.
Just a cautionary note to those creators and publishers moving towards graphic novel-only business plans. I think that’s the way to go, I think it looks towards the future, and I think it’s ultimately more rewarding for both artist and reader. But it has its own pitfalls, and this is one of them. You have to remind the customer you still exist regularly, whether it’s with press releases or regular publication or by contributing to other projects.