Fallen Angel Sells Out

Peter David’s Fallen Angel has sold out of the first three issues. Good news for him and IDW, and hopefully this means a rapid collection so the series can keep growing new readers.

(Personally, I was a huge supporter of the series when it was at DC, but I just can’t get into the new painted style art. It looks lovely image-by-image, but it gets in my way trying to read it as a comic with panel-to-panel flow. My loss, I know. I expect to try again when the collection is available.)

The sellout news contrasts with this fan’s message board lament (Comicon.com link no longer available) that he didn’t know the series had restarted and the resulting discussion of promotion. The IDW Editor-in-Chief stops by to list the ways they tried to get the news out.

While advertising in their own comics and taking web ads may reach some, I found myself wondering if that’s what passes for a good promotion effort these days. For one thing, they’re cheap methods. They didn’t use print ads in other comic publications (not that there’s one that reaches the majority of the audience, with all its fragmentation) or other comic lines. There was also no outreach through comic shops to their customers. They targeted the retailers, which is the first line of purchasing, but they could have done posters or giveaways like bookmarks or postcards or ashcans intended for the end buyer.

The big question is how does one reach the comic-buying public effectively? (Don’t say TV. That’s not targeted enough.) If I want to keep up with a comic title, the IDW suggestion is “visit our website”. Well, the one time I went looking for information on one of their publications, what I found was very little, and it was out of date. So I don’t have a lot of faith in that method in general, because keeping the web current is low on most publishers’ priority lists. (And I’m not saying that’s the wrong choice.) Second, just how many websites am I expected to keep up with? That seems to put a lot of pressure on me, the customer, when I’d rather it be their job to let me know about their upcoming products. Then again, how many message boards and outlets should the publisher be expected to hit? That’s a lot of work for them, too.

Ultimately I’m left with this thought: even though all the series issues are gone from the publisher and the distributor (they may be left on certain store shelves), that doesn’t mean that everyone who would have bought the comics has them. Could they have sold more with more widespread information?

(And a side note: although the message board discussion linked to above started out choppy and snarky, it was very refreshing to see the participants pull back from that and actually gain understanding of each others’ points of view.)

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19 Responses to “Fallen Angel Sells Out”

  1. Kevin Melrose Says:

    While advertising in their own comics and taking web ads may reach some, I found myself wondering if that’s what passes for a good promotion effort these days.

    Unfortunately, that’s pretty much become the standard for most comic publishers. I remember last year seeing a release from one of the major companies — I believe it was Marvel — describing its “big promotional push” for some project or another: house ads, and a miniposter (just one!) and bookmarks sent to comics shops.

    Although I realize most comic publishers have a narrow view of marketing and advertising, I was still amazed that house ads, miniposters and bookmarks would be considered anything other than the bare minimum.

  2. Lyle Says:

    This is an interesting bit of synchronicity, I’ve been trying to approach a similar topic in regards to Hard Time (though much of my frustration comes from feeling like an unimportant customer if I don’t buy the monthlies).

    As to marketing comics, I know I’ve wished that DC would offer marketing kits to retailers, but that’s easier to do with more established titles. Still, I wonder if a similar “guerilla marketing” approach (which is often about localization and quantity over quality, like flooding the area around a store with photocopied fliers) could be applied.

    Then again, with a publisher like IDW, I wonder how much a retailer outreach program would help. Find a good salesman who understands the industry, compose a list of target retailers (using Diamond’s data to identify stores that could sell more copies of Fallen Angel each month or stores that aren’t carrying Fallen Angel but could sell it) and open a conversation with those retailers. (And I mean a conversation, not a sales pitch. The publisher needs to hear the retailer’s thoughts about the series to promote it better.)

    IIRC, Sean McKeever did something along those lines with The Waiting Place. He and SLG were able to get data from Diamond about which stores carried Strangers in Paradise (which McKeever felt had a similar target audience) and focused on getting those stores to take a better look at TWP, explaining why he thought the series would appeal to their SiP customers.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Kevin, though, consider how many titles don’t even get supporting material or a house ad. The big publishers put out too many books to be able to give support to all of them.

    Lyle, I’d be interested in knowing how much detailed information Diamond is willing to give out, and how much they charge for it. I’ve heard in the past that it’s not cheap and what you get isn’t necessarily what you want to know.

  4. Kevin Melrose Says:

    Kevin, though, consider how many titles don’t even get supporting material or a house ad.

    And that’s troubling. I certainly don’t expect every series to receive the full-court press from the publisher. But I’m frequently amazed when larger companies launch titles with little more than an online interview, then seem puzzled when they have to cancel them after six issues.

    The big publishers put out too many books to be able to give support to all of them.

    That’s a problem, too. Books like Batman or New Avengers or Astonishing X-Men probably don’t need the promotion, beyond the occasional “This Story Changes Everything!” gimmick. But why launch new titles if they’re unable/unwilling to provide the marketing support?

  5. David Welsh Says:

    I’ve never really understood why they don’t concentrate their marketing muscle on the books where it will make a difference. Big crossovers and re-launches generate their own buzz and wouldn’t seem to need the coddling quite so much. Why not focus on riskier, more marginal books where marketing can create a more significant return?

  6. Johanna Says:

    As it was once explained to me, it’s a lot easier to move the needle on the big books, so it’s easier for marketing departments to look like they’re doing a great job. If they put a lot of resources into a small-selling book, then if they don’t get amazing results (like doubling sales), they might be questioned about why they didn’t make better choices.

    At a certain company size, the slate becomes a matter of making sure you fill at least X slots on the retailer’s shelf. They launch new titles, even if they expect them to fail, just to keep their shelf space quota.

    Would you tend to agree that companies like Viz and Tokyopop do this differently? I can’t think of a new series Viz brought out recently that I didn’t know something about by the time it shipped.

  7. Lyle Says:

    The big publishers put out too many books to be able to give support to all of them.

    That’s part of the problem, in my mind. Publishing so many titles seems a bad business choice if they’re failing at the current rate. The money spent producing Failed Title Y could have been spent marketing Failed Title X, hopefully leaving the publisher one sucessful title instead of two money-losers.

    I’d be interested in knowing how much detailed information Diamond is willing to give out, and how much they charge for it.

    I’m curious about that, as well. When The Waiting Place came out, Diamond wasn’t as bad as they are now so I suspect getting a list of SiP stores would be much harder today. Still, that’s the kind of thinking comics need.

  8. Ryan Day Says:

    Comics suffer a bit because there’s no real “comics press.” If you’ve got a movie or a novel or a CD you want to hype, you can easily find either a major paper or a specific publication, like Variety or Entertainment Weekly. But in comics, you’ve got Wizard – which rarely strays from Marvel/DC superheroes, and maybe the Comics Journal, which rarely covers “mainstream” books.

    So how do you get the word out if you’re an indy publisher? Many stores don’t even bother ordering non-superhero books unless someone specifically asks for them, and I’d imagine they’re similarly unlikely to give much consideration to indy promotional materials.

    Though this case is quite odd – if a store was ordering Fallen Angel when it was a DC title, wouldn’t you keep ordering it at IDW? And while that example of The Waiting Place is clever, there are two problems: First is that you’re effectively asking for another company’s sales data; second is that it still only gets you into the stores that were likely to take you in the first place. That’s good if you’re a totally new publisher, but I’d imagine many stores already have a sense of whether they’re going to order SLG or IDW books.

    Then again, I find many stores are wilfully ignorant of anything outside the mainstream; not only will they not order books from other publishers – which is understandable, given finances – but half the time they don’t even seem to know anything about them. I’ve gotten blank looks at several stores when asking about stuff like Shaolin Cowboy or Local – neither exactly a totally fringe book. So what point is promotion when it’s going to deaf ears?

  9. Lyle Says:

    At a certain company size, the slate becomes a matter of making sure you fill at least X slots on the retailer’s shelf. They launch new titles, even if they expect them to fail, just to keep their shelf space quota.

    That’s a good point, though I find myself wondering if DC and Marvel aren’t making good ROI calculations from this perspective, either. With the number of stores that ignore anything that’s not part of a major franchise (or, worse, consider the resistance Marvel is finding with X-titles) I wonder how much shelf space they’re getting for publishing Hard Time or Sentinel.

  10. Franklin Harris Says:

    “hopefully this means a rapid collection so the series can keep growing new readers.”

    IDW collects almost everything they publish within about two months of a story arc or miniseries’ end.

  11. Lyle Says:

    Though this case is quite odd – if a store was ordering Fallen Angel when it was a DC title, wouldn’t you keep ordering it at IDW?

    Truthfully, I’m often surprised the number of times I say “Wouldn’t you think that….” about the comic book industry and turn out to be wrong.

    And while that example of The Waiting Place is clever, there are two problems: First is that you’re effectively asking for another company’s sales data; second is that it still only gets you into the stores that were likely to take you in the first place. That’s good if you’re a totally new publisher, but I’d imagine many stores already have a sense of whether they’re going to order SLG or IDW books.

    From what I remember reading about the TWP launch effort, it focused on getting retailers to see what the series was going to be like and explaining how it may appeal to SiP readers. That makes sense to me considering how dense Previews is, there’s a lot of titles to try to figure out. The TWP launch campaign focused on getting retailers familiar with the series, which customers may be interested and how to talk about it… essentially making it easier to carry the title by taking away much of the guesswork but still trusting the retailer to make an informed decision if the title would work at that store.

  12. David Welsh Says:

    Would you tend to agree that companies like Viz and Tokyopop do this differently? I can’t think of a new series Viz brought out recently that I didn’t know something about by the time it shipped.

    Oh, definitely. I think manga companies in general are much better at informing their readers about upcoming releases. And while Marvel and DC have very invested audiences, there seems to be more of a fan infrastructure (for lack of a better term) with licensed manga. Not only are companies fairly consistent about marketing, there’s a very good chance that readers are already familiar with the work, either through word filtering from the country of origin, a scanlation, or another source.

  13. Seth Says:

    Damn! I hope they reprint. I need to pick up this title.

  14. Johanna Says:

    “Publishing so many titles seems a bad business choice if they’re failing at the current rate.”

    Lyle, that seems obvious, but it doesn’t take into account inertia and infrastructure. The big companies don’t make their own decisions always; they have higher-ups or stockholders or Wall Street analysts to answer to, and they have projections based on X titles a month regardless of whether they have that many projects that should really be published.

    Ryan, good point about the press.

    “if a store was ordering Fallen Angel when it was a DC title, wouldn’t you keep ordering it at IDW?”

    Not necessarily. IDW may offer retailers lower discounts than DC does, and bear in mind that the price also went up a dollar. That changes the economics.

    A lot of stores treat indy comics the same way they treat manga. They’re not interested in it, they don’t think they have an audience for it, so they ignore it.

    Franklin, true, but I don’t know when the arc break point for Fallen Angel is in terms of guessing when a collection might appear. Is it a series, or a miniseries? I heard something about it being solicited as 6 issues, but that may be very out of date.

    Lyle, good point on the SIP promotion. Sometimes retailers and customers need the mental hook of “you like that? you’ll like this.”

    Seth, you may be able to find issues still on the shelf in some shops. I suspect a single-issue reprint is unlikely.

  15. John Says:

    It was originally solicited as 5 issues (and Diamond on their site is still incorrecly listing it as ‘of 5′). PAD announced in January that IDW had told him it would be ongoing past the 5th issue.

    That doesn’t mean anything, though, about when the break-point will be for the first collection. Just that it is successful enough that it won’t stop at #5.

  16. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for the info!

  17. James Schee Says:

    Having just read #3, I think #4 could likely be the close of the storyarc, #5 if they slow things down a bit.

    I don’t consider myself someone who really keeps up with all the comics comings and goings anymore. Yet I knew about FA’s relaunch, and even tried the preview PDF that the publisher sent out to readers who e-mailed them. I’m not really sure what else a comic publisher can really do with singles at least.

    I liked the painted art at first, yet didn’t care for it in #3. It was a bit murky in places, and really lost the emotional impact a scene should have in places in it.

  18. hostile17 Says:

    This was one of my favorite titles at DC. The IDW books are gorgeous but more expensive. Will there be a trade in the near future?

  19. Johanna Says:

    I would hope so, but I don’t believe anything’s been announced.

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