- Posted by Johanna on October 19, 2006 at 5:05 pm
- Category: Comic News
Noted art-comic publisher Fantagraphics has opened a retail outlet in their hometown of Seattle.
The store will contain everything Fantagraphics has in print, including our soon-to-be-legendary damaged room, featuring discounted and often out-of-print books unavailable anywhere else. The space also has room for exhibitions, which we’ll have more news about very soon.
Former Fanta employee Tom Spurgeon has more information on Larry Reid, the store manager, and points out that
People have always been able to shop in the Fantagraphics warehouse. It’s just something the company never advertised. I must have steered 50-60 people visiting Seattle down to that building over the years. Most went to pick up copies of bargain material from the “damaged” room. Others went to check out stuff up close that never made it to their local shop. Nothing against the sensation of shopping while people all around you stuff envelopes and weigh boxes, but a Fantagraphics shop should make for a much more pleasant experience.
At the Comics Journal message board, editor Kim Thompson elaborates (while others make jokes):
At least initially, the store will feature exclusively Fantagraphics titles, and a handful of titles we carry already that were done by “Fanta” cartoonists but published elsewhere (EPILEPTIC, JIMMY CORRIGAN, WAR’S END, et al.). Once we get our footing, I expect we’ll start adding other books by publishers to make it more of a full-service all-cool-comics kinda joint.
Also there, publicity guy1 Eric Reynolds preemptively addresses potential criticism:
I’m sure there are going to be some direct market retailers who knock us for entering the retail arena. But this store is going to break even if we’re lucky. That’s somewhat beside the overall point, which is that there isn’t a single retailer anywhere near Seattle that stocks all of our new product, let alone our 300+ book backlist, despite Seattle being something of a mecca for comics. We want this store to get into tourist guidebooks and hope that anyone visiting town will also visit places like Zanadu and the Comics Dungeon and Elliott Bay and Third Place and Bailey Coy and realize that, while there really isn’t a single store to suite your every need, it’s still a great book town, the most literate in the country, and we’re the best g**damn publisher in it.
He went into more detail on the Engine (link no longer available):
We have some 1000 items in our warehouse. According to Diamond’s own data, fewer than 40 percent of their accounts stock any given book we publish (and it’s just as often fewer than 25%). There are maybe 50 truly great comic book retailers in this country that actively support us, and as much as I remain ever-grateful for their existence and wish we could clone them, they are the exception to the current rules. For most of the new books we publish these days, the direct market accounts for about one-fourth of our initial sales. Over the last five years, our sales have gone up everywhere but the direct market. We are not costing the direct market sales — the direct market is costing itself sales (whether it be due to Diamond’s increasing inability to stay competitive with the rise of wholesalers and book trade distributors also selling graphic novels, or the 3000+ Diamond accounts out there that still don’t have any interest in diversifying their inventory and customer base by ordering outside of their own narrow tastes for the usual mainstream stuff). Interest in literary graphic novels has grown just about everywhere (in general bookstores, amongst the public, amongst the media, on the internet, etc.) over the last five years except in the direct market. We simply can’t afford anymore to make decisions out of fear of alienating such an increasingly small segment of our market. We could not survive in solely the direct market anymore
He goes on to say that, aside from sale items (and presumably, the previously mentioned damaged items), they won’t be discounting, and they will not be a full-service comic shop (contradicting Kim’s take, above — this is probably explained by the difference between Kim’s “all cool stuff” approach and the type of full-service shop that takes catalog orders on superhero books, which I’m sure is not what any of them envision).
1I found it surprisingly hard to determine official titles for Fanta staffers. Best I could discover, the official website doesn’t have a masthead, and the About Us section doesn’t include specific names.