- Posted by Johanna on January 2, 2008 at 6:41 am
- Category: LinkBlogging
Fewer Graphic Novels
Brian Hibbs put in a computerized point of sale system and discovered that he had access to a lot more accurate data than he expected. One of his discoveries was that he was stocking too many graphic novels (link no longer available):
… something approaching half of the trade paperbacks we carry have not sold a single copy since we’ve installed the system [four months ago]. I have absolutely no problem with stocking something that turns very slowly, but is something that is either important to the medium, or important to our identity as a store, but it is quickly becoming clear to me that there’s a huge swath of material that is not important to either case, in any fashion, which doesn’t turn fast enough to keep in stock. And that stuff has to go.
It’s all about the turns. Retailers don’t just want books to sell, they want them to keep selling, with someone buying (let’s say) the first Sandman book at least once every few months.
He identifies two categories of dead weight: The first is independent books with no public awareness, no audience, no standout concept, no well-known creator. In short, books with no marketing and thus no sales, thrown out there on the “build it and they will come” theory. It was a different world when a retailer could take a flyer on a book that cost them a buck and a quarter and would sell for $2.50 to a curious customer with a lot less competition. Plus, if the buyer liked it, there would be future issues to sell with less customer resistance. Now, a sample graphic novel is $5-15 per stock copy, there are tons of competing similar products, and each sale has to be won individually.
The second dead category, and this is both surprising and not, is superhero backlist.
Superhero B-list-or-less material. That doesn’t just mean B-list as a character, it applies to the basic quality of the work. I mean, look, DC’s backlist page for Batman lists nearly 200 volumes available. How many of those actually turn on a steady basis? 10%? If that? As a reader, I really approve of those scores of Marvel Essential and DC Showcase Presents cheap reprints, but man most of those babies barely turn, and they take up a massive amount of rack space.
Makes me miss the DVD collections of Marvel comics, which saved all kinds of shelf space. In the response to this column, one customer points out that they can get Essentials-style super collections cheaper online in most cases. But back to Hibbs. His conclusion? The blunt
There are too many books on the market, and separating the wheat from the chaff is probably going to be one of 2008’s biggest challenges.
That’s another reason to launch on the web and build up an audience willing to pay for your work, to guarantee sales and awareness for your print launch.
No Back Issues
- Back then, there were fewer titles produced per month by about a factor of ten.
- All titles were younger, so few to none had even 100 back issue numbers.
- Because of those factors, it was easier to stock almost everything in a reasonable amount of space for a comprehensive collection.
- Prices have gone up, making it more expensive to stock key books, which are of interest to a smaller audience as a result.
Plus, there’s the factor of type of story:
[M]ost titles being published were ongoing series, whereas today the majority seem to be mini-series, one-shots, and tie-ins, all of which are all harder to organize as back issues, and all of which usually have less long term demand than ongoing series.
His last conclusion has impact beyond just the question of back issues.
Up until the mid-nineties the concept of “collecting comics” really meant that you were picking certain titles, characters, or creators that you really enjoyed and then going backward and attempting to collect all their issues, appearances, or work. After all, if you were an X-Men fan, collecting their one book that came out each month wasn’t much of a challenge in and of itself. But that has certainly changed. Today our hobby is so focused on what’s coming next that we often lose interest in the story we’re currently reading.
That’s why I’ve given up on Previews this year. I don’t preorder any more because I want to buy and enjoy works in their own time, not be constantly chasing something two months away and ignoring what’s in front of me. But in the context of back issues, the publishers have to be liking the idea of the fan spending money on their new releases instead of something they get no cut of, regardless of how it damages the traditional stock-in-trade of the comic store.