Another Response to ComicPRO

Tom Spurgeon responds to the ComicPRO position on convention pre-sales, calling it “a terrible paper”, “a phantom issue”, “bark[ing] up the wrong tree”, and saying

It doesn’t stake out a new position or provide any explanation for the informally existing position that isn’t already widely known among the people to whom it’s directed…. No one owes any specific market fealty. Adopting the position paper would almost certainly have a drastic effect on certain publishers’ bottom line, if their public rhetoric is to be believed, for nothing in the way of concrete reward by a neglectful, sometimes disdainful retailing community.

Spurgeon goes on to propose one potential solution:

… that companies declare or otherwise communicate their intention to sell a book in other channels, or ahead of a drop date, so that orders could be adjusted if someone really thinks advance availability is going to cost them sales.

In a later post, Brian Hibbs responds and Spurgeon answers back, pointing out that at this point, without evidence all we have is dueling assumptions.

You guys need to step it up and provide better evidence than anecdotes. If nothing else, the publishers you’re trying to reach have anecdotes of their own. If this enterprise is really damaging, it shouldn’t be hard to find evidence as to how much.

Spurgeon goes on to make an excellent summation of the discussion to date:

The DM system isn’t like any other system, and you can’t make things equal by shooting the legs off of other system. You’re working a different system with specific advantages and disadvantages. Clearly what you’re asking for is that someone abandon a type of sale in favor of another type of sale that benefits you. Or, more accurately, the faint promise of a sale that benefits you.

10 Responses to “Another Response to ComicPRO”

  1. morganagrom Says:

    Tom Spurgeon gets it right when he says “For one thing, you CAN’T PROVE that you lost $225 sales in Lost Girls. You haven’t done the work to prove this. So stop it.”

    He does stop short of asking the crucial question though, of whether the retailers are still sitting on their initial order copies. If they aren’t, if they wound up selling what they thought they could sell in the first place, then the position paper becomes fatally meaningless.

  2. ADD Says:

    Tom Spurgeon’s commentary on this issue so far has been nothing short of brilliant, to the point and utterly inarguable.

    And I am really looking forward to seeing what retailer Christopher Butcher has to say about all this.

  3. Alan Coil Says:

    “”For one thing, you CAN’T PROVE that you lost $225 sales in Lost Girls. …”
    Well, if 3 customers came into the store and said they saw it at a convention and couldn’t wait, that is proof enough to the retailer and to most any reasonable person.

  4. morganagrom Says:

    “Well, if 3 customers came into the store and said they saw it at a convention and couldn’t wait, that is proof enough to the retailer and to most any reasonable person.”

    Not without a statement as to whether the retailer was able to eventually sell them to another 3 customers, who might have heard about the book through the convention buzz. In which case, it’s not 3 lost sales, it’s 3 lost re-orders, a more speculative harm.

  5. Alan Coil Says:

    I’ve never met Tom Spurgeon. I’ve read several places where he is a good guy. So I have nothing personal against him, but that read just like a ‘The Comics Journal” piece, and I quit reading them well over a decade ago.

    Brian Hibbs has been a retailer for a long time and has written over 150 columns about retailing. His thoughts should be carefully considered, not just cast aside like his name is Comic. Shop. Guy.

  6. Alan Coil Says:

    And if the 3 copies had sold in the first 2 weeks, he could have tried to re-order more, maybe selling 5 or 6 total.

    In any business, you cannot state exactly how much money you have lost (or, rather, not made) to potential sales. All you can do is say that in the past, you would have sold X amount of books based on long-time patterns. As Hibbs has kept all his records since the day he opened, he would be the one to know his business trends best.

  7. Simon Jones Says:

    No offense, but I think you’re missing the mark on the Tom Spurgeon response, and flat out wrong to inject personalities into the discussion. Just as Brian Hibbs knows his own store’s numbers, so do the various experienced publishers who engage in pre-release selling and swear that it’s beneficial. Taking one side’s word at face value over the other is a show of bias, something Spurgeon isn’t willing to do.

    This issue is also beyond any one particular retailer’s experience, or even the experience of a majority of retailers, as ComicsPRO presents its case in such a way as if to say their conclusion is universally true for all of the industry, which it certainly isn’t.

  8. morganagrom Says:

    He could have, but that’s not the point of the paper. The point of the paper is that convention debut sales cost the retailers money, though there’s scant evidence of it.

    Moreover, any convention sales have the potential to cost some retailers some re-orders, but that’s not exactly the point and the paper doesn’t suggest that publishers should to get out of the convention sales business entirely (though given this position paper, who knows).

  9. Johanna Says:

    Alan, on the issue of self-reporting customers saying “I already bought that”, I recently overheard a retailer tell the following story. He saw one of his customers on a popular message board talking about an indy title that was well-respected there. The customer said “oh, I’d buy that, but my store doesn’t carry it.” The store actually did have it, and the retailer set one aside for the customer. When it was offered to the customer and the observation mentioned, the customer said “I don’t want to buy it, I just said that.” Apparently, the customer was overcome by peer pressure and would rather misrepresent his store than say “I’m not buying it.”

    I’m sure that Hibbs’ numbers are accurate and that those customers really did tell him they already got it elsewhere… but I bring this up to point out that sometimes customers lie. Especially to save face and/or save money. But if I didn’t respect Hibbs, I wouldn’t be working with/for him at the Savage Critic. And I know he and other retailers like him do think this is a serious problem. I hope a solution good for everyone can be found.

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    Point taken, Johanna. I actually didn’t even remember that you were writing reviews for Hibbs, not because they are forgettable, but because of compartmentalization. I simply had that thought filed away. I check his site daily for potential reviews.

    I am not a retailer, just a longtime reader, but I have always thought it unfair that convention going publishers should get the benefit of First Sale. If it truly is such a hassle and the shipping costs so high, as many have said, then getting it to the LCS at the same time is only fair.

    I have also felt it unfair that convention goers got all these opportunities to get swag the rest of the country can’t, but that is just jealousy rearing its ugly head. ;)




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