Case Study of an Indy Comic: Mixtape Space Goat Reprints Cancelled
I’ve been covering Mixtape, the slice-of-life indy comic written by Brad Abraham with art by Gervasio and Jok, for four years now. The first issue came out in April 2012 from Ardden Entertainment. As I said then,
It’s the story of a group of friends, about to be high school seniors, and the choices they make. … The title emphasizes how important music is to these kids. This is soap opera from the nostalgic perspective of the older and wiser, tied together with a strong hook of well-remembered bands providing the soundtrack to life.
I liked reading it, although it didn’t have a genre or a high concept or any fantastic elements (all things titles aim for, publicity-wise). Unfortunately, the publisher struggled, and Mixtape issues 3 through 5 were self-published and released print on demand, which makes it very difficult for a series to grow. Customers don’t know it exists, and even if they find out about it and get interested, on hearing that it’s a miniseries, many figure they’ll wait for the eventual collection instead of trying to track down back issues.
I thought things were looking up when the series was picked up by new publisher Space Goat Productions. They planned to reprint the five issues bi-monthly beginning in September 2015, to be followed by new material. The first issue came out, but the latest Previews catalog ordering cycle brought more bad news. The remaining four print issues have been cancelled by the publisher.
I reached out to Brad, who confirmed that “Print sales and solicits were lower than hoped.” He’s contemplating a collected edition because he’d like to find some way to finish the story, but the plans for new issues have also been cancelled. There’s still more to come, as he says, “scripts are written, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to finish the Mixtape story.” I’m also hopeful. I’d like to read more with these characters.
It’s a shame that they’re back on the shelf for now. Rescues, as manga fans well know, often face this conundrum. Reprinting existing material, even if out of print, doesn’t give the existing fans what they’re looking for, and losing a percentage of that audience, because they don’t want to rebuy the story, may put sales lower than hoped for. But jumping into new material without the introductory content being available will also drive away customers.
As I keep saying, this is the dark side of the golden age we’re in. With so much material available, and so many different ways for creators to make their own comics, it’s more difficult than ever to stand out in a crowded market. Particularly if you’re not already a known quantity (big-name creator) or have some kind of merchandise tie-in (video game adaptation, media hook, or in the silliest example, the Grumpy Cat comic) or can’t do publicity non-stop for months.
For now, you can still buy the five Mixtape issues digitally from Space Goat for 99 cents each or for $1.99 each at ComiXology. What’s there so far makes a satisfying read, in case you’re wondering.
Update: Shon Bury of Space Goat Productions provided this comment:
Space Goat is a huge fan of Mixtape and have tremendous faith in this book. We helped Brad produce it several years ago for another publisher and wanted to find a home for it when we expanded into publishing ourselves. Although initial sales were strong, re-orders and sales on subsequent orders beyond issue #1 where not strong enough in the direct market to warrant publication. We felt that the direct market was ready for a critically-acclaimed book like Mixtape, but that market is not quite there yet. Regardless, anyone who wants to own Mixtape #1 can get their copy at MerchGoat.com. Anyone who wants to read the entire series can do so at Comixology and a wide-variety of other digital platforms, including Kindle, iTunes, and Google Play. And anyone who wants a copy of the collected edition can keep checking spacegoatpublishing.com for news on the release date.
But Amazon is happy to sell you issue #1 for a mere $14.95. “Very Rare”!
If there’s an existing fanbase of the singles, and presuming those fans may double-dip for a collected edition, why not crowd-fund a no-frills trade paperback, which can act to allow new readers. Readers can initially dip their toes with digital singles, then buy the tpb. Easier said than done, but also very much possible with a dedicated effort.