Collections Are the Future: Make Publishers Commit

The Skeptics #1 cover by Devaki Neogi

I know many people (myself included) who rarely pick up comic miniseries or limited runs these days. Just about everything will be collected, and books are so much easier to buy, read, and handle. Also, they’re not the next hot thing that’s old news within two weeks. A good collection will sell for years. I think most smart publishers these days are only putting out short runs just to finance the artwork, since artists can’t often work ahead without pay, and small publishers often run so close to the bone that they can’t pay advances.

It seems particularly short-sighted, then, not to release a collected edition. Some publishers, if sales are low and they believe in the material, will even cancel a miniseries in favor of an eventual collection (which they can then promote as having new material included). That kind of strategy continues to train readers to wait for the book.

What, then, is one to make of a publisher who doesn’t put out the collected edition? Writer Tini Howard unfortunately ran into this problem when it came to her series The Skeptics. Four issues were released through Black Mask, illustrated by Devaki Neogi and running from October 2016 through February 2017. The story was about teen con artists pretending to be psychic to fool the US government during the Cold War, who then run into their Russian equivalents, only they really do have powers. It had retro style and snappy dialogue, a good little adventure read. Here’s an interview with Howard about the book with lots of preview pages.

The Skeptics #1 cover by Devaki Neogi

The Skeptics #1 cover by Devaki Neogi

Howard tweeted a couple of weeks ago, “I’ve finally heard from the publisher that there are no plans to collect The Skeptics in trade any time soon.” She suggested crowdfunding, but the publisher said no.

A number of respondents said they’d like to buy a collection, to which the publisher responded “We’re hoping to get it out in trade, in the meantime you can still get the single issues reordered at your local shop (or in our webstore if your shop doesn’t do reorders) or you can read it on Comixology too.”

Which is a bit weird, since that seems to be a contradictory message. Particularly since the first issue is out of stock at Diamond, which means most people aren’t going to buy #2-4.

Although the publisher does have them all listed as available at their website, where you’ll pay at least an additional $6 in shipping costs. There was a second printing of issue #1 offered in September 2016, but it was cancelled by the publisher this past February. Also weird: Amazon has a preorder listing for the collection with a release date of July 10.

So, creators, remember to put in your contracts a clause requiring a collected edition be released, if you can. Or possibly a rights reversion if the publisher won’t put one out.

One comment

  • Argo Plummer

    What a bummer! I read and enjoy most of Black Masks series. I really want to support them and the diversity they bring to comics in terms of creators and subject matters. I thoroughly enjoyed The Skeptics (up near the top of my list of favorite things Black Mask has published since I started following them–up there with Kim and Kim and Black) and would’ve bought a trade collection to have for easy access and to loan to other people. Sad to hear this and hope it’s not the end of the story!

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