Haspiel on "Goodbye, impulse buy"

201205291054 Haspiel on "Goodbye, impulse buy"
This isn’t anything we haven’t covered here before, but here’s another take on the end of impulse shopping for comics, this time via Dean Haspiel. Haspiel covers the problem of shops that only order for pull lists, and suggests that there may be a substitute for impulse buying in webcomics. Linking to it also give us a chance to show this cute picture of Haspiel meeting Wallace and Gromit.

And, that’s where things get interesting as publishers confront the paradigm shift between print and digital delivery and figure out how to preview their product and monetize accordingly. Which is a whole other ball of wax. and confirms to me that a retailers job is tougher than ever before in today’s market. No matter how well my LCS “knows” me there’s no way they can truly know what I will and won’t buy. I’ve come to respect and understand that most impulse purchases may have gone the way of the dinosaur but I sure will miss the latitude of flipping through a $4 comic book that often only tells 1/5th of a story. Hello free webcomics! Luckily, the infinite landscape of the internet allows for comix fans to become aware of what is available for sale, forcing individuals to be their own curators, while encouraging everyone online to enjoy free webcomics from personal blogs to wide-ranging collectives like ACTIVATEcomix, Transmission X, and Mark Waid’s recent Thrillbent launch, to the exciting video game re-envisioning at Namco Bandai’s ShiftyLook website, where me and writer Ben McCool took a short lived arcade game like Warp & Warp and transformed it into a webcomic series called The Five-Dimensional Adventures of Dirk Davies.

Comments

  1. Digital removes the issue of needing to pre-order since there are infinite copies available. The loss of the flick-through is harder to deal with – three page previews on ComiXology can sometimes be enough to grab me, sometimes not. But add more pages of the preview and you start to give the comic away for free.

  2. I was gonna say, impulse buying isn’t gone from comics. But it’s nearly sure as hell gone from the DM.

  3. that’s what pushed me away from my local comic shops and into the arms of digital comics. Sure i miss the paper and some of the fun of going to the stores, but i miss the ability to browse and discover new things through a well stocked shop a whole lot more.

    I feel for the retail guys, cause its tough…i tried pre-ordering and it just turned my hobby into a job and i hated it.

    Without digital comics i would have abandoned single issues and probably comics last year.

  4. monopole says:

    The problem w/ digital comics is the lack of subscriptions or ticklers to inform you when the next issue is out. Comixcology really needs to add a feature which allows you to designate series and creators you are following and inform you when new issues and works are available.
    I have zero interest in AVX but I would immediately buy anything new from Gail Simone, Warren Ellis or JMS.

  5. Chris Hero says:

    Since I’m in NYC often, I’ve seen how much access people there have to fully stocked shops and how that encourages browsing and exploring. Chicago is also awesome for this and home to some truly great comic (and vinyl record) stores.

    The rest of the country, though…there’s really not a lot of comic stores so finding a LCS that will work with you on getting the comics you want is challenging. It’s not the fault of the retailers, either, because there aren’t a lot of disposable dollars flowing their way.

    Hopefully digital continues to open the world more. I know my webcomics bookmark folder continues to expand as I find more and more exciting work.

  6. @monopole–totally agree, but i use another site that has a weekly pull list feature, so i keep up that way.

    Always a surprise to find on on monday, what’s coming on on wednesday! The surprise of “oh thats coming out!” is really fun for me. Brings me back to younger days.

  7. Glenn Simpson says:

    On the subject of impulse buys, I’m supporting the notion that the big two need to create a new pricing structure that allows people to buy the books for a much lower price BUT the user only has access to the book for a limited amount of time, like a month. That would enable them to offer the comics for a lower price, and therefore encourage more sampling, but also maintain value by putting the time limit on there.

  8. I still do my share of impulse buying.

    Earlier this month my local had a display of Hickman’s The Manhattan Projects. I bought the three issues and put it on my pull list.

    Hickman also benefited from my first foray into digital comics. I signed onto Comixology in order to read a digital only comic and got a free copy of Red Wing #1, just to check out how things worked. I liked it enough to buy the other three issues.

    But if the world of comic pre-ordering is a surprise to Haspiel, its not a surprise to most of us. I don’t live in New York, but I do live in a city (Victoria, BC) that is well served by comic shops. Most places aren’t.

  9. I don’t understand Haspiel’s premise? If you might like PLANET OF THE APES or JONAH HEX, but your local store doesn’t carry them, and you’re sad because you can’t buy those titles, you should therefore go on line and read free webcomics… which aren’t PLANET OF THE APES or JONAH HEX either? (and that even fewer creators have been able to monetize, though I suppose that’s a separate argument)

    I also think that in your promotion of this particular meme, Heidi, you need to exercise a lot more caution about distinguishing between brand new things getting strangled in their crib at issue #1 because they’re not being carried in the first place (a bad thing), and the *completely rational* trimming of orders in response to *actual* consumer demand.

    When you’re a retailer, and you’re looking at your cycle sheets for DWEELZEMAN and you have 3 subs for it, and after 30 days #9 has sold 3 copies total, and #10 sold 3 copies total and #11 sold 3 copies total, you’d have to be not-so-smart to order more than 3 copies of DWEELZEMAN #12 — there *provably* isn’t local demand for it, a store should be buying that extra copy to throw away on the off chance that a tourist might want it (and most tourists = 1 time, non-repeat sales, remember)?

    Stores have to cater to the actual customers that shop there, not the platonic ideal of a customer’s tastes.

    -B

  10. So is PLANET OF THE APES a flop that no one would want to by on impulse?

    What we’re really talking about is a retail/distribution system that has such a razorthin margin that carrying extra copies of something that has BORDERLINE appeal for a potential new buyer is not possible.

    I don’t doubt that ceasing to stock shelf copies of shitty books is a reasonable business decision for the average comics retailer. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

  11. Synsidar says:

    The March ’12 indie sales chart listed sales of EXILE ON THE PLANET OF THE APES #1 at 5,474 and sales of PLANET OF THE APES #12 at 5,237. I wouldn’t expect to see magazines with those circulation figures sold on any newsstands. And with roughly 3000 comics shops in the U.S—an average of fewer than two copies per store.

    SRS

  12. On impulse, I bought Animal Man and Doom Patrol from comiXology over the long weekend. The impulse buy is no longer in the local comic shop.

  13. “So is PLANET OF THE APES a flop that no one would want to by on impulse?”

    I can’t really answer for the general market, but for my specific slice of it, lessee, of the 14 issues of POA that have come out we’ve sold 52 copies of the 68 that we brought in — or a 76% sell-through overall, meaning we’ve lost money on the brand as a whole. For the two spin-off POA series, it drops down to 14 sold of 20 ordered, or 70% sell-through.

    Licensed comics, in general, sell sluggishly, at best.

    “What we’re really talking about is a retail/distribution system that has such a razorthin margin that carrying extra copies of something that has BORDERLINE appeal for a potential new buyer is not possible.”

    Can you name retail/distribution systems where this ISN’T the case? I don’t think I can?

    “I don’t doubt that ceasing to stock shelf copies of shitty books is a reasonable business decision for the average comics retailer. But that’s not what we’re talking about.”

    It isn’t?

    I mean, Dean WAS able to buy POA, per his article. The only other books he named that he couldn’t find were JONAH HEX and MOON KNIGHT, hardly new titles without a long sales history (generally? Poor) behind them.

    I’m not seeing a widespread problem with any real evidence behind it?

    -B

  14. @ Brian Hibbs:

    “…a retailers job is tougher than ever before in today’s market… Luckily, the infinite landscape of the internet allows for comix fans to become aware of what is available for sale…”

    Seems pretty clear to me.

    You seem to be increasingly interpreting “the way comics are sold isn’t working for me” with “retailers are jerks!” And since we’re all giving out free advice here, I’d like to suggest you read a little more carefully. It’s understandable that the recent and ongoing changes in the way comics are distributed/sold is of concern to you– this is your livelihood. And I don’t think most commenters afford your expertise the respect it deserves. However, I think you’re letting that concern impact your reading comprehension.

  15. Matthew Southworth says:

    I always like reading your comments, Brian–I learn a lot about the retailer’s perspective from them.

    But to me–and I’m commenting not as a comics pro but as a consumer–it’s a very simple issue, and I think if you look at it from this perspective, you’ll agree. If I go to a comic store, I can only buy what I see on the shelves. If I’m required to pre-order it, there’s no point in my going to the store, since the whole point of going to the store is to browse–but if the browsing is limited to the bigger items that receive enough attention and marketing for retailers to stock them, then I probably am already aware of them and could simply have ordered them.

    So going to the store becomes an exercise in disappointment–like listening to the radio to discover new and interesting music. Truly new and interesting bands don’t get on the radio, as radio’s a business, just like comic stores are.

    I don’t listen to the radio and haven’t in years and don’t miss it a bit, and I find all kinds of interesting stuff like Chad van Gaalen (highly recommended and weird, BTW) through other means, and it’s not just weird stuff, either–I doubt I’d hear much of the new Radiohead on the radio, either.

    I still love comic stores, and I’ve been visiting them since I was 10 or 11 years old, but this current model is not very satisfying to a reader who wants to read things all across the spectrum. It makes sense from the retailer’s position, but I don’t think it makes much sense to either the informed, exploratory customer or the guy who wanders in off the street.

  16. @ James Smith.

    I asked his premise. Last time I checked, you answer a premise with the conclusion. Dean’s conclusion was : “read more webcomics”, no? I don’t think the one has a thing to do with the other.

    -B

  17. Chris Hero says:

    Building on Matthew’s comment, I was thinking while reading the Comic Reporter piece on “5 series you read religiously in the 90s” how sad I am I didn’t know Acme Novelty existed until the early 2000s, or whenever the Jimmy Corrigan book was published. I was only reading The Comics Journal intermittently in the 90s because so much of the books they spoke of were completely unavailable to me. I had to beg my LCSs, and I stress *beg*, to order Miracleman and Love & Rockets.

    Now, I know no one back then was going to get rich on ordering ACME, L&R, or MM, but I didn’t know they existed and didn’t really understand ordering through Diamond. It seems like it’s asking a lot of the reader to fully educate themselves on the entire breadth of comics available and all the ordering options.

    The argument that a “good” store would educate the reader and recommend books to their liking is valid, but how many “good” stores are there?

  18. @Brian Hibbs

    As I see it, Dean Haspiel is only saying that webcomics are available for anyone interested, and the reader has the chance to know a product that is not being carried by his Comic Shop, by reading it online, when available.

    So… he is not blaming anybody. But telling independent creators that since retailers can’t really bet on their work to be sold at their stores by an impulsive reader, and therefore, order it beyond what comon sense might dictate, only by having faith in the quality of the product. They have instead the possibility of promoting their creations trough the webcomic format, by making a portion of it available for free.

    I guess that ideally, if you are a creator who is about to launch a 5-issue miniseries with publisher X. It might be a good idea to have the first issue available online, for sampling purposes, in order to boost interest on the product and make retailers aware that is a product that they can sell at their stores.

    But it might be wrong

  19. @brian hibbs–how does your shop handle new indie comics esp. #1’s? People have heard of Spiderman…but not Dweezelman (your fictitious example). Kinda curious because it seems that so many great indie series don’t even get a chance to get off the ground due to lack of early support.

  20. I meant to say “But I might be wrong”.

  21. @ Brian Hibbs:

    ‘Dean’s conclusion was : “read more webcomics”, no?’

    No.

  22. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Chris Hero–exactly. The idea that any comic store in the world would not stock and promote and sell the fuck out of Love and Rockets and ACME Novelty Library is abhorrent to me.

    Essentially, many comic stores have become Marvel/DC outlet stores, and the Big Two have done a great job of reinforcing the idea that “comics” means “superheroes”. When you look for the comic store, you find the store with the Batman neon sign in the window.

    But if you like material that may not be the biggest seller–and we’re not talking about some guy’s self-published zine, we’re talking about L&R and ACME, two hugely-acclaimed books from one of the best publishers in America, Fantagraphics–and especially if you don’t live in a big city, you may be shit out of luck.

    And that’s not even addressing the difficulties for creators to do work that does anything other than show you nifty costumes, cool fights and big boobs. If you’re doing something unusual, like the work of Kevin Huizenga, or something personal, like the work of Adrian Tomine, you’re gonna starve while you try to get your book in stores. That’s not healthy for the artform, but the argument that Dean’s making, I believe, and one I agree with, is that it’s not healthy for the marketplace, either.

  23. Matthew:

    I can’t disagree with almost anything you wrote (maybe that the “only” reason to go to a store is to browse, since that doesn’t reflect most of my store-going experiences… or most of what I perceive as my customer’s actions for that matter), so let me throw some logic back at you:

    The overwhelming majority of retailers are trying to make a profit from retailing. The majority of retailers like selling MORE books, rather than FEWER books, and most will do almost anything legal they can in order to sell more books and make more money.

    Therefore, if most retailers are behaving roughly the same in regards to how or in what quantity of stock they bring in of a specific book, it is reasonable to assume that they beleive something that you don’t about the ACTUAL COMMERCIAL REALITY of a book.

    Because, it is either that OR they ARE “all jerks”.

    It’s all well and fine to say “comics shops fail me because I can’t browse [whatever]”, but if there aren’t enough people to make [whatever] profitable in the first place, how can you expect the store, whether it bee comics or sporting goods or vegetables, to stock it at all? Most comics/books sell poorly not because the retailers fail to stock them, but because the consumers fail to buy the copies that GET stocked!

    Have SOME stores dropped the ball to the point that they are predominantly “catalog stores”? Sure. But I refuse to believe that it MOST stores, or particularly the “average” store — otherwise those stores wouldn’t be making enough of a profit to stay in business in the first place!

    The firm reality for periodical comics (not book collections) is that the overwhelming majority of the viable audience for them are people that buy 12 out of the 12 issues released a year — not people who dip in for a moment to “sample” a title, because those people are statistically unlikely to continue to purchase the book month-in and month-out. The money isn’t in that $1.50 gross profit at a time — it’s in the $18/year that “subscription” represents.

    -B

  24. @Joey:

    “@brian hibbs–how does your shop handle new indie comics esp. #1’s? ”

    The same exact way we handle new Marvel & DC books: “Who is the audience for this?” “Is there an audience for the genre of the work? The creator? Does the premise sound interesting? What’s the cost/page count/value? What’s my discount?” etc etc etc.

    In the month of May my best selling periodical comic is SAGA, by pieces. By dollars, it is AVENGERS VS X-MEN.

    -B

  25. @brian hibbs–yeah i mean that makes sense. It basically seems like if you’re a young creator with a new series, you’re basically just have to sacrifice your first few ideas to poor support and short story arcs, until you get a chance to write a big 2 book and people figure out who you are.

    Really kinda sucks though.

  26. “The idea that any comic store in the world would not stock and promote and sell the fuck out of Love and Rockets and ACME Novelty Library is abhorrent to me.”

    I sell what I think are a lot of copies of L&R and ACME — but in no way is it possible to keep the doors open based upon those sales.

    I’ve now sold 136 copies of SAGA #1 in the 10-ish weeks it has been out. I’ve sold 54 copies of L&R NEW STORIES #1 in the three and a half YEARS since it’s been released — I sell a copy about every 6 months or so, currently — and the Hernandez Brothers have an entire shelf of their own in this store, have been here in appearance, etc.

    It’s nothing to do with comic book stores, either — BookScan sales for L&R and ACME aren’t all that great (about as strong as a “literary” book — and not the “darlings” like Franzen or whoever)

    That’s why you have to separate ACTUAL sales figures from your platonic ideal of what they “should” be. You’ll always be disheartened by the real real-world commercial realities.

    -B

  27. @ Brian Hibbs:

    I believe it goes something like this: “From my lucky position of living in a city with lots of comic shops, I mistakenly believed I was seeing most of what was available. I now realize that retailers cannot stock that many titles. Fortunately, the internet now allows me to learn about books retailers wouldn’t stock (because they thought they wouldn’t sell) as well as read online iterations of comics that Diamond might not have even distributed (because they thought they wouldn’t sell).”

    And I think the larger point about the market is that it would be nice if the pie were big enough that retailers and Diamond felt more comfortable taking a risk on a title that might need time to build an audience. This isn’t a criticism of retailers.

  28. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Brian–agreed on all points. I don’t in any way think that any retailers are jerks or anything like that; I assume comic shop owners got into it because they like comics, not because they wanna make a mint, so I figure they’re just as interested as I am.

    The point of Dean’s piece, as I understand it, and my own reaction to it is that this current setup, in which retailers rely on the “actual commercial reality” of a book but they also self-fulfill that reality. If you don’t ORDER Jack Staff, you don’t SELL Jack Staff, and if the customer doesn’t see issues of Jack Staff on the shelf, he doesn’t know it exists and can’t pre-order it from you.

    As a consumer, I don’t care about the commercial reality of an item, be it pickles, music, t-shirts or comics, I only care about the item itself (as a producer of comics and music, etc., I care very much, however!, and so I completely understand and empathize with your point of view).

    So the marketplace has changed–not “IS changing”, HAS changed. I don’t need to shop in CD stores anymore, despite my love of shopping for new music–I used to visit the CD store at LEAST 2X a week. It’s easier, it’s cheaper, there’s more variety and I don’t waste money on gas if I do it from my desk. I’m not saying it’s better, I’m saying it’s easier and more comprehensive.

    The social and physical qualities of the comic store are still vital and ideal, however. In my opinion, anything that can be done to foster those aspects of the comics reading/purchasing experience is a positive thing. Signings, art classes, book groups, costume parades, free comic book day, art shows…the Fantagraphics Store in Seattle has a once-a-month art show/party as part of the local art walk, and I spend TONS of money there as a result.

    In other words, and I think you’d agree, we’re on the same side here. I’d guess you like great indie comics as much as I do and wish they sold more just like I do. But you have a different perspective on why indie comics aren’t carried by many stores than I do; I just know I get frustrated looking for them.

  29. Cory!! Strode says:

    When I worked last in comics retail (ending in about 2005) the shop I consulted with would buy the AC Western reprints. Not because they sold the week they came out. Or the month they came out. However, we’d stock about 5 copies of each (as well as other oddball, off genre titles) because they would slowly migrate off the shelf.

    We were in a high foot traffic area, had high kid traffic and eventually some parent or grandparent would come in with a child and they’d see it on the shelf, flip through and pay the $5 – $10 for the reprint.

    The shops I go into now don’t do that, as they don’t have the margin or the foot traffic.

    Also, I STILL remember Evanier’s story about Groo sales. He’d talk to retailers at conferences…they’d say that they couldn’t sell Groo…Evanier would question them, and they said they’d order 15 for the shelf, and they’d slowly sell until they were gone until the end of the month and they’d say “We were lucky to sell all 15, so I cut the shelf order to 12″ (or some variation).

    Brian, I know your shop doesn’t do that and you’re very good with tracking…but you are also the exception to the rule.

  30. wow @matthew your post about the futility of actually going to a shop these days (and the sadness of it) aced it. I am extremely sympathetic with comics stores, but they have to be more than a dry-cleaning run to pick up stuff you have already committed to buy if they want to increase sales. That’s one thing I miss so much about a good record store. But I appreciate the “razor-thin” argument, must be frustrating. It is for us too.

    Its like the supermarket — I will definitely try some weirdo cereal or crazy flavored gum at the check-out — but only if I see it (or its on sale). Why are comics different? Because we don’t need them? I didn’t need Smurfs cereal but I bought that!

  31. “As a consumer, I don’t care about the commercial reality of an item, be it pickles, music, t-shirts or comics, I only care about the item itself ”

    But of course you do care — if it isn’t commercial, it isn’t stocked.

    I can give you an example from my real life: I like any number of microbrews. I tell the guy who runs the local corner store if he stocks beer x, y or z, I’ll buy them from him. He does not think there’s enough people “like” me, so I can’t buy that beer from him. I have to go 12 blocks away to get what I want.

    If I lived not-in-San Francisco, I imagine I might not be able to drink those brands AT ALL — beer certainly isn’t the kind of thing you want to ship if you can avoid it (it’s HEAVY)

    And so it goes.

    The further you want something from the mass, the harder it is to be to find it — let’s PRAISE that most stores have a system you can special order something, then deplore it upon the industry as a whole.

    -B

  32. R. Maheras says:

    I’ve been a comics fan for 45 years and I’ve never had a pull list.

    I’ve ordered stuff through a comic book store a few times over the years. For example, I did just inquire about ordering the IDW boxed set of Mars Attacks variant covers through a local comic book shop.

    But generally, if it’s not on the rack, I may not even know a given book/series even existed.

    I guess those who like to actually flip through a book to see what they are getting before pulling the purchase trigger are going the way of the dinosaur and buggy whip.

  33. I don’t know about anyone else, but I never use internet shopping for browsing/impulse buys. When I’m on Amazon or what have you, I’m specifically searching for one thing. It’s not practical to look around for “comic books” online, because there’s no real order or easy to sort system in most cases.

  34. I’ve been buying comics from direct sales shops for over 20 years and I don’t see any discernible difference between now and then. During the 80’s B&W boom, there where months were nearly 1000 individual comic titles were released. Minimum order benchmarks forced stores that could only sell one or two copies of something to buy 3 or 5 copies, usually meaning they were going to take a loss in order to carry the book and hope that their X-Men sales balanced it out.

    The fact is that most brick-and-mortar stores — no matter what they sell — can’t stock everything. For comic shops, that was true 20 years ago, and it’s true now.

    So I think the truth exists at neither extreme of this conversation.

    The fact is that the impulse buy is alive and well for a great many readers interested in a great many books. Do I have immediate access to absolutely everything released in a given week? No, of course not. But seriously, I do absolutely have access to more things than I can afford to buy.

    Along with everything else I like — film, music, authors, etc. — I have no problem discovering something when I discover it, however and whenever that happens, the same way I discovered The Misfits, or China Town, or Boody Rogers, or whatever.

    Not all of it was easily accessible. I had to do a little exploration, like every other human being that existed before me had to do with whatever subject they were interested in. Discovering these things via your friends or your own wanderings or chance encounter or whatever is part of the magic that, to me, is inseparable from my love or art and literature.

    Does that mean I’ve probably missed stuff? Yes, obviously. So has everyone reading this. Most of us have yet to read our favorite books, see our favorite films, hear our favorite bands — we just don’t know it. We haven’t discovered them yet. It’s true about comics, and it’s true about almost everything else.

    If anything, the internet — which didn’t exist when I was finding a lot of this stuff — has made it infinitely easier to search, find and discover. Having done that, what’s so difficult about asking the lcs that has supplied you with the other 99% of comics that you like to pick something up for you that may be a little off the beaten path? Any shop I’ve ever been to will accommodate when possible.

    I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I live in NYC, but the idea that I can’t find enough great comics to buy on a weekly basis that I didn’t know anything about is preposterous. There’s simply TOO MUCH.

  35. Mikael says:

    Why a creator would stress impulse buy over pre-ordering is beyond me. Pre-ordering is the key – it puts a tick in Diamond’s checklist. Browsing randomly does nothing to tell the industry that you are interested in that comic. Perhaps that’s fine for the first time you browse, but if you like a title because of browsing, you better be ready to tell someone about it or else it won’t exist. Comics need support.

  36. Being both a creator and publisher (Transfuzion), I assume that no stores are stocking the items for the shelf. They are being ordered strictly by pre-orders. I’m sure there’s some exceptions but I never count on exceptions…the rule for just about any independent comic/book is that you have to rely on customers telling their stores that they want the item.

    Do I like it? Of course not. But it’s just the reality. Having owned four shops at one time and being a retailer for nearly 20 years, I saw a dramatic shift in the market during that time…from retailer speculation to being ultra-conservative on orders.

    On the Transfuzion titles, Diamond doesn’t even carry half the line. I get that. They don’t think there’s a big enough market for it and in some cases, I agree that the comics market is not the best chance of sales. Many of the books sell well online (and some, exceptionally so) and it’s a lot more profitable for me to sell that way. I sometimes prefer the Diamond avenue even at less profit because of the exposure that the creators want/need/desire…but sometimes, it just isn’t going to work.

    When I do have something go through Diamond, I push that the end consumer needs to let their retailer know in order to make sure they get the book. I supply a preview of every book on the website, on facebook, and provide the order code. Sometimes, I’ll do a longer preview.

    Even when, as a creator, I go through a larger company such as Image or IDW…I still push that the fans have to let the retailer know. Right now, I have a new Deadworld series from IDW and on the website, I have a form that a customer can download and turn into their store. I can’t count on stores ordering the title for their shelves even though there are variant covers as an incentive from IDW.

    And I am also noticing a trend in a lot of shops that might have ‘shelf’ stock. The comics are boarded and bagged so you can’t browse through them anyway. When I ask, the stores say they can’t absorb the damage to flipped through copies….

  37. Kat Kan says:

    I started as an impulse buyer back when I was a kid buying from the newsstand racks. I switched to reading mostly trades when I worked at a bookstore in college; then around 1991 I went to comics retailers. I started as an impulse buyer at my local shop, and I talked a LOT with the manager and a couple of the other guys who worked there, and slowly started shaping my ideas of what I wanted in my comics. Within a couple of years I went to pre-ordering what I knew I wanted, and I still browsed the shelves for other titles. I still do things that way. I pre-order all the indie comics I want to ensure that I get them, and I’ll browse a lot of the Marvel/DC/IDW/Image new titles. I do this because both my current LCS’s are small stores operating on very tight margins, and my pre-ordering helps them. I prefer to shop local to benefit my local economy.

  38. Great discussion, my friends. Just so we’re clear: I never said you should read free webcomix instead of buying print comics or digital downloads. That’s ridiculous.

    I was sharing my experiences with the impulse buy. If my LCS could order one copy of everything that is available every week for everyone to ogle, I would surely spend the time it would take to peruse and knee-jerk react to every item offered as long as I didn’t have to buy them all [who am I, Rockefeller?]. Hell, I do a lot of knee-jerk reacting at my LCS already [it’s fun to judge a book by its cover]. And, of course, the notion of a store having everything that is available is preposterous. Part of what I wrote in my essay was about how naive I was about that notion. I fully understand now what it takes to get those books on the racks.

    Comix is a tuff biz.

  39. Chris Hero says:

    @Matthew and @Brian Hibbs

    I greatly enjoy reading both of your comments and respect both of you a lot, but I think you’re speaking past one another. I think you’re both right. It’s sad the comic market can’t support browsing for good, overlooked titles AND retailers have to stock what they can make a profit on.

    There’s a solution somewhere in the middle. I know for my eclectic tastes, the Web has been a Godsend. I mean, I both was able to discover and buy niche books due to the Web, and I’m more well-informed on how to ask retailers for what I want.

    But please keep discussing, because I enjoy the learning I do reading both of you.

  40. Torsten Adair says:

    Here’s a solution:

    I ask the clerk for recommendations.

    “What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?”

    They usually ask me what I like to read.

    I answer, “Good books”. (Gruesome horror is probably the only genre I’ll avoid.)

    If the clerk has read something, it usually means the store has carried the comic, and probably has copies for sale.

    There’s enough good stuff out there to keep me occupied for a while. (I just got around to reading Runaways.) I’ve got stuff from conventions still waiting to be read.

  41. Al™ says:

    The comic market is pre-order, and retailers are saying that they rely on preorders to make sure sales. Okay, fine. No risk sales. As the customer, I take all the risk, instead of the retailer doing it.

    But comics are still produced with flashy covers, elaborately produced. And why? I mean, if you preorder it anyway, why does a comic even need a cover? For the catalog listing?? It’s not needed to attract buyers in the store, or to create the impulse to buy it, as some say that most comic buyers have already preordered the issue.

    I think we’re seeing some illogic here.

  42. Torsten Adair says:

    Here’s another suggestion:
    The Dollar Bins.

    Whenever I’m at a comics show, I will always flip through the dollar longboxes. Usually the comics aren’t bagged-and-boarded, so it’s easy to flip through the comic to see if it’s worth a shot.

    (They are also easy to lug around, and easy to pack.)

    That’s how I found a copy of Quack #5.
    Here’s why I bought it:
    * Star*Reach title
    * 1977, so in that period after the undergrounds, but before the B&W ex/implosion
    * Lead story written/drawn by Michael T. Gilbert, before he became famous.
    * 11 pages of two funny animal stories by Dave Sim (!)
    * pin-up/ad by Steve Leialoha

    Turns out, the Gilbert story is quite ambitious and revolutionary, teasing with the meta-dimensionality of comics.

    Other times, I’ll buy something because of a whacky cover premise (usually involving Superman). Or my memory recalls a snippet about some title. Or the comic fits one of the niches I enjoy (promotional give-aways, PSA comics, non-fiction).

  43. I make lots of impulse buys on Comixology. I don’t understand this.

    My iTunes bill once came to me in pieces (whoa)

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