Money makes the world go ’round 2: Khepri’s tough times

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kheprilogo Money makes the world go round 2: Khepris tough times
Khepri Comics is a web-based comics seller that’s been around for over a decade, offering a lot of indie books but specializing in work by Brian Wood, Cliff Chiang, Becky Cloonan, and other “new mainstream” creators. Over the years, owner Brian Scot Johnson has built a strong relationship with these creators by promoting their work via special sales and so on. By partnering with Khepri, these creators — who, in addition to their distinctive work, have well-defined fanbases which they maintain via web interaction — would be able to, say, offer a blog preview of their small press work with a link to Khepri and know that consumers would be able to purchase a copy.

201009081833 Money makes the world go round 2: Khepris tough times
However, according to a blog post, business has not been booming for Khepri:

Gross ‘summer’ revenue for KHEPRI was down 43% versus 2009, and down 58% versus 2008. ‘Summer’ being defined as June, July, SDCC, and August combined. Sorry — one more summer of decline, and KHEPRI is done.


We contacted Brian and asked if he meant what he said and how much the general bad economy was affecting his business. He wrote back:

Yes – I’m dead serious in what I blogged, and that’s why I posted it.  Web retail has never been easy for me, a self-described misanthrope and luddite.  And at the end of the day, I do run Khepri.COM, not Khepri.ORG – this isn’t charity work I’m performing.  As my only employee, I’ll throw no-one under the bus but myself.  Sure, the economy is crap.  Undoubtedly, downloading (legal or otherwise) must takes its toll.  But excuses won’t pay the bills.  So I’ll redouble my efforts and see what the next twelve months bring.

Look, I’ve been selling comics since 1994, been running Khepri.com since 1998, and been doing Comic-Con International since 2001.  So I’ve seen some things; rode some highs, weathered some lows.  But my reality is this:  I’m just one guy, as Mom and Pop as you get – and yeah, Mom deserves a new pair of shoes and Pop needs to see a chiropractor.  It’s tough sledding out there competing with Amazon’s free shipping, Hastings’ new impetus, Mile High’s incredible selection, Midtown’s dogged advertising, and on and on.  At the same time, Marvel is now Disney, DC is Time Warner, Comic-Con International is now Hollywood, and only Big Business is Too Big To Fail.  It may be sluggish yet, but the future is now – this is the new comics industry, this is the new global economy.  Where, exactly, do I fit in?


Khepri was definitely viewed as the way forward when it was launched as the way for independent creators in the “Warren Ellis self determination mold” to provide a direct link to customers when bricks and mortar wouldn’t carry their work. Where indeed does a Khepri fit in? Amazon makes virtually everything with an ISBN available instantaneously. Small press fans seem to want to purchase their work directly from the cartoonists in the convention environment, and distributors like Sparkplug and Secret Acres.

Despite all the hopes, ultra small press distributors are having the same ups and downs as everyone else — on a micro scale. Bodega is on hiatus. Buenaventura is no more. On the other hand, AdHouse has a new distribution program and seems to be doing well. U.S.S. Catastrophe went away and came back. The stakes are small and people come and go.

Khepri is more of an anomaly, serving the middle ground publishers who are too genre for a TCAF but too small for the front of Diamond. These readers are perhaps not as dedicated as the other two extremes.

On the other hand, googling for Khepri found few recent mentions or promotion. It’s a fast moving world and we all need to stay agile. When we aren’t…the herd moves on.

Comments

  1. …”this is the new comics industry, this is the new global economy. Where, exactly, do I fit in?”

    I was talking with a comics peer and mentor about this very thing just today. This year’s San Diego with giant building-sized adverts really cemented home the question of where does he fit in the world of comics as a creator and publisher. Likewise, for Khepri.com.

    The new model is without form. It’s online, it’s still print, it’s viral, it’s still person-to-person, it’s still who you know, it’s still luck. Hard to run a business on that mode. Let’s hope Khepri’s next 12 months turns around.

  2. Army of Dorkness says:

    As a former Khepri customer, I am not surprised. There are multiple reasons why I took my business elsewhere. I’m not celebrating Khepri’s misfortune. All I’m saying is I’m not surprised.

  3. Nawid A says:

    The guy only has 60 unique items on his site that aren’t on clearance. I don’t think it’s his main stream of income.

  4. Charles Knight says:

    I don’t even look at comic sites generally, I just get everything off Amazon – with their discounts and the fact that if I ordered a book now it’s in my hands tomorrow morning it’s hard to beat.

    As he says himself it’s hard to compete with that.

  5. Augie De Blieck Jr. says:

    I used Khepri for a few years, until I got a discount at my LCS and it didn’t make financial sense anymore. Yeah, that and Amazon. Though I do miss that huge box of heavy comics in the mail once a month.

    But the Khepri web site has never been its strong suit, which is a BIG weakness for a web retailer. . .

  6. Matthew S. says:

    I tried using Khepri years ago but the thing is a lot of their once unique material is now widely available for cheaper at other locations online. For example, while Brian Wood’s work at one time was not easy to get, that has not been the case for several years.

  7. I’ll say what Army of Dorkness isn’t saying as a former Khepri customer myself:

    People have no doubt left Khepri because of Brian Johnson himself.

    I used to be a customer of his for quite a few years, first at the brick and mortar store he used to work at, and then went to sign up with Khepri when it first started because of the discounts.

    What did I get out of it?

    Insults. Insults about my disability, insults about my taste in comic books, decisions not to even give me full on discounts on certain titles because Brian hated them and because I was the only customer who was actually ordering them he’d make me pay full price for them because he had to physically order the comic.

    There wasn’t one trip to go out and get my comics (we would meet weekly downtown in Tempe, AZ) where I didn’t leave angry at myself for continuing to have to handle all this because I wanted to keep the discounts. Especially when it came down to deciding to make me fun of me for being disabled.

    And Brian has always said he’s an a-hole to deal with and likes it that way. Its obviously all caught up with him.

  8. Insults. Insults about my disability, insults about my taste in comic books, decisions not to even give me full on discounts on certain titles because Brian hated them and because I was the only customer who was actually ordering them he’d make me pay full price for them because he had to physically order the comic.
    I used Khepri for a few years, until I got a discount at my LCS and it didn’t make financial sense anymore. Yeah, that and Amazon. Though I do miss that huge box of heavy comics in the mail once a month.
    I was talking with a comics peer and mentor about this very thing just today. This year’s San Diego with giant building-sized adverts really cemented home the question of where does he fit in the world of comics as a creator and publisher. Likewise, for Khepri.com.

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