Must reads: Industry Angst Friday with Waid and Brians Wood and Hibbs

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It is the time of the month when industry figures fret about the Future of Comics. No slight intended—we do it all the time, too, and a few remarkable clear and essential posts about The Way It Is have just been made. So let’s review:

Things kick off with Mark Waid‘s new blog detailing his move to digital comics, in which he lays out the realities of comics distribution, from the Diamond benevolent monopoly to the economics of printing to the brutal realities of geography:

Big And Scary Bit Of Math #2: How many retail outlets nationwide does Diamond serve? If you’re a small publisher, how many stores can you hope to get your comic into? If you guessed more than two thousand, you’re dreaming. Maybe two thousand, and that includes every tiny sports-card shop or private individual who maintains an account with the distributor by ordering the bare minimum amount of merchandise monthly for their own collections, not for resale. It’s pretty sobering to realize that four regions–California, New York, Texas and the Chicago area–account for a jaw-dropping majority of comics stores across America. Last time I looked, for instance, if you live anywhere between Memphis, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi, there are no comics stores to be found. And that’s just one example of their scarcity. Those of us who live in major metropolitan areas lose sight of how hard it is just to find a damn comic book at all in, say, Prattville, Alabama or Tupelo, Mississippi. Distribution is awful, and it’s only getting worse as stores struggle.


The comments section is also full of smart observations from industry participants, and well worth digging into. Waid is right about all the maths…it’s a very special game and anyone who can play it and win deserves many kudos.

Among those still beating the odds? Brian Wood. And here he explains the fundamental truth about the American comics industry that every creator must embrace:The Retailer Is The Customer:

I ran some numbers the other day.  Looking at some recent numbers on my Vertigo books, Northlanders sells about 8000 an issue in actual numbers.   Retailer friends of mine confirm that the general consensus is that there are about 1800 comic shops out there.  That means, roughly, 4.5 copies per store.  But what about a place like Midtown Comics, who seem to order 40 copies in just the one branch (of three) I sometimes visit?   That right there means quite a few shops not ordering it at all.  What about Jim Hanley’s, the Isotope, Golden Apple, TFAW, Mile High, Casablanca Comics, and all the others?  For every shop out there ordering more than 4.5 copies of Northlanders means several others just not bothering at all.  I live in Brooklyn, and can think of at least two comic shops within a couple miles of me that don’t carry Northlanders.  Or DMZ.  Or most small press books.  I’ve been called out a few times in the past for saying that most retailers don’t carry my books, but I honestly believe this to be the case.  And what does that say about the books of other creators who don’t yet have 14 years of awareness built up?


Again, read the whole thing and the comments.

And to complete the trinity, retailer Brian Hibbs has his own take on the State of Things, essentially agreeing with Waid and Wood but throwing in a particularly unwelcome reality: not all comics were created equal.

There was a point when Diamond, the big bad monopoly that they are, pretty much let almost any piece of crap come to market (I think mostly because they were concerned about being labeled as the monopoly), and what happened? The catalog swelled, sales collapsed, and suddenly they’re distributing hundreds of utterly unprofitable comics that simply didn’t have any commercial potential of any kind. Even today I have to say I can easily think of at least 5 publishers who truly don’t deserve the privilege of access to the market, because in multiple years of publishing, they’ve never come close to publishing something of lasting value.


That’s right, creators and publishers, some of your comics are crap and don’t deserve to sell. And sometimes you know it! Hibbs has his own take on the local/numbers relationship:

Let’s take INCORRUPTIBLE, for our example, because Mark used it as well. The most recent issue, #27, which came out six weeks ago, has only sold two copies at Comix Experience, so far, one of those to a preorder. There’s one more sub copy sitting in the store, unbought so far, but it is safe to say I will ultimately sell it, bringing the total to three copies. Keep in mind that I brought in five, which means I’m almost certainly going to lose money on #27 (though that’s my own fault because I misread the stronger sales on #25 as being permanent)

I’ve never once sold 100% out of an issue of INCORRUPTIBLE in less than 45 days, and the most I’ve ever sold of a single issue was 10 copies of #1 (on 12 ordered).  It’s just been a very slow leak over the last 2+ years until I’m down to 3 copies sold.

And I’m a reasonable sized store (#2, I think, in volume) in a major metropolitan market, and I can’t shift four copies with a subscriber base of 125, and a stores that handles at least 1000 transactions a month, and yet there’s an expectation that it’s somehow wrong that a store in Tupelo, MS doesn’t carry the book in the first place? That hardly sounds rational. It sounds more to me like the natural market response to a product that is aimed at a niche segment (people who want non-Marvel/DC versions of…) of a niche genre (…superheroes…) of a niche medium (…comics) and, as such, you should actually be THRILLED that as many as 500 stores carry it.


Yes, but…there’s nothing to say that there isn’t a Tupelo consumer who might like INCORRUPTIBLE, too. This isn’t a regional bagels vs grits/shorts vs thermals debate. It’s entertainment. Surely people in Tupelo watch The Simpsons or Family Guy or HUNGER GAMES or something that isn’t superheroes…

So who is to blame?

EVERYONE.

CREATORS/PUBLISHERS for turning out mediocre product in a glutted market.

RETAILERS for catering to a closed market of narrow genre readers.

DIAMOND just for being DIAMOND.

How do we BREAK THE CHAIN?

We’ll have to ponder that over the weekend. But we will leave you with MacDonald’s 3rd Law of Comics: “When most people talk about saving the comics industry, what they really mean is saving their JOB in the comics industry.” Waid, Wood, and Hibbs are all trying to do the latter, and along the way, helping with the former.

Comments

  1. Surely this is the point of digital and the entire lesson of the internet. If you make a quality product that people want, they will be able to buy it online (physically or digitally).

    If I was in Tupelo, I’d only order what I was sure would sell – yeah, the rent might be low, but the back issue biz is probably for shit.

    The internet allows every itch to be scratched, which is great for creators if they can rise above the noise and get noticed (not remotely easy), and bad for brick & mortar retailers who cannot possibly match the selection and pricing offered online (not including piracy).

    It’s amazing to me that there are few comics about subjects typically associated with the medium – this seems like an opportunity for a GN to really break out into the mainstream.

    ——————————-

    PS: I thought comic shops in brooklyn ONLY carried books that sell under 3000 copies – after all, anything that sells more than that is corporate garbage that hipsters have already disowned, right? : )

  2. Brian Wood says:

    @geembeast – Brooklyn is a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG place.

  3. Chris Hero says:

    I have two things to say that will tie into one big point.

    I’m right with you, Heidi. I think Waid, Wood, and Hibbs are all smart people who have given everything a ton of thought, but I agree with your summation pretty much spot-on.

    @gembeast and @Brian Wood: Brooklyn comic stores aren’t much different than those in small town Ohio. Except for Desert Island, they sell almost exclusively Marvel and DC and usually give blank stares when asked about anything else. I travel a lot and I’m honestly surprised at how mediocre the Brooklyn scene is.

    Honestly, all I want is a better way to buy comics. I’m beyond exhausted with going to different stores all over the country, asking if they have a book, and getting either a blank stare or condescending reply. It’s not the retailers fault. If 90% of their customer base wants to buy New 52 and Avengers vs X-Men, I can understand why they’d stock those books.

    However, I want to buy a bunch of books published by Image, Dark Horse, or independently. I wish there was a way to do that. Comixology was nice because I could do that, but I’m learning I also enjoy holding a physical copy in my hands while I read. And really, there’s no viable solution to my problem.

    To stick to the books on topic, I wish I could dependably buy Northlanders or KaBoom books. I also understand it’s not viable for retailers to stock those books hoping someone like me will walk in off the streets and buy them.

    And, different point here, I’m becoming more and more aware there’s no hope for books aimed at women or children. If you’re not an older male who’s well versed in and very interested in DC or Marvel superheroes, there doesn’t seem to be a way to get books you’d like.

    The current system sucks. And it makes me sad.

  4. I think the ultimate problem is how niche the whole thing has become. When people think of American comic books they usually think super heroes. There are plenty of people who would be into the comics format if only they knew there was more to it than super heroes. To me that’s the fault of the industry as a whole for bad outside marketing and cross promotion.

    I don’t think the comics industry can depend on Marvel and DC to prop the rest up anymore. Image, Dark Horse and whoever else could be doing more in outside media promotion. Locally the comic book stores could as well.

    I know everyone tends to pass the buck in this situation but with this tiny of an industry I think it’s EVERYONE’S responsibility to help it grow at this point. If you love comics and not just intellectual property then that means you!

  5. “You suck!” really isn’t the takeaway I would have picked — meh, I thought you’d pick the poetry paragraph!

    Also: Simpsons, Family Guy, Hunger Games? ALL MASS MARKET things. INCORRUPTIBLE or The Kronus Quartet or poet Tracy K Smith? Not so much…

    -B

  6. Boy, make a joke and get typical uptight Comic book type response. Really, Brooklyn is a big place? Comic shops are pretty much the same everywhere, with rare exception?

    DUH.

    Point being, if you think you have something special that isn’t working at comic shops, then FUCK COMIC SHOPS – they aren’t going to be enough of them in five years to support you anyway – start marketing to potential readers outside of comic book retailers, because pinning your hopes on expanding your readership at outlets that has already proven they barely give a shit is just pointless.

    Or stick your head in the sand like a record company! It HAS to get better, RIGHT?

  7. “Waid, Wood and Hibbs are all trying to do the latter, and along the way, helping with the former.”

    OUCH! I object, counsellor, and that’s a pretty cynical POV. I don’t think my job needs “saving”–I’m pretty confident that superhero comics will remain a viable print medium in some format for the big two for the next ten years or so remaining on my writing career-clock. Or, to put it another way, I’m confident I’ll go “out of business” long before Marvel or DC do.

    I’m not painting myself out to be solely altruistic here but, trust me, if this were All About Me, there are MUCH easier career trajectories to take at my age–like just putting my loudmouth head down and continuing to bang out Marvel books without a fuss. Believe it or not, I’m fighting harder for the future of the medium than I am to save my own skin, as are a LOT of folks.

  8. Brian Wood says:

    @geembeast – my comment was light-hearted. Brooklyn has a really wide variety of weirdos and annoying people.

    The rest of your post I shall ignore.

  9. Chris Hero says:

    @geembeast – I also was not having a go at you and I’m sorry if it came off like I was.

  10. “However, I want to buy a bunch of books published by Image, Dark Horse, or independently. I wish there was a way to do that. Comixology was nice because I could do that, but I’m learning I also enjoy holding a physical copy in my hands while I read. And really, there’s no viable solution to my problem.”

    There’s an easy solution: Preorder your books. And if your local shop can’t handle that, preorder them through an online comic shop like Discount Comic Book Service.

    Failing that, order them after the fact from somewhere like MyComicShop.com.

    Admittedly, it requires you to commit in advance to books without being able to flip through them — what the heck, reverse the trend and check out the three-page previews at Comixology and then buy the print version — but as someone who grew up rarely being able to read two consecutive issues of a comic because the drugstores where I bought them never ordered with any consistency, I’m baffled when I see fans complaining online that they can’t find their books. I’m lucky enough to have a local retailer who orders in healthy numbers and still stocks back issues, but eBay and online retailers are there to step in if I ever need them.

  11. The Beat says:

    Mark, I didn’t mean that as a dis, and I’m sorry if it came off that way. I’ve stated MacDonald’s 3rd law here many times, and it’s a staple of my own bar talk/con saving pep talk. It is just a gut check kind of thing.

    Someone has to do it — I think you’re own energy and transparency is great. It’s also very rare.

  12. No matter what side one choses, these are indeed interesting times for the comic industry.

  13. Hah, I swear I typed the letter “o” twice. Whatever. I meant… “No matter what side one chooses…”

  14. “Point being, if you think you have something special that isn’t working at comic shops, then FUCK COMIC SHOPS – they aren’t going to be enough of them in five years to support you anyway – start marketing to potential readers outside of comic book retailers, because pinning your hopes on expanding your readership at outlets that has already proven they barely give a shit is just pointless.”

    And if a publisher marketed their book well, the comics shops they are trying to screw would sell more. Win. Win.

  15. Matthew Southworth says:

    The problem with preordering things in a comic store is that you have to already know what exists. The whole joy of comic stores (and cons) for me has been the stumbling upon something unknown and new.

    The digital model theoretically makes that possible, perhaps with the “If You Liked THE AVENGERS, You’ll Like INCORRUPTIBLE” option. But it’s not a good atmosphere for independent books and new ideas these days…established, very popular creators doing great work are selling 7,000 copies of Eisner-nominated books.

    ANYTHING creators can do to get their material in front of readers is valuable. I love comic stores, love the people that work in comic stores, love the people that shop in comic stores and I want them to buy and read my work and that of all the guys I think are great. But if they won’t stock it, then I’m going to try to find other ways of getting it out there.

    Mark Waid doesn’t hate retailers, neither do I, neither does anyone. It’s just that comic stores are an imperfect place to sell independent comic books, and in my opinion, independent books kick the shit out of corporate comics almost every time.

  16. MBunge says:

    “Also: Simpsons, Family Guy, Hunger Games? ALL MASS MARKET things.”

    What makes any of those things more mass market than Spider-Man or Conan? If Hunger Games had been done as comics sold in the Direct Market, does anyone think it would have been as big a success?

    Mike

  17. Chris Hero says:

    @Chad

    I strongly dislike the argument that it’s the responsibility of the customer to pre-order comics. For one, like Matthew Southworth said, it requires me knowing what’s coming out. That means reading Previews every month and – no. I’m just not doing that. That’s a high ask of any customer, to read the specialized catalog and do their own ordering. For two, I travel a LOT and don’t really have a local comics shop. In the past month alone, I’ve gone to shops in DC, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Atlanta, Columbus, Chicago, and God knows where else.

    Also, back when I did preorder all my books, the comic shops I tried it at would rarely successfully get my comics to me. All I heard were excuses like, “We forgot to order your books,” or “We put it out on the shelf.”

  18. MBunge:

    “What makes any of those things more mass market than Spider-Man or Conan?”

    I don’t understand the question? Both those latter are also “mass market” (well, maybe not so much with CONAN) — “Mass Market” is TV, and Film and Games, etc.

    Comics are not “mass market”.

    15 to 18 times as many people saw WATCHMEN in the theater than have read the comic (185m international box office — approx a million and a half copies of the book in print, IIRC), and some multiple of that will see it on television as well…

    “If Hunger Games had been done as comics sold in the Direct Market, does anyone think it would have been as big a success? ” comparing the book to a theoretical comic? Probably not (though, of course, there’s always BATTLE ROYALE, the manga…), but once it got made into a movie, probably pretty dang close, yes.

    Southworth:

    “ANYTHING creators can do to get their material in front of readers is valuable.”

    Right, like getting out on the “showroom floor” of physical stores. Studies shows, pretty conclusively, that this sells more books electronically…

    “independent books kick the shit out of corporate comics almost every time.”

    Y’know, I absolutely agree with the intentions of this statement (I’d rather read SAGA than BATMAN series #9), but the piles of crappy sludge that litter my inbox assure me that you’re entirely wrong.

    -B

  19. The problem with preordering things in a comic store is that you have to already know what exists. The whole joy of comic stores (and cons) for me has been the stumbling upon something unknown and new.

    Agreed. When I lived in NYC, that was the whole reason to visit Jim Hanley’s, which is where I discovered cartoonists like Joe Matt, Seth, Richard Sala, Debbie Dreschler, Julie Doucet, Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Peter Bagge and so many more, at a time in the mid-’90s when I was just about ready to give up on comics. If every town had a shop like Jim Hanley’s, I’m convinced the industry would be in much better shape.

    But given that comics are generally non-returnable, it’s probably not possible for every shop to stock as widely as Hanley’s does (or did, it’s been a few years since I left NYC), and I’ve lived in towns with one superhero-focused shop where if you want anything beyond the big two, you need to preorder. So if I read about something interesting in the Comics Journal, Amazing Heroes or Comic Buyer’s Guide, I’d take a shot and preorder it. (I think the Web makes it much easier to stumble upon something unknown in time to preorder it. You might not catch everything, but regularly checking in here, at TCJ.com, the Comics Reporter and Robot 6 will give you pretty good suggestions of stuff to try.)

    As for the topic at hand, if, as Brian Hibbs points out, Waid’s non-Big Two projects sell poorly in his shop, what’s the harm in Waid striking out to see if there might be a bigger audience for such work online?

    I also think it’s worth noting that the way Waid seems to be going about digital comics (based on just two examples so far — his Nova comic for Marvel and Luther), presenting work that’s specifically designed for a digital experience versus the Comixology model of putting regular comic pages online, seems more likely to attract a new audience versus simply siphoning off the existing fanbase from shops.

  20. @Chris Hero: I strongly dislike the culture of pre-ordering, too — if I need to do that much work, why am I patronizing your shop? — but the unfortunate fact is that it’s the only way to ensure that you’ll get what you want if you’re not lucky enough to live near a well-run store. And while you might not know about a new series you’re completely unfamiliar with, I think you can safely pre-order something like Saga if you were a fan of Y: The Last Man and thus avoid not being able to get a copy because it sold out.

    Also, back when I did preorder all my books, the comic shops I tried it at would rarely successfully get my comics to me. All I heard were excuses like, “We forgot to order your books,” or “We put it out on the shelf.”

    I hear you. That’s why I was a DCBS customer during the years when I lived in places with sub-par shops.

  21. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Brian Hibbs–I should have clarified my statement about indie books “kicking the shit out of corporate comics” to say “good indie comics” vs “good corporate comics”. There’s definitely lots of stuff I wouldn’t call good (on both sides of that fence).

    Which is the problem: if there isn’t that wide variety in stores, one can’t choose. Once upon a time, I would’ve seen Jose Munoz’ artwork and thought “that’s AWFUL!” or thought Seth didn’t “try” hard enough. But I was able to sift through stuff and learn more (obviously in the pre-internet days).

    I’m not arguing, BTW, that stores should be expected to take massive risks on all this stuff; I can’t imagine how they’d stay in business doing so.

    I also completely, utterly, totally agree that having physical books in physical stores is the best way to sell those books. I’d personally much rather own a book than a digital file, too. But if the store in Akron, OH or Franklin, TN or Tacoma, WA won’t even order Stumptown–a book by an established creator and pretty successful on indie terms–(or the like) then those potential customers won’t even know it exists.

    If Marvel and DC glut the market–which they do, and of course it’s sound business practice–then retailers who don’t have the extra capital to take the risk on books by Oni, Boom, Image, Fantagraphics, D & Q, Top Shelf become in effect Superhero Outlet Stores, and I’d argue that a great many are already in danger of doing that.

    As a creator, that worries me, but more specifically as a fan of comic books, I think that totally SUCKS.

  22. Matthew Southworth says:

    And by the way, Brian–

    I really appreciate your columns and your logical, fact-based approach to this stuff. Thanks for doing what you do, I always learn from it.

  23. Matthew Southworth says:

    And–sigh, sorry for hijacking the thread here–one more thing:

    “Pre-ordering” is the same as “ordering”. If a customer has to go into the store and order something months ahead of time, then return to the store to pick it up, why wouldn’t he just order it from Amazon at a discount and have it delivered to his door?

    The advantage and attraction of a comic store is all the cool stuff I don’t already know about. If I’m expected to inform myself via the reading of a catalog, what’s the appeal of going to the store?

    Again, I’d rather go, shop around, find things I didn’t know about, talk to my friends at the store, gossip or whatever. But the preorder thing is very troubling (though totally logical from the retailer and even the creator’s perspective, as Brian Wood points out), and in the 30 years I’ve been buying comics, I’ve only had a subscription box for maybe six months.

  24. CagedLeo730 says:

    If it wasn’t for DCBS I wouldn’t be getting floppies on a monthly basis. However, the pre-ordering is only helpful if you know what you’re gonna get. I like the huge discounts that they give especially for #1 issues. I really don’t know how they make a profit.
    I’m lucky that I live in NY, so that I can go to Midtown and pick up any indy book I want since they stock the shelves very well.

  25. Intellectual question: what’s the difference between “preordering” and “special ordering”?

    If I’m in a bookstore looking for a more obscure author or title, and they don’t have, but they offer to special order it for me, how is this really distinct for preordering periodicals?

    I try to run a store where you sure don’t NEED to preorder most books (and the ones that you do? Usually failed mainstream-ish stuff like RED SONJA or DC UNIVERSE ONLINE), and where the preorder is actually a SERVICE for the customer.

    Stores that take preorders and don’t fill them, however? That’s just kind of insane.

    -B

  26. Chris Hero says:

    @Brian Hibbs

    Pre-ordering vs ordering…

    I buy all my books from independent book stores now. No more Amazon for me. When I go into one and ask for something they don’t have, the longest I’ve had to wait has been about a week. And I’ve never heard from them “we forgot to order it” or “we put it on the shelves and it must have sold.”

    Pre-ordering is a 3 month wait and a roll of the dice at that. I mean, no harm, no foul…the worst that’s happened to me is people forgot to pre-order my books, but I wasn’t out any money and my requests were way outside the stuff they typically order.

    @Matthew Southworth

    Akron, OH! I’ll be there this weekend! And Pittsburgh, too, home of the best comic stores this side of the Mississippi. ^_^ Last I remember, Akron actually had a really, really good comic store that ordered all kinds of stuff. I haven’t been to it in a year or 2, at least, so it may have closed, but it’s funny you’d mention Akron.

    @Chad

    It’s not even subpar shops so much as it is I’m finally accepting the stuff I like doesn’t sell well enough for anyone to stock it. The system is such my interests slip through the cracks. While I wish everyone stocked ADVENTURE TIME, SNARKED, and PROPHET, it’s just never going to happen. So, I’ll continue my tour of comic shops on the hopes of finding one of those books once in a while.

  27. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Chris Hero–I’m in love with Pittsburgh, just did a little comic story set there that I sold at ECCC; it’s called “Day for Night”.

    While I admire your dedication to comic stores (and share it; it’s the first thing I do when I go to a new city, check out the comic stores), most people will just drop it altogether, and as a creator, I want to be able to get books in those people’s hands.

    THAT’s why digital is a viable, sensible option for distribution.

    Why print thousands of paper copies of books you can’t get into stores if you can make digital copies for free and get them distributed on several continents simultaneously?

  28. I can’t tell you how irritating it can be to walk into a shop, and not find a copy of Dark Horse Presents or Saga (especially when that store promoted the hell out of Saga, but ordered maybe 5 copies for the shelf)
    These aren’t like the latest thing to come from Picturebox. It’s Dark Horse and Image.
    I then have to wait and maybe the book might show up. The default answer shouldn’t be add it to my pull. I’m not asking every shop to carry everything under the sun. That’s crazy. I have stuff on my pull but sometimes I’ll blank on an issue then find it on the shelf. If it’s not there, the moment’s gone and I’ll wait for the trade. I can’t be the only shopper like this.

  29. If something like Hunger Games came out as a comic, with the same exact story and great art, it would probably sell 5-7,000 copies then vanish. The very things that make it mass market to the rest of the world — a teenage, female protagonist, an accessible story, etc. — would work to its detriment within the comic book market. Its target audience — teenage girls — wouldn’t know it exists because they don’t frequent comic book stores, and people who do go to comic book stores would probably pass over it.

    Sometimes I wonder if the comic book industry is capable of producing new, non-super hero mass market material on scale of Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. The closest is probably The Walking Dead, but even with all of its sales success, it still pales when compared successful mass market books from the prose world.

  30. Sign of the times says:

    I don’t understand this resistance to pre-ordering that so many of you have. I did it for years. “You have to know what you want to read 3 months ahead”– so what?! If you can’t decide how you feel about a book based on a synopsis and maybe a few preview pages, then you have some serious problems. “what if I forget”–with FOC, you still have some time to remember and ask your comic provider to make an adjustment. If you wanted it bad enough, you wouldn’t have forgotten anyway.

    What you’re really saying is you’re too afraid to take a chance with your money. I get that. BUT what you fail to realize is that by not pre-ordering, you’re telling your retailer you’re fine with taking a chance using his or her money. Then you complain that stuff is unavailable and going for stupid amounts on eBay, etc…but that’s because your retailer wasn’t feeling all that lucky, and too many “customers” were letting him or her place the bets before the ball drops while you wait to see where it lands before you decide whether to bet at all.

    That’s pretty much the state of comics right now–a crap shoot where nobody wants to put their chips down first.

    “May the odds be ever in your favor”, indeed.

  31. I will miss comic shops, really I will. But my point was not that creators should SEEK to screw comic shops, but to work around them if your audience isn’t being served.

    The truth is that they are going the way of the record store – there will eventually be a few left that dot the landscape in larger areas and that’s it.

    Why? Because they will not have the customer sales support to stay open. The GN market has fled to Amazon where 35% discounts are the norm – are there comic shops that offer that on a daily bias? Never mind the in-stock inventory – how many times have you driven to your LCS and not found what you’re looking for?

    If you think the analogy to record stores is no good, consider how much larger (by multiples of millions of dollars) the music business was in 1999 than the comic book biz, and although they had to pre-order their stuff was returnable!

    Now note the huge rate of decline that both are on. Even with rare blips like Adele or Universe re-vamping, what’s to make anyone optimistic abut selling comics at retail? I just don’t see it.

    The thrust of the article is correct, your book is not doing the business it could IN COMIC SHOPS – but the real question is this; with so many alternative venues out there, why are so few creators etc (esp non-superhero concepts) not making a run at the much larger potential market that exists outside of comic shops?

    I don’t buy that selling books off the floor of a comic shop is still the best way to get new readers – although I have no doubt this was true a few years ago (and even if it still holds today, it will not hold for long). If every comic shop could conceivably sell multiples of your book and they aren’t (for whatever reason) it’s now possible to reach all of those people through other means, at little cost.

    The point people make about the comics shop being a ghetto of superhero books is true – and even though a non-superhero book pub bed by one of the big two or four has a better chance of getting on the sales floor, chances are those companies aren’t going to promote it with anywhere near the vigor of their proven sellers in their top genre(s).

    Walking Dead is the obvious breakout exception (but let’s be honest, even though it’s a great book, it’s success is a bit of a fluke & the genre overlays the superhero buyer to some extent). It shows though that a non-superhero book can sell well in comic shops if marketed properly – and well before the TV show Image had lots of coverage in Horror mags / websites / etc – which certainly helped it rise above the cape crowd only.

    I don’t buy that non-superhero properties can’t sell – although I do think they are unlikely to sell well in comic shops b/c the vast majority of shops aren’t geared to that customer – and in fact, may be repellant to that reader. There has to / will be a workaround.

    I keep hearing that self-publishing and marketing is too hard and creators can’t afford it, and blah-blah blah, as if everyone’s idea has some right to perform and earn them a living. But digital space makes it a lot less costly altho it’s still not cheap or easy.

    You have to approach this like a business or a hobby. If it’s a hobby, do it because you love it with no expectation of a reward – that’s usually how the best stuff is made anyway – and if it’s that great, chances are there WILL be a reward.

    Or approach it like a business and really come at it with a PLAN. Don’t look for a publisher to execute your plan because they will never care as much as you do about your idea – even if it’s earning them big dollars.

  32. As soon as the digital comic sale numbers are made public it will be easier to assess the situation and see what distribution model is the best. At the moment it seems that digital is poised to become the only viable solution for anything that is not ultra-mainstream. With tablets spreading and comicshops shrinking that’s pretty easy to foresee.

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