Judging an Open Book by its Cover

Today we're going to swipe pretty heavily from Beaucoup at least for source material. Word is there's a publisher set to release a new line of graphic novels backed by both proven talent and newcomers, Open Press Books. Of course, when they say graphic novels, they really mean "either stand-alone one-shots or continuing series with installments that are released bi-monthly or quarterly ... With black and white books ranging from 32 to 48 pages and in price from $3.75 - $4.25, and color books ranging from 40 to 52 pages and in price from $8.49 - $9.95." Sounds familiar. Apparently, however, these titles will be set apart by the fact that they will be square bound, thereby allowing them to be carried by bookstores and have a longer shelf life. Unfortunately, what they are actually publishing are periodical singles released on a less regular basis than most singles that they are labeling as short graphic novels. A longer shelf life is not going to guarantee placement in bookstores, nor is perfect binding. Apparently Borders has agreed to allow their customers to special order these titles. Not exactly the level of visibility I'm guessing they were hoping for.

Then there's the talent they have backing the line, namely Mr. Scootles by H.C. Noel, an interesting and fairly original book with potential, but not exactly something I'd use to launch an entire line of comics. To be fair, Open Book would probably be better served by simply starting small rather than burning up ala Speakeasy. Their plan, however, seems to be to follow in Speakeasy's footstep, however, specifically by putting out a call for submission from Speakeasy's former creators. I'm all for variety and I wish Open Book well, but I can't help but see these press releases and the opening barrage of titles as reminiscent of the tactics that have so often failed in our industry. Apparently simply changing the binding and release schedule will open a whole new range of retail space in bookstores (because it worked for Crossgen).

Hopefully Open Book will succeed in putting out quality material on time and with solid marketing (to both retailers and consumers). But unless I see some advance copies that really wow me, I don't intend to order more than a few copies of any of these titles.

But enough with the negativity. I think I'm going to expand on my previous Fun with Numbers and small publishers posts over the next few days by digging into the back of Previews and pointing out the publishers, titles and creators that I do have some faith in.


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