Quick Hits 6/11

*Elks Run landed at Villard, an imprint of Random House last week (I have no idea who had the news first, so I'm linking to the creator's website). It's a nice success story, moving from a publisher that's gone out of business to a division of one of the biggest book publishers in the country, but it makes for an even more interesting example of the growth of comics in the mainstream. Not to blow things out of proportion here, but this book seems to be a perfect example of how an independent book with truly mainstream appeal can turn incredibly positive word of mouth into a book deal with the potential to be distributed to many more sales outlets. In fact, the biggest criticism I'd heard about Elk's Run up to now was that it was almost impossible to find. It got to the point where the only option was to track down the bumper edition reprinting the first three issues. The deal with Villard should take care of that problem. It also, however, raises the question of whether the book will see less support from the direct market since it will presumably only be offered through Diamond at an H discount (40% of retail). Will fewer shops take any sort of inventory position on the book because of the discount, or were those shops going to ignore the book in the first place? Or better yet, will those shops order Elk's Run through another channel, either from Random House itself or via a book wholesaler?

*Over at Comics Worth Reading, Johanna points out some questions surrounding "indie" sensation Zoom Suit. We had some reservations of our own about the title, though considering its success thus far, we can't fault the book's marketing. That said, Zoom Suit has pretty much sat on our shelves. Spinning out of that post, though, was a conversation in the comments section that gets into the semantics of collecting versus speculating. It's an example of a trend I've noticed in several places recently, namely a desire to create a distinction between collecting comics for the purposes of reselling them later at a higher value and collecting comics as a hobby from which one derives satisfaction simply from the accumulation of the items themselves. The next to last word there, items, being the key. The whole conversation seems to be the result of a desire to affect the value judgments placed on each term. The word speculator has become incredibly taboo in the comics industry due to its role in the great nineties implosion (though of course there were many factors beyond speculation at fault). To separate collecting from speculating is semantically correct but also rewarding to those who collect comics for the joy of discovering the item. They can still value the item itself while avoiding the negative connotation that has been attached to speculating. Yet, there remains a distinction between an comic's value as entertainment to be consumed and the same comic's value as part of a collection of similar items. That there is a role for both values in this industry goes without question, but as with books, dvds or any other item that can be valued in both ways, the primary focus of the industry (assuming it is interested in growing its sales) should be on the casual consumer rather than the collector.


Blogger Jason said...

Sam -

You bring up some interesting questions on the Elk's Run situation. I edit the book, we're excited about the deal, obviously, but I kind of wanted answer the question of whether or not the DM will show less support by pointing out that we never really got much support from them to begin with. Unless we get less than a thousand copies ordered (which is what we were tracking in the DM) it'll be impossible to have less support. So I think you’d see an appreciable increase in orders from the DM – the timing was right from the book. Buzz built up, seven Harvey nominations, Villard. It’s hot right now, if I may say.

Plus, bookstore sales are going to dwarf DM sales no matter how much support it gets.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Sam Hobart said...

I don't doubt that there will be more DM support than in the past (as I said, the only complaint I'd seen was that the book was difficult to find), I was thinking more in terms of potential DM sales if published by say, Image or AIT/PlanteLar versus Random House. My thought process is that the majority of the discussion of the book I've seen has been in outlets that generally funnel into the DM (other than Entertainment Weekly of course).

All that aside, though, I'm sure initial bookstore orders will make DM orders seem beyond negligible, except that some of those "bookstore" orders will actually be from DM stores (like ourselves, Secret Headquarters, Comic Relief and who knows how many others).

This is clearly the smartest business decision for the book, though without having any idea how they plan to print and market it, I have no idea whether Villard will actually make money from the book or not. The point of my whole rambling mess was that some DM stores that order solely through Diamond may have ordered this if available at a better discount or from a publisher they'd heard of (Random House or Villard will be very easy to skip over in Previews) but now many not. The move puts success or failure very much on bookstore terms, which are vastly different from DM terms.

12:55 PM  

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