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WAITING FOR TOMMY: ED BRUBAKER
By Richard Johnston

RICH: When will we get to be just consumers again?

ED: When this market gets to a point where every store has at least the ability to carry every good comic available. Like your local bookstore does. Maybe when the major publishers stop their exclusive distribution deals and allow some competition back into the field. Competition is an important part of capitalism, which is something this industry needs to wake up and remember. You would never see the bookstore market cut back to one distributor. Most bookstores go through 3 or 4 sources at least to get their product, and they don't have to pay for everything upfront, either, so they can afford to stock their shelves. Most comic stores can't afford shelf copies of anything beyond the top 25 selling comics. That's just pathetic. This entire industry is becoming a subscription service and we've all been quietly watching it happen for a decade now.

 

BATMAN: OUR WORLDS AT WAR #1 - SIGNED BY ED BRUBAKER

My biggest advice to comic stores is to get an account with a book distributor and stock your trades through them. You can fill your store with books that will be returnable. You won't get as high a discount, but you'll be able to get a lot of merchandise to lure in new customers without risking your mortgage.

RICH: Isn't that a bit simplistic? The difference between returnable and non-returnable discounts is not a small one. Big comic shops get near 60% off cover price... so their mark-up is near 150% of what they pay. Your local bookshop can't get anything near that. I'd also dispute that local bookshops stock one of everything that's good... I'll often have to trawl through a number of bookshops looking for, say, a particular PG Wodehouse title and end up going to Amazon. As for the subscription service - if we all have to be activists, doesn't that make it worse? The industry further relying on pre-orders?

ED: I'm not talking about the big stores, though. Those stores, places like Big Planet and Isotope, are doing fine and usually stock a wide variety of stuff because that's how you make money as a retailer. I'm talking about the little stores that are barely scraping by. Those are the stores that could benefit from getting stock on the shelves even at a lesser discount.

And yeah, not all bookstores carry as wide a variety as you'd like, but the material is readily available to them, and they don't have to take a risk with each order on the same level that comic stores do.

I'm really just pointing out obvious stuff here, and what I see is that this market is backwards in a lot of ways. Why don't good reviews help sales in this industry? Why don't awards help sales? They do in film and book publishing. They do in video games. Why not for comics, too? What makes this industry so different than any other? The only thing I can see that's so different is an impractical business model on the distribution end that puts most of the risk on the retailer. And that's why you end up with subscription services, because then the risk is passed on to the reader. And if the readers have to order everything they want out of a catalog ahead of time, your market can't grow. It just won't happen.

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 Continued Here...

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