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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pantheon as Coal-Mine Canary -- I was interested to see Brian Hibbs commenting on his store's inability to stock graphic novels with mainstream appeal at The Beat's Year-End Survey. Diamond clearly isn't interested in serving the wider graphic novel audience, which is why key releases last year (Ice Haven and others) were available days or weeks ahead of time in mainstream bookstores before Diamond bothered to ship them to the comics shops that continue to rely on them. Hibbs can't get Understanding Comics from Diamond. Funny, Brian, I see this book every time I go into a Borders. I really do. Seems to be one of the key titles that they never let go out of stock.

Hibbs says the big comics story in 2006 is distribution, and he's right. Every single comics shop that doesn't find a way around Diamond, to get to the graphic novels everybody wants (as opposed to the superhero TPBs craved by the 40-year-old fat guys that are the DM's stagnant bread-and-butter) is going to lose money and hasten their own demise.

Guys running comics shops need to drive around town and see what their competitors are doing. I don't mean other comics shops, either. See what's being carried at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and that chi-chi independent bookstore run by folks who probably listen to NPR. What graphic novels are they stocking? What ones are they selling? How many Pantheon releases do they have that you can't even get from Diamond?

I love my comics shop, I truly do. But I love my comics more. And most people who read comics are like that: They will buy their comics where they are available for purchase. Telling me "I can order that for you" means nothing when I can hold it in my hand at Borders the same day. And if I am holding it in my hand, I am 90 percent closer to buying it, because that's how it is with comics. Out of sight, out of mind.

In 2006, the comics shops that do well will be the ones that find a way around Diamond. But don't just stand there and scratch your head wondering how to do it.

Just ask them.

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Blogger DerikB said...

I've had problems getting Pantheon titles from my store, and it turns out they were trying to go around Diamond by using a different distributor... but that distributor went belly up. Sigh.

04 January, 2006 07:41  
Blogger ADD said...

The retailers that make it to 2007 with a bright future beyond are the ones that, even when that happens, will still find a way.

The information I've given them in this post should meet them halfway, but at some point retailers need to bring diligence, vision, tenacity and energy to the table if they want to be around and thriving in the years ahead.

04 January, 2006 07:47  
Blogger Joe Willy said...

I totally agree- I hate the direct market distribution system and I hate 99% of comic shops because of their uninterest in expanding their customer base. I have to go to 3-4 different comic shops to find what I want- even then I don't find everything I'd like to buy. I can't stand having to pre-order books! Why should I, as the consumer, have to promise to purchase an item months ahead of time! Would grocery stores survive if they made you order groceries 3 months before you actually bought them?

I finally just got a new shop in my small town which I would like to survive, so I begrudgingly decided to start pre-ordering to get comics in my town without driving 30 miles and also to support local business which hopefully can turn new kids on to comics (also I can make sure I get certain titles and not have to buy them a year after they come out on Amazon or at B&N). When I turned in the list, the guy kind of chortled as he mispronounced Fantagraphics and told me he'd never heard of any of these titles. Who cares?! If I requested an item at my grocery store they'd never heard of, they sure wouldn't try to make me feel stupid in requesting they get it, would they? I'm not mad he doesn't read the titles I like, but he could at least pretend to care about what potential customers might like to see. Superheroes are in their dying days, manga and alternative graphic novels are building a new audience, if store owners fail to adapt they assure their own extinction.

05 January, 2006 19:40  

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