Hey, all. Welcome to 2014 and the first bit of original content for the year. I’m not a year-in-review sort of dude… I’ma just get into it…
So, someone posed a question on one of the many Facebook groups I check out on the daily. In a response of sorts to this question, the same question (ugh), posted a Newsarama article on how 2013 was a good year for comic book retailers. It’s a good article. Check it out.
Along with the post I posed this question:
“Now fellow creators and fans, how can we use this information and get our books to the brick and mortar audience?”
This was the response that I received from one of the group members:
Interesting read. I think one of the key points to tackle would be what was covered under Publisher Improvements.
“Retailers also acknowledged that the last couple years have demonstrated what a boon it can be to the industry to have new, fresh content coming from publisher, combined with returnability and one-time shipping — which they said was lacking in previous years.”
For smaller publishers, this may mean teaming with others to offer some sort of package deal in terms of titles offered in quantities that will improve shelf presence and help stores cut down on the shipping and returnability issue. Not sure if this could work, even exists currently, or even makes good business sense from indie publisher standpoint.
This is my response to the poster’s comments…
It does make business sense for independent creators to become allies and form a professional marketing and promotion network, or as the French call it, a company under a similar sensibility.
Part of the reason comic book companies work is because they can provide X amount of content per month. Even though there are various titles they push out, the retailer knows that they are getting new DC or Marvel product every week of every month of every year.
The problem with the indie creator is that 9 times out of 10, we can’t honestly keep up with that kind of output… And that’s working on one title.
After all, DC Comics generated its roster (and, by default, creating its Multiverse) through acquisition (i.e. Shazam from Fawcett, Blue Beetle and Captain Atom from Charlton, etc.). From a branding and purchasing standpoint, there is greater strength in numbers coming under one banner as opposed to each individual creator trying to push their wares independently of each other.
Image is the business model for a confederation of independent comics or, the modern comic book company.
The Image of 2014 is more of a loose confederation of indie creators banding together under one flag. Image doesn’t put together creative teams. Rather, the band has to come together and produce a pitch package to Image. If Image likes the pitch, they’ll publish, market and help distribute the books. They get their cut to recoup their costs and the remaining profits are split amongst the creators.
Now, some books do better than others (i.e. Walking Dead and Saga are big hits while other Image books have smaller readership) and the higher-sellers would honestly get better returns on their creations.
If there were another situation of creators getting together under a company structure a la Image, that would show retailers that they would be getting a certain amount of new product from this same group/company on a monthly basis.
The question then would be to work out the terms of the package deal. Since a lot of us work with POD, we’d have to convince retailers to pre-pay for the books as opposed to 30 day a la Diamond.
Keep in mind, when you sell your book to retailers, you are not making cover price. You are selling the book to them at a discount so they can sell it to the customer at cover price. Think of the comic book store as your agent and the agent takes his/her fee for services rendered.
This kind of alliance would benefit the group of indie creators as whole because it boils down to this:
DC fans tend to buy all DC books.
Marvel fans tend to buy all Marvel books.
If Bob Kane did not sell Batman to National Periodicals, If Siegel and Shuster did not do the same thing with Superman but instead tried to make it happen on their own, they may not have survived over 75 years and become the cornerstones of DC Entertainment. In a more modern context, if McFarlane, Lee, Silvestri and the rest of the “Original Seven” didn’t ban together under one banner, you wouldn’t have the success of Spawn, Wildcats, Witchblade, etc., you wouldn’t have Image…
You see where I’m going with this?
So, yes, it can work and it does make business sense. The real question is if we independents could go beyond the creation of our books and really get into the marketing and operational aspects of the comic book game…
And that is a conversation some people aren’t ready to have.