Burning the village:

Wow, Some scathing articles out lately. In this case I think its a good thing. There has been a lot of talk about the comic shop model. Its known as the "Direct market" inside the industry. There's a lot of good info in these articles about why it came about and changed from the days when comics were on news stands and in grocery stores, as well as why it went away etc. Long and short of it it was caused as a response to the print industry changing and loosing the new stands, Marvel accidentally created it and then their distributor failed leaving the one and only Diamond in control of an entire industry. One throne among kingdoms does not a progressive world make.

Exploring the death of an industry...

I want to explore this a bit. In my day job I am a Distribution Supervisor. I was once in charge of some huge accounts at UPS, and I know a lot about distribution. First lets get everyone on the same page. This began because of a response in a blog from the outhousers to a series of Tweets over the cancellation of Nighthawk by Michael Bendis. he is a big author and there is no Comic shop in the world his name is not known. He is also a big-part of Marvel specifically.

Some required reading:

The article that began the conversation: Here

Updated same Author after pushback: Here

Intelligent response: Here

The Tweet:

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The Outhousers took this tweet to place blame for the book cancellation and put it on the readers, but then lit things on fire throwing this back at the big two.

Angry brain reaction:

Sketch CardHonestly I love the comic shop. I dearly do, but a lot of what was called out was right, or nearly so. After reading each of the articles my own belief that there has to be a better way to get the books out to people has drastically increased. There is a huge problem though. Actually there are several.

Both authors call out that the good will out so to speak, a good book will find its audience given time. One of the big problems at the big two is that there is no time. Shareholders and the Corporate structure both adhere to mean harsh task masters. A book at 20k for five months would be an amazing indy run but at the two supporting that massive stroke me infrastructure its not getting it done.

My favorite book ever was Poison Elves. Drew Hayes made it as an indy he did his own stories and his highest peak I believe he said was 16k. The book was 3$ Diamond took a dollar about, so did the comic shops leaving a dollar for Drew and Siruis to split with the print run. I dream of that success right now and it sounds insanely tight. It is. No one has cracked the nut of the Comic Shop model. People are trying. Kickstarter and Patreon have opened a door I am looking through. Not because I want to shut out the direct market and see my beloved comic shop in peril, but because I want to see my book survive.

Blame:

Bendis says its the readers, outhousers blames the big two publishers, but I have to say it is in my opinion not any one thing. However the solution is in people looking for the solution. Emma does a damn good job pointing that out. I know that shipping out to all of the fans is ridiculous, that is why Amazon is trying to replace its people and UPS with drones etc. I know fans would rather read a whole arc instead of follow each month. That is why the Graphic sales have been up and ongoing on canceled titles like Midnighter, and its why so many Indy's are willing to loose 40% of their books to Amazon.

Solutions:

Each and everyone of us is and has the solution. Some of us are looking for it every day, some of us haven't thought of it yet but are about to. The industry of comics, of storytelling really is changing, and it is going to take serious perseverance to build the next system, but someone will. Its not going to be an ancient megalith corporation trying to squeeze blood form the IP's. Disney and WB did not buy the big two to help them grow. They are using it as a mine to sell us things we all ready bought and own, but in a different package. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it does not help the Comic shop, and it will not encourage the medium to continue to proliferate.

The non Direct model I hear about the most is Patreon and Kickstarter. Both remove all of the middle men entirely and I can see the benefit of both models or a hybrid especially if one can minimize the shipping. Hell if enough indies got together to create a kickstarter co-op with regular shipping as a result the shipping cost alone would drop with a corporate account to cut the shipping cost by 30-40%

 

The future:

new generations of heroes ready for the comic shopAlso moving to the Kickstarter method is intriguing as well as one I have strong feelings towards, but it does not make new fans. I have yet to meet the 8 year old who rolls up into the kickstarter page with a credit card and gets baller over indy books. Okay I lied, that describes my daughter but I took the credit card away after a fiasco involving her wanting to order Body bags. I still ordered it but its for me shes too young to read that book.

Simply put... How do you make more readers? Kids want things that come at them and not necessarily things they have to work o like reading a book. I loathe saying it but as a general rule that what is happening. Many thought that individual Aps were the path to solve that. Accept parents do not want to plunk a dollar down for the ap. I as a parent would rather buy my daughter a book or taker to the library then load her tablet up with pdfs. Its a perceived value thing, and I am sure that's also a general consensus. You have to catch those parents and kids at places, Cons, book Fairs, At the scholastic events at schools, and at events and fairs.

The answer?

So to find a solution someone has to come up with something to work around the direct market a system needs to be created to puts the books in the hands of children (Free Aps), creates new readers (Attend events and cons), reduces the cost of the middle man (Kickstarter/Patreon + Co-Op).

Crap that's a lot of work... Oh and it looks like the business plan I have been researching and working towards.

The answer is not a single thing.

It never was.

Single things died out when choices were born. Globalization, the internet and the ability to let someone buy what and how they like has created this monster of both opportunity and pressure to get up and become an entrepreneur.

None of us are just pencilers any more.

None of us are just creators. We can buy into the aging system and ride it till it dies. Keep blaming the population of customers for not thinking the way you want them to. Or get off your but work a new system for you and build whats missing.

Build an App that spreads the books for free. Have it include links to buy the hard copies, and notification of appearance dates. Along with running a Co-Op with multiple creators to house and ship together from one place. Think about it. If there were 12-20 books running kick-starters on a schedule. The same Co-Op working with one or two printers feeding either distribution at their own small site on a corporate shipping discount. Perhaps distributed directly by the printers like Kraken Print. It would mitigate some of the shipping cost by increasing totals shipped on the same account. It would bring down printing costs and provide market power for the Brands to negotiate better vendor prices etc.

Nothing worth doing is easy:

None of this is easy. I do not want to see the comic shop go away. However its creation and proliferation is the source of the Monopoly tugging all of us down. In theory. There is the chance the locked in  pattern of declining sales due to increased book cost vs change in the way we consume media means the medium is actually dying. That part I do not believe. If the books are good enough they will sell when a readers eyes light up. Webtoons and Tapas reader numbers are proof of that.

The last part and I hate to say it is quality. There is an overabundance of good books out there. However in the indy leagues they are in a sea of people still honing their craft. None of this works if the quality is not maintained.

We all have been feeding a corporate monster. One that is actually earning billions off the toils of the creators who were treated like 3rd class citizens, and repackaging the things we love to get another payday out of it.

The Comic Shop:

There are Comic shops that turn coming in into an experience. Examples for me are Kens Comics and collectibles in Rocklin, Empire Comics in Sac, Metroplis Comixs in South sac, A1 comics in Roseville Ca. I grew up in some of these places, and others have become places I love to be.

Metropolis is so clean its respect for the fans and the material is amazing.

Ben at Emprie busts his as with out of the box stuff. They have comedy nights cosplay figure drawing and an art gallery. (Mind Blown)

Kens is the place you go to shoot the shit with Ken. See some amazing nuggets of indy stuff, and check out the amazing finds Ken has pulled off.

A1 runs constant games in their gaming area, has tons of hard to find board games and you can spend the whole day in there.

These shops know they need to bring an experience to the customer and they are worth being in. There are others. I go in there and drop my money not because its the cheapest its because I am there for the experience of what they have.

I don't have the answer for the Comic shop in this equation. Like a Movie theater there are cheaper and in some cases more convenient places to get your books. Hwever they are not as much fun.  I love them, and have core memories from bringing my younger brother and his friends into A1. The respect they got as new fans was epic.

My first time in a comic shop ended in disaster as I was treated like I shouldn't even be in there. Each of these great shops are doing their own thing, but it starts with love for the fans. These shops all love the fans new and old. They deserve to survive as the industry changes. How? I can not wait to find out.