Thursday, April 28, 2011

NOW you make this move?

So the latest news is that Barnes and Noble is supposed to start carrying monthly comics in a big way in June. (They've been carrying graphic novels for years now.)

This is obviously an attempt to piggyback on "Superhero Summer." Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men First Class, and Captain America are on schedule, to be followed by Avengers.

This assumes, of course, that the public will be inclined to buy comics because of the movies -- which is sort of doubtful. But I'm sure there will be some curious people, and there are people who would never wander into a comic store on a bet.

So the bright side of this is exposure.

Of which, I'm am doubtful as usual. Exposure doesn't mean a whole lot without intent or interest. But it's better than nothing.

Anyway, what I've always said is; comic are the one product that the mass market has never figured out how to sell. It's so specialized, that it's hard to know what numbers to order.

If -- and it's a big IF--they ever figured out HOW to sell monthly comics, the mass market could be a danger to us -- just as they have been in toys, games, cards, records, books, etc. etc.

As far as I can tell, they haven't actually figured out HOW to do it, but are just throwing comics on the wall. Much will depend on what kind of terms they got. If they can order tons of copies and return the unsold ones, then that could be a problem for me. I can't afford to over-order, because what I buy, I keep. It doesn't take a whole lot of extra comics to kill you. So -- I'm actually attempting to sell out every month on most comics.

Perfect ordering would be to have just enough to last the month on the popular titles, and maybe have one or two left. Perfect ordering would be to have just enough mid-list titles to sell out on the last day of the month. Perfect ordering would be getting just enough of the slower titles to satisfy demand.

The problem with Barnes and Noble's inevitable over-ordering will be that they'll have comics in stock past what most normal comic stores would dare. It may kill off their comic section, eventually, they may be bleeding money, but the customers don't know that.

If B & N get bailed out by Marvel or DC or Diamond, or whoever they have arrangements with, this could have an impact.

The other comic retailers over on the Comic Book Industry Alliance are almost completely dismissing the threat.

I'm not so sanguine. Like I said -- just ask indy bookstores or indy record stores if the mass market was a challenging competitor.

One retailer assured me that comic publishers were "too smart" to allows returns. That allowing returns would kill them. Well, we don't really know how "smart" they are, or maybe, how desperate. They may be willing to take the gamble. They may think they have figured out safeguards. (For instance, adjusting the discount rate.)

I guess after watching the smart MBA grads at the book publishers and game producers and card makers make one stupid, short-sighted decision after another, I don't have quite as much faith in the "smartness" of ANY corporate entity.

One thing's for sure -- SOMEONE is going to eat a bunch of extra and damaged comics.

I used to go into Waldenbooks, and the comics would be thrashed. They'd be in the corner, and it was obvious that no one cared about them. Customers pick up that attitude.

But we don't know that that will happen this time. Maybe they are under instructions to put comics front and center. Maybe they have a new genius ordering manager. Or some new algorithm that has totally sussed it out.

So, I'll be keeping a wary eye.

I think, like I said at the beginning, that this is an attempt to tap into the popular consciousness. The problem with that, is that once ensconced, comics may stay there. (I've noticed that no matter how bad a something declines, once in the mass market, they tend to stay there...)

It may even be a sign of desperation on the part of B & N.

I'm surprised, actually, that both the publishers and the mass market decided that now was the time to try this.

We'll see.


RDC said...

things stay in mass market because of the terms they negotiate.

If they are bringing comic books in then I would expect that they are doing so with right to return or destroy and get credit for unsold copies. As such their only risks are in using floor space that migth be used for something else (not an issue with books going e-book route) and the amout of capital tied up (again not a major amount).

Duncan McGeary said...

"returns" have notoriously been bad for comics.

It's why the direct market arose. Because the newstands and groceries were abusing the system.

We comic retailers BUY these comics.

So, that's my concern, too. That there is no penalty for over-ordering thus making us look bad.

Nighttime said...

I wonder if those comics sold will have those garish "10% off for B&N Members!" stickers all over them. You know, the ones they put on every damn book that never peels off in one piece and leaves bits all over the jacket cover or rips it.
All this means is there is going to be another section there like the magazines. People sitting down and reading them, no one buying.