I just read a wonderful article by retailer Brian Hibbs about selling trade paperbacks and collected editions. Give it a read and come right back…alright, let’s get into it. Is your local comic shop a bookstore selling mostly collected editions, or a newstand selling mostly weekly comic book periodicals. I found this quote to be of particular interest:
My local comic shop now has a dedicated area that displays two weeks worth of trades; I’d love to see more but with so many on the market now it’s very difficult to show more than that. I think if you look at any successful comic shop they have racks and racks of books and a smaller area for new comics and back issues. The areas might be the same size but the books get the glory and prime positioning: where I shop the basement is filled with back issues while the main floor is books, toys and new periodicals.
They also have a liquidation area where I’ve picked up a lot of gems, garnering interest in other new material. I love paying less and they love selling more.
Hibbs goes on:
Until you look at the numbers we don’t realize how few hardcovers and trade paperbacks sell in any significant number. Fantagraphics and Humanoids, two publishers I’m particularly fond of, have a big hit if they move 1000 units; lots (most) sell below 500 copies. We indeed are part of a small reading community.
After finishing the article I immediately saw digital releases as the shining knight for all this collected material. Unfortunately it’s a catch 22: you have to know about the material in order to know you want to read it. As publishers ramp up their digital offerings all kinds of old material will be available, but the more they release the harder it will be to sort through it all.
And of course we can’t forget that old problem of price. DC just released Batgirl Year One in their digital store but want $1.99 per issue; for nine issues that’s $17.91 total. The softcover trade paperback of the series was $19.99 so there’s some savings there, but the sneak here is that it’s not available anymore. Instead of releasing a new print edition DC is going digital. Even more surprising was seeing Camelot 3000 for $1.99 each, $23.88 for all twelve issues. It’s been in paperback for $15 and deluxe for $35. Hmm.
The draw of the comic shop for me is still the brows-ability factor: wander through the aisles picking books up, giving them a good thumbing and discovering works new to you. Plus the recommendations of the staff go a long way when they know where your interests lie.