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Colleen Doran @ColleenDoran
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People who go on about sales in comics, knowing NOTHING about comics history, not able to grasp that once there were a few publishers making comics with a lock on the industry, now there are HUNDREDS of companies, THOUSANDS of books, THOUSANDS of choices.
Bestseller list at comics distributors used to cover about 100 comics and that's about all that were published are every month, the distributor catalogues were barely pamphlets then they became tomes, there were only a few graphic novels for sale every month!
There is a long tail of published comics that simply did not exist 40 years ago, almost no indies, no webcomics, almost no graphic novels, very few books in libraries, little bookstore penetration. A small, simple system that is now broad and complex.
I used to self publish, BTW, and at one point I had about 16 distributors for my comics. SIXTEEN distributors. That world does not exist anymore, and it had a lot to do with Marvel's purchase of Hero's World back around 1995-1996. That was a market quake.
BTW people on the internet claiming the interjection of women, POC, gays with different viewpoints is killing comics & this MUST BE TRUE because it seems many people are making this claim is the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum, you're welcome.
Raina Telgemeier is wiping the floor with all of your sales.
And one more thing for some folks who are a bit slow on the uptake. Guess who else’s sales ‘ain’t what they used to be? Every single hot indie comic ever published. Sales drop in comics was across the board, folks.
Books that moved 100,000 copies in the indie press now moving less than 5000. Don’t make me name names. Those sales drops had zip to do with creator politics and everything to do with a new market paradigm.
Maybe 5 or 10 indie books to compete with back in the day, few choices. Now hundreds of fantasy, science fiction, drama comics competing in the same market. Much harder to make an impact.
Superhero comics took a huge hit in individual title sales because all comics in the direct market took a huge hit in sales. A lot of people out there still in bitter denial over it all.
Long tail, heavy market competition, shrinking print market, rising publication costs, multiplicity of factors affecting sales, forces going back decades. Direct comics market never fully recovered from mid-1990’s crash. Thousands of stores went down.
Before the crash, there were about 9500 direct market accounts.
The resulting vacuum created an opportunity for small fry to expand and for comics publishers to push for sales into new venues: book stores and libraries, where before they were not always welcome. I was there making those sales pitches.
Previously, stores and the few remaining distribution outlets had little interest in small accounts. Afterward, they welcomed every sale. That was an opening for more small press, indie comics. And then came the internet. The rest is history. About which some folks are in denial.
I’d go into detail about Marvel’s Heroes World purchase and Ron Perelman gutting of the company and subsequent bankruptcy and the lawsuit w/ stockholders but it is a long, complicated tale and I am pooped. (Putting this back in the thread).
OK so someone opined "But what about newstand! Comics used to sell great on newstand!" Yeah, but that was, like, 60 years ago. You know what else was a thing 60 years ago? 34 cent gasoline, rabbit ears on tv's and support for manned space flight.
1968 is around the time that the newsstand started to die. And the death of the newsstand is why there's a direct comics market. And the attrition of the direct comics market is why there's a push into bookstores and digital markets. Lemme explain.
Comics sales had been slipping to varying degrees since Fredric Wertham and his Crazy Cronies on Capitol Hill (my new band name) tried to censor the heck out of the comics industry during the 1950's Pervy Comics Content scare. Another great band name.
Superhero comics, for better or worse, were the main survivors of the Great Comics Purge (I am all about the great band names). But even though sales managed to remain in the hundreds of thousands for major titles, the world changed around the market.
Comic books were cheap & distributed at mom & pop shops all over the country most of which no longer exist-slowly replaced by chains like 7-11. I never bought a comic in a mom & pop shop, because even though I'm a crusty comics veteran...
mom & pop shops were going the way of the soda jerk and the egg cream, which a significant portion of my audience here will now run and look up, because these are new terms to you. It's not that comics didn't have an audience, it's that they didn't PAY...AND-
They had new competition for attention: you know, TV. We only had three channels, but it was free. Also, comics just didn't make the big bucks. Remember when Martin Goodman, head honcho of Marvel, wanted to shut it all down and just do mags about golf?
And soft core porn, but we don't judge. Anyway, back to those mom & pop shops. Here's something a lot of folks don't get: you gotta make a profit on this stuff, folks. And in 1968, the cover price of a comic was around 12 cents.
Now, adjusted for inflation, that's, maybe $1, but here's what you have to consider: to make a profit, the store has to sell enough volume of the 12 cent product to justify the shelf space. And that store isn't getting 12 cents, they're getting about 30-40%.
OK, now how many comics do you have to sell at a take of about 3.5 cents per copy in order to justify the rent on the rack space in your store? Answer: a lot. Especially when that rack space could be going to higher priced magazines.
Now, unsold copies are returnable, so you can get credit, but factor in the cost of doing business of reserving the space for product, then sending back the unsold product. Returnable product gets a higher discount (direct market product is sold at 60%-70%)
That discount is what the distributor gets from the publisher, and the distributor gets about 30-40% on returnable, so a mom and pop store was getting a razor thin margin on every copy they sell. Pennies.
After your books don't sell, you either sign an affidavit return form and throw the unsold books in the trash, or you strip the covers and send them back. Or do what some stores do, strip the covers to show books were destroyed & send covers back for credit
Some stores would just sell the comics with the stripped covers after, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, bottom line is, mom and pop stores could not compete with the growth of retail chains and slowly died off.
And comics at their 12 cent cover prices were not profitable for people trying to sell them, except for these newfangled head shops springing up in major metropolitan areas where devoted comics fans could sell comics at a tiny profit AND...
make money on something new: old comics. The old comics market simply did not exist before and was a new profit center that supported the new comics market. And comic shops began distributing comics to other comics shops. and the direct market was born.
The direct market sold comics at a much higher discount that the newsstand market, but the comics were not returnable. Higher risk, greater reward. The direct sales market was just starting when I started to read comics.
I never even saw a comic shop until I'd been reading comics for years. The market direct market was very small, and an urban thing. I had to subscribe to comics I wanted. By the late 1970's, 7-11 shops, which sometimes carried comics, were slowly dumping them
The direct market dominated comics in the 1980's and 1990's, but took a major hit in the mid 1990's with the Heroes World purchase debacle. THOUSANDS of stores went under. And by then the direct market, which had been raised on the backs of indies -
but had become big on superheroes, now finds itself flailing as superheroes are no longer necessarily the dominant market genre. And the direct market is no longer the only place to get comics. And that is how the world turns, folks.
OK, and once more, with feeling: the direct market was not created solely by demand for superheroes. It was created by indies. Head shops. The underground. Counterculture. Just think about that for awhile. OK, I'm done.
Yeah, I know I made a few typos, but even so, I am a river to my people. Bye.
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