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#207087 - 01/18/00 07:57 PM Selling trade collections exclusively?
Ralph Offline
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Registered: 12/31/99
Posts: 53
Loc: Las Vegas,NV USA
A friend and myself have been talking the past couple of weeks about something that we think would be an interesting experiment: Could a store that just sold trade paperbacks / graphic novels be successful? I think it could work and if designed like a "regular" book store could change the average person's perception of comics moreso than a full service comic book store.

Of course you'd want to market to a different audience than those that presently buy comic periodicals. Location is always very important, I think you'd want to be near a Starbucks or something of the sort. I think one of the reasons more people don't buy comics is because they haven't been conditioned to go to a store on a weekly or monthly basis to get the next chapter. Also the monthly format might be too short for most people and most people probably don't want to worry if they are going to remember when to go to the store for the next chapter or whether it'll be in stock. The average person doesn't think about visiting a comic book store because they don't know the diversity this medium has to offer (and most comic stores don't represent this diversity or have a clue as to how to attractively display titles). Also a person going into a comic book store for the first time may be overwhelmed or not know what a good jumping on point of a series would be. With a store that was trade collection centered a person would see that comics can be like regular books and a person would be more likely to get a complete story.

If such a store took off, I think it would be easier to run than your average full service comic store. There are presently quite a few trade collections available from many diverse genres that are easy to reorder. Except for the initial costs of stocking such a store, weekly invoices will not be as costly or have items that are as time sensitive.

So off the top of my head a couple of negative aspects I can think of are: You wouldn't have a day like Wednesday's where most of your customers know that new books are coming in, but do people that go to "regular" book stores know when they get new books? You'd be competing against "regular" book stores that also stock trades, but how many "regular" book stores really give a good amount of display space to graphic novels (or display them with any design sense)? The price point (with trades on the bottom end being ten dollars and upward of thirty dollars)may be a factor for some people, but I think more people would feel they got a substantial package at a trade price versus a two or three dollar comic periodical. I'm sure there are other seemingly negative aspects people could think up that I haven't thought of, but I don't think they would be insurmountable. Surely there has been someone else who has thought of doing something along these lines?

I'm not thinking of such a store to replace traditional comic stores, part of the fun of comics for me is the anticipation factor and while trades are good for re-reading a good story, I would miss the instananeous gratification aspect of monthly books. I don't feel that a large part of the reading public feels this way, but I do know that more people would enjoy comics if they could enjoy them in a format and environment that they are used to in "regular" book stores.


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Las Vegas,NV
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#207088 - 01/18/00 09:49 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
iangould Offline
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Registered: 07/16/99
Posts: 257
Loc: Brisbane, Queensland, Australi...
While we don't sell trades exclusively, we are now selling more trades than new issues - we are also making significantly higher profit margins on the trades.

There's a shop in England called Page 45 which was given a write-up in Cerebus a few years ago. They aggressively promote trades while still maintaining a small side-line in new issues.

They also seem to have adopted some of the other ideas you mention. They're located on a main street near a university campus and they design their window displays to draw in casual readers.

From my experience to date, selling trades exclusively would have a few problems. (I have thought seriously about it.

- The sell-through is slower so you have to type up more capital for the same return;

- you'd lose some customers who come in for the new issues and end up buying the trades;

- re-orders can be unpredictable meaning cash-flow becoems more erratic

You probably need to rethink a whole range of issues:

If getting stock to the shelf is less urgent (because of the longer shelf-life) do you need to change (or reduce) staffing levels?

Is it worth shifting to a slower but cheaper delivery service?

How do you maintain inventory control - cycle sheets don't work nearly as well with trades.

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#207089 - 01/19/00 12:24 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
I would think that to do this, you'd have to think more like a bookstore and less like a comic book store.

It would give you the advantage that you could go through the returnable market for a fair portion of your product. However, that would largely be the product you're least worried about having to return. You can be confident that you will sell x copies of the latest Astro City book, or that those Watchmen you buy will sell out eventually. It's the copy of Joe The Allergic Insurance Salesman from Mom's Basement Press that you're worried about getting stuck with, and those aren't going through Ingram.

It would be a good way to run a shop in a relatively small space (or even a cart!)

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#207090 - 01/22/00 09:18 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Ralph Offline
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Registered: 12/31/99
Posts: 53
Loc: Las Vegas,NV USA
ian - where is your store? You sell more trades than comics, wow that's good to hear! So your overall sales of trades are higher than your comic periodical sales? One point you brought up: "you'd lose some customers who come in for the new issues and end up buying the trades" Do you mean "not end up buying the trades"? Well if you meant the latter that's a good point, but my line of thinking with doing a trade collection store would involve having a marketing campaign that targets people who buy "regular" books. And yes you're right in such a store you'd want and only need a bare bones staff.

Nat - I totally agree with your comment "you'd have to think more like a bookstore and less like a comic book store." That's the point of doing such a store, we know that presently a lot of people don't go to comic book stores so this kind of store could serve to get comics out of the art's basement. And yes with such a store a space of not more than 1500 sq.ft. would be enough. Nat, your idea about ordering some books through returnable sources is good, but isn't their profit margin not as high and what percentage of ordered books is returnable?

It's been a week since this thread has been over here and not too much discussion. I'd like to see Jack, Rory, Jim Hanley, and other comic shop retailers join in the discussion. Does anyone have any idea how many retailers visit this site? Is there any other comic creators that have ideas on this topic? Maybe everyone visiting this thread thinks this is a dumb idea? Okay, let's hear about why it's a dumb idea! Anyone out there manage a Border's or Barnes and Nobles who could offer any input? Nat and ian brought up some things I had't thought of and I'm sure there are many more things that could be perceived as being problems to having a trade store, but again, I don't think they can't be solved. I also think you could stock some superhero trades in such a store, but you'd want to de-emphazise them. Having comic strip collections and art books (Frazetta, Royo,etc.) would also be good books to spotlight and would help serve as a bridge to introduce other trades to people unfamiliar with the diversity of this medium.

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Alternate Reality Comics
Las Vegas,NV
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#207091 - 01/23/00 02:17 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
iangould Offline
Member

Registered: 07/16/99
Posts: 257
Loc: Brisbane, Queensland, Australi...
Ralph,

My shop is located in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, a state of Australia.

(We're currently sweating through a 40 degree celsius/100 + degree fahrenheit heat-wave).

We do indeed sell more trades than comics (if only because of the three shops in the CBD we're the only one's to carry many manga or independent books).

My concern about dropping new issues entirely is that some customers who currently come in looking for new issues and end up buying trades would simply stop coming in.

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#207092 - 01/23/00 02:51 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Jim Hanley Offline
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Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Jeff:

This is an interesting topic, but the time necessary to address it properly is tough to come by. I'll get back when I can.
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#207093 - 01/23/00 03:53 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
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Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
COMIC RELIEF has always been modeled on a bookstore. We have sold more trades than comics for some 4-6 years now. However the two are synergistic. I don't see any reasons to assume that a smaller store is what is required or desired. Selling comic BOOKS to a broader audience in my opinion can call for more staff with a higher degree of knowledge. Loading the front of the site, with what has for years in this field been called comiccamoflage, to lull the unsuspecting in, is always a good idea. It also tends to make drag alongs alittle more at ease, and often results in sales to same.
Sales of comics and then trades to the same people have been going on for some time now (see CEREBUS any VIZ book etc.)the additional cashflow is crucial as the field adjust to new paradigms(sorry starting to hate that word). As Jim said a complex topic which needs some thought, further musings latter.
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#207094 - 01/23/00 10:05 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Mark Badger Offline
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Registered: 07/15/99
Posts: 90
Loc: oaklnd, ca usa
While you guys ponder this frontline combat stuff,can I lob a few more shells at you?

How would you react to, trades made out of online comics that had never been printed? Would it make a difference if a site charged for the online comic and then issued a trade of the comics?

And most importantly how do you go about talking to retailers if you were doing a business that is redesigning the way you publish comics? If we created an online survey and called store by store to tell people about it, and ask them some questions would that make sense? Whats the best way to go about getting retailers take on a business plan?

And this is not just a rhetorical question.

Mark Badger www.lemoncustard.com
tart and tangy comics for the web and print

Haunted Man is Boffo Flash comics! 3 times a week! www.darkhorse.com

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#207095 - 01/23/00 12:43 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
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Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
Mark, I believe the collection of online comics is inevitable, at least as far as possible. As usual I am in favour of more trades more often.
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#207096 - 01/23/00 01:01 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
>>Nat, your idea about ordering some books through returnable sources is good, but isn't their profit margin not as high and what percentage of ordered books is returnable? <<

The profit margin is not as high, which is why it's not a good idea for books you are dead-certain you can sell. But it does give you the option of putting on the shelves books that you are less certain you can sell (and if you're building around books, you'll have to deal with such items, as you won't be building such a store off of pull lists). Any given title is 100 PERCENT returnable; The publisher is betting that they're book is good enough that people will buy it. There may be some limit to overall returns (i.e., if you're returning 90% of what you order, the distributor probably won't want to deal with you anymore.)

I don't know the exact discount structure, but I can tell you (based on my royalty statements as a mainstream bookstore author) that the publisher gets about 45% of cover. I don't know what the distributor deal is.

Setting up with a traditional book distributor will also allow you access to types of material that Diamond may not offer you. Do you need Peanuts books? How about Greg Rucka's text novels to sell to Whiteout fans? Or maybe The Complete Idiot's Guide To Making Millions On The Internet, co-written by former comics publisher Rod Underhill and current comics writer Nat Gertler, with an intro by Stan Lee and illos by Barry Ween's Judd Winick (plug plug)? Those things you probably won't get through Diamond.

(I'd also think about hooking up with remaindered book distributors... too many times I've seen Dark Knight GNs or Dilbert collections selling through the "Sale" pile at the bookstore for 30% of cover, and think "why isn't my local comics shop carrying this?")

[This message has been edited by NatGertler (edited 01-23-2000).]

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#207097 - 01/23/00 04:22 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
OK, there are a couple of specific questions that I can address.

Books are usually sold at 40% off. There are numerous publishers who offer better discounts based upon size of order, annual back-list sales, etc.

Best of all there are many publishers who sell at 50% or better off for non-returnable sales. This is a much better deal. The idea that returnability is worth ten points of discount is one of those arguments made by people who always complained that they's never need algebra (present company excepted.)

Buying Peanuts books from Ingram or Baker & Taylor (or Diamond) at 40% off is foolish when Henry Holt will sell them to you at 50% off. Of course, buying things from distributors to sample them is always a good way to "test before you invest."

Collecting on-line comics is an obvious way to generate revenue from something that is otherwise offered for free. This is not unlike Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes collections. Spending a lot of time surveying stores brings to mind the scene in (I can't remember the name of the play/movie) where the Jack Lemon character spends lots of time selling to an elderly couple who turn out to be just lonely. Stores that have lots of time to talk, usually don't have many customers to occupy their time. It's better to spend the time and money getting the word out to customers, than retailers.

Regarding marked down Dark Knight's and Dilbert's, I'm quite certain that neither has ever been remaindered. If a store is selling them marked down, they are either "hurt books" or things that the store didn't know how to sell. The regular appearance of Kitchen Sink books in remainder piles over the years was more likely a case of Denis selling off some inventory for quick cash, but not wanting to "spoil the waters" in the comics market.

[This message has been edited by Jim Hanley (edited 01-23-2000).]
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#207098 - 01/23/00 05:19 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Coppervale Offline
Member

Registered: 03/26/99
Posts: 120
Pulling Chris's new thread into this one...

Regarding differences between Comic shops and Bookstores (which hopefully applies to Ralph's topic as well):

I tried an experiment a couple of years ago, by calling up ten 'Comic shops' between British Columbia and Northern California, and asking about my own STARCHILD:AWAKENINGS trade paperback. The STARCHILD:MYTHOPOLIS series from Image was just starting, so Diamond was making the paperbacks visible, availible, and affordable.

Two shops had the books in stock; two more said they could order it (one of which did - the other dropped the ball) and six said they couldn't get it at all. I dropped hints about looking in Previews (while looking at the book's listing in the Previews on my lap), I offered to buy the hardcover instead - to no better response. Then, I finally said I had the publishers' number (my fax line), and if they'd call and order the book from him, I'd come into the store and pick it up.

Four of them said they would; even after a month of 'Is it in yet?' calls to them, I was still waiting for the order. The other two suggested that if I had the publishers' number, I ought to just get the book from him.

One of the shops who said the book was unavailible did have copies of STARCHILD:MYTHOPOLIS on the rack. I went out into the mall, keeping the store in sight, called them from a pay phone, and asked for a comic I was looking at from sixty feet away - and was told they didn't have it.

Mind you, Ralph, Jim, and Rory's stores are not in the category of what Rory calls 'catalog' retailers, but it seems most are - are are poor examples of such, to boot. Our own shop on the island (where Paul Chadwick and I sometimes get books) is a catalog store - we have to preorder stuff more than two months in advance to get it, which is what may frustrate new customers from ever becoming longtime customers. The shop had (has) up a poster for THE DREAM HUNTERS; a friend who likes manga and Gaiman was convinced by me to go in and order it - and was told he'd missed the deadline for turning in order forms. He said that he'd just buy it when it came out, to which the manager said it would likely be unavailible at that point.He offered to place an 'advance reorder', but by that point, so many protests had clouded the issue of 'Hi - I'd like to buy a book,'that we agreed just to get out of the shop and into open air.

Needless to say, the poster is still up, but the book never came in.

After DREAM HUNTERS was released, I took my friend over to one of the three 'traditional' book stores here, where we said we'd like to order a book. "Okay," replied the owner, "it'll be in Wednesday - what's the title?"

This is now my friend's impression of Comic shops versus Bookstores - in comics, you have to order stuff well in advance to ever have a hope of getting it, and if you don't, you can't order it later, even if it's not yet released. At the book shop, he just ordered the book.

(Incidentally, I didn't advance order it either, figuring I'd pick it up at one of the shops in Seattle or L.A. - I dropped into Mile High Comics in Garden Grove, where they had three copies. Trying to keep business before pleasure, I deferred my purchase until a couple of days later. To my dismay, the books were gone. The manager offered to place a reorder, to which I gloomily agreed - then he showed up with a copy the next day. He'd determined that he couldn't get the reorder in until the day after my return flight to Washington, so he sold me his own copy, still in the shrinkwrap.)

James

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#207099 - 01/23/00 09:50 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
James:

Not to beat a dead horse, but I wrote extensively about the misguided application of Bud Plant's marketing idea that grew into Previews (and Advance Comics, et. al.) I'll try to find the thread and post its location here.
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#207100 - 01/23/00 09:51 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
Member

Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
Now thats a good manager,congrats Chuck. James any good comic store could have done what the folks at MILE HIGH did, and should. But I must shake my head at any store too stupid to reorder a $30. book that sells out, let alone not take an initial order #%@&%$#@##$ cataloge stores,give the rest of us a bad name.
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#207101 - 01/23/00 10:28 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Chris Juricich Offline
Member

Registered: 09/19/99
Posts: 721
Loc: Berkeley, CA USA
Mark Badger does bring up a thought-- online comics collected in paperback seems a natural synergy. So long as the creator formatted the online material to work in a fairly standard comic/TPB format, why the hell not?

I have some mild aspirations of doing such on my own, so answers and speculations on this would interest me.
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#207102 - 01/23/00 10:52 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
Member

Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
the V.C. a web based comicstrip had its first book collected for holiday sales.
www/thevc.com/index.html

[This message [url=hashttp://www.thevc.com/index.html]hashttp://www.thevc.com/index.html[/url] been edited by Rory D. Root (edited 01-23-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Rory D. Root (edited 01-23-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Rory D. Root (edited 01-23-2000).]
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#207103 - 01/23/00 11:06 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
Member

Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
well that didn't work at all.hopefully somebody wiser in the ways of ubb can fix this.
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#207104 - 01/24/00 09:02 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Don Markstein Offline
Member

Registered: 11/24/98
Posts: 1202
Loc: Earth
"...co-written by former comics publisher Rod Underhill and current comics writer Nat Gertler..."

What, you mean Rod actually is a former comics publisher? That is, he actually published something? I'm still waiting to see Voices for Children, with that story I scripted for free just because I, at least, thought it was a good enough cause to justify some personal sacrifice.

By the way, there already are printed collections of on-line comics. Kevin & Kell, for one, came out with its first dead tree edition several years ago, and I know I've heard of others but just can't think of which.

Quack, Don

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#207105 - 01/24/00 01:13 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
NatGertler Offline
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Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Rod published Threshold, if memory serves. This was before the Voices For Children days. I have no knowledge of the status on that.

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#207106 - 01/25/00 07:12 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Bill Willingham Offline
Member

Registered: 08/26/99
Posts: 157
Loc: rutland, vermont, usa
For what it's worth: my vision of a perfect comic store (as a customer, not a retailer) would be a vast and well-stocked graphic novel (or collections...or whatever they're called anymore) store, with a small new comics annex which features more of the indy type stuff than the men-in-tights stuff.

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#207107 - 01/25/00 07:20 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
Member

Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
You would like Comic Relief very much Bill.
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#207108 - 01/25/00 08:11 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Jim Hanley Offline
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Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Would not! Comic Relief is full of doody-heads!
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#207109 - 01/25/00 08:56 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
Member

Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
Besides the DOODY HEADS collection so derided by Mr. Hanley, we also have the largest graphic novel selection under one roof. So there!
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#207110 - 01/25/00 08:58 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Chris Juricich Offline
Member

Registered: 09/19/99
Posts: 721
Loc: Berkeley, CA USA
The irrepressible Jim H said...

Would not! Comic Relief is full of doody-heads!

And I'm one of 'em, Jim! As time allows I'll go in there to find myself discussing comics, film, and all the rest of the world's unpleasant personal habits. A good number of doody-heads, but what else can you expect in a funny book store?
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#207111 - 01/31/00 02:47 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
John Roberson Offline
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Registered: 11/25/98
Posts: 492
Loc: Chicago
Spending a lot of time surveying stores brings to mind the scene in (I can't remember the name of the play/movie) where the Jack Lemmon character spends lots of time selling to an elderly couple who turn out to be just lonely.

David Mamet & James Foley, "Glengarry Glen Ross"

Comic Relief certainly has the most KNOWLEDGEABLE staff of "doody-heads" of any store I've ever been into, plus they're one of the most generous supporters of small-press folk. So nyah.

Of course, their habit of throwing knives at the customers is a bit distracting, but once you get past that they're a fine group of people... [img]http://207.69.158.95/ubb/wink.gif[/img]
http://members.delphi.com/JOHNROBERSON/index.html
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#207112 - 02/04/00 01:22 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
I knew there was dirt out there on Comic Relief!

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"I love him like a brother. David Greenglas." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors
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#207113 - 02/04/00 04:22 AM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Rory D. Root Offline
Member

Registered: 09/12/99
Posts: 628
Loc: Berkeley,Ca.,USA
What? John you didn't like our FLYING KARAMOZOF BROTHERS revue?
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#207114 - 02/04/00 01:50 PM Re: Selling trade collections exclusively?
Greg McElhatton Offline
Member

Registered: 12/19/98
Posts: 674
Loc: Vienna, VA
Reading James's post about comic stores makes me thankful that I shop at a very good store (which is another very heavy pusher of trade paperbacks; Big Planet Comics in Vienna, VA), but also hammers home what I think so many stores suffer from: they're not run by businesspeople, they're run by fans.

It's why so many stores look like a pigsty; to the owner, the comic store is an extension of their basement. It's all good and dandy to have a friendly, laid back atmosphere, but it's something else to have an atmosphere that repells people.

Likewise, the ordering of books. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I would go into other stores--that at the time I had a subscription with!--and ask about specific books. "Oh, we aren't going to order that," they'd reply. Nevermind that I was saying that I wanted that book. I was going to buy it. Nope, they weren't ordering it. Which part of "guaranteed sale" wasn't sinking in?

The best thing I ever heard (and I wish I could remember who said it) was in response to one store owner saying that he wouldn't order any more GREEN LANTERN comics because they killed off Hal Jordan and he didn't like GL. "Somehow," the person replied (and then I paraphrased), "I can't see a grocery store owner deciding that he didn't like milk and then not ordering it. If your customers want milk... order milk."

I've heard enough good things about Ralph's store out in Vegas to know that if he decided to open a book store that carried comic collections, it would do well. I can think of some other retailers/stores (Jim Hanley/Jim Hanley's Universe, Greg Bennett/Big Planet Comics) that would do well.

But most owners out there just don't have the business mindset. This isn't a hobby, guys. It's a store. Run it like one.

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