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In response to Peter David

Brian Hibbs

(in response to http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/archives/001891.html)

Dear Peter,

I don’t really know the finer protocols of blogging yet, so I’m sending a copy of this in e-mail to you as well as putting it up on my blog. (http://www.comixexperience.com/savblog/savblog.html) It just seemed presumptuous to assume you’re reading mine, or that the “greater blogosphere” will somehow notify you. And I didn’t want to respond in the “comments” section since you “called me out” on the front page, nor just send you a link.

In the interest of clarity, feel free to run this in full or part on your site (http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/) (I know you know that, I’m only talking like this because it’s bloggy and in public.) if you choose to respond.

Right, so, I’m definitely not the smartest retailer in the country – I’d probably go with Jim Hanley on that particular point – I’m just the loudest.

I like the Direct Market system – I think it’s incredibly efficient in what it does well, and I think it is reasonably barrier-free to entry (though not, necessarily success – which is a different beast) for the newcomer, at least when compared to other artistic forms.

It also has a large number of semi-professionals in business (on all sides) because of that relative barrier-free nature.

So if you tell me that there are stores out there that are turning down legitimate preorders, I’ll shake my head and say “Wow, sounds dumb,” but I’m not going to doubt you. However, I strongly believe that the number of “good” stores HAS to be high if only because they’re still in business, and comics are unforgiving to idiots.

Now, let me get the “bad part” out of the way. I carry FALLEN ANGEL, and I do so beyond subs. I don’t believe I have sold out of more than 1 of the 14 released issues. And our sales have steadily eroded until they are down to, for the last 5 issues, 1 copy preordered by a sub, and 1 rack copy sold. I’m still ordering 3 copies, mind you, even though I have pretty good proof that last copy is not selling and is a waste of my $1.13. That’s the kind of store I try to be. We ordered 1 copy of the trade. Haven’t sold it.

You, I think, know the problems as well as I do – the book was misbranded from the get go by being part of the “bad girl” line or whatever it was called, I’ve already forgotten. The book also didn’t, tonally, fit the DC bullet, and you couldn’t get a Vertigo branding. Retailers (AND CONSUMERS) make their snap judgments and often stick to them despite contrary evidence. FALLEN ANGEL is neither fish, nor fowl. And that’s not a problem you’re going to be able to overcome in most circumstances.

I think trying to move the trades is probably a fine idea – many series find life in trade and if you can increase the velocity of trade sales, I’m sure DC will take note.

What I need to ask you is why you don’t have a list of “Peter David Friendly” stores? You’ve certainly done retailer write-ins and things in BID, so you should have had a good database to work from without even doing any real research. Why aren’t you, say, on the Comic Book Industry Alliance (www.thecbia.com) forum, talking directly to a large number of the “better” (ugh, smarmy sounding!) retailers? I think announcing this kind of plan on the internet like this will probably get a fairly anemic response just because most stores probably aren’t checking your website (much much less check mine, though!)

Look, there’s only 3500 stores, and 90% of your business is going to come from 10% of them, so you (and every creator, mind you) should be proactively figuring out who “their” stores are. And working with them, from the before the launch, to maximize their sales.

That’s what you have to do on non-traditional books, because retailers are skittish, and justifiably so if they don’t clearly understand WHO they’re going to sell the book to.

Bob Wayne will probably call me to yell for suggesting this in public, but what you really need to do is some targeted shipping. Diamond, for a fee, can ship a, or multiple, promotional copies to, say, all stores that ordered 2 or less copies of the latest issue, but did order [whatever you think you should be comparable in audience to], that kind of thing. Costs money, of course, to do that, but that’s really the only way to establish to the disinterested retailer that there are potential sales he or she is losing.

Personally, I don’t think it would work – I think the market’s mind is pretty well cemented on FALLEN ANGEL, and that your only real chance is to reposition the book. Rename it, possibly, rather than the “season 2” route – get some buzz going from BEFORE the launch, let “your” retailers directly know what the book is and who to sell it to, and what’s going on.

I would particularly caution against seeing emails like you printed as being directly indicative of an actual lost sale. For example, the guy on vacation – he didn’t see them, so he’s writing to let you know… but he’s not a customer for Modesto. There may not BE a customer in Modesto. I mean, fiscally, I should have cut my “extra” rack copy of FALLEN ANGEL months ago. Maybe the stores in Modesto have hit that point as well and made the other choice. I don’t know, and while I can see why you, as a creator might be suspicious, let’s have a little innocent before proven guilty, yes?

There’s also, might I add, a goddamn lot of comics being published today – we’re a “full line” store, but I don’t stock but maybe half of the comics listed in PREVIEWS. It’s not POSSIBLE to carry 100% of them and do it well. I don’t even think it’s possible to carry all of that, and do it badly!

I guess what I’m asking is, in the face of hundreds of new choices each month, and thousands of SKUs in backstock, can you ACTUALLY FAULT a retailer who decides that he doesn’t perceive an audience for one book or another? Especially when even you will admit Mistakes Were Made with the Launch?

I hope that’s some food for thought.

-B

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