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Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in

Brian Hibbs

I mean, if I had just waited 20 minutes to post, I could have done this in the first post, but then Tom has to go and post something from Eric Reynolds

First off, seriously, “Bookscan Analysis as Direct Market Public Service Announcement”? Really? I feel like I’ve been told to get off Tom’s lawn for playing too much…

Eric’s comments are wonderful, but I don’t really see that they have much (if anything) to do with anything that I actually WROTE, as opposed, possibly, what people might want to think that I wrote.

If someone can point me to anyplace where I’ve represented the BookScan numbers to be anything other than what I say they are — that they “don’t, in any way, represent all ‘book stores’ selling comic book material.” That “Also, remember that this analysis represents RETAIL SALES. This absolutely doesn’t include anything like Library sales, or School Sales, or things like book clubs and so on. Those are not RETAIL SALES.” Or that at any place in the piece that I ever represent these numbers as anything other than “sales from the stores that report to BookScan”, then I would dearly love to see it.

I’ve also never suggested, thought, implied, or even believe that virtually any publisher anywhere could survive or prosper without ALL channels working to sell books. Again, if anyone can cite a statement like that, please feel free.

I like Fantagraphics’ output. A lot. They are clearly an important publisher in terms of the bodies of cartoonist’s work they are bringing to the market, and many of the things they publish are among my best sellers.

I might be worth noting that the word “Fantagraphics” doesn’t appear in this year’s column whatsoever, and I make a single passing reference to one book of theirs (as noted before, intended purely as a follow-up from the ’08 column), and a handful of the cartoonists they publish. The context of that statement is, at least I think, to express regret and amazement that those cartoonist’s works aren’t selling better, via the stores that report to BookScan, then they are.

Eric says, “I did a cursory look at a half-dozen titles from the last couple of years, and in some cases, our library/institutional sales can amount to as much as 30-50% of our overall book trade business. This is one stream that does not report to Bookscan…” which, as far as I can tell, is exactly what I said! It’s also largely irrelevant — the BookScan analysis is NOT a report on everything that sells in non-DM channels. I directly and repeatedly say that. I directly and repeatedly say that this is retail sales (repeat it with me!) “the stores that report to BookScan”.

Further, BookScan is sales made to consumers — not wholesale. Let’s say, with no basis in reality, that 1000 stores that report to BookScan rack L&R #2, that could mean that there are 1000+ copies out there on the racks awaiting purchase by some sophisticated buyer with taste. Awesome. BUT THE NUMBER OF COPIES THAT SOLD TO A CONSUMER (via “the stores that report to BookScan”!) is 374 copies. If anyone, anywhere, has any evidence that this is not a factual statement, then I’d like to hear it.

That DOESN’T MEAN that FBI should abandon the bookstores, or that those are not “good” sales, or anything else that Tom or Dirk would seem like to spin as something that I am implying. I am not.

If people want to engage in arguments that *I* am not… well, I can’t stop you, but there’s no other possible way for me to respond except for “I never said that. I never implied that. I don’t believe that. And anyone who does is, actually, not very smart, whatsoever.”

Look at the numbers for what they say. Criticize me for things I actually say — that’s totally fair game. But don’t criticize me for what you infer that I am saying, because that inference is on the plate of the reader, and does not bear any relationship to either what I wrote, nor what I believe. I think we’ll all be much happier that way.

Eric concludes with “I don’t pay attention to Bookscan too closely, but one thing I’ve gleaned from reading Brian’s annual essays is that either he reads way too much into Bookscan numbers, or we pretty dramatically buck the conventional wisdom of what Bookscan “means” in the bigger picture.”

At a guess, I suspect the latter is the case. As for the former, the only thing that I’m really “reading into” BookScan is that a work as (in my personal opinion) over-reviewed and mediocrely done as, say, Stitches, sells like 30 times better than something as transcendent, and created by cartoonists at their peak of craft and skill, as L&R.



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