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Responding to TITLING responses

Brian Hibbs

There’s been a couple of other opinion pieces going around this last week, using my latest TILTING AT WINDMILLS as a starting point. Most notably from Johanna, and from Christopher Butcher. This is good, I like debate.

Here’s the thing though: I’m not sure if it is because I’m a lousy writer (guilty!), or if people are reading what they want to read rather than what I intended to say.

I’ve been using Vertigo as my example because Vertigo has a (unstated but crystal clear) program where periodical series UNIFORMALLY get collected at about month #9 in what I think any reasonable person will conclude is the SUPERIOR value – it is cheaper, sometimes by nearly as much as half (6x$2.99 = $17.94, vs $9.95), and it does not have advertisements, and it is a “satisfying chunk”

So let’s start from there, with bullet point #1: Is there anyone who disagrees that Vertigo’s “first volume” collection release is a “better” value?

If not, then let’s move to the next bullet point, #2: the natural consequence of such a plan is that whatever potential customer base that there for these books is being tacitly encouraged to “wait” for the trade.

#3: The sales charts seem to reflect this behavior.

I don’t think that anyone has, of yet, disagreed with those first three points.

I think we, maybe, begin to differ when we get to the next one:

#4: This is a lousy plan if your economic strategy is for the production of the periodical to FUND the eventual collection. Especially when it appears that this causes the periodicals are selling below any kind of “break even” number.

Again, I was probably less than clear, but this argument has NOTHING to do with “floppy vs book”, or that people should be “made” to buy something they don’t want, or any of the other positions that people seem to be arguing against. See: I, personally, as a consumer of comics (not as a store owner) don’t buy any Vertigo periodicals, and I haven’t for at least a year, maybe two, because I *know* they’re coming soon in a book, and that the book, even if only for the lack of advertisements, is a “better read”. I figured that out a real long time ago.

So, THIS is my argument, in one sentence:

If you’re trying to be a periodical publisher that is amortizing your costs with a serialization, then you should support that serialized format in all rational ways.

Maybe the disagreement is over what “rational” is? To me, this boils down to 4 things, I think.

A) Have something in the serialization that can’t be gotten any other way. Typically, this is “the letter’s page”, but it can also be something like the “backmatter” in FELL.

B) Keep your promises to the serialization audience, in terms of meeting your schedule, not changing creative teams inappropriately, and so on.

C) Objectively look at both response to, and the aesthetic value of, the work to determine the collection strategy. Not everything *should* be collected, you know! Don’t automatically collect JUST because you have a P&L that’s predicated upon it.

D) Have enough of a pause between serialization and collection to both encourage readers to follow the serialization, and to be able to create “buzz” on a book. Yes, there will probably be some isolated and extremely rare exceptional cases when the buzz is such that doing a “quick” TP release is, in fact, the better marketing move to make, but I believe that in virtually all other cases, having a 6-18 month “gap” between serialization and collection is the much smarter move for the health of the periodical market.

If your response is “Well, who cares about the periodical market?!?” there’s not a lot for us to talk about, really – this is an “If…then” argument.

I apologize for being both an unclear, as well as an easily side-tracked writer, and for throwing in too many examples, because that let’s people focus on the example rather than the underlying point.

One more time, just so we’re clear:

If you’re trying to be a periodical publisher that is amortizing your costs with a serialization, then you should support that serialized format in all rational ways.

-B

One Response to “ Responding to TITLING responses ”

  1. [...] Hibbs himself responds. I don’t have much to say further on this because Hibbs’ main point, as he clarifies, [...]

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