greatspinnerrack.jpgHey there. I started typing this a couple of times, but despite how wretched the behaviour has been by a couple of retailers (and the CBIA forum in general, as of late) I’m not quite ready to burn all of my retailer bridges just yet… but I did want to comment on this. So here my nice response:

The Beguiling is the premiere sponsor of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and the fest actively encouraged participating exhibitors to debut new works at the show. We did that because we wanted the exhibitors to have a good show, first and foremost. The benefit to us? As a local retailer, we knew there would be too much stuff for any one person to buy, and because every new book that comes out needs all of the promotion it can get, the excitement generated at the show that will last for the next couple of years and we’ll reap the rewards of all of that. So, you know, it’s actually more advantageous for us–as a local retailer–for these publishers to do big launches of these books, even if we don’t get all the sales, because more often than not, it’s these big launches/pushes that help put the books on the radar of our customers on the first place.

Part two of all of this is the fact that I’ve worked on the publisher side of the table as well. I’ve been behind a publisher booth, at The San Diego Comicon, selling books that had not yet been released to direct market comic book stores. And you know what? I don’t really think that enough credit is being given to the customers in the direct market. I would say that the number one question I was asked was “will this be available in comic book stores?” when confronted with a debut book. It’s a different story when there’s an author signing accompanying the debut or something, but yeah, customers want to honour their preorders and don’t want to lug around books at a show that they can get at their local store in the next month. And the reality of the situation is, if the book is so popular and so desirable that customer absolutely must have it as soon as it’s released, then I think that this is indicative of the kind of excitement and buzz really affecting customers in a large way… and that they weren’t really “our” customer in the first place, so much as someone who just likes to buy comics where they find them.

Much to the detriment of my making friends at retailer get-togethers, I think this is more of a non-issue than anyone would care to admit, a matter of principle that doesn’t even come close to playing out in the real world. I’m actually a lot more concerned, on the release-date front, about Diamond’s continuing inability to process books that they receive as a distributor as fast as the bookstore chains. Most bookstores are receiving manga, “mainstream” book publishers graphic novel releases, and magazines like Giant Robot, between a day and a month before Diamond gets them into my store. This week Diamond shipped Negima Volume 16, and I’ve had that direct from Del Rey since before Christmas! Maybe it’s easier to issue veiled threats against independent publishers than it is against Diamond? There are serious distribution inequities within the direct market, but I don’t think this position paper begins to addresses them… they certainly aren’t coming from 100 copies of Kramers Ergot at the San Diego Comic-Con.

- Christopher

6 Comments on “Selling Comics At Conventions”

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  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 1, 2008: Having a cow says:

    [...] [Retailing] Christopher Butcher discusses the recent ComicsPRO position paper castigating boutique publishers who debut work at conventions. [...]

  2. Jason Marcy says:

    Easily the most balanced argument about this whole thing. I agree with you 100%. It’s really a non issue in my mind!!
    And you did it all in a couple of paragraphs.

  3. Matt says:

    Good stuff, as usual. You really must add your site to my toplist at We need you there to represent the retailer voice beyond just new release and signing announcements.

  4. Friday Links « Graphic Fiction says:

    [...] Christopher Butcher has an interesting thought on the debate over selling debut comics at conventions before they’re available at stores through direct market. From his time selling books at conventions, he said most fans didn’t want to lug books around with them, so they’d ask if the books would be in shops soon. He does say, though, that books at signing tables are another story. [...]

  5. Marionette says:

    If this is a response to some other article, it would be nice if that were linked or at least mentioned. I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t referred to in the comments.

    And yes, I can see your point about people who have already ordered a new book, but surely a lot of books at conventions are bought on a whim by people who either weren’t aware of them, or don’t have a local store that carries them. I know when I’m at a con, I’m most interested in looking at stuff I hadn’t seen before. What I don’t understand the need for is all the stands selling the same mainstream stuff.

  6. Blog@Newsarama » The Lightning Round says:

    [...] – Chris Butcher offers his thoughts on the recent “don’t sell comics at cons” controversy. [...]

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