Iâ€™m going to be honest here, I spent very little time at the New York Comic Con today. Thursday, Day 0, is realistically for convention set-up, though someone had the very bright idea that since theyâ€™re renting the space anyway, they may as well come up with some really good programming for a select group of folks. Actually, that â€œsomeoneâ€ was apparently ICv2â€™s Milton Griepp, and thus a group of Direct Market Retailers, Librarians, Press, and Publishing reps converged in a meeting room underneath the setup for the big show to talk about the mechanics of the comics industry.
While this was happening for the first 3 and a half hours, I was: Checking in to my hotel; eating breakfast/lunch; stocking up on supplies; sleeping for an hour. Because ofâ€¦ Buffalo, basically, I havenâ€™t really slept since Wednesday morning and so if I wanted to do anything at my panel appearance this afternoon (other than zombie-moan into the mic) getting myself presentable was of the utmost importanceâ€”only time and photographs of the event will tell if I succeeded.
I caught the last 1/3 of the â€œManga Censorshipâ€ panel, which featured every participant agreeing in the same way about manga being rated to be appropriate, but not be censored, with particular focus on Tokyopopâ€™s new rating system. This was surprising and a little creepy, to see reps from Viz, Tokyopop, and Del Rey all justâ€¦ agreeing. Luckily, things got awkward when a librarian in the audience asked why they didnâ€™t create a rating system that they could all use, and the answer wound up being a sort of quick, contrite â€œBecause we all think our own way is the best.â€
My problem with rating books is more about sales, and how certain books with certain ratings sell better than others. The best selling demographic is T FOR TEEN of course, and anything outside of that (younger or older) has its work cut out for it in trying to find an audience. Except maybe porn, and Oh, Greatâ€™s AIR GEAR. Maybe these are the same. But ratings actually become a kind of de facto censorship when it comes to licensing, as only books that fit the target demographic are selected for licensing, and mature and challenging works end up getting a very short shrift.
Unless of course youâ€™re one of the pedants who think itâ€™s only censorship when the government does it, in which case why are you even at this blog? Bad google hit?
Following the manga censorship panel was mine, â€œBuyers Panelâ€”Graphic Novels, the Next Three Years.â€ I think it went really well. I talked about yaoi and books for children, and I was mean to independent publishers probably? Not mean, but sort of brutally honest and realistic. Essentially, â€œIf you want your books for children to sell, you must be at least this good, and you probably arenâ€™t.â€ Examples included W.I.T.C.H., KINGDOM HEARTS, and BONE. Actually, it was a lot of fun having so many librarians in the room, because I kind of get the impression from my peers in retailing and the internet as a whole that no one knows that W.I.T.C.H. sells amazingly well. Or even what it is.
The other people on the panel also talked, I believe. Kidding! It was actually a pretty amazing group of panelists, and I was totally outclassed. Seriously, it was me, the guy who runs Lone Star Comics (an eight-store comics chain in Texas), the graphic novel buyer for Baker and Taylor, the graphic novel buyer for Barnes and Noble, and the person in charge of Scholasticâ€™s U.S. school book fairs. Oh, and the VP in charge of purchasing at Diamondâ€¦ I talked more than any of them though. AND! I had better jokes. Something about Yaoi and childrenâ€™s comicsâ€¦ Itâ€™ll all come out in the transcript, Iâ€™m sure.
FUN FACT: The guy at Scholastic TALKED ACTUAL NUMBERS. It was so rare to see someone discuss sales numbers that I took notes. Theyâ€™reâ€¦ a little terrifying and wonderful. Oh, and just for background for the elderly? A book fair is where a publisher/distributor brings a bunch of books to a school, and lets the kids buy them with their own money at a significant discount.
– Scholastic holds 110,000 book fairs per year, reaching approximately 56 million children per year.
– Scholastic has been offering graphic novels in the book fairs since 2004, where they debuted with a Superman project (Superman made it to fairs before Bone!)
– By his rough estimate, Scholastic has sold more than 4 million graphic novels.
As he said, they may not stock a wide array of graphic novels, but they sure as hell go deep.
Then Transcontinental Printing bought everyone drinks, including a number of delicious blue martinis for me. Calvin Reid got a picture of me drinking that might make it onto PW, so, if you want to see what I look like after I walked 7 blocks in the rain and got tipsy, thereâ€™s that.
Aside from the drinking, the after-event social was a good place to mix and mingle with folks from every facet of the comics industry. I met book distributors, buyers, publishers, literary agents, aspiring creators, even a few direct market retailersâ€¦Â My panel-appearance let me converse with my comics-betters freely, and it was amazing to pick up so many divergent viewpoints on the industry that we have, let alone the future of it. I have to say it left me really excited about the medium AND the industry, and Iâ€™ve never had a clearer, better sense that this is going to be an industry that will very soon exist as more than a 500 page monthly catalogue. I have no doubt that Diamond will continue to be a huge industry mover-and-shaker, but it looks like weâ€™ll make it out of PREVIEWS and into the real world sooner than laterâ€¦
Then John Davis of BOOKAZINE took myself, Chris Powell from Lone Star Comics, and my lovely husband out for delicious Mexican food. BOOKAZINE, btw, is an independent book distributor that specializes in graphic novels. Theyâ€™re sort of like a smaller, more tightly-focused Baker & Taylor, if that means anything to you. If it doesnâ€™t: The Guacamole was really fresh and flavorful, I totally recommend â€œSalsa Y Salsaâ€ at 22nd and 7th Ave.
I only saw the sales floor of the show and the set-up from a distance. Itâ€™s much bigger than last year, and brighter too. Getting out of the basement was the best thing that coulda happened to them, and despite another huge show going on at the same time (something about design?) NYCCâ€™s presence is felt all over the Javitz Centre.
â€¦and with that, Iâ€™m calling it a night. Gotta get up bright and early for the Diamond Retailer Breakfast at 8:30am tomorrow… Iâ€™ll take notes as we go, it should be great.
See you tomorrow!
P.S. Hereâ€™s a list of songs I havenâ€™t been able to get out of my head since I arrived in New York:
â€œSecond Avenue,â€ by Spacehog
â€œNew York, New York,â€ by Frank Sinatra
â€œLisa Says,â€ by The Velvet Underground