Aaron and Ethan VansciverHey Fandom! Thanks for reading, commenting on and recommending our five-part Ideology series. The amazing responses emailed from other shops really makes us feel like this is a movement, and we’re thrilled to be a loud voice of change in this industry. We really believe entertainment trumps all, and we live that ideal. Not focusing on back issue or format frees us up to promote comics everyday in a creative way. From here we have our vision for ourselves and for comic retailing at large.
We want to have the best shop in the world, meaning we want to win the “Spirit of Retailing” award by 2012 (which interestingly isn’t the Mayan calendar’s “end of the world”, just the end of printed word). To do this, we will not open another shop, we will focus on making our shop better and helping other shops use what we’ve learned to be the best they can be. Locally there is a chain store in town that tried to buy us out when we were just getting started; we choose to not be part of a chain. To not be owned by a parent company. The same chain and its parent company want to have a store in every town and be the “Starbucks” of comics.
Part of our vision is to network with smaller shops all over and inspire them to better themselves so they won’t feel the need to sell to a chain. We love that comic retailing is one of the last holdouts of independent businesses. We feel that hundreds of creative small shops, networking their ideas will better serve fans than a nationwide cookie cutter chain. There are some good chains out there, one good shop that opened another and so on. Coliseum of Comics here in Orlando is an example of that, a chain that organically grew into what it is now. However, we don’t think change will come from chain shops, we feel they are focused on their status quo, the grind of keeping several stores running. Change will come from the flexible little guys, full of passion and energy. We want to be the best we can be while helping other shops. I’m sure we’ll get plenty of great ideas and help from other shops too. So, we don’t want to be a chain trying to hold a captive audience, we want to help others captivate an audience for comics.
The future hub of collaborating with other shops: http://www.shopofideas.com
Get bit, get shotThe comics industry needs to step it up and be part of the Entertainment Industry. To us this means putting out products on time so stores like us can build interest in the product and many times put together a release party. Slipping ship dates, sometime without any notices hurt stores when we try to do something creative. We planned the launch of our Z.E.D. (Zombie Emergency Defense) program with the release of Walking Dead volume 6. We talked to Image’s marketing guy at the time and got an assurance of the release date, in fact he said the book would come out that Wednesday “barring an alien invasion”. The book didn’t come out that day; we had make-up artists, zombie actors, and zombie hunters but no new volume of Walking Dead to sell. Most entertainment builds interest and momentum with a street date that doesn’t change, an album drops, a movie releases, a new TV show starts on a stated date that people have confidence in. We feel that things are looking better in the last few months in the way of late shipping, and applaud Robert Kirkman’s on time shipping guarantee. The next thing the industry needs to do is keep the best selling graphic novels in print and in stock. At our store it’s debatable whether we are mainly in the periodical business or a more evergreen graphic novel business. We feel the two formats reinforce each other in sales, but to do our jobs we need books in print. It seems the easiest time to get someone to try an older graphic novel is when a new periodical builds from it, so its very important to have Bendis’ Secret War in stock while the buzz for Secret Warriors builds (it hasn’t been in stock). Certain books can become signature sellers for a shop, and when volumes go out of print that comes to a screeching halt. At this time Walking Dead volumes 4 and 5, Invincible volume 1, and Battle Pope volume 1 have all been out of stock for weeks. We’d like more effort put forth to have older graphic novels available when they tie to new buzz books, maybe have a publisher’s collections department communicate more with the periodical department. Also, it’s wonderful that Walking Dead and Invincible are coming out monthly, but we’d like to see a commitment to keep the collections in stock.
The only warning we got...Ship dates are important to be more like the rest of the Entertainment Industry, but what about a standard ship day? We’d like to see Diamond Comics Distribution ship comics every Wednesday the same way DVDs come out every Tuesday. The holiday delays are unprofessional, and we feel avoidable. In recent years it seems that a UPS holiday any day of the week delays comics to Thursday or even Friday. Many fans still come in Wednesday for new books on those delayed days, other fans assume all holidays delay comics. Most recently some fans thought MLK day delayed comics when it did not. We want to know what it would take to have a consistent Wednesday shipping, more overtime pay for Diamond employees and/or extra shipping cost for us on effected weeks, and see if we as retailer’s could share that cost. For anyone who doesn’t agree it’s unprofessional to slip the ship day from Wednesday to Thursday or Friday because of a holiday, we can prove in this case with Diamond it absolutely is. Diamond’s Previews catalogue always prints the release day as Wednesday, we have the same holidays every year and Diamond has no intention of keeping a Wednesday release date on some of these weeks that have a holiday in them, BUT they still publish that the books will ship that Wednesday. Then we have the publishers using the Previews copy on their websites with the Wednesday date, comic news sites posting preview pages of the comics with the Wednesday date, and customers coming in Wednesday for said comics that won’t be there. We want to see a consistent Wednesday ship day, but until then Diamond’s Previews catalogue should give the Thursday or Friday release date in print from the start.
David Lloyd's Kickback tourWe want to see more comic creator and comic retailer team-ups! We are here to sell their books. Great retailers can be the missing link when it comes to great books finding a larger fan base. Many times a great comic has trouble surviving, gets cancelled by the publisher only to be saved by the hardcore fans. Unfortunately those same books have a hard time growing past the hardcore fans that saved it, and gets re-cancelled. Fans are fans, they have no duty to get new people to try the books they love and they don’t have the tools retailers have. Retailers could come up with plans to market a book and use the hardcore fans as a street team (or an internet team) to really get a book noticed by others. If a network of retailers worked together to market a great book in danger of being cancelled, and had the help of the books creators and hardcore fans we could make the needle move for that book’s sales. Publishers could have opt in programs to promote books of their choosing with limited returnablity on graphic novels and higher discounts on single issues. That’s only what we could do teaming up to help sell a book in trouble. We feel retailers should help sell a creator’s book from before it comes out since most books’ sales go down from that first number. If we have more information than the customers have about a title, a black and white Photostat perhaps, we could know how to market it and who to market it to, we’d also know how much we believe it the new title. We love to have release parties for new titles, and would like to network those among other shops. Our vision on this includes more interaction with the title’s publisher and creators, plus a definite ship date that doesn’t change because of artistic or holiday delays.
LaurenWe feel comic retailers need to innovate to survive and we feel this industry will only change if we have a movement of retailer’s and fans building from the bottom up. We will constantly innovate our shop and bring all that we do to the industry at large with this column. We have a crazy new program we just started that we’ll explain in a few months, whether it works or not. Free Comic Book Day was a great idea, but where’s the next idea? We came up with My Free Comic Book Day and at this time have five other shops that want to use it too. One shop Challengers Comics & Conversation in Chicago already has and calls it the Free Comic Challenge. Again, we see the need for change and we aren’t against chain stores, we just see independent shops are more flexible and open to change. If you are a fan who has an idea about marketing comics, let us know. If you’re a publisher and want to beta test something, we’ll be your guinea pigs. If you’re a creator want to help us promote your book get it touch with any idea; signings, parties, protests, videos, contests, in-store signage, etc. If you’re another comic shop that wants to network with us, by all means contact us. We can build a better industry together.
Download: My Free Comic Book Day, Photoshop File:
Creators @ “A Comic Shop”
I’ll be at New York Comic Con this coming weekend with my bodyguard, Dillen. I may be hovering around the Newsarama skybox or at the FX Show booth since I’m one of their P.R. guys. If you want to meet up and talk about ideas for future columns or retailing send me an email, I’ll have my Blackberry with me. The following week things get back to “normal” for A Comic Shop, we have a store signing with Tony Bedard Wednesday February 11th for R.E.B.E.L.S. #1. Maybe you don’t know anything about R.E.B.E.L.S., but I say give it a shot because Bedard shines with Sci-Fi. Ask anyone who read his Crossgen work like Negation War. Thanks for reading!
“A Comic Shop” is located at 114 S. Semoran Blvd Winter Park, FL 32792 (407) 332-9636A Shop of Ideas: Ideaology Part 4, Creativity Counts
A Shop of Ideas: Ideology Part 1, NO MORE BACK ISSUES