Bill Jemas and Axel Alonso have ambitious plans for their new comic publishing start-up Artists, Writers, and Artisans (AWA), and as the publisher gets closer to the release of its first group of titles in February, it has hired ReedPOP's Gabe Yocum as its Sales Director.
Yocum, who was once the purchasing manager of New York City's Midtown Comics chain, will be overseeing AWA's direct market and booktrade sales.
In a conversation, Yocum talked about his new position, and some AWA initiatives, including a retailer council that will be able to slash the price of one AWA title each month for all Diamond retailers - and get store credit to boot.
Newsarama: Gabe, what exactly will you be doing at Artists, Writers and Artisans?
Gabe Yocum: I'll be running our direct market sales efforts, overseeing book market sales, and heading up our convention presence. I'm really excited to get back into it.
Nrama: You're taking to market a new initiative called a Retail Council. As a former Midtown Comics employee yourself, tell us what's in this for retailers?
Yocum: The AWA Retailer Council (or ARC- catchy, no?) is about giving retailers as much control as possible over what books they get in hand to sell. One to two months prior to each monthly Previews coming out, we will send out a number of preview copies to the ARC member stores and they will vote for one "Big Book" monthly. That book will be 75% off the cover price for the entire market. Not just ARC members.
ARC members, just for saying "yes, I'll be a part of that" will also get a one-time $250.00 credit with Diamond toward the purchase of our books that they can use how they see fit.
A big part of this is about changing the way the direct market operates to try to make it easier on stores. I will do all I can to make sure that the direct market thrives, and it needs innovation. This is a great first step.
Nrama: So the "Big Book" the council chooses will be available to them at 75% off the cover price. What will the retail cover price be on AWA books, and what's the normal retailer discount?
Yocum: Cover price will be close to or at industry standard, and store discounts will vary based on their Diamond discount. I will say this, though - we are a well-funded creative studio - an anomaly in comics today. This gives us the kind of flexibility we need to make things as easy as possible on retailers who are interested in selling our books.
Nrama: Time is a valuable resource to mom and pop retailers, how much time is required to take part of ARC?
Yocum: I'm very familiar with the kind of time retailers have and perhaps more accurately, don't have. It's why we are so heavily incentivizing the program with the $250 credit just for taking part.
We believe in the creative we are presenting and we are betting on it in a huge way. We believe in comic retail, and believe that if we make it easy through incredible creative, the best terms in comics, and a concerted effort to bring new fans into shops, we will have a winning formula.
Nrama: Will the AWA be doing any sort of returnability for its books?
Yocum: Nothing is off the table. From the jump, the 75% off program will be what we hang our hat on, but returnability is an option we will keep on the table for down the road, without question.
Nrama: In addition to handling the direct market for AWA, you're also in charge of book market. What does the AWA have planned on that front?
Yocum: There will be some projects down the road, I'm sure, that will be "straight to graphic novel," but we will also be presenting many of our titles in collections as well.
Nrama: AWA has said they have a six-figure direct market co-op advertising, aftermarket and promotional budget. What specifically will this be going towards?
Yocum: Certainly the $250 credits we are offering for being part of the council, as well as point of purchase and promotional items for stores.
Here's the thing, though - that budget will go toward the things that retailers ask of us. These decisions will be made from the one-on-one and phone conversations I have with retailers. A lot of the appeal of this role for me was just how retail-focused I am going to be able to be. It is unique in comics to have this kind of freedom to empower your customer base.
Nrama: When will retailers be able to read the first books - and what will they be?
Yocum: Soon, very soon. I can't speak to exact dates or what our launch titles will be just yet, but I can say that when I saw the creative I was flabbergasted. And I don't flabbergast easily.