Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trading Up: Evolution Of The Brochure?

"...I’ve stated publicly on many occasions that I’ve never seen the benefits of original graphic novels. The economics just don’t work and are poor for both the publisher, retailer and the creator, especially during this Marvel regime when so much of what we do gets compiled into a collected edition anyway. While I would never discount doing one, I don’t see the outward benefits nor does the model work.

Just look at it from the eyes of the uninitiated, or the neophyte who walks into a comic shop or bookstore. When they decide on a hardcover, do you think it matters to them or that in some cases they even know that it’s an original graphic novel or a collection of a six-issue story?

Yet from an economic point of view it makes tons of sense to release the material in serialized form first because it then allows you to sell the product in several different formats. Also, from the point of view of a creator having their material reach the widest possible audience, the price of an original graphic novel can be too steep for many. That’s why you don’t see OGN’s selling in the hundreds of thousands of copies. Yet, if the story is strong enough, you can certainly serialize it and have that many eyeballs looking at your work in installments. At the end of the day, you can work for a year on a mini series that gets collected later or spend that entire same year on the OGN. I promise you, more people will read your mini series when it’s all said and done and that year of your life will have been spent in reaching the widest possible audience. And from an exposure and marketing point of view, you work for a year on a graphic novel, it comes out and you get one big promotional push and then it’s done. If it’s serialized, you get a push every month a new issue hits the stands and then another when it becomes a trade and then another for the hardcover..."


Ahhh, yes... Another great quotable from the Halls of Marvel, when asked about DC's ability to release Original Graphic Novels (OGN's) and Prestige format one shots (using Warner Bros. as their 'petty cash source') over Marvel, and if the Disney ATM would afford them the same flexibility... Oh yes, PLANET GRIFFIN is back in orbit!

Point blank, I agree with the school of thought that Marvel's highly unlikely to embrace a market that they don't dominate. While the OGN is still struggling to reach the atmosphere of continuous profit, it's still the best thing going for the non-superhero/independent crowd who can best utilize the format's strengths to reach the world at large... Makes sense once you factor in all the changes made by the Direct Market Distributor Cartel known as Diamond. (Hey, if you folks out there haven't started calling them out for what they are by now, shame on you...) The 'brochures' are still cool, but when you face the risk of your 6 issue miniseries getting yanked midway through because the DMDC's not getting enough $$$ in their pockets due to 'the market minimum', you find yourself looking at the collected edition format a little differently.

Marvel dominates the Direct Market already since their company has maintained its profitability through brochures, so the very idea of OGN's aren't economically feasible to them. As far as affordability, we're finding the $4 dollar pricetag a little taxing as is, so I'd rather "...wait for the trade..." where I can avail myself to the entire tale and pay the same (or close to it) amount for the collected edition. Besides, I've seen the look on a parent's face when they look at the price tag on a brochure versus their mental calculations on a trade... Oh, I'm sorry, Marvel's known for their disdain of softcover trades, prefering the pricier hardbacks (C'mon man, I came across the collected HERCULES by Bob Layton for $40 dollars!!! Collecting only 8 issues with NO extras?!! Ridiculous!)--- sorry Joe, but that dog's not hunting too well.

One of the BIGGEST tricks in this business when it comes to the American market versus anywhere else is the fact that American media outlets believe in milking a cash cow to damn death versus 'pacing' it's output! Of course, it's better business to keep those installments rolling monthly, but it's hard enough to keep up with all the titles that carry X or Ultimate in its header... But then, if you've already sold 600 issues of the same title, you would tend to follow the credo of '...if it ain't broke...'

Sad part is, you're selling 600 issues of a brochure within a broken system that you're not helping to fix. I guess as long as the profit margins line up for you, there's no need, huh?

Oh well, maybe I'm getting cranky as the future toils on... One day, either the brochure market will begin reducing their prices (and why not, considering the DMDC/Marvel systematic cleansing of the battlefield, making for a less competitive market--- Well, the Korean Man-Hua market hasn't gotten here yet, wait for it...), or the trade market will begin to pick up steam in reaction to the rising costs of printing and raw materials. Granted, I have yet to see any trade millionaires out there, but that day may very well come.

You can bet Marvel's watching even closer.


samax said...

yeah... it may not make sense for Marvel, but Diamond has made it a necessity for many indies. i laugh whenever i hear Marvel talk about 'marketing' as if they are selling their product to anyone outside of Previews and poorly targeted ads in their own books.

Mdoubble said...

“While I would never discount doing one, I don’t see the outward benefits nor does the model work.”

Not to keep lauding this, but how come is it that other publishers can do this,(Viz Media/Tokyopop) and turn a profit. I think Joey’s particular view is skewed since 99.7% of what Marvel sells is superhero related. The brochure format makes it easy for the uninitiated to pick up a random comic book for a lunch break or reading room moment. To me they make disposable entertainment. Collecting it is just stretching the investment. But by Joey’s assesment, sitcoms are the way to go, that movies just don’t make sense…

Rod you’re right in that independents have to think of graphic novels as a way to ensure that the year(s) worth of work is not for waste, even if the book has to be thought of as a long term investment.Graphic novels, I would think have a longer shelf life. Brochure books have a measley week window in which to be sold. A month or two worth of work to be sold in the span of a one week window seems lopsided to me.(At least sitcoms have reruns)

That and the fact that Brochure Books are only sold in specialty shops. That is hardly the best way for me to stumble on work that maybe would interest me or a neophyte. I say Marvel should be looking to ways to make the market work for them instead of only surviving on the fumes of nostalgia for new customers.

"i laugh whenever i hear Marvel talk about 'marketing' as if they are selling their product to anyone outside of Previews and poorly targeted ads in their own books."

LOL now I'm laughing

samax said...

if Marvel even has a marketing department, they should all be fired. i would like to see Disney take over marketing from Marvel except for their arrangement with Diamond. maybe we would see Marvel books become ubiquitous again in stores and on newsstands (and DC would follow suit, i'm sure). also, Disney knows more about marketing to little girls than Marvel ever knew... so maybe in 10 years, women will make up more of the market share (a key if you want to sell a ton of anything).

all of this would be great for Marvel, and for comics in general. i'm not holding my breath though.

Rodney Blackwell - The Infamous RodBuddah said...

Despite the hoop-la, I think the signs of strain are showing with these guys. I personally think Joe burned his membership card when he was offered the Marvel gig just as his indy project, ASH, was making a sizable profit. He traded his marketing skills for false security. Besides, MARVEL doesn't do original ANYTHING anymore... They do rehashes of the same scenario.
As an undergrounder, I'm stepped over and walked on by the mainstream, little realizing that the underground can pull the ground out from under them. They now need US more than we need THEM!