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Eric Reynolds on Bookstores and Comic Book Stores
posted February 23, 2005

Eric Reynolds
via the Internet

What's ironic about Brian's letter to you today is this statement:
If I'm defensive, it's because it's kinda frustrating being treated like a second class citizen when I'm almost certainly selling many multiples of the volume that any single bookstore might be.

Ironic, because, if I ever sound defensive on the whole "book trade vs. direct market" debate, it's because it's kinda frustrating being treated like a second class citizen in the direct market when we're almost certainly helping to turn new readers on to comics thru books by Clowes, Sacco, Hernandez, Crumb, Schulz, etc. and generating a fair amount of publicity for the medium.

I'm not at all pointing a finger at Brian -- he's one of the good guys, but he's one of a small minority of direct market retailers that make any effort to stock our books. If 90 percent of direct market retailers stocked even some of our line --whether it be Peanuts, Crumb, Eightball, whatever-- I could understand why DM retailers might get frustrated by the book trade's encroachment on the graphic novel market. But when that number is more like 30 percent (and even that's misleading because certainly many of these are stores that carry only one or two specialized lines, like Prince Valiant or Usagi Yojimbo), it's hard to understand the sour grapes. If a comic shop won't carry The Complete Peanuts or Ghost World, it's hard to fault the local indie bookseller around the corner who recognizes there's a demand going unfulfilled.

I would wager that if we hadn't hooked up with Norton when we did, we would be out of business by now. The direct market, as a whole, can not and does not seem particularly interested in supporting a publisher that does not publish typical genre material. Brian mentioned that "most of the large publishers believes that they'd rather be in the 'bookstore' business than the 'DM' business, because one is 'legitimate' and the other is vaguely disreputable." For us, I wish it were that arbitrary of a reason, but our increasing reliance on the book trade is much more borne of necessity. But I would love to see the direct market reap the benefits of our growth. As Brian has pointed out, few bookstores carry a complete line of graphic novels. So someone picking up Ghost World at Barnes & Noble will probably not find Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron or the latest issue of Eightball.

The best way for a direct market store to compete with a local bookseller flirting with graphic novels is to stock a wider and better selection, to grab these new readers entering comics through the book trade. Makes sense, right? But to bring the irony full circle, few do.