Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

August 9, 2005

Go, Read: BT’s Retailing Snapshot 2

This week's episode of "The Basement Tapes" may be the best yet run: the second half of a dissection of the state of retailing from the point of view of a pair of comics writers. The best moment is Matt Fraction's description of how Diamond has dealt with retailer malfeasance in the past: basically by changing the system so that everyone suffers. If true, this is incredibly sad, funny, and really, really needs to be replaced by a system in which Diamond enforces policies by singling out those who violate them. It's not 1988; there's not a world of competition willing to swoop in if Diamond is mean for a month-long period to someone who deserves it. What good is a pseudo-monopoly if you don't get the positives of one?

Although I think a lot of their observations have value, my personal opinion is that I'm not sure Fraction and Joe Casey go far enough in their criticism of the larger publishing companies' status quo treatment of the comic shop retailing industry. Casey mentions I think rightfully so that a retailer's orientation should be to make money from the publishers; what rarely gets discussed is how this can get scotched because publishers don't see retailers as an avenue for profits to be maximized over the long term.

It would be interesting to see where the direct market stood if the top twenty publishing companies took a two year pledge to solicit only when the entire book was completed, to schedule books in the course of a month so that no week was flooded with overlapping product from a single publisher, and to limit additional titles according to the dictates of overall market growth. In other words, if every company treated the direct market as a platform to be maximized as opposed to a system that needs to adjust to whatever expression of contempt a company decides to show for it. Although you can say this kind of reform will never take place, it's worth noting that in one way it already does happen: severe market blows almost always lead to enforced discipline at comics companies that allow them to better negotiate the next upswing. The problem is when companies get into the upswing, many start acting like an abusive drunk slots winner at Vegas all over again.
posted 9:28 am PST | Permalink

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