Sunday, January 11, 2004

Waiting for the trade? 

John Jakala has a good entry up on the Power Company, which was used as an example on Byrne's board of a monthly that was killed by people waiting for the trade.

I think John has a really good response to this, citing not only that there were a lot of issues involved with this particular title (erratic beginning, price rise, a revamp, etc.), but that for a lot of people that got on the bandwagon late, they had trouble finding the title at all:

I decided to try out the book's new direction. I liked it enough to seek out the back issues I'd missed. I think I had to go to five or six shops before I'd found the six issues I was missing. Other posters complained about similar experiences in their areas, so many hoped a trade could fill that gap.

I think a lot of people forget that just because people say they want a trade or are waiting on it, doesn't mean they would have bought the monthlies in the past either. I'd argue there has always been a number of people who haven't wanted to go through the trouble of tracking down backissues of lesser-known series. And with so many shops having closed in recent years, a lot of people only have one or two shops a realistic distance away, and they may be of varying quality.

I'd also argue that there are new or returning readers (like myself) that just don't want to deal with the weekly grind and wouldn't have gotten back into comics at all without the TPBs...

In the comments section, Brian Grindrod also points out that his friend has a comic shop, and now TPBs & HDCs generate about 45% of the revenue of the store. I've seen quite a rise at local shops here as well, and one newer shop which has always had most of the store taken up by trades. When you stop and think about it, for the floor space of one long-box, you can have a tall bookcase with 5 shelves of trades, all easily accessable for browsing by customers. The fact that each one collects a lot of story also makes it less likely someone will be able to read the whole story just by standing around for five minutes, making for a less police-state atmosphere. I think at this point a lot of shops are starting to move away from longboxes and becoming more like specialized bookstores with a newstand component...

I do sympathise that creators feel like publishers won't take trades into account enough and their series will get canceled before they even get collected. I fear the only answer may be for the publishers to estimate future demand, something that may take them a while to get a feel for.

I'd also hate for any kind of monthly serialization to disappear. I'm really really hoping that somehow more cheap anthologies in the shadow of Shonen Jump can take off. They don't have the best history in the US and even other manga anthologies haven't done as well, but if someone can pull it off, it'd be a big step forward I think.. The format really just opens it up to newstand and bookstore distribution in a way that the smaller monthlies have trouble with...

Anyway, I just think there's only so much you can blame on the trades. For all that they might cannibalize some sales, they also create sales for people that wouldn't have bought the monthlies for a variety of reasons. Also while especially mid-list superhero stories may suffer, they seem to be giving a bit more of a level playing field to other kinds of stories and smaller publishers without the overhead of Marvel/DC.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it all pans out. I think 2004 is going to be a really interesting year as far the industry itself goes...

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