Robot 6

Terry Moore on why he’s going digital

Terry Moore announced on his blog last week that he will release his comics digitally via comiXology, beginning with Strangers in Paradise and hopefully going on to Rachel Rising, his current series. Actually, he lets one of his would-be readers, Aaron, do most of the talking:

I went to Bedrock Comics today, asked about Rachel Rising #5, and was told that they only ordered two copies, and both were pre-orders. The shopkeeper said when the book first came out, he ordered more, based on track record, but they didn’t sell. I simply don’t have the time to go searching around, and I don’t buy enough comics to warrant a pull list. I’m not sure what the problem is that there “isn’t a single penny” for you with digital, but I’d buy PDFs straight from this site if I could. Unfortunately, I can’t justify $6.99 plus shipping for a comic….

There is something profoundly wrong with the distribution system when a title from a leading creator can’t be found at a comic store in a major metropolitan area. I can’t see how digital would be any worse for you, and it would be a lot better for me (and I’m betting plenty of others). I want to support your work, but it shouldn’t be this difficult.

This is the problem, in a nutshell, for independent creators like Moore. I’m sure if Aaron were looking for the latest DC or Marvel title, there would be no problem, but it’s hard for retailers to take a risk on titles that may not sell — or that don’t sell well for the first couple of issues. You can’t blame them for that, but it presents an obstacle to new or alternative creators whose work may take a while to catch on. Moore isn’t abandoning print, or the direct market, but he’s a good example of a creator who will probably add readers with digital.

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17 Comments

Terry Moore’s a leading creator?

I’m glad to see Moore going digital, but I’m curious about Aaron’s comment about not buying enough comics to “warrant a pull list.” Any comic shop worth its salt will allow a customer to have a pull list no matter how few comics they buy. I understand that maintaining pull lists is a lot of work for a comic shop, but helping readers get the comics they want, no matter how many or how few, is the name of the game.

Sorry, I know none of that was the point of the article, but that part caught my eye.

I was out of town when Fables 100 was released. I went to a couple of comic book stores and was told that they only had ordered enough for their regular customers. So even for DC (Vertigo) books, this is an issue.

SquashedBug, yes, I would say that Terry Moore is certainly a leading creator. I don’t blame him one bit for going digital. If people in comic shops won’t purchase the print version, he needs to find income elsewhere. The answer to that is digital.

A shame that it seems LCS’ are ordering low on Rachel Rising. It’s really, really good.

Joe–some shops do have minimum for lists, but the reader might simply be saying he doesn’t go into a comic shop that often. Stores, quite reasonably, want you to pick up the books you’ve reserved but have not paid for, and if a reader knows he might go a month or two between visits, he might not meet the shop’s requirements (or he might just feel it’s a bit too much trouble). I don’t know what Aaron’s case is, but I can see circumstances in which (rightly or wrongly) he might not feel it’s worth it.

@Joe Unfortunately, comic shops “worth their salt” aren’t as common as we’d like. I’ve definitely seen a few who would charge a fee for a pull list if you had under a certain amount of books. It blew me away the first time I saw it, because I was used to a shop that gave incentives for having a box (because it benefits the shop to know what to order an to have a guaranteed sell), but they exist.

Alternatively, if a store will only hold a book for a certain period of time (a more reasonable, and not uncommon practice) and he doesn’t go in very often that could be another issue with having a pull list. I know it’s weird for us every Wednesday folk, but people have different buying habits.

I feel a little bad for the store, and the presumption of poor service upon their part, both here and in the comments section at Terry’s blog. Looking at their Yelp page they’re said to have a diverse stock, a clean store, and a female-friendly shopping experience.

I don’t know, obviously, what the situation is — but it COULD be something on the customer’s side as well. I’m not going to go into the whole litany of possibilities, but I can say that we’ve, on occasion had a customer that was frustrated by our not having issue #x of [something], but when you get into a dialogue, it turns out that they didn’t buy the previous 4-5 issues from us, so how were we ever to know what their desires were? They never communicated them through word OR deed!

I don’t know any retailer anywhere that won’t order whatever comic that a customer wants, if that customer is a viable prospect.

But not all are.

-B

Asking a retailer who can’t return overstock because of a distribution monopoly to order and stock a title that isn’t selling…

“The shopkeeper said when the book first came out, he ordered more, based on track record, but they didn’t sell.”

… is an unrealistic expectation. If Mr. Moore’s established fan base or new readers failed to pick up subsequent issues of Rachel Rising (which IMHO is a quality comic), the problem isn’t in distribution. The problem is that the fans didn’t like the comic enough to continue past the early issues, or that Mr. Moore’s established fanbase wasn’t aware of the series in the first place. This means the comic shop was losing money by ordering something that wasn’t selling and surely nobody can fault them for that?

Yes, Squashed Bug, Terry Moore is a leading creator. One of the best storytellers working in comics today.

Like Jaime Hernandez, Terry Moore portrays emotional nuance and depth of character that are miles beyond what you will find in any comic book by DC or Marvel, where most of the artists lack storytelling ability and only know how to draw 2 facial expressions.

My apologies. I didn’t mean to imply that the shop was at fault. I am a retailer myself, and I understand that there are any number of variables at play in a given situation. It could be that he felt like a small pull list wasn’t worth the effort, as Shaun said, or that he never asked for the comic to be special ordered/pulled for him, as Mr. Hibbs pointed out. It is a HUGE risk to order comics without the benefit of returnability or the ability to read customers’ minds. We took a small gamble on the recent Image title The Activity and didn’t sell a single copy over preorders on the first issue, despite the high quality of the story and art. It’s a shame…

My point was that no customer should ever hesitate to communicate their wishes to their LCS, and if that shop makes them feel the opposite is doing it wrong.

Joe, just a thought – At my LCS, he offers discounts for subscribers and can only afford to do so if you buy enough books to justify it. He doesn’t offer subscriptions to people who get fewer than five monthlies, on the grounds that it would be impossible for a store with limited resources to keep straight which customers do or do not qualify based on quantity of titles.

If you contact me through Twitter (@russburlingame) I’ll take a couple of copies of the Activity off your hands if you’d like. My LCS didn’t order it and while Image provided me with a free PDF for review purposes, it was well worth the cover price so I’d love to support the creators and the retailers who take a gamble on books like that.

I think digital is a great way to get books out there that might not be stocked in retail stores but places like Comixology aren’t the answer.
For people like me, who’ve been buying comics for years, have a sense of “ownership” when you buy a book. The reason I don’t “buy” books from Comixology, is that you’re not really buying your book. At best, you’re leasing and you’re limited to an internet connection to be able to read what you’ve paid FULL-PRICE for.
Also, I love the notion that Comixology will be around forever, so that someone can get their books. I’ve never seen anything that attacks the issue of what happens to “your” books if/when Comixology goes out or under. Where will the books that you’ve shelled out money for go?
Also, the price-point on an item that requires NOTHING to regenerate, shouldn’t be cover-price. Hell, you can order most books at a discount from places like MailOrderComics.com and get the physical book for less than what you’d pay for the digital version. Until this is fixed, the very issue a site like Comixology is supposed to FIX (piracy), is actually continuing to fuel it.
Let people actually OWN and control the digital comics they buy and make the price they pay around .99 cents and this will likely create a boom in sales.

That’s fair enough, Russ, and a point regarding pull lists I hadn’t considered. We offer a store-wide rewards program to all customers and offer other benefits to pull lists (such as discounted back issues), rather than a discount on new comics. However, if a non-pull list customer needed a comic that your LCS sold out of, they would be willing to order it for that customer, yes? They may require prepayment on a case-by-case basis (as we do), but as long as the willingness to meet the customer’s need is there, then kudos.

Thanks for the offer, but we’re happy to make an effort to hand sell The Activity…It’s a great book! :-)

RegularSyzedMike

January 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Sounds to me like the current comics distribution model is at fault here. I also feel like a lot of DM shops need to start acting like bookstores and less like music stores. That might be a good way to keep them from following the same fate.

Do standard book publishers’ distributors have a no return policy? If not then maybe that’s the key to freeing up the DMs to take more chances on better-yet-unusual material. I realize the nature of floppies makes it a little harder to deal with but let’s be honest…these aren’t fragile, 1.50/ea newsprint comics anymore. With the amount each issue costs it is kind of ridiculous that there’s still a no return policy in place at the monolith that is Diamond (not that it’s only Diamond’s fault but they’re not helping).

Ultimately the comics distribution model currently in place needs to change if it is to remain relevant. The Big 2 might be safe but that’s mostly because they’re now IP farms for big media companies. The rest will have to adapt to the changing times.

I applaud Mr. Moore for adapting!

Not sure which Bedrock City location the guy went to (I believe they have three stores here in the Houston area). I shop at the main location. They do indeed carry a very diverse number of titles. And I recall seeing copies of Rachel Rising on the new releases shelf (including either last week or the week prior–don’t recall which week it came out). The store is definitely clean and certainly female friendly (in fact they have 2 female employees).
I can only assume he went to one of the other locations where maybe they haven’t had as many people interested in Rachel Rising so decided only to buy for pull list customers. Had he asked, I’m sure the store would have gotten a copy from one of the other stores (I know I have heard them calling one of the other locations from the shop I frequent if they happen to be out of something and are willing to have it brought to the store — now perhaps they wouldn’t go to the trouble to have it sent to the store for someone who isn’t a regular customer, on that I can’t really say).

I didn’t realize at the time I posted on Terry’s site that my comments would be picked up so widely, so let me clarify:

I apologize for singling out Bedrock Comics in Framingham, MA. They are actually quite good at stocking independents, which is why I tried them in the first place. They also have an excellent selection of back issues, conveniently organized by major runs. Not quite up to the level of Comicopia or Million Year Picnic, but definitely above average, and they are close to where I work, which is a plus. So, I wouldn’t lump them in with the “top 100 only” guys, and I think they are doing the best they can in a tough market.

That said, I used to do a pull list (at another store), but I discontinued it because I just wasn’t reading as many comics as I used to, and I felt bad putting so many non-returnable issues back on the shelf. Even when I had it, however, I still regularly experienced problems getting my books. Sometimes the store was shorted by Diamond, other times their own systems screwed up, and many times I wouldn’t hear about a book until it was reviewed online, or because it was a new title, so I couldn’t pre-order it or add it to the list, because I didn’t even know I wanted it. Then I had little choice but to mail order it, shop around, or wait 1-2 weeks for a special order.

For years, I put up with this, but now I have an alternative. ComiXology never runs out of stock, so if I start a book with issue #5 (as I did with Last of the Greats), I can easily get caught up. It’s easy to discover and sample new books, and there’s no pull list to maintain. I totally understand the problem DM retailers have with returnability, but honestly I don’t see how that should be my problem as a consumer. I shouldn’t have to pre-order books, or set up pull lists, or any of that nonsense. It is a system tailored for the avid comics fan who reads dozens of books every month, not the occasional or selective reader.

I’ll still go to the local comic shop from time to time, for the serendipity effect, and to get the comics that haven’t made the leap to digital. But I am tired of having to work so hard to get what I want, and that’s why I urged Terry to move to ComiXology.

I’ve recently integrated paypal’s digital micropayment system onto my site. It lets me sell the PDF for whatever I want up to $.99, keep 90% of the profits instead of the 70% through itunes, etc., and track every single sale in real time. And to get around the multiple icon issue I’m selling it as an incrementally released graphic novel, meaning a single file is updated with each new issue’s release instead of making each issue a separate file. It also allows me to do unique things like offer freebies directly to people who buy the book, so imo things are getting exactly to where independent creators need them to be. Pretty exciting time.

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