Post 4: On Publishers, On SWAG, and On Being Different
“Only dead fish go with the flow” –Science
A friend of mine once said to me “You sir, are a contrarian pain in the ass”. No other sentence can more adequately sum up comic publishers. Comic publishers are a unique kind of people. They by nature of the industry rely on retailers who by nature of the industry rely on them and everybody relies on distributors. Some industries encourage you to cut out the middle man, in comic books we encourage it and in fact there are 2 middle men. It works like this, Comic publishers cultivate contents, covers, sales goals, and sometimes incentives, Retailers use this info to place their orders and know what to stock, everything gets sent to the distributor and from the distributor to the shops and then we sell it to you. So, the distributor and the retailer are both middle men in the comic book sales pyramid. Some publishers are cooler than others. Some publishers will literally drive hours out of their way to visit your store as was the case from Aftershock Comics, others will take time out of their day to send you things like T-Shirts and exclusive comics to your shop as a thank you, as was the case with DC Comics, and Some publishers do the simple things like publishing a limited number of quality titles that are always on time, as is the case with Boom Studios. Don’t get me wrong other publishers do other things but those are the ones I've chosen to list because those are the ones I’m going to talk about here.
A little more on publishers
It costs very little to be cool. It costs a lot not to be. Let me explain that concept further for those of you who can’t read my mind. Being cool is simple. Being not cool is hard. To be cool you must do the things you do the way you do them and include others in that. For instance, the band Rush had gotten very little air play in the US before KISS who was huge at the time took them on tour. KISS was going to tour anyhow and they were going to do it their way but they chose to include Rush and in doing so introduced Rush to a whole new crowd. It cost KISS very little if anything to do this (you must assume the cost of bringing an opener on tour was already factored in). It cost a lot more in terms of lost revenue and loss of potential revenue to be uncool. Being uncool is to be exclusive to be closed off and to not include people in what’s happening. The easiest example of this is any large company or the government. Both examples hold regular people at arm’s length and rather than bringing people along on the cool stuff, instead expect people to figure it out and come along on their own. It speaks volumes about how cool a company is when they send out their retail relations person to a shop with a couple of exclusive covers and a half dozen doughnuts. It says a lot about how uncool a company is when they release info to major news sources before they tell their retail partners. As a Retailer and a person, I will forever be a fan of Aftershock comics because they took the time once to come and stand in the shop and try to bring us along with them. Forever tarnished is my opinion of a publisher who I won’t name and who disrespects its retail partners regularly.
For those of you who think it's just an expression about cool stuff, swag actually has a meaning. It stands for Stuff We All Get. Swag is usually given away free with the payment of promotion of a brand or product. DC Comics are really good at Swag. At ComicsPro's retailer meetings this year DC gave out swag bags filled with Rebirth #1s and t-shirts. They did the same thing at Diamond Retailer summit. The only hang up was that they didn't have all the sizes.
I am not a small man. I don't wear normal sized clothes. I couldn't wear the shirt I was given. I gave it away, and I gave away the books. Then something cool happened. I mentioned on line that I would wear the same size shirt as WWE Superstar The Big Show who had been pictured in a DC shirt. One of the people at DC named Stuart messaged me on facebook asking for my address. I told him and he said to watch the mail. A few days later a Big Show Sized T-shirt and a stack of books showed up. I couldn't believe they took the time and on top of that didn't ask for anything in return.
Don't get me wrong other companies are great at Swag. I bring it up because this is a primary example of the thing I talked about in the first section. It cost very little to be cool. DC was cool and it stuck out to me. In the world where so much of the information disseminated to me is done so in a way to convince me to spend money a certain way or with a certain company, to take a moment and do something cool for someone is huge.
On Being Different
Being different is important. Its our differences that make us unique, Differences are also how we carve out our own niche, that thing we do that no one else does in a way no one else does them. The comic industry is a lot of the same. Many companies focus on turning out product every two weeks like clock work, or in putting out a large variety of books covering a lot of different content regardless as to whether or not its on time. There is little differentiation from this model. One company however had decided to be the opposite. Boom studios has by design focused on putting out less content as opposed to more, they have focused on creating things of high quality by using premium paper and printing, and they have focused on being on time. These things seem small, but its revolutionary. Producing less quantity allows you to take more time and improve quality, using better materials enables the consumer to feel like your product is more substantial and as a result they will buy more, and being on time means never leaving your customers waiting. This punctuality is worth noting, some publishers like to put books on hiatus in order to let creators get caught up, but by the time you're caught up your readers have moved on. Being on time keeps the momentum going and your readership up.
The end of the page is this. Always be cool, always be different and when you can't be both, have SWAG!