General Industry Discussion / Trends / Outlook

2018 was not one of the greatest years for Comic Publishers, nor most Retailers … much of the self-defeating tactics of large publishers to extract maximum revenue out of a small and unrepresentative group of hardcore collectors; falling costs of digital back issues via subscription services and sales, making it less necessary for readers to follow every series in real time; and general headwinds facing many small, urban-based businesses, such as rising rents and labor costs, which put a pinch on their ability to order extra copies … In the comic book Direct Market, orders from the distributor are usually non-returnable, which puts huge pressure on retailers to not over-order titles that might not be salable (prices for recent back issues of most comics are near zero), but not under-order on titles that might end up being sleeper hits. This, in and of itself, is what creates price escalation when I book does get hot, and is the bedrock these days of the Spec Market … Even small miscalculations can be the difference between a good month and catastrophe.

Comic stores, which draw most of their customers from adult superhero fans and, increasingly, speculation customers who hear about this and that on-line, are missing out on the biggest trend in comics over the last few years: graphic novels for kids, teens and young readers. Dav Pilkey’s kid-oriented Dog Man series has sold over half a million copies in the book channel in a single month. But most comic shop owners - unless they have young kids themselves - have never heard of it, or don’t consider it “comics” in ways that would appeal to their existing customers.

Comic shops are losing their share of the market for trade collections and graphic novels to other outlets like book stores and Amazon / eBay … in fact, many Trades can be had on eBay for ridiculously low prices … granted, they may be “gently used”, but if all you want to do is read it, who cares …??

To make matters worse, one comic publisher that had a blockbuster year in 2018 doesn’t distribute to comic stores at all … That would be Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform that enables creators to raise funds to publish their work independently and sell it directly to supporters.
Kickstarter has been a godsend to independent comic creators and small presses for years, successful comic-based Kickstarters raised $15.3 million in 2018, up from around $12M each of the last three years and by far the highest amount since platform metrics became available in 2011. Although that may sound like peanuts in the scope of the entire Market, it’s still a 25% jump in a key metric year-over-year, numbers that any other publisher in the space would kill for.

The comic publishing industry, including trade books, periodicals and digital, does about $1 billion annually, according to industry estimates. But it’s the medium of origin for the properties that power multi-billion dollar entertainment franchises across multiple screens, and characters who account for tens of billions of dollars of licensing revenue across apparel, toys, games and other merchandise.

Although, as a Shop Owner, I hold out hope that the Future will be brighter, I don’t know what it takes to make it so … the continued escalation of the Cover Price to an average of $3.99 - $4.99 is a further wedge that disuades younger folks from coming into the fold …

What does all this mean to the Spec side of things … ?? Well, lower print runs and a hardcore base of customers both physical and on-line could prove to be somewhat lucrative … although the long term staying power of a hot Book-Of-The-Week is always questionable … and, unfortunately, sometimes ends up a Pyramid Scheme … that usually ends up, at some point, driving those at the bottom of the Pyramid away, eventually …

Shops need to promote Comics as a fun medium … the idea that each and every new comic is immediately sealed away in a Mylar does not promote the idea of actually enjoying the book …

In the meantime, I will continue to slog along … I gave up being Bill Gates many, many years ago …

Uncle Willie

One of the problems with dwindling sales is it takes more and more of your capital dedicated to maintaining your Diamond Discount level if you aren’t one of the biguns. Every month it seems we do the initial order on the Excell sheet, scroll to the top to see the estimate and are forced to add extra qty to the order to meet the minimum that we don’t have buyers for or shelf space to accommodate just to maintain those discount levels. DC in particular is cutting production qty of comics making additional order qty needed to maintain the status quo. While they are pushing more teen targeted books that doesn’t directly turn into repeat sales. I rule them more as impulse buys if they happen to be here anyway but noone’s ever subscribed to a trad series like SuperHeroes Girls or such. Even today trying to hand teen girls that Under The Moon, A Catwoman Tale FCBD issue for free is getting turned down repeatedly.

That doesn’t leave a lot for chasing down trades from other sources and without a decent expectation, the shipping costs for smaller orders can get prohibitive. Then that brings the online competition into play when you have very little margin and low expectations and multiple online sources undercutting the MSRP just because they can.

I do have a huge trade assortment all over the building but vast amounts of it were acquired in volume during Diamonds sales, especially all the stupid cheap Marvel Book sales the last 3 years. When they’re selling books so cheap that Buy One get 3 Free still feels overpriced there’s a flaw there somewhere that the base MSRP’s are too high to begin with or Marvel’s over production is at ignorant levels or they’re just dumping trying to close the gap a few million on that quarters loses so Disney doesn’t axe them entirely. At least as a side benefit all those retail prices for the books counted towards the Marvel Discount level so as long as they’re going to dump, I’m going to keep boosting those levels with purchases.

I just don’t see any way to chase other companies products unless they ship through Diamond and Diamonds got some terrible levels the small guys have to get up to to even get considered according to that link I posted a couple weeks ago.

I see the same problem with say Funko Pops. The big chains can afford to order direct from Funko in enough bulk to absorb the shipping cost and by the time we get them from Diamond, most people in the area already have them that wanted them. Endgames out, Captain Marvel Pops haven’t been touched other than a Goose or two and most of Infinity War’s, Thor Ragnaroks, Black Panthers, Inhumans, both Guardians movies and even the Christmas themed one’s from Marvel and Star Wars are still here. (I did sell two Chia Pets yesterday from another huge product line I tried back before Christmas that has most Chia’s still here)
Legends figures, people love to come in and tell you what Walmart’s price is or that they found the whole set there. That conversation just happened again Thursday. if you bust the set up they’ll be happy to take the 1 or 2 HOT figures out of each series leaving you stuck with the rest.
I figure it’s a waiting game. After about 3 years people come in with the phones to scan the bottom of every POP until they find the one’s the phone says are up in price. Not a single Smurf yet though has jumped enough to leave. I did sell a Smurf $3.99 starter book today so maybe one day a Smurf Pop will leave and free that money up to try something different.

I’m always looking to try something new to bring more new faces in.

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You can contribute some of that as far as minimums to the demise of the Newsstand distribution … back in the day, you could simply rip a cover off a book that did not sell and return it for credit on the next shipment … that form of distribution allowed Retailers to really get a wide variety of stock, plenty of it and not take near the risk that we take now in the Direct Market …

I won’t handle a toy sold at a mass marketer … I simply won’t … now, I do handle a good quantity of the Limited Edition statues and such and do pretty well with them …

The other thing here is, Diamond is essentially a monopoly and has been since the late 1990’s … and, there is no incentive for a new player to enter the Market, currently … thus, Diamond sets the discount levels and you live with it, or not …

The continued escalation of shipping adds to the cost of doing business …

There just is no easy answer … sometimes, I think I’d make more coin changing into a Junk Resale Shop … :weary:

I love the Business, I love the Hobby … that’s what keeps us all going … but, you can’t pay the bills with Love … (well, maybe some do … :wink:)

I really enjoy the insights from shop owners that do this for a living.

Even though I’m not a shop owner, I still feel from all the stories that Diamond is part of the problem for this industry. If we had another player or several distributors, I think this industry and hobby would be better off.

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Right now this is beginning to look like an easy winner for lowest traffic FCBD out of the last 6 even though I’ve promoted the book Marvel was hyping to be the biggest of all time for months now. Okay sales so far but still a long way to go to cover that Diamond invoice check hitting the bank next week for all those DCYOTV’s and weekly delivery.

I can’t blame the weather either, it’s been a beautiful day.

Can’t fault the puppy either since she’s put up with a bath and a new dress for the kids that haven’t been seen.

Still time though and we usually get a few late shows that have hit other places first.

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Competition is good, even one new Distributor that dealt in a full line of Comics …

Steve Geppi came up with “Diamond Select” as a way to pad the bottom line when Comic and other peripheral goods were less than expected … and it worked …

As well, how much would it hurt Marvel / Disney to actually subsidize the Comic Market with a little piece of that big pile of Movie / TV money … ?? Get the price of a book down to a more reasonable level … after all, without the Comics, they would not have that big pile of money …

I would love to see the prices down but DC just did that a few years ago with the Rebirth bi-monthly launches and it’s already being tossed aside to either have prices raised or the series cancelled in general. The price of the Action Comics 1000 kept me from stocking all the covers and then they topped it with Detective 1000.

I showed them though. I ordered Action Comics 1000 light on top of the subscribers wishes, standard cover only except for 2 DF’s and reordered as they sold out off the shelf at full price so I managed to stay profitable the whole time with no extra inventory to dump or sit on.

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What was the slogan … ?? “Holding the Line at $2.99” or some such

I think it’s now "Bendis Over and say AHHHHH!!!

We can work on that. I have an edit button now!!!

“Bendis Over and take it!!!?”

How about just plain “Bendis Over!!!”

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Man, Diamond has fallen on hard times. Scraping to the bottom of the barrel for money…


AVENGERS #53 Philly Flyers variant

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I’m a NY Ranger fan.
Maybe… just maybe… a Variant comic would get me out to a Flyers game.
But I still doubt it :wink:

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