Hit me, baby, one more time:
James Sime braves the slings and arrows of the bloggerati and Delphians again with another installment of "The Comic Pimp."
This week, Sime looks at how retailers use and abuse Previews and, in turn, make or break a comic. In a Discovery Channel moment, he even takes us through the monthly life cycle of the catalog. (I'm sure Diamond and the creators of "Ruule" will enjoy the photo of Sime tearing out the pricey inserts, followed by another photo of said inserts in the trash can.)
It's a column that may
be helpful to new self-publishers who don't understand how or why retailers use Previews, or customers who still scratch their heads and ask, "What do you mean, I have to pre-order
But my mind keeps coming back to the words with which he ended last week's column
, and uses as a peg for this week's installment: "Retailers want to help you sell your book. We're here for you. Don't get lost in the shuffle."
I have no doubt that Sime really wants to help creators and publishers sell their books. I'm sure he's there for them. Even before he began his column at Comic Book Resources
, he had a reputation as one of the more vocal, aggressive and innovative comics retailers in the country.
I'm not part of the anti-Sime chorus, but I disagree with his wording. He should
have written, "Good
retailers want to help you sell your book."
On the surface, it seems like a missing adjective, a minor point. But it's not minor. That one word is the key: good
There certainly are many good
retailers, but they're significantly outnumbered by the bad and mediocre. I can count the number of good
comic shops I've been to on one hand, and still have a free finger to pick my nose. However, the bad and mediocre ones would require the removal of shoes.
retailers want to help you sell your book. The others don't give a shit.
We all know the telltale signs of a mediocre or bad comic store: RPG displays dominate the front of the shop, while the comics are shoved into a far corner. Comics are organized using a method known only to the manager, in which new releases and older titles interweave across walls and shelves like some Mobius strip. Dissheveled boxes of back issues, which the retailer will haul to next weekend's card and comic show, create a dusty maze in the middle of the floor. There's no "Staff's Picks" section. The graphic novel shelves feature a handful of DC and Marvel trades, plus a stray copy of "30 Days of Night." And last, but certainly not least, when asked to pre-order a title, the retailer responds, "I'll see what I can do."
That kind of retailer has little or no interest in "helping" a creator sell a book. That type of "relationship" likely never crosses his mind. In fairness, though, I don't imagine many creators or publishers reach out to that kind of retailer, either because of the size of the store or the attitude of its owner. So, it becomes a vicious circle.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that I was a little annoyed at mediocre and bad retailers before
I read Simes' column. Last year, I moved from a major city back to the relatively rural area where I grew up, and was confronted by the drastic differences in comic shop quality. (Although when I was young, there was a great comic store in the area that since has closed.) That's not to say Big City always trumps Small Town when it comes to comic stores, because I've been to shops in rural areas that put some of those in population centers to shame. Case in point: Universe of Super-Heroes
in Athens, Ohio; small town, nice store.
And in the interest of fuller
(can I write that?) disclosure, I also should reveal that I was unable to order my own comic
from my local comic shop. I'm not bitter, just baffled.
Well, it's not my
comic; it's the anthology in which my first published comic story appears ("Digital Webbing Presents"
#11, which came out Oct. 29). It's solicited through Previews, but the retailer said he wasn't sure whether he could order it. I offered to buy
20 copies through him to tide me over until I received my comp copies. He still wasn't sure whether he could do it.
After more than two months of mentioning the comic to him, I decided to drop it and go through Discount Comic Book Service
. I received a hefty discount and ordered more copies, so good enough, I suppose.
But the point is that the retailer had no interest in helping a local creator sell his book, and
he lost out on guaranteed sales (I was going to give him the cash upfront).
Yes, I know it's anecdotal, but it's far from isolated or unique. Stores like Sime's Isotope
in San Francisco are great, but they're not what most of us encounter when we go to the comic shop.
No, most of us don't get the good
retailers; we're stuck with the bad and mediocre ones.