More Hibbsian thoughts about the market and how it works

One of the things that I keep thinking I need to break my habit of is writing posts in the comments threads of consumer news sites, because, frankly, most people really want to talk about Superman plotlines, or whatever. Here are a couple of things I've been posting over to the Beat which quickly scrolled away with no, or few comments, that I thought might be more reasonable to "archive" over here (and, dunno, maybe generate some actual conversation?). They're below the jump.

(Reviews? Later today?)

From the post "$143,379 Later, Lady Sabre’s Kickstarter Closes"

Speaking as a retailer, there is not a single book that has been “kickstarted” yet that went on to sell a meaningful number of copies at retail for me. I’m at try #9 or 10, I think, and 10 and 20% sell-throughs are just death for us.

I attribute this to two main things: 1) The marketing attention, the “mindshare”, has already been long spent by the time that the work actually arrives, and it is tricky (though far from impossible) to get a second wave for the ACTUAL BOOK.

2) Kickstarter is, sort of by definition, the MOST PASSIONATE fans. Take them out of the equation (as they’ve already got the fanciest version), and you’re left with an anemic customer base for a work. Further, KS seems to invert the traditional publishing model where at least a certain percentage of customers are given the opportunity to double- or triple- dip through various incarnations of a work — serialization, collection, upscale collection, super-limited upscale collection — and if you’ve already given them the filet mignon, why would you expect to sell much skirt steak?

Someone, eventually, will crack the code on how to KS something that leads to long-term, lasting, and meaningful sales in a variety of markets, and I hope Rucka & Burchett are the people who can do so, but as the market stands this instant, KS-ing a book marks it as “super risky” in the retail market.



From the post "Coloring books, Paul Jenkins and the Big Two" (Excellent piece, BTW)

In my experience (sorry!), the audience is really pretty good about catching sincerity (NOTE: this is DIFFERENT than “quality”), and books that are “coloring books” generally don’t have all that much sincerity.

This is why, say, in the last comparison here on the Beat, DC’s SUPERMAN is down 26.5% at the one-year mark (from #7 to #18) while AQUAMAN is only down 14.5% in that same time period — one has a creative team that would appear to just be hired by Editorial in order to fill a slot, while the other has a creative team that has some actual passion for the work/character.

In the long run, as a pure publishing concern, customers desire explicit passion, and there’s really only so long you can coast on “good will”/external-marketing-driven circulation stunts.



One post down, in the same thread:

One other point: “Standard attrition” is NOT (*N*O*T*) a function of “retailers ordering less” in the manner in which you imply — it is a function of our guesses about the consumer behavior. The Diamond order numbers are reflective of WHAT HAD HAPPENED MONTHS BEFORE.

What I order of (let’s stay with SUPERMAN)#18 is “How many of #16 did I sell, plus or minus what I perceive the TREND to be” I actually think it’s pretty easy to parse out what sell-through was on any comic (typically after #4) by simply looking at what the next order is.

Here’s the data collected by Marc-Oliver from that report:

03/2012: Superman #7 — 66,588 (- 4.4%) 04/2012: Superman #8 — 64,486 (- 3.2%) 05/2012: Superman #9 — 62,232 (- 3.5%) 06/2012: Superman #10 — 59,081 (- 5.1%) 07/2012: Superman #11 — 56,066 (- 5.1%) 08/2012: Superman #12 — 53,326 (- 4.9%) 09/2012: Superman #0 — 60,493 (+ 13.4%) 10/2012: Superman #13 — 52,155 (- 13.8%) 11/2012: Superman #14 — 52,572 (+ 0.8%) 12/2012: Superman #15 — 51,225 (- 2.6%) 01/2013: Superman #16 — 50,621 (- 1.2%) 02/2013: – 03/2013: Superman #17 — 49,666 (- 1.9%) 03/2013: Superman #18 — 48,236 (- 2.9%)

See it? Everything that’s outside of ACTUAL “standard attrition” (1%-ish) is reactive to the issues before. DC gets that HUGE spike on the #0 because that’s SPECULATIVE — it’s *actually* “what we really sold of #11, plus 10% or so” of us HOPING that people might jump back on, but #13 warps immediately back to the level that #12 *sold*, since that was the most recent data point. The next little boost? #14, which is reflective of how consumers *actually* BOUGHT #0 — it worked a LITTLE, but not as much as WE were hoping.

By #16 & 17 there you’re seeing that, for the most part, we all guessed correctly on #13 & 14 (They are in “SA” range), but that the audience didn’t much like #16 (a middle point in the Superman “Family” x-over), because #18 takes a too large jump downwards. And so on.

If you’re seeing 3%+ drops on books on comics past issue (say) #6, that’s a fairly clear sign that the audience is not responding to the work. If MOST retailers are getting MOST titles MOSTLY right MOST of the time, they’re not going to be able to stay in business. The math is just too brutal otherwise for the (let’s call it) 6-700 SKUs that the “Premier” publishers flood the market with every month.

To paraphrase Mr. Miller, I’d say “There’s nothing that can’t be fixed in the comics publishing industry that can’t be fixed. With my fists.” — EVERY problem that (Premier) publishers have in selling comics comes down to their own behavior.

(Non-”Premier” publishers have a different set of challenges, but that’s a different essay)



So, yeah, didn't want that to scroll away and be lost forever.

Any thoughts?