Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Basement Tapes:
If you're not reading Comic Book Resources's The Basement Tapes, a weekly back and forth about various industry topics by Matt Fraction and Joe Casey, you should be. While I don't always agree with them, and in fact sometimes vehemently disagree, this is smart, funny and eloquent discourse on the industry.

Today's topics: Retailers and publishers, and the relationships between them. This gets discussed a lot, usually by folks who don't know their ass from their head, let alone the vagaries of publishing and retailing. Again, there are some things in this column that I think are 100% wrong, but there's a lot of interesting discussion there.

I know Fraction has done his time in retail, and you can tell in the way he talks about the realities of the situation. I'm not sure about Casey, but I'd guess he hasn't, because he does have some ideas about the direct market that haven't been borne out by my five or six years working in that side of the market. For example, the notion that DC or Marvel should send out full copies of their most spoilerific hypefests to every retailer, trusting the retailer not to spoil it for customers, is a remarkably bad idea. For every one or two retailers who would properly use that information to order more efficiently, there are a dozen who would mark it up and sell it to their customers, and the stuff would wind up on Ebay about five minutes after the previews hit the retail level.

Fraction, I think, has some sympathy for the burden on a retailer's time, but he missed a point, I think, in talking about web resources for smaller publishers. These web resources are a fantastic idea, and any retailer worth his salt spends some time on the Internet checking up on the latest in comics news and indie publisher previews, but... there are way too many independent publishers for any retailer to keep up with all of them. No mystery about one reason or another, it's just a matter of time as the resources pile up.

Note that this isn't my column on retailing. These are a couple of the points that came up in my head from reading The Basement Tapes, and this happens every single time I read the column. It always gets me thinking, analyzing, wondering about the industry and the mechanisms that make it work.

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