Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Selling Marvel to the Ladies and to the Masses: David Gabriel

Just a few random thoughts on Marvel Senior VP of Sales David Gabriel, who has a long interview running in the retailer only Diamond Daily, parts of which were excerpted by Heidi in The Beat.

"Everybody is in absolute agreement that the longer these stories play out, the less likely people are to be interested in them,” but denies this means “event fatigue”.

Really? That sounds like a very easy way to try and avoid the negative connotations associated with the phrase, "event fatigue", but if you have to double talk your way out of doing another Secret Invasion, then fine. I mean, my inner fan boy liked Secret Invasion, but too many books, too long, too much. I found myself really enjoying only the books that didn't tie in. David, while everyone talks up Secret Wars as the beginning of Marvel's infatuation with big crossovers, remember that Shooter made it so that you didn't have to get every other book to keep reading.

Later on in the year, we’re going to do an omnibus with full runs from things like Night Nurse, Hellcat, and some other things you really wouldn’t collect anywhere else. Because this a big omnibus celebrating the Marvel women, we can get the full runs into that and make an event out of its release.

Which will hopefully filter down into editorial not saying "Yes" to any new covers featuring tentacle porn. It is interesting that Marvel is clearly acknowledging that there is female readership that they haven't captured. I'm just not sure that they can overcome their desire to appeal to the regular fan boys who like their Ms. Marvel in a thong. It should be an interesting tug of war to see how much female readership they think that they can get with only a year long initiative. In publishing terms, I don't see a year as being a very long period to try and convince female readers that Marvel is actively interested in courting them.

Besides, who is the target audience that they're printing the Omnibus for anyway? I don't know of any women that even know about Night Nurse, much less the Claws of the Cat, and know none that are going to want to buy it out of some misguided nostalgia for comics that they don't even know exist. Hell, I HAVE the Claws of the Cat and I don't need it in omnibus form.

Now here's one that makes even less sense:

There’s a gap there because the idea is we want to sell out of the Premiere hardcovers first, making those the collectibles for readers that have to get a story right away and can’t wait on. Then those that wanted to wait could get the collection in paperback a few months later.
Now, however, they’re going to have to wait a little longer, as we’re going to push back the release of trade paperbacks out to about four to five months after the Premiere hardcovers’ releases. That should really give retailers that are selling those Premiere hardcovers an extra couple of months to sell them.

So lets attack this for a Sales perspective: the industry trend is going towards the TPB model, slowly but surely, so you're moving back the TPBs believing that you'll sell more hardbacks? The reality is that everyone that i know makes a quick internal decision: this is something that I want in X format. Classic Kirby FF? Worth it in hardback. The Brubaker Daredevil material? Softcover. And I'll read the heck out of it, but I'm not buying it in hardback, no matter how you make me. All the great sci-fi Annihilation material? You too forever to get it out in softcover. And i'm not buying that in hardcover. All you did was annoy the hell out of me and get my money later, not sooner. Wouldn't you rather have it sooner?

And thats the key here, you can't make me buy anything I don't want. If you only released the Daredevil in hardcover, I likely wouldn't buy it at all. By giving me the different formats you're more likely to get my money, one way or the other. In the music format analogy, don't just release it on cassette. Release it on CD, cassette, vinyl, and on iTunes and you'll get ALL of us to buy it. Would the average retailer want to sell two hardbacks or a greater volume of soft and hardbacks combined? The better strategy is to release both at once and let the retailer and customers decide the appropriate type of media.

On “The Heroic Age", coming in 2010:

If you remember the first pages of the Marvel books from the 70s, Marvel always had these lines at the top of the page, month after month, giving a synopsis of what the comic was all about. We have something already written up that explains what the Heroic Age is, and we should be ready to roll that out sometime in January.

The Heroic Age took place between 1963 and 1969 or 1970 and your synopsis should use words like "Kirby" and "Ditko" and "Lee" and "Kane" and "Steranko" and "Heck" if you really want to get it right.


Alex Sheikman said...

Recently I "discovered" Ennis/Parlov's Punisher Max issues. I ended-up buying all of their 17-18 issues for $1 each at the local comic shop. So for a total investment of $20 I had the full run of their story...then last week I saw Punisher Max hardcover Vol 5 for $35 and Punisher Max softcover #6 for $15 collecting the same issues. The hardcover had reproductions of 8-10 black and white pages in the back and they were real nice, and I am sure I can find the books cheaper at because everything is collected now, the monthlies are worthless and in a month or two you can buy them for 80% off, so....

It seems that Marvel expects to sell the monthlies, AND the hardcover (or the softcover) to the same people. First you buy the monthly to get your weekly "fix", read it , bag it and put it away. Then you buy the collection to put on the bookshelf...just does not seem right.

This has been on my mind because there is talk about collection the second Robotika series into a collection (someday). At first I was a bit disturbed by this, but then it was explained to me that the individual independent issues have a "shelf life" of exactly one week. When the new comics come in, they get crowded out by all the Marvels and the the print runs are so low for independent books that they get sold out pretty fast (or put into the 50 cent boxes). The only way to keep the book in print and in the distributor's inventory is to collect in, call it a "book" and hope that the folks who got the original issues will talk it up to their friends and their friends will go out and take a chance on the collection.

I don't know if that is true, but it sort of made sense to me...but I really don't think Punisher/Marvel has the same agenda.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

Too true. I agree with you, that is exactly what marvel expects and i doubt that that is what anyone does however. I really believe that if you liked the single issues enough you'll make a determination about whether you want to go get the hard or soft cover. you'll never end up buying both.

Baker Street, the old caliber comic, is the one that really got me excited to do my own work, to make me believe that i could completely do my own work and that it didn't have to be perfect. Did i see the original issues? nope, saw the collected trade, which was on the shelf longer than the individual pamphlets by far! I don't know how long it was on the shelf, but long enough for me to find it. I occasionally would look for the individual issues but never found them. the TPB is the way to go! Robotika, i think, needs to be collected in the trade for you and for the longevity of the story and your work! I'm totally convinced that is one of the ways that Sandman became so popular, DC collected the Doll's House trade and kept it in print literally since 1989. And made a million new readers along the way. You could do the same. I'd rather have your work in a TPB period for my bookshelf.