Top Shelf Productions


comix apocalypse rawks!!!

February 19, 2008

Ezra Clayton Daniles has taken his infamous Comics Art Battle ONLINE!!!

These epic events have always been a hoot live and in the flesh, and the online version kick ass too. Whoo hoo!

•Â Here's the most recent Diamond Previews ad for Top Shelf. After our Winter hiatus, we're starting to get some real nifty books off to the printer. This month, Liz Prince's sophomore effort, Delayed Replays, and David Chelsea's 24x2, which collects two of his NINE 24-Hour comics. They're all very excellent, and hopefully sales on this book will be enough to do more.

• Alan David Doane has an excellent interview with Robert Scott, from Comickazi Comics in San Diego, at Comic Book Galaxy. Robert is also the head honcho at the CBIA (Comic Book Industry Alliance). The interview provides another considered response to the current debate on pre-selling comics at conventions.

I have an idea about this, that i think (i hope) might work for everybody, but first, one more time i have to take umbrage with one of Robert's comments from the interview.

Scott says, "It really shouldn't be that hard to understand that if they are already struggling so much selling this work in the DM, that pre-selling into that market is going to capture sales that would've been made in DM shops but unfortunately most publishers seem to feel that their need trumps everything and everyone else. I believe this is shortsighted and destructive both to the publisher and retailers, regardless of how much money it brings in the short term because it closes off avenues for growth."

I have never disparaged the job of a direct market retailer. I know scores of retailers personally, most of whom i count as friends and comrades-in-arms in an industry that in the best of times, is difficult to navigate. Until there is at least limited returnability for backlist titles and such, direct market retailers are caught between a rock and a hard spot, literally rolling the proverbial dice on a weekly basis, as a matter of fact, hoping they at least break even on their investment.

I clearly understand, and appreciate this. Now, i can't speak for any other publisher (some, like Fantagraphics claim they operate conventions at a loss), but at Top Shelf, our A-List authors can often sell numbers on a given book, that almost rivals the actual direct market advance purchase order on said book. (That certainly doesn't bode well on the support [in orders] we get from the majority of retailers.)

For us, convention debuts truly are a matter of survival. We've stated publicly many times that roughly a third of our annual income comes from convention sales. And launch books play a significant part in that. This is simply not a practice we can afford to eliminate. Period.

NO retailer could make the claim, that in the case of Top Shelf, we're stealing from our own benefactors, because not even the combined amount of our total direct market retail support (in advance purchase orders) for 90% of the books in our line, come close to break-even. Without decent advance orders, we bleed money, and sell at shows as a matter of survival. We would be out of business if we didn't do otherwise.

I won't comment on the aesthetic value of our own line of comics and graphic novels, but i can say that lots of people besides ourselves have made wads of money from our A-List titles. Is Robert saying he would rather not have ANY Top Shelf books to make money from at all, were we to go out of business? That makes no sense whatsoever. No Blankets, From Hell, or Lost Girls to make handsome profits from?

O.k, enough of the bitch-fest.

I propose a volunteer program along the lines Robert talked about, wherein as much as possible, publishers and the CBIA work together and the publishers give advance notice to the CBIA, when they become reasonably aware that a book might launch at a particular show. It's not always an easy task, though, because the publishers are at the whims of fate, as they wait for copies to arrive directly from the printer … often times from China or Hong Kong. Publishers might only know this information a week or two in many cases (or less).

Moreover, these publishers should build-in to their projected convention inventory needs a modicum of overage dedicated to selling (at wholesale, of course) to retailers in the city of the convention in question. The advance notice would allow for retailers to inform customers to notify their staff and clientele.

The onus on the member publishers would be the need for honesty and transparency concerning debut books. That said, the onus on the CBIA would then be to first contact the member publishers in advance of a show (maybe three or four weeks ahead), and simply ask; "Do you have any debut books at the show? Any attending authors we should know about?" Copies of these launch books would then be available either before the show opens to the public during set-up (why the gods created the mobile phone), or at any point during the show.

Chris Staros and myself have ALWAYS honored a similar system, of not only of selling our debut books to retailers at the show itself, but also at a 60% discount! For my two cents, a system like this wouldn't deviate from our own method of operation much at all. And i'd wager that many or most of my publisher friends would gladly participate.

I absolutely LOVE Robert's ideas. Advance knowledge of an attending creator allowing retailers to build creator-based displays is genius. So is the idea of producing book plates for the retailers only, for their stores.

I believe there can indeed be a middle ground here, folks.

• Michael Golden has an exhibit up at the Society of Illustrators. So if you're in Manhattan this month, and as much of a Golden fanboy as myself, get yer butt on over there and check it out!

From the press release:
THE paramount club of renowned artists for over a hundred years, and boasting a membership that at various times included such talents as Montgomery Flagg and N.C. Wyeth, the Society of Illustrators has also become the artistic home of many of today's top sequential art illustrators.

A member since 2007, Golden was inducted on the same night as Neal Adams! Michael's artwork is currently being displayed in the third floor gallery, right next to the likes of Rockwell, Lyndecker and Parrish.

The Michael Golden exhibit shows a spectrum of work, and includes a six page sequential segment entitled "The Sniper," which is one of the first appearance of his influential "The 'Nam" characters. In addition, the Golden works include canvas pieces of his X-Men and Jurassic Park pieces and much more.

Here's more fancy art by my favorite comic book artist EVER!!

• I blogged about Ed Piskor's book Wizziwig just recently, and now Ed informs me the story can be read at his website. i really really really dig this work, and think it's Ed's best, most ambitious work to date.

Can't wait to see more!!