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Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Old 04-04-12, 05:27 PM
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Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

We've speculated often about the economics of the industry, and there aren't any real surprises here for most of us, but I thought you'd like to see Mark Waid's breakdown of the economics of publishing. The comments section is also worth reading, as several of the posters have been other industry pros.

Of course, this is just one element of what's going on with the industry and its future. We've dissected things quite handily in recent threads here, and I know the Internet is full of similar discussions by other fans, creators and critics.

What I think we're all waiting for, though, is for someone to change the model somehow.
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Old 04-04-12, 06:11 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Is this a reaction to his former company (Boom!) announcing their exclusivity with Diamond after their previous partner Haven went belly up.

Reading through the comments now, but wow, a buck an issue to print and ship the thing; which I would guess gets cheaper as you get bigger as a company, but still.

I think a major issue is, how do you get noticed when you're a small publisher? Diamond Previews doesn't help all that much, if you're not in the front of the book it's easy to get lost (heck, sometimes I miss things that I'm expressly looking for), and that's only for the subset of comic fandom that even looks at that catalog. Digital doesn't help all that much because unless you're featured or have a sale, it's even easier to get lost in the shuffle on comixology. Spend money for expensive advertisements? Do local signings? I dunno, and then you add the wait-for-the-trade mentality and I don't see how the smaller companies are making it at all.

Even if Diamond wasn't a monopoly, is there enough room in the business right now to support another big distributor? I would think most stores would prefer to deal with one distributor for the bigger discounts anyway, so unless there was an exclusivity deal with one of the big companies, I don't see how they could survive either.

Then there's the whole order two months in advance thing, knowing that a risky order could mean disaster for your business if it doesn't sell, and no easy way to get quick reorders except in some cases from the big 2. Also, I'd be surprised if stores didn't just have an amazon prime account to 2-day ship tpbs if someone in the store asks for it; Amazon's profit margins on those books seem razor thin, not even including shipping costs.

I don't think I've ever heard of someone opening a comic shop because they think it's a great business venture outside of their own fandom. There are many fans who love the medium who want to make it work, there are some who are so invested in the medium that they think everyone would be like them if given the right store, but I don't think many non-comic-fan entrepreneurs are thinking of ways to get into the market, and I think that speaks to the viability of stores in this day and age.

Last edited by fujishig; 04-04-12 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 04-04-12, 10:26 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Nothing too surprising in it, Diamond has a chokehold on the comic book industry and independent creators have a very tough time economically publishing a comic book if they aren't a well-known brand. I assume this is leading up to some piece from Waid pushing digital comics as the only viable platform for independent comics.

The main point I took from it was if you wanted to make a serious living off your independent comics, first make a name for yourself at Marvel or DC and then the fans will follow.
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Old 04-04-12, 11:54 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Yep, thank you Marvel Comics for today's current monopoly by Diamond. Thank you very fucking much.
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Old 04-05-12, 12:48 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by fujishig View Post
Is this a reaction to his former company (Boom!) announcing their exclusivity with Diamond after their previous partner Haven went belly up.
No. Mark Waid is trying to be on the edge of the digital comics revolution, and part of that is explaining print costs, etc. so we can understand how and why digital comics should be priced - his answer to that, of course, is 99 cents. Marvel and DC seem to feel differently.
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Old 04-05-12, 03:53 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

CGC is also ruining collecting by having graded comics. They charge around $11 to verify that your comic was signed by someone..an employee needs to be there to see the signing. Then another $20 to grade your comic and put in a slab so no one can read it again.

What if that person grading your comic is having a bad day? It's so easy to manipulate the system in their favor.
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Old 04-05-12, 04:06 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by matrixrok9 View Post
CGC is also ruining collecting by having graded comics. They charge around $11 to verify that your comic was signed by someone..an employee needs to be there to see the signing. Then another $20 to grade your comic and put in a slab so no one can read it again.

What if that person grading your comic is having a bad day? It's so easy to manipulate the system in their favor.

Eh, I don't see CGC graded comics as any worse than any other collector who buys five copies of the same issue hoping to turn it around in the future for a big profit.

As for signing it, well you always need a certificate of authentication to prove a signature on any kind collectible. Otherwise it is completely worthless and just becomes ordinary writing which actually devalues the comic.
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Old 04-05-12, 08:45 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Yeah CGC isnt hurting monthly sales. I hear the argument about 'you can never read it again' but I recently got a Fantastic Four #1, and got it slabbed. Thats not something I want to pick up and read often. Also comics are graded by 3 individuals, so one person 'having a bad day' doesn't factor in.
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Old 04-05-12, 10:28 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by matrixrok9 View Post
CGC is also ruining collecting by having graded comics.
I've never had a comic graded and have never purchased a graded comic, but I would argue the opposite. I can't tell you how many times I bought "mint" comic book to then find out it was far from mint.

I think it's pretty silly when people go and grade a book that JUST came out, but I see the purpose of having older silver age and golden age books professionally graded.
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Old 04-05-12, 11:18 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by PhantomStranger View Post
Nothing too surprising in it, Diamond has a chokehold on the comic book industry and independent creators have a very tough time economically publishing a comic book if they aren't a well-known brand. I assume this is leading up to some piece from Waid pushing digital comics as the only viable platform for independent comics.

The main point I took from it was if you wanted to make a serious living off your independent comics, first make a name for yourself at Marvel or DC and then the fans will follow.
How many new writers/artists get a shot at Marvel and DC these days without first having an extensive or eye-opening indy run?

I'm all aboard the digital bandwagon (and I'm picking up some of his Ireedemable series since it's on 99c sale at Comixology, ending today). I don't see it as necessarily saving comics, because there's still the problem of how to make sure that people find it. Plus I still think that removing the impulse buy (since digital backissues will pretty much always be there, what's the rush in getting an issue) is bad for the comic seller... good for the comic buyer, but delayed purchases can often turn into non-purchases.

And then there are those that want the actual comic in their hands. Me, I have too many comics and tpbs and graphic novels all over my house, I just want to read most stuff and collect in physical form only the things I enjoy the most.
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Old 04-05-12, 08:53 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Regarding CGC, the comic guy told me you can login to their site and see the value of comics based on grading. I guess I'm just against one company dominating the market. Especially the value because they can be paid off by a company to make their comics to be higher. But then again, Beckett did this with cards but I feel differently because they don't grade.

I didn't know about 3 guys grading the comic, that makes more sense. I guess I'd be having my comics graded too if I make money off it. Can't really blame the sellers.
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Old 04-05-12, 09:06 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

CGC doesn't determine the "value" of a comic. Consumer demand does. Look at what people are actually paying for it on completed ebay auctions and that tells you what the "value" is. CGC can say your comic is worth $1,000 but that means precisely jackshit if you can't actually find someone willing to pay that much.
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Old 04-05-12, 10:51 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by kgrogers1979 View Post
CGC doesn't determine the "value" of a comic. Consumer demand does. Look at what people are actually paying for it on completed ebay auctions and that tells you what the "value" is. CGC can say your comic is worth $1,000 but that means precisely jackshit if you can't actually find someone willing to pay that much.
Conversely if someone offers you way more than $1,000 for it, that doesn't mean you HAVE to sell it for that. The buyer and seller always determine the price.
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Old 04-06-12, 09:57 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by madcougar View Post
The buyer and seller always determine the price.
Yep. Good old supply and demand always has and always will determine the price in a free market economy. Which is why slabbing modern day comics is so stupid. The demand for slabbed comics isn't very high anyway, but everyone is slabbing their modern comics because they think it will increase the value tremendously. So you end up with a relatively low demand for a high supply and that means the price isn't going to increase significantly beyond that of a non-slabbed modern comic.

If you're going to slab any comic, it should be old Golden and Silver Age comics that already have a very low supply. Action Comics vol 1 #1 is worth a million dollars precisely because there are estimated to be less than 100 copies still left in existence, and only about ten of them have been slabbed at 9.0 or better. Action Comics vol 2 #1 conversely has probably hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of copies slabbed at 9.6 or better. People that slabbed it thinking it is going to be worth a lot in the future are delusional.
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Old 05-02-12, 12:25 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

And the other shoe finally drops. Here is one of Waid's first webcomics, called Insufferable. It appears to be a riff on Batman's relationship with Robin, once Robin goes out and becomes a big hero of his own. Just like Irredeemable was a riff on Superman going crazy and taking over the world. Read the first issue for free:

http://www.thrillbent.com/project/insufferable-001/
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Old 05-02-12, 03:35 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

It's definitely insufferable.
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Old 05-02-12, 06:15 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by madcougar View Post
Yep, thank you Marvel Comics for today's current monopoly by Diamond. Thank you very fucking much.
Aww wook, the pissed off fanboy blaming everyone but himself for the collapse of the comic book market.

How quaint.

It is obvious that there is absolutely no demand or room for more than one distributor in the comics market, simply because the size of said market in terms of number of issues being produced is growing smaller and smaller.

A second distributor would be losing millions of dollars per year and you can only write off so much for taxes.

But that's not a satisfactory reason for fanboys like you, is it?
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Old 05-02-12, 06:43 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

That may be true now, but one of the main reasons the other ones folded was Marvel buying Heroes World and then putting all distribution through them, cutting everyone else out. Diamond then signed DC, Darkhorse, Image and Archie to exclusivity. Bye bye other distributors, and when Heroes World collapsed, only Diamond was left. Even if you get Previews, there's no way for an indy book to get noticed in that catalog unless you spend a boatload of money on a big ad (even then it's hit and miss) and/or you have big name creators on it.

I believe there are other distributors out there (I know Brian Hibbs has mentioned ordering from others) but they're mainly distributing the smaller publishers, I think.
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Old 05-02-12, 07:15 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by Pajiba View Post
Aww wook, the pissed off fanboy blaming everyone but himself for the collapse of the comic book market.

How quaint.

It is obvious that there is absolutely no demand or room for more than one distributor in the comics market, simply because the size of said market in terms of number of issues being produced is growing smaller and smaller.

A second distributor would be losing millions of dollars per year and you can only write off so much for taxes.

But that's not a satisfactory reason for fanboys like you, is it?
Pretty unnecessarily inflammatory language for this board, Pajiba. We're generally a more mellow and civil group here. As for your argument, it's worth noting that it's not just fanboys who are upset with Diamond's monopoly. It was brought up in a couple of the panels I attended at C2E2, though to be fair when it was broached in another panel, the response was, "Have you seen their catalog? They'll distribute pretty much anything."

The issue is not necessarily that Diamond is a bad distributor, but that the reliance on the direct market in its present form is not sustainable. Getting trade paperbacks and graphic novels into chain bookstores was a major economic boon for the industry. The Internet sellers do a decent business from what I've been told, but they're still just selling to the converted primarily. It's very difficult to put comics in the hands of new readers because it requires research to even know where to go to buy comics, much less where to begin.

Digital comics have a very high ceiling for distribution and accessibility, though, so there's that. That's still in its infancy, though, and too soon to really tell what role it will play overall.
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Old 05-02-12, 08:50 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Cool new member won't be a member much longer with that attitude...

You probably aren't even old enough to remember comic book spinner racks at Wal-mart, drug stores, grocery stores, etc. Back in the 70s and 80s comic books could be found absolutely anywhere. Its one of the biggest reasons why comics were so popular back then, and aren't so popular today. Many kids discovered comics at drug stores or grocery stores while their families were shopping. I, myself, discovered comics when I happened to notice a Batman comic book at the grocery store while my mom was shopping. I was a fan of the Adam West show, so I wanted to see what the comic was about, and that's where my comic addiction started. Going to an exclusive distributor that only put comic books in a comic book specialty shop was certainly not a good thing for the market whatsoever. It only has made it much more difficult for kids today to discover comics like kids of yesteryear were able to do.
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Old 05-02-12, 09:15 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Yup, comics in 7-11, the drug store, the grocery store. I used to pick up an issue at the grocery store and read it while following my mom around the aisles.
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Old 05-03-12, 11:43 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Ok, back up... I didn't think the Diamond exclusivity thing was the reason that comics no longer showed up in spinner racks and the like. I can only assume profit margins on newsstands were lower (though the potential audience was higher) because, unlike the direct market, the comics had to be returnable (well, not really returnable, they were most likely just pulped after tearing the covers off so they couldn't be resold, like magazines are). The direct market allowed some stability in that they knew exactly how much they would sell to the stores, and none of it was returnable. I remember DC going direct market exclusive with some titles on better quality paper (the Baxter books). They took books like Legion of Superheroes and came up with new stories for the direct market... the newsstands would then get a year of different stories, then they would be a year behind the direct market. They made a big push to make it a premium product, and made a big deal about how they could offer the better paper and the like only because there were dedicated comic buyers willing to pay more for better quality.

Also note that Archie apparently is grandfathered into a killer deal with the grocery store aisle companies, which is why their digests are still there.

By the time Heroes World/Marvel happened and Diamond became the sole distributor, I think the newsstand market had already passed.

Here's an interesting read that basically summarizes what Jim Shooter and Chris Claremont had to say on the matter:
http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/01/04...comics-market/

Note that Barnes and Noble carries the new 52 (I'm really curious to see how that's going) with dedicated rack space, and Toys R Us also has a rack dedicated to comic books. I've never seen anyone buy anything from TRU (I don't really frequent B&N), and I question who would buy these things for full price when they're half wrecked anyway. But the comics rack at a local Waldenbooks did keep me in the hobby in a brief period in college where the only other local comic store didn't really get much in stock, and I had no car to go anywhere else.
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Old 05-03-12, 02:20 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by Pajiba View Post
Aww wook, the pissed off fanboy blaming everyone but himself for the collapse of the comic book market.

How quaint.

It is obvious that there is absolutely no demand or room for more than one distributor in the comics market, simply because the size of said market in terms of number of issues being produced is growing smaller and smaller.

A second distributor would be losing millions of dollars per year and you can only write off so much for taxes.

But that's not a satisfactory reason for fanboys like you, is it?
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Old 05-03-12, 03:01 PM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by Pajiba View Post
Aww wook, the pissed off fanboy blaming everyone but himself for the collapse of the comic book market.

How quaint.

It is obvious that there is absolutely no demand or room for more than one distributor in the comics market, simply because the size of said market in terms of number of issues being produced is growing smaller and smaller.

A second distributor would be losing millions of dollars per year and you can only write off so much for taxes.

But that's not a satisfactory reason for fanboys like you, is it?
Congratulations on finally getting that internet connection at your mother's house. Call me when you finish that economics degree from your community college. But remember to log off the internet or you won't be able to make a call at the same time.
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Old 05-04-12, 01:41 AM
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Re: Mark Waid on Publishing Economics

Originally Posted by fujishig View Post

Also note that Archie apparently is grandfathered into a killer deal with the grocery store aisle companies, which is why their digests are still there.

By the time Heroes World/Marvel happened and Diamond became the sole distributor, I think the newsstand market had already passed.

Here's an interesting read that basically summarizes what Jim Shooter and Chris Claremont had to say on the matter:
http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/01/04...comics-market/
The industry slit its own throat when they helped kill off the newsstand market. That article and quotes from Shooter make a lot of sense. When the newsstand market was finally eliminated, comics were forever consigned to a cultural ghetto by the mass audience. Imagine going back in time and telling someone at Marvel and DC in the 70s that comic book movies would be perennial box office champs in 2012, dominating most summers. That person would automatically assume the comic book industry was bigger than ever.
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