30 January 2006

COMMENT: Previews is Your Friend?

Guess it depends on who YOU are?

Shopping as I do at Midtown Comics, I've never pre-ordered anything before, and as a result, have never had a need to do more than quickly flip through a copy of Previews, Diamond Comics Distributors' monthly catalog of product being solicited to the direct market. I picked up the current issue last week because I was considering a new column for Buzzscope that would serve both as a pre-ordering primer for those unfamiliar, and a less-snarky spin on my weekly "On The Shelves" post here on CBC. It's an unwieldly chunk of pulped tree, though, and the thought of going through it every month made my eyes bleed and my heart hurt. My love for comics does have a limit, apparently!

With that in mind, it was a funny coincidence that I happened to check my site meter referrals a little bit ago only to see a hit from http://www.astronautsintrouble.com/index.shtml, aka AiT/PlanetLar, whose blog has recently been taken over by one Josh Richardson, who does something over there that's not been deemed important enough for their About or Contact pages. Josh doesn't quite have Larry's flair for the dramatic turn of phrase, but he's an earnest disciple and clearly cut from similar cloth. Anyway, he's sending traffic my way again, linking to an offhand comment I made in last week's "On the Shelves" about their Charlie Adlard 3-pack seeming like an inventory clearing sale. (Not a bad thing, necessarily, and might even be considered a smart bit of marketing.) I mention it only because Josh makes the same mistake Larry did in our little dustup over DEMO last year, saying: "I can see where maybe Guy doesn't go through Previews like the rest of us serious people, so he probably didn't see our 'Charlie Adlard: Master Illustrator' ad, but still."

The snarky little dig brought a smile to my face because Josh is right. As I acknowledged above, I don't typically go through Previews because my eyesight is bad enough and I'm not Midtown's buyer. Plus, I have access to the internet and an email inbox overloaded with press releases that are ultimately more cost-effective than those pricey ads that keep Diamond from dropping indie publishers too quickly, but are overlooked by the 95% of the retailers and fans who don't venture past the premiere publishers section of the catalog.

So no, Josh, I didn't see your ad for "Charlie Adlard: Master Illustrator", just like I didn't the see the other misguided, misdirected advertising in whatever issue of Previews it appeared in. I'm sure you realize I'm not the only one who didn't see it, too; and that of the small percentage of potential buyers who did, the majority of them didn't even register it, and an even smaller percentage of those ordered it.

Moral of the Story: Unless you're a retailer, Previews is not your friend. (Even then, it's not a very good friend.) If you're an indie publisher/creator depending on an ad in Previews to stay ahead of Diamond's cutoff, either legitimately or via a backend deal, you've got a flawed business and/or marketing plan and will most likely fail. If you're a fan who depends on Previews to stay on top of what's coming out, save your $4.95 (and your eyesight) and allow me to introduce you to the comics internet via the links over in the left-hand column.

PS: The column idea isn't dead, but I doubt I'll be the one doing it if it does come to fruition. Maybe one of you "serious people" out there want to pitch something?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Still, Josh's point that you go out of your way to see black when there's just grey remains a good one: 3 $12.95 books remains $38.85, so *I* will ask you: how's that a sale-off of excess inventory?

C'mon, Guy, there's no animosity from AiT. Like Josh says, don't hate: APPRECIATE. :)

Lar

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

You know, a savvier marketer would have simply responded to my comment directly with a quick description and sales pitch:

"The 'Charlie Adlard 3 GN Pack' brings together three of Eisner-nominated illustrator Adlard's seminal graphic novels: Nobody; White Death; and Codeflesh. It's like the Best of HBO, on paper!"

Or something similarly hyperbolic but informative.

Like you've said in the past, though, snark is always easier, yes? ;-)

Anonymous said...

A savvier marketer wouldn't be working in comics.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was me, and yes, you should go ahead and check your gmail. :)

Lar

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

LOL! Sad, but true.

Greg said...

All right, gentlemen, cool your jets. I will say, Guy, that I read Previews every month, and I get a lot of stuff out of it beyond the front of it. The guys at my store are nice, but they are locked into superhero titles for the most part, and I would not have gotten stuff like, say, Elk's Run, or lots of Larry's stuff, without Previews. It's not perfect by a long shot, and my store gives it away, so I don't pay for it, but it's not the worst comic-buying tool in the world.

Erech said...

I don't use Previews either, not really in the past unless I was ordering a book I was in or someone I knew, small press stuff. But I may have to start using it, since my LCS is pretty incompetent.

Although mostly I just order through the company website, or use Khepir/Midtown online the last few times. Don't even have to leave the house to nerdout.

You and Larry need to start a column together though, it would be awesome! ;)

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Greg: Did Previews put you on to Elk's Run, or did the buzz on the internet put it on your radar? I'm thinking the latter. Either way, though, I'm not saying Previews is the worst thing in the world - that'd be Wizard - just that it's not the best tool available to stay on top of what's coming out.

Erech: Maybe Larry and I should pull a switcheroo like Ronée and Beau did this week? I haven't written my latest Establishing Shots column yet, anyway, and it goes up on Thursday! (Though I certainly have an idea for it now...)

Larry: As for your hangup over the word "sale," you seem to be overly focused on it's "discount" definition instead of simply seeing it as "something being sold." Who's looking for black in the grey?

Anonymous said...

Guy, you have to be blind to not see the negative connotation in "Is this the equivalent of a sale to clear out excess inventory?" especially considering that AiT is a backlist publisher, as you well know, and so we don't carry "excess inventory."

Stop yer clownin'.

L.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

You're like a blind pit bull, dude! Let it go and redirect your attention to more important matters. Like my recent review of Full Moon Fever, perhaps?

PS: Even a backlist publisher can accumulate excess inventory. Warehouse space ain't cheap, you know, but semantics are. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing about "let it go" as a debate tactic: means you're out of ammo. "Pit bull" of course, is apt, because I never rest in Making Comics Better, nor Getting the Message Out. Or, in your case, Correcting Your Errors and Pointing Out Your Bias.

And, honestly, warehouse space *is* cheap. You don't seem to really know what you're talking about when you venture into commenting on the business in general or on ours in particular.

L.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Honestly, Larry, it's not lack of ammo, it's lack of interest.

There's no error to correct here as the comment you're all up in arms over was a simple question, one that lacked any of the ill will you seem to think was behind it. I'd have to actually care to harbor that kind of animosity for you. And I don't. Really.

As for warehouse space being cheap or not, that could be part of a much larger conversation I'm guessing you don't want to get in to, loathe as you are to ever provide hard numbers about your operation.

BTW, I work in publishing. I know all the tricks.

Anonymous said...

Why do you say things like "loathe as you are to ever provide hard numbers..."?

I don't believe you know "all the tricks." I hardly believe you work in publishing.

But as to warehouse space, we have a standard international shipping container (the 8 x 8.5 x 40, not the Hicube, which is also a standard) that we rent for $50 bucks a month. That's 2720 cubic feet, at 1.8 cents a cubic foot.

That's cheap by anyone's standards, not just your biased ones. Also hard numbers.

Greg said...

Guy - yes, the Internet did get me interested in plenty of the smaller stuff, but for ordering things, Previews is the easiest way. I could get it through the various on-line places, but I've heard enough horror stories about the poor and late service that I prefer to get them through my comic store after ordering them through Previews. Again, I agree it's not perfect, and I wish there were better options, but for me, it's the best way.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Larry: Of course I don't know "all" the tricks. It was an obvious bit of hyperbole, but my main point stands: I know a lot more about publishing than you seem to think I do. Been in the industry just over 13 years now, specifically in marketing, which is why I find you so interesting, watching you play the game while trying to pretend you're not.

As for the numbers comment, I was recalling an interview with Spurgeon where you declined to discuss sales figures, choosing instead to tap dance around his question with some clever wordplay and a little smoke and mirror sideshow.

So let's conclude things with a quick summary, yes?

1) Guy makes offhand comment.

2) Josh and Larry perceive said comment as a dis, fumbling the easy alley oop in the process.

3) Guy and Larry go back and forth online and via email, providing a bit of entertainment to the four people reading along who give a damn, while a) exposing Guy's "bias" against overhyped and underwhelming comics, and b) exposing Larry's mutant ability to make mountains out of molehills.

4) Guy gets bored and moves on to editing this week's Buzzscope columns and writing his latest Establishing Shots.

And they lived happily ever after. The End.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, what you consider an "obvious bit of hyperbole" certainly wasn't, what with us not knowing each other and the Internet famously being absent physical cues and people from different cultural backgrounds and education using English differently, and all. But I should think that obvious to someone with your extensive background in marketing.

For example, you thinking that I am "loathe" to "ever" provide hard numbers has you retreating to an interview when I answered Spurge that sales numbers are meaningless without context. You got only "smoke and mirrors" out of that response, somehow missing the later bit in the same interview where I gave hard numbers in answer to his question re: THE BLACK DIAMOND and DOUBLE IMAGE. I just used my books as an answer rather than tick off every sales made in a hundred-book line.

But context is everything, because your summary doesn't match with mine:

1. Guy makes disparaging innuendo about "running a sale." His protestations about what "sale" means as a single word removes context, and the snark remains.

2. Josh blogs about it, because he knows I tried to smooth over the freakout you had when I innocently wrote that I found it funny you dissed Bri's lyrics in DEMO #12 when you have a poetry blog, yourself, and noted you have "something stuck in" your "craw" re: AiT.

3. Larry makes money on this stuff, Guy does not. Larry therefore takes it more seriously than Guy, context being what it is. Guy moves goalposts around; Larry keeps eye on ball.

4. Guy makes more disparaging comments about being bored. Larry still remains ready to correct misapprehensions.

See? Everybody's got a point of view.

L.

Shane Bailey said...

Two people I respect argue on and on and make me lose some of the respect in the process. I like both you guys (what I know of you from online at least, which isn't a ton). Guy, when I read that comment I read it as a dig, you do seem to have something against AiT. Sorry to say, but it comes across that way even if you say it's not true.

As for Larry, firing back isn't always the right thing to do. Sometimes being cordial can win over those that disagree rather than being defensive. I know you didn't write it, but "Senor Buzzscope still has something stuck in his craw which you can see everytime he writes something about AiT" doesn't really help matters. It doesn't do anything, but make Guy fire right back.

The whole thing just seems like a childish grudge match to me.

I'm sorry if you guys don't agree with me, but there it is. Some perspective from someone on the outside.

Oh, and smileys don't help to soften an insult.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Shane: You're right, it does feel like a childish grudge match, which is weird since I really don't have a grudge against Larry, nor do I harbor any ill will for AiT. Unfortunately, I've also never been good at backing off from a debate, online or in person.

IMO, I praise and criticize Larry's efforts as much as I do any other publisher on my radar, the difference perhaps being that Larry seems to take all criticism personally, and often feels the need to respond as if he were personally attacked, which, as you noted, simply results in responses offered in a similar fashion.

Two wrongs don't make a right, though, and since Larry and I obviously don't see eye to eye on...well, much of anything, really, I've decided to simplify both of our lives and take him off my radar. No more snark, no more praise, no more pissing contests to see who'll blink first.

* blink *

I'm done.

Anonymous said...

"...the difference perhaps being that Larry seems to take all criticism personally, and often feels the need to respond as if he were personally attacked..."

The difference more probably being that since it's Larry's own money fronting the operation, Larry's own hard work and toil, Larry's sticking his own head above the parapet to take the shots so his creators don't have to, and all, that he probably has a more personal view than employees of DC and Marvel and Dark Horse would about correcting misapprehensions.

Making Comics Better seems to require Sisyphusian tenacity to outside observers and employees of other companies, one imagines.

Erech said...

"Two people I respect argue on and on and make me lose some of the respect in the process."

Hmm, in the great circle of internerd fights though, this is pretty lowkey imo.

Larry is protective of his company and products, as well he should fucking be - sometimes with snark. And Guy is a reviewer and all that, a professional opinion giver, and he calls em like he see's em - sometimes with snark. Obviously (or seemingly) the two rub each other wrong to some extent, but there's nothing horrible about that. Overall this has been a pretty decent and civil event, if not a bit boring by the "Fanyboy Rampage" scale of things, yeah?

Shane Bailey said...

Yeah, you're right. I did say some respect though. I just expected a little more of a above the board argument I guess. Oh well. No big in the scheme of things like you said. I have a habit of trying to be a mediator where I don't need to be anyway.

Erech said...

Also, what the hell is FANYBOY Rampage??

rassum frassum can't edit comments on blogger...