Sunday, October 11, 2015

[Link] Four Risk Factors Facing the Comics Industry in 2015

by Todd Allen

As we head into Q4 of 2015, the comics world is facing several challenges. The market is changing and publishers are attempting to reinvent themselves–or at least give the appearance of reinvention. After several years of steady growth, the direct market–over 2,000 small stores that order comics on a non-returnable basis–faces several risk factors. Not all of these may come to pass, but if several converge at once, there could be a cascade effect–and that’s something the direct market needs to be aware of.

The traditional comic book market is built on the monthly magazine format, but that may not be the future. Many DM retailers report that new readers are more interested in graphic novels, which account for around 50% of their revenue. In the world of traditional bookstores and school bookfairs, YA GNs have become a huge category—but one not nearly as prominent in the DM.

Switching over to a GN format would cause many changes for publishers: GNs requires a larger and longer cash outlay than serialization. And retailers would need to adapt to the very different inventory management and ordering cycle of the graphic novel. There’s a logistical difference between running a newsstand with a few books and running a bookstore with a newsstand. There are far more newsstands than bookstores in the current direct market.

Changes at DC and Marvel

DC and Marvel have long been called “The Big Two”– together they account for more than 70% of periodical comics sales–and they are the backbone of the direct sales market. However both are relaunching their line this year—starting a number of new books and shaking up their storytelling continuity. These have had varying results–and some stores report Image passing DC as their #2 publisher.

DC is in the worse position, by far, with the DC You line having debuted in June to middling sales. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson’s adding new duties running WB Consumer Products, and a corporate move to the West Coast leading to many personnel changes have caused more adjustment. DC seems to have become a rung on the consumer product ladder at Warner, as many of their business hires come out of Warner Home Video with merchandising backgrounds, rather than publishing.

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