***to my readers who dgaf about the comic book industry who I can already hear moaning that I am on my second blog in a row about it, forfeiting a blog about some funny/horrific thing that happened to me or sneak previews of my own book, and are wondering why I am bothering…I dunno, call it nostalgia.
Stopping the Comic book crash of 2020
To the comic books stores, to make much of time
The lack of growth the comic book industry has seen over the ten years as BILLIONS of dollars of free advertising from TV, Movie, and video game companies, and the inevitable ending of that, has been endlessly frustrating to me. It is a general hang dog attitude, lack of instinct to attack, of the industry that is the root of the problem, AND NEEDS TO CHANGE.
I come from an entirely different background and mindset. I started in stand Up Comedy, and also worked in auto repair (which was based on being paid through commission/sales). These are environments where you have to be confident, outgoing, and get people to listen who would just as soon give you the finger, and may not be interested in hearing what you have to say ,at first, even if is a benefit to them .
I’m going to use an announcement by Gamestop as an example of simply changing your attitude can help this entire industry grow. Game Stop, the video game store chain, is going to start selling comic books.
It’s a simple change in attitude to go from seeing a change in the environment and thinking “this is going to harm me” to “how can I benefit from this”.
In response to Gamestop’s announcement I see dread, and wringing of hands from comic books stores. Gamestop selling comics is a good thing. I shouldn’t have to explain why but I will. Comic books in places where people don’t usually buy comic books=the possibility of new people starting to buy comic books.
If you are a comic book store…a store that specializes in comic books, has thousands of different titles of comic books, has an expert knowledge of comics books…I assure you, you are not competing with Game Stop. Game Stop is now the gateway drug to your store.
…Gamestop is going have like one spinner rack or shelf, with like 50 comic books on it. Some newbie buys an issue of Spider-man there and they need to know what happened the previous issue…they are going to go to a Comic Book Store. If store is smart enough to keep them coming back, it now has a new customer it never would have had otherwise. Multiply that by many customers at many Gamestops all across the U.S.
I understand that most comic book shops were not started by people with the same background as me. Many were started out of love of comics, without a business model or strategy in mind.
Here’s a couple lessons in sales, the most important lessons I ever learned on the matter that will help comic books stores directly. Know your product and what is good about it ( you have that covered I’m sure) and “don’t make a sale, make a friend”. This one…stores seem to have trouble with. When I am at a comic-con getting new people interested in my comics, I’m not just dryly saying the price and how many pages it is. I’m having a conversation with another person, who has the sames interests, same sense of humor perhaps. I’m sizing people up, and letting them size me up. I don’t want my books in the hands of people I don’t think would like them. What good does that do me? I make 10.00…BFD. I want to get them into the hands of people who will enjoy them, who’s friends will enjoy them, people who will appreciate them and spread the word. I don’t want 10.00, I want a bunch of new fans.
Same attitude should be going on at local comic book stores. If someone brings a copy of Invader Zim to the register, suggesting they try Squee, or Lenore, or Flamming Carrot or ARSENIC LULLABY isn’t you being belligerent, or slimy, it’s your job. It is why someone is coming to a comic book store instead of a Gamestop. Your ability to suggest MORE things that they would LIKE is the service you are providing them. It is the advantage they have when they go to your store instead of a gamestop. SO..after they go to a Gamestop and get some issue of Spider-man that is part three of some story line and come to your store for part 1 and 2…you suggesting other storylines and titles that are related is good for them and good for you. Do this correctly and that gamestop customer is now your customer. and maybe his/her friends become your customers. Kapeesh?! You are doing yourself AND anyone who walks into your store a disservice if you are not showing them other things they might like.
Maybe this isn’t how you had to do things, maybe it’s not how you used to do things. But take some clues from Gamestop. They started out reselling used video games. Time marched on and most video games are now online. They determined that they couldn’t continue to GROW by selling used Nintendo cartages to hipsters. (I used all caps on GROW because that is a term that this industry needs to have burned into it’s brain until that is it’s knee jerk, default, go to instinct…GROW) So Game stop has been adapting by branching out, selling merch, selling T-shirts, selling magazine, and now COMICS. You adapt or you die. Fortunately for you, your adaptation does not mean you have to change the merchandise you sell, simply change your attitude and/or the attitude of the person you have working the cash register.
You change is attitude and you’ll notice a dozen little things, small opportunities. I went into a Comic Book store a few months back…it was right around the season finale of TWD. There was no TWD posters up, TWD comic books and TPBs where just inconspicuously on the shelf with a thousand other comics. Might I suggest…that maybe…it would have been wise…to have a display right at the register of the TWD graphic novel that covers that season and the next one, and a poster or two in the window? and do that when a new Star Wars movies comes out, and Netflix releases the next season of whatever? I was wearing a Johnny the Homicidal Maniac T-shirt, yet the clerk did not mention that there was a new issue of Invader Zim out ( Invader Zim having been created by the guy who wrote Johnny the Homicidal Manic). You think maybe it would have been good if he had looked up two seconds longer than it took to take my money and noticed my shirt and recommended that book? I think so, because I would have bought it, and probably liked it. I probably would have told my friends kid about it because she loves that cartoon…and she probably would have gone to buy it…and she being a teenager, and teenage girls often go places in packs…would have probably brought her friends along. Just noticing my T-shirt could have made that store an extra 50.00 that weekend. AND pleased a whole bunch of people. I would have liked the book. My friends kid would have LOVED the book and probably bought anything with Zim on it the store had AN-EE-THIN-GA…AND came back whenever the next issue came out ( bringing her friends along)
That’s not going to happen each time…many times it might just go like this-
“oh, you’re a Johnny fan? have you seen the Invader Zim comic?”
“…I’m not interested, I just want this book. I’m in a hurry”
“okay, kewl! I’ll get you rung up”
What stores act like might happen but what will likely never happen is this-
“oh, you’re a Johnny fan? have you seen the Invader Zim comic?”
“F*CK YOU, you c*cksucker! Stop trying to upsell me! I’m never coming back to this sh*thole!”
…You’ll either move another book, or you won’t. many times you won’t, this shouldn’t discourage you from providing the service which is your job. Sometimes you will. Let’s say only 10% of the time. Would a 10% increase be helpful? or is that some inconvenience that you’d rather not deal with?
I know I’m being curt, and I don’t mean to be. It’s just that the attitude of many stores, and this industry in general is such antithesis to the attitude that has brought me success that is it frustrating.
I’ve said this many times—Go ahead and think I’m an A-hole, use what I’ve said begrudgingly and never tell a soul you heard it here. I don’t care, just fix the things I like.
Here is an advanced Ninja level of using this new attitude (not really that advanced but I know this is new to many of you). Super Heroes are all the rage right now, but that will pass. SO, start focusing on the medium itself. Suggest books that are just flat out good books. Someone buys TWD, it’s a fair assumption they like horror, action, violence. Suggest Hellboy, suggest Sin City, suggest Stay Bullets, suggest books that take them deeper into the land of comic books themselves so that when TWD has finished its run on tv, or super heroes have fallen out of vogue…they will be fans of the medium itself. This is a medium in which you can tell a story in ways no other medium can. Educated your customers to that and they will still be your customers long after that last MCU movie has bombed at the box office.
You like comic books don’t you? you think they’re entertaining, right? These people walked into a comic book store for good comics, didn’t they? Why on earth would you be shy about recommending some that are good? Or explaining what in uniquely good about any given comic…which cannot be equated in some other medium. I think my comics are good. I’m proud of them. I have no problem at all telling someone they are worth a read, or why. Or to get more. Because more of something good is better than less of something that is good. and explaining what about it is good separates me from competition that doesn’t do that thing as well. We’re not cold calling people not trying to get them to subscribe to more basic cable channels over here. We’re professing pride in a medium and giving examples to people who are actively seek this.
and, I’ll suggest this again…maybe…it might be a good idea…to offer some sort of bonuses or a commission to the people working the cash register at your store, who interact with 100% of your customers? Hmm? maybe? So they have a vested interest in providing your customers with good service. I’ve said this before and get reactions at though their heretofore laxidasical cashiers are going to turn into cutthroat belligerent used car salesmen and turn off a bunch of customers. If that was the case no business would ever offer commissions and bonuses. But other businesses do, to their great advantage. It takes a little practice, maybe a little training on your part but I’d say a 10% increase in revenue is worth it. I’d say the assurance that each customer is going to at least get more attention paid to them than they will at a Gamestop is worth it. To the stores that balk at having to pay their cashiers more…let me point out what apparently is confusing. It is not costing you ONE MORE RED CENT, because they have made you more money than you would have made. So you would be paying them say 2% of the 10% increase…leaving you with 8% MORE than you would have made. F0r F*ck’s sake.
A person who walks into a comic book store is looking to walk back out with some comic books they enjoy. All you have to do, what your job is, what they expect, is for you to enable them to do that. Do that and then it goes like this-
People get a comic at Gamestop, they need another one that gamestop doesn’t have, they go to your store, you get them interested in other titles, publishers grow, the distributor grows, you grow, the industry grows, their collection and love of comics grows.
Eveybody’s happy, the world is a happier place.
Next time- The paradigm shift. USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
“oh f*ck, please no…no more indusrty blogs. I wanna hear about how you fell off the roof or see some new Arsenic Lullaby”
…How about hearing of new Arsenic Lullaby Published in Greece? ( Blue Comet Comics no.4 )
“…yeah…yeah, that’d be cool, how’d that happen?”
Glad you asked, I could go on for a whole blog about how the industry in Greece has figure out all sorts of things the U.S. hasn’t. The techniques and advertising and sales methods…”
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The store loads slow AF, we’re working on it.