Buy My Books: Issue #15

Wed, December 7th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Robert Kirkman, Columnist

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"I'm waiting for the trade."

I recently got an email from a reader of this column. A fella was having an argument with a buddy about, y'know "waiting for the trade." He said they both prefer to buy TPBs (trade paperbacks) but his buddy has recently told him that waiting for the trade was hurting the industry because publishers can't afford to do the trade if the series itself isn't successful. He said he didn't understand that and asked me to do a column about it. Me being the cheerful, accommodating fella I am, I figured I'd oblige the poor guy and give him the straight dope.

That is 100% true.

It's a sorry state of affairs, I know. I like trades as much as the next guy, hell... I've got about three bookcases worth of the things. I have trades for books that I have the single issues of. I have second printings of trades I've already got the first printing of. Don't even get me started on the hardcovers.

As a comic creator myself, and more specifically as a creator-owned comic creator, the best case scenario for us (comic creators) is this:

  1. See a book that looks cool on the shelf and buy it.

  2. Enjoy the comic and pledge to buy all the issues following.

  3. Buy the trade paperback when the issues are collected.

  4. Buy the hardcover too for no good reason at all.

And y'know, if we do a second printing of the trade paperback with a new cover... buy that, too. The thing about it is, the more you buy, the more money we make. The more money we make the longer we can continuing making the book for you.

So none of you should wait for the trade, if you think you're going to like a series, buy the single issues... then in a few months when it comes out... buy the trade, too.

So there you go. I hope that's been enlightening for all of you. I'll be expecting my sales to double over the next month or so. Oh, I almost forgot... BUY MY BOO--

Wait-- what was that? Seriously, spit it out... I've got to get back to work.

Yeah, that does make sense, maybe you're right. Maybe that is a stupid game plan that will put all of you in the poorhouse if you read more than 10 books a month. So what the hell do we do about that? I mean, I've got to eat, too.

Honestly, the above part of this column was a bit of a joke. I would never really expect you people to buy every single printed incarnation of the same story. Would I complain if you did? Of course not. Do I think it's wise? Not really. But the fact remains that if you (readers as a whole) do not support a series when it comes out there will never be a trade.

And that sucks.

Although, it would be remiss of me not to point out that not every series deserves a trade paperback collection, but that's neither here nor there.

When a book is starting out it needs support, and I'm talking about new books here, people. Seriously, folks... you can buy "The Walking Dead" TPBs until the cows come home, that book is doing well enough to support both formats. Same with "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Ultimate X-Men" and "JLA."

But what about new creator-owned books? Or new company-owned books like "Gravity?" Or (to use my own books as an example) the keen "Jubilee" series from a year or so back?

"Jubilee," for instance, didn't do too well. Personally, I blame a solar eclipse that happened at some point during its run, as everything else about that book is perfect. But the fact remains that it didn't sell very well and Marvel hasn't done a trade. So, for all you folks out there who saw the solicitation for this book and thought "that looks good, but I'm going to wait for the trade"... it ain't coming, and you only have yourselves to blame.

So what's the solution?

I'm here to tell you there isn't one. That's just the way the cookie crumbles.

I mean, do you really think people should go out and buy a series in hopes that they'll later be able to buy the trade? That makes no sense. There's no logical way to fix this problem. None that I can see, anyway.

What it comes down to is there are trade people and there are singles people. That's just the way things are. And sometimes enough people don't show up in the singles line and because of that there isn't anything to get over in the trades line.

Welcome to comics.

I think if a book is good enough, it'll survive. The publisher will believe in it enough to do a trade regardless of sales. It happened with my book "Tech Jacket." That book didn't do so hot, but then Image Publisher Jim Valentino liked it enough to publish a trade anyway... and wouldn't you know, we didn't lose our shirts on it (mainly because when I'm at home I don't wear shirts).

So what can I say? If you see a book and you want to wait for the trade... just be aware that you're taking a risk that trade may not be there. That's just the way this industry works. But don't stop buying trades! We all love trades. There are many a comic series I buy only in trades. We all do it. Trades, singles, hardcovers, whatever, I don't care as long as you BUY MY BOOKS.

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