Blah Blah Blog – The Mailman Cometh

A post from my old Marvel blog in which I answer some questioned posed to me in the comments. Remember when you could still do that?

The Mailman Cometh

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Server difficulties have prevented me from updating this blog as regularly as I would have liked this past week or so. But now, the worst of the problems seem to be past, so let’s give this a try, shall we?

Going back a few days, to the online “mailbag”, we got a few topics tossed out for possible discussion. So let me try to hit a couple of them to start off the week.

>I’m curious about the nature of your (and others’) role as editor versus the marketing of your comics. Obviously, a large part of an editor’s job is making sure each book is produced in as well as possible to the highest degree of quality possible. But that doesn’t address the actual selling of the comic. I know Marvel has a marketing department which is going to address issues such as actual advertising and such, but where do you, as an editor — excuse me, EXECUTIVE editor 😉 — fall with regard to responsibility towards the more soft-sell aspects of marketing comics? Things like this blog, Marvel’s podcasts, and interviews with Newsarama and Wizard can be effective marketing tools, as you well know, but I’m wondering if you might talk to how Marvel as an organization views that type of marketing, how the editorial and marketing departments work together (or don’t) and what changes/trends might you foresee in how Marvel promotes its books.

Posted by SKleefeld on 2006-10-19 09:42:23>

I think that, as a rule, Marvel likes this sort of viral marketing, and encourages people to make use of the online community in order to get the message out. However, there’s no hard data to confirm any specific correlation between an online presence and better selling comics. While the people who come to this blog, or listen to podcasts, or read message boards and so forth might be happy that you’re around (or happy to dogpile on you, whichever makes them happier), that happiness doesn’t necessarily translate into an increase in sales for your title. The reality seems to be that the average reader has a limited budget to spend on comics, and so in order to try something new, they need to give up something old–and that switch is difficult to get people to make, at least as a large body. That said, the more people that hear your message, the more of a chance it has to affect those individuals, so it’s still worth doing.

Beyond that, Editorial and Marketing tend to work more-or-less hand-in-hand in terms of marketing the various projects we put out. There are typically discussions about how much to say and when to release a given piece of information–the trick is really to try to maximize retailer orders, so talking about projects months in advance won’t necessarily help, nor will it necessarily help to reveal information after the retailers’ orders are all in (this isn’t much of a concern anymore, with our current Final Order Cut-Off dates, which are set something like three weeks before a given title goes on sale.)

>So Steve Wacker is an editor in your offices now. Let me tell you if you don’t already know he’s good. He’s very good, c’mon he keeps DC’s 52 on schedule. So i was wondering what titles will he be editing, any big projects. I’m very excited to hear this and just keep up the good work..

Posted by neighbor on 2006-10-19 10:10:48>

I had no idea that Wacker was any good–I may have to rethink my decision. At the moment, Stephen is going to be handling SILENT WAR, MYTHOS (with GHOST RIDER as the next entry), CIVIL WAR: THE RETURN and FRIENDLY NEIGHBROHOOD SPIDER-MAN, with more things to come in the near future.

>Looking into your crystal ball, do you think people will ever mostly outgrow the need for 22 pages of a given creative team per month? And if so, what formats will take over? TPBs? Webcomics? Portable electronic reading devices? Something else?

Posted by CylverSaber on 2006-10-19 12:03:46>

Putting aside the question of portable electronic devices and the like–as it’s difficult to project for such things until you can actually see the tech (though it’s a certainty that some form of personal digital player will be a medium for end-users of Marvel material at some point in the near future), I think that the demand for 22 pages per installment will remain the same within the direct market, at least for the next bunch of years. What I think is changing is the absolute need for those 22 pages to appear on the shelves every thirty days. With the cost of the product continually going up, the average reader is going to demand the content he wants for his money, and that will engender a system in which people are willing to wait a bit longer to get the stories they want from the creators they want, rather than fill-ins by lesser teams simply to put a book on the stands. This change has been creeping up on people gradually already, in titles like ULTIMATES. And you can see the effects across the industry if you look for them, where other publishers are also opting to wait for their top talent to be ready, rather than pulling in other guys to bang out a book in the meantime. The monthly comic book is a hold-over from the days of the newsstand, when comics were legitimately a periodical like any other magazine.

The change this will make to the retailers, however, is one of cash flow. Right now, with a typical thirty-day cycle between issues of a book, it’s a pretty straightforward process to calculate your monthly expenses and figure out your projected monthly income (taking into account the possibility of late-shipping books.) But as the typical ship-schedule changes, retailers are going to have to plan more carefully, or foster an environment in which they’re earning a greater percentage of their revenue from trade paperbacks and other collections. Which is very much what’s happening out there as well, just slowly and over time. It’s a scary process to a lot of people–change always is.

Seems like that’s enough for now. More later.

Tom B

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