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The Isotope Communique
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Sunday, July 17, 2005
Hey, it's Nora. I just wanted to chime in on some of the things Sean talked about, and add my own impressions. First of all, and most importantly, I want to second Sean's feelings of elation. Pride is exactly the word I'd use, and not hubris-- not self-pride-- but pride in seeing the results of our hard work. Pride in realizing that something you thought you could never do is in fact, right now, being done, by you. I would have never seen myself being comfortable meeting and greeting upwards of 30 strangers a day. I never thought I would be able to translate my love of comics into something a consumer would understand or respond to. I assumed that I would feel awkward and incompetent when it came to making customers comfortable.
Last night, none of those things were the case. Every new stranger was a small success, a new face taking in the Isotope for the first time. I was gratified to see a lot of friends show up who had never heard of the store before. This was also a test of the somewhat tricky art of hand-selling. As Sean said earlier, we both came into this enterprise assuming that we were going to pimp the hell out of our favorite books to first-time readers. As I had cut my teeth on the DC Vertigo line, I was all prepared to spread the gospel of Sandman, Preacher, and Transmetropolitan to the uninformed masses. But I ran into a strange phenomenon-- I found that it was actually far more rewarding to sell someone a book they wanted to read, and not a book I wanted them to read. Sure, it was entirely satisfying when someone who had purchased Sandman from me that afternoon came in that night to tell me how much he loved it. I could understand his point all too well. But the more challenging situation was to find books for people with very different tastes.
A friend of mine (a long-time comic reader) brought in his wife and asked if I could do anything to find her a book she liked. She was receptive to anything I gave her, but she didn't latch on to anything. I finally asked my friend what stories she really liked reading, and found out that she really dug realistic stories and everyday happenings put into the comic format. When I passed her a copy of Four Letter Worlds and gave her the spin on that, for the first time her eyes lit up and she practically yanked it out of my hands. Same went for True Story STG-- it was like I had switched on the comic addict inside of her. That was so much more fulfilling than creating a new Preacher reader in my own mold. I knew that she was going to go home and actually enjoy reading what she had bought. Plus, since I had shipped her an anthology, she was going to be exposed to a whole slew of authors and artists that she could choose to explore further. Win-win situation for all involved, and that's the best kind of sale I could make.
Something else that I noticed and didn't expect was that many of the first-time readers I saw went straight for the trades. I assumed that a lot of readers would go for single issues so that they wouldn't be risking a lot of money on something that wasn't a sure thing. But it seemed that having a whole story in one volume outweighed the initial cheapness of the issues. I think most new readers were leery of getting sucked into the serial game, and instead preferred to drop a Jackson on a trade that they knew would have a beginning and an end.
Lastly, having a comfortable environment really did work wonders. With our own (insanely amazing) DJ at the helm and some drinks on tap, everyone relaxed into the vibe of "hang out, look around, and see what you like." I think new customers identified with the bar wavelength that we created, assuming that it was fine for them to stay and talk to their friends, look over the books, ask questions, and generally treat the whole experience as a night out instead of a visit to a store. I think most of them left without even realizing that they'd spent a good two hours having a great time at a comic book shop. Fantastic.
Well, I've talked your ear off enough for the moment. Time to close up shop for the evening. Check back on Monday, there's more in the works!