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Saturday, July 16, 2005
Graeme: So, here's the thing. Sean, Nora and m'self... We're nobodies in this big biz that is comics. But unlike the usual loudmouthed nobodies on the comics internet, we know that we're nobodies. So we decided to ask some somebodies what they'd like to see happen if they were in charge of a store like the Isotope. We'll be running some of their responses over the weekend every now and again when we get too busy to actually write anything ourselves. First up to bat? Patrick Neighly, of Mad Yak Press:
I'd like to see genre racking, with a focus on graphic novels. Someone who likes spy stories is probably walking home with The Losers and a Nick Fury reprint, but if they're not already scoping out indie books then they're going to completely miss Queen & Country or The Interman or my own Subatomic. Genre racking puts all the spy books together regardless of publisher, shifting the focus to content. Like, you know, a real book store.
He's not the only one who's had that idea, as Ross Richie of Boom Studios shows:
If I had my druthers, there'd be a store display -- Walking Dead on the left, Zombie Tales #1 on the right, a raft of IDW stuff in the middle, plus some other indies I'm sure I'm forgetting. If you're a really cool store, perhaps some TALES OF THE ZOMBIE black and white Marvel magazines from the 1970s.
Both gentlemen had a lot more to say that we'll probably get to later, but I'm stuck on the genre racking thing for now. Let's be honest, both Ross and Patrick possibly have ulterior motives for suggesting such an idea, what with both Mad Yak and Boom being small publishers who both only have a handful of books out right now and all. But the thing is, it's a completely logical idea. Why do most stores - including the Isotope - more-or-less stocking everything by publisher (or, to be more accurate, by Marvel, DC, Image, and Everyone Else)? What does that actually mean, apart from creating some kind of Publisher Apartheid (and there's a phrase that's going to come back and bite me on the ass before too long, I'm sure)? I don't even see the benefit of doing it, now that I actually come to think about it.
Stocking by genre makes so much more sense to me that I'm sure that I'm missing something extremely obvious that's been a reason why it hasn't been the practice all along. For the mythical New Reader that we will, at some point, get around to discussing how to lure into the stores in the first place, it makes sense - they can go find the genre that they like and everything's there in one place for them to choose from. They probably wouldn't recognize (nor care about) different publishers, anyway. For the non-mythical old readers, they might get exposed to books that they might've missed because they didn't see them in the back racks, between books they have no interest in. I mean, Zombie Tales has Keith Giffen, Mark Waid and Dave Johnston involved. Why isn't it selling in, say, Formerly Known As The Justice League numbers?
I'm sure I'm missing something really obvious, now.
Sean: Well, I'd say it does make a lot of sense that your big spender customers are gonna know where to turn when you've got your stock organized by publisher, and I've noticed that James currently has everything from DC organized by imprint - makes it easier for your more hardcore fans, and super-easy for you, personally to find the product FOR your customer; involves you in the book-selection process, which I've noticed is in some cases very important. Folks look up at these shelves upon shelves of material they have ZERO familiarity with and it gets intimidating; since many publishers tend to have a consistent "flavor", showing somebody the shelf-space where they can find similar books to, say, Channel Zero - it might be helpful. Personally, I'd like to try the genre racking thing, or perhaps find a way to Incorporate both; it may mean doubling up on stock in some cases, but you run Into the problem - as we quickly did when considering rearranging the stock ourselves - of books that either defy genre (Grant Morrison) or indulge in several different genres (Mike Mignola). Do you double-stock? Is every book that does that WORTH double-stocking? I mean, I know we can move multiple copies of Hellboy, but there are other books that aren't as popular and choosing their "dominant" genre influence is totally arbitrary and creates problems that publisher-sorting doesn't have.
Still, as you say, there's no reason whatsoever for new readers to have any loyalty (or interest, even) in specific publishers.
Comix Experience, Brian Hibbs' store just up the road, displays by creator for a number of big creators. This is another alternative, and another one that makes an incredible amount of sense. "Hey, you liked Watchmen? This is From Hell, it’s what he did next." That Brian Hibbs, man. He's a smart cookie.
Graeme, you know James had the same thing up at the Noriega location, right? I'm sure it's on it's way back - stop sweating. You're getting on the leather.
Dammit, Maher, I thought we weren't going to talk about my perspiration problem in public... I'd be happy to see it back at the new store (alternative racking, not my sweat), but I can't really think where it would go (physically in the store, I mean. Perhaps the table in the centre? Or the shelves behind the sofa?), you know? I'm completely obsessing about this genre stacking idea now - I can see where it would annoy existing customers who are used to just hoovering up that week's DC titles or whatever, but part of me thinks that existing customers will be able to adapt quicker than it would be take to explain why publishers should be kept separate to brand new customers... Because we're still backseat driving to a certain extent, seeing as we're only doing this for a weekend instead of a lifetime, I still think that it's an idea worth trying and working out the kinks (double-stacking mixed genre books? Or should you just choose a primary genre for each thing and handsell mixed genre ones?)