Friday, May 8, 2009

State of the Comics Industry 2009

Panelists: Calista Brill (acquisitions from First Second), Brigid Alverson (Editor for Good Comics for Kids), Ali T. Kokmen (marketing manager for Random House Publishing Group), Dave Roman (associate editor at Nickelodeon Magazine), John Shableski (sales manager for Diamond Book Distributors)

What are some trends?

Web comics. Originally published for free on the web but republished in print. When titles come out in print, they have a built-in fan base. Pre-existing comics are going on the web for free. Comics formated for Kindle or Apple device (like Kindle) will charge.

How can librarians help publishers of graphic novels?

Publishers would love to get feedback from librarians on what to publish (like which web comics should go to print). Publishers are trying different models – like giving some titles for free first to get fan base.

How do librarians fit into this industry?

Librarians are part of the business focus. Calista suggests librarians create a blog for publishers to notice them. Network with publishers via trade shows and conferences. Go to comics convention. Librarians have been important to manga category. Publishers rely on independent book sellers and librarians as their “boots on the ground”. Relationships with librarians have been very close. Librarians were first to act upon opportunity to introduce the graphic novel format. Librarians understand the genre. Roman claims that the graphic novel industry is hard to break in. New audiences do not necessarily go to comics shops but rather get their comics in the library.

There is a huge demand from kids. How do publishers meet demand?

The production and planning process is slow (many years to turn out novels). Calista sees submissions for tween and YA but not for 5-7 or 6-8 year olds (huge gap). Roman claims comics shops won’t order if comics target younger set even though billed as for all ages. Calista claims publishers cannot sell graphic novels classified for all ages but rather prefers classifying by age groupings.

Roman claims that comics for younger kids will likely sell more if associated with licensed package. Pre-existing franchises sell well (like Disney). Cartoon Network is doing the groundwork. Difficult to sell a comic with original story geared to the younger set with out the licensing pre-work all ready done.

Kokmen claims that publishers take a great deal of time to classify books by age range. For kids, age rating can discourage them from picking certain books. The rating system works well for cataloguers, and acquisitions librarians. There is always the dilemma of where to place graphic novels on the shelf. Sometimes all of the novels are grouped together even though age range varies. Calista believes that publishers are doing their best relating to age grouping. Sometimes, novels are inaccuarately categorized because of images of brief sensuality or violence.

Brigid claimed that initially manga got a bad reputation as pornography because at the very beginning these types were of the first to come out of Japan. The graphics in adult titles at first glance look very similar to titles geared for a younger audience so there might be confusion.

Publishers need feedback from users – do they prefer small type or do they prefer oversized books? Roman stated that your favorite character as a kid might not be the same as the current iteration (many versions of Batman, Superman). Calista recounts that the industry has had success for graphic novels for younger readers from other countries (like from France – Tiny Titans).

Millie Gonzalez, Reference and Electronic Resources Librarian, Framingham State College