Monday, August 25, 2008

The Business Side of Graphic Novels

Blog of a Bookslut had a snarky comment about a Washington Post article on graphic novels, Drawing Power by Bob Thompson. Hoping for a good opportunity to rant, I clicked thru and settled down with my Starbucks.

Bookslut's comment is that the article "was out of date five years ago." Yes, there is a bit of "I've never heard of graphic novels so no one else really reads them and hey guys, lookee here at what I just discovered". Actually, I'm not as judgmental about this whole Christopher Columbus approach to an area as I could be, because this article is not directed to the "insiders" to whom, indeed, it is so five years ago, but, rather, to those at the same place as the author, and for the readers, it is fresh and new. We may know there is more to graphic novels than superheros; guess what? Mainstream America does not. (Mainstream = people who don't read graphic novels and aren't related to librarians)

Get beyond the first third of the article; what comes next is a very nice explanation of the publishing and business side of graphic novels. And personally, while I've heard some of it before, some of it is news to me; a lot is about events from the past five years; and, if you are interested in books, it's a must read.

Why?

It talks about things like distribution and how comic book sales are different from book sales. Unless you're content to not publish your work, or have a trust fund or well-off spouse, or don't care about things like insurance and paying rent, it is important to remember that publishing (including comic books and graphic novels) is a business. It's about making money. And Thompson does a great job of setting forth the different publishers, distributors, and what they are selling and why.

And -- this is so good, wonderful, amazing and right -- Thompson goes to the the experts, like Kat Kan and John Shableski. Usually, when an article like this is printed in the mainstream press, the author acts as if there are no experts to consult, so just spouts off what they've found in their recent toe-dipping into their Discovered Genre. Bob Thompson does not do that; he goes to the people in the field, talks to them, gives quotes, and actually acts and writes like a reporter should.

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