Friday, 20 May 2016

Weekly Update #135: Cerebus Archive #4 On Its Way!

Cerebus Archive #4 has now finished printing and is on its way to Cerebus fans! 
Some of them even have special stamps. Now that is, by definition, special.


iestyn said...

Hi Dave

just a couple of thoughts that occurred to me about book distribution of Cerebus volumes:

Is there a reason you don't use Diamond's book distribution arm to get Cerebus into non-comic store bookshops? I've not seen one given before, so was wondering after that.

Also, have you ever considered bundling some of the smaller volumes into omnibus editions? Would that make it cheap for you to maintain stock and for readers to purchase all volumes? Or is that against the aesthetic choice of splitting the story into specific volumes in the first place?

Just idly thinking about these things and thought it would be interesting to hear your thoughts if you had the time!



Dave Sim said...

Hi iestyn -- I'm a big believer in comic-book stores. It took us a long time to get stores devoted exclusively to comics so it seemed -- and seems -- to me that selling books through mainstream bookstores was -- and is -- taking a giant step backwards.

The only occasion that it really came up was when Bill Schanes was still VP of Purchasing (so this is going back more than a decade) and he asked me if I was interested in working with Diamond on a mainstream bookstore deal with solid -- as opposed to stripped cover -- returns: basically giving Diamond a better deal on a LARGE VOLUME sale. My concern that I expressed to him was "What SHAPE are these solid returns in when they return?" That is, if Diamond was willing to accept the solid returns, themselves, and just add them to their Direct Market inventory when they came back and we could work out a price break based on the volume... I recall the conversation bogged down over the percentage of damaged returns involved. How many unsaleable returned copies would I have to "eat" versus books that I would get paid for.

There's a cachet for a lot of people in being able to say "My graphic novels are on sale in [name of chain]". I've never really had that. Like. At ALL.

Dave Sim said...

Hi iestyn again! It's really STUPID to do 500-page comic books. You are going to make a lot more money doing 100-page $20 books than 500-page $30 books. But, for me, if I was going to do a series of graphic novels, I wanted them to look like graphic NOVELS, not graphic novellas or graphic novelinnies or whatever you would call them if you were comparing them, physically, to LITERATURE.

I never really changed my mind about that but that hasn't made the decision any less stupid in a logical business sense. It will make sense, eventually, but not for several hundred years, I don't think. They will still be calling them the Cerebus Phone Books a hundred years after I'm dead. There's just too big a stake for the guys (and girls) who do 100-page books to pull the wagons in a circle and make SURE that graphic novels are 100 pages and Phone Books are 500 pages. "Move along, nothing to see here. It's just a phone book."

Dave Sim said...

Hi iestyn again again - You can't really "package" your way out of the problem because it isn't a packaging problem. It's a contextual "antibodies" versus "virus" situation. 100-page graphic novels are the antibodies and CEREBUS is the virus. If CEREBUS gets a toehold, then that means everyone and everything is infected: a graphic-novel career just became a LOT more work. Right now you can draw 400 pages over the course of twenty years and be considered a productive graphic novelist. If you did 6,000 pages in 26 years, you're just a crazy person. You need to be administered to. You need help. There's something wrong with you, etc.

"Misogyny" is really just the "beard". KEEP THE VIRUS AWAY FROM US, KEEP THE VIRUS AWAY FROM EVERYONE is what's actually going on, I think.

iestyn said...


Thanx for the such long thoughtful answers Dave.

Two quick questions on the comic shop scenario - what about trying to sell into libraries?

I know over here in Brighton in the uk - my library system has all of the Cerebus books in stock. They also pay for each time the book is borrowed.

I don't know if America and Canada do the same, but it would be another (probably small) source of income and a way of getting the books out to people.

Also - there are now a LARGE set of places within America and Canada with no comic store near them - wouldn't getting access to bookstores help for people in those areas? I'm a firm believer that internet access only helps those people who KNOW about something. You don't generally stumble upon things via the internet!!

Thanx again for taking the time to reply

Bill Ritter said...

I'm just unable to buy into Dave's position. It relies on a lot of's why I think it breaks down.

Retailers who are successful evaluate everything by square footage, amount of inventory turn, and ease of sale. If it's the latest John Grisham novel, it's easy sales. 300 pages, name brand, no handselling needed. If it's a first time novelist...gotta have something else (movie deal, name endorsement, signing tour, etc.)

Cerebus, in entirety, presents high risk. It's 16 inches of shelf (1.4sqf (square feet)) to display (spine out, not turns improve with cover out display...but that's even more sqf) the full set. It's another 1.4sqf to keep a spare set in inventory (or on shelf). That is a LOT of sellable/storage area. And Dave's reclusive nature and Aardvark-Vanaheim's lack of promotion (apologies, to all...but what's being done for Cerebus is not promotion that stores can bank on)...adds a lot of risk and opportunity cost.

For Dave's KEEP THE VIRUS argument to be valid, it relies on an assumption that 2500+ stores with ~6,000 employees and so many tens of thousands of potential readers are (1) fully aware of the virus, (2) give a shit, (3) do not want to sell/make money or read. There are hundreds of other works by far more loathsome people (not my characteristic of Dave...) who promote, have name recognition, and generate revenue opportunity...that I cannot buy into Dave's argument for any statistically relevant part of the marketplace.

Frankly, if Dave's position is to be reclusive until a petition hits an arbitrary count (and I respect that position, mind you) then part of the negative outcome of that is a severe disadvantage for a store willing to take a risk. Cerebus is not benefiting from a Catcher in the Rye instance where the exclusivity has little impact (and frankly, that book requires little in way of sqf, it's a tiny l'il think).

As aside, and as example, hand-selling requires a reader having been exposed to the work and enticed to compel other people to try it. Often times publishers send Reader Copy printings to stores (with note: give to your best clerk), or ashcans with summary, or other marketing stuff to spark the enticement. Again, lack of doing this (or similar outreaches) generates no potential for a store to commit to 1.4sqf of space that could be used for Black Magic or Lazarus collected editions.

My bona fides for my points: I owned a store, I general managed bookstores, I consulted to comic and bookstores (and retail), I was director of marketing to a wholesale game distributor for almost a decade 1993-2001. So, as a General Manager, Store Owner, Marketing Director: I gotta tell you...setting aside my admiration of Dave and love of Cerebus...there's nothing for me to work with to compel using the store sqf for a virtually unsupported creative work.

And that, makes me more than a little sad. Because I think there's a lot to work with, if given the effort.

Michael G. in Mission Viejo, CA said...

Looking forward to seeing that history of Canadian photography stamp, there, Dave. I see enough baby goats at the petting zoo. Thanks!

Christian said...

Hi Dave,
I was just wondering if any International postcards have also been sent out, along with the rest?
I pledged for the autographed/personalised postcard, with shipping to Australia, but my name wasn't mentioned in the video (nor were any other 'international' backers, if there were indeed any others who pledged for the postcard standalone).

It's not a problem at all if they haven't gone out yet, for whatever reason, I just thought I'd quickly check in and ask!


Dave Sim said...

Hi Christian -- I think Sandeep edited yours out because I stupidly held it up too high so that you could see your address. Yours is the ONLY International postcard and you get last year's stamp commemorating the discovery of Franklin's lost ship the (you couldn't make this up) EREBUS in 2014.

It's a pretty nice looking stamp!

Dave Sim said...

iestyn - Structurally, I think we're in the "collapsed star" phase of CEREBUS. This here -- AMOC -- and comic-book stores is what we're down to. You can't MAKE people interested in CEREBUS -- libraries or bookstores or anyone else, I don't think. It will happen when it's time for it to happen. I'm guessing after I'm dead. But as it says in the Koran (Sura 65) "Perhaps God will cause something new to occur."

Christian said...

Thank you very much for that Dave! It's much appreciated.
I look forward to seeing the EREBUS stamp (and the postcard, of course)!


Anonymous said...

I see the phonebooks vs. thinner collections debate as being more a matter of price point: I bought Swords of Cerebus No. 3 prior to getting the first printing of High Society. Swords, I believe, was $6 or $10, but I loved it enough to confidently spend $20 for High Society.

A reprinting of the Swords volumes, with the remastered artwork, would appeal to retailers and readers alike as a cheaper means of sampling the storyline. As Dave pointed out once, when people try Cerebus, they are curious to know more, which leads to additional (and greater) sales.

--Claude Flowers

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Is Dave claiming that people accuse him of misogyny not because they've read the content of his work, but because it's a tactic to keep Cerebus from finding the audience it self-evidently deserves? I think his menstrual cycle (Colleen Doran's description) is spiking again.

-- Damian