Marvel Senior VP of Sales and Marketing David Gabriel joined EIC Axel Alonso for Day One of a Marvel Retailers Summit today, and all kinds of things have been coming out of that and they are being refreshingly candid over the Marvel sales slump as of late. As a retailer myself, quite a bit of the topics covered are of interest, but the current thinking behind Marvel's TPB pricing caught my eye. They were asked about the collection pricing by a retailer, and here is his response:
Another topic that wasn't on the formal agenda was pricing for Marvel graphic novels. "To use the prime example, coming up is Inhumans," a retailer began. "The Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee Inhumans is $34.99. It's a 304-page graphic novel. By comparison (it's not entirely a fair comparison), Batman: The Long Halloween at 340-something pages is $24.99. Gabriel responded. Two things there, if those prices came down (and this is more on what we call our in‑line trades, our monthly trades), we're going to run the problem that people are going to jump from the comics just to the trades, because the trades are going to be 50 percent cheaper to buy than the comics," he said.
"We're always stuck in that quandary." Marvel's late start getting into the book business relative to some of its competitors also affected its pricing as it had smaller volume to begin with than publishers that had more advanced book format programs. "In order to make sure that they made money, our trades had to be a little more expensive," he said. "I know that sounds ridiculous, but we wouldn't have got them out the door if we didn't have some of those pricing on there." "Now we're in a fix, because do you want to have a $34.99 Inhumans edition out there as well as a $19.99 one? To me, that's going to cause a lot of problems as well.
I don't have the answer for it yet, but there needs to be an answer. I absolutely agree with you." Several retailers asked that Marvel consider $9.99 first volumes. "We're not against that," Gabriel said. "I don't want to have two different prices of trades out there, which we could end up with. I don't want to have people saying, 'Well, I don't need to buy the comics.' We'd have that trouble. You are right, yes, we should have $9.99. I've actually (since you sent that into me the other day), been trying to come up with a way to do that, where maybe it's not necessarily a trade. I don't know that I want to put those out in the book market, but I don't have any issue with getting them to the direct market, if that makes sense."
Man, there is some good and bad things right there. If there is one thing I hear more from my Marvel customers, or customers in general, it is that they do not have enough of their old stories in print to begin with. Price does not seem to matter to them at all, and the die-hards will still but their comics no matter what, they would just rather buy the collection so they do not have to yank out giant runs of bagged and boarded comics whenever they want to reread something. To say something to the effect of "Well, we have multiple collections out covering the same characters at different price points so it will be confusing to consumers" is false. Inhumans is sitting here in my store right now, but I still ordered the new printing because there is a TV show coming and interest is there. My store carries multiple price point Walking Dead collections and they all do just fine, thanks.
If it is an issue of story lines being multiple price points, ok just do not do that. Old printings sit around, that is bound to happen. But if you want to put out a new printing because it has been awhile, get it out there at whatever price. Again, Walking Dead Vol. 1 was $9.99 for years, and now it is $14.99, and there are no issues, even if we have old stock sitting around at a cheaper price point. Content is what matters here, along with page quality and cover stock.
Vol.1's at $9.99 is the Image model, and it works so well. We add many, many customers for the comics after getting that first trade. I would love if they put $10 first trades into my store and not in the book market stores, that is extra incentive to come into my shop and look around while in here. If anything, it would make my regular customers happy to try a book like USA Avengers, which nobody cared about, if they could get the first 4-5 issues for 410, and then if they like it add it to their pull. I am all for not feeling neglected by Marvel anymore, I would love for them to do something like this.
I understand that Marvel wants to make money on these things, as is their right. Get it to us, the soldiers on the front lines, and let us do our jobs.
More coverage on the summit here: