As a follow-up to our previous article on what comic shops actually look at before carrying your indie title, I reached out to some of the comic book stores in the Inland Northwest to see how they felt about having a small press publisher’s books on their shelves. There was a broad spectrum of results.
Merlyn’s is centrally located in downtown Spokane. Merlyn’s is a great place to go for D&D, tabletop games, deck building games, Warhammer and your other gaming needs. They also carry a wide variety of comics, including a lot of titles that are not from the big two. Fun fact, Merlyn’s is the longest running comic book and gaming store in Spokane. With so much history I thought they would be a great first stop on my curiosity voyage.
When I asked the owner about having a small press publisher put their titles on his shelves he said, “Absolutely not. I’ve tried it in the past and the books don’t move. Even if it’s labeled as a local creator in a special spot by the register, those books don’t sell. I have about twenty different books like that in my back issue boxes. At this point I won’t even take those books on consignment.”
He went on to say that anything that the store can’t get directly through Diamond or Penguin/Random House is going to have issues. Backing a Kickstarter means having to wait and hope that the campaign is fulfilled in a timely manner. If he has to reach out to a creator with additional books available, he has to deal with shipping costs from a private seller and the cost of the book.
The next stop on my curiosity voyage brings us to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed hamlet in Central Washington at the edge of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It is a quaint town that has a variety of different shops for tourists to peruse. One of those shops is Krampus Kave, the local comic book store. Krampus Kave doesn’t have the luxury of having copious amounts of floor space. As a result, they don’t have much room for back issues of comics. They do have a great assortment of newer titles and figures
When I spoke with J.J. from the store he told me that Krampus Kave is willing to have people put their books on the shelves, but they are not asked to do so very often. He could only recall it happening twice. He told me that there were certain things that would help creators get their books on the shelves:
- Have physical copies on hand for the store to see. Being able to see the actual product and look at the book as opposed to hearing how it’s “at the printer but the book has a great artist” goes a long way.
- Take the time to build a rapport with the staff at the shop you’re working with. Stephen and Adam from behind the counter may have a lot more pull with the owner than you think. Plus if your book makes it onto the shelves in the store, the staff will be the ones helping promote it. You want them in your corner.
- Timing is key. Don’t be hitting up an owner Tuesdays or Wednsdays. They are dealing with getting all the new books their customers have subscriptions for squared away and handling the high volume flow of new comic book day.
The last stop for this curiosity voyage is in my stomping grounds. Monkey Biz is nestled in the Logan neighborhood on Spokane’s north side. They have a wide assortment of comics, action figures, and games along with a staff that will help you find anything you’re looking for. They’re happy to order anything you may need if they don’t have it in stock. I asked Ken, one of the co-owners, his thoughts on having small press publishers putting products on the shelves. He told me that he is very amiable about having their titles in the store. In fact there is a table set up just for small press publishers. He does have a few criteria though:
- No nudity or profanity on the covers. He needs moms to be cool with their children going into the store. He’s willing to order risque covers for his customers, but those books will stay in the pull boxes.
- The price point. Ken understands that small press publishers have to pay more to get their books out there. It doesn’t change that realistically he can’t be paying too much for a small press book to go on the shelf. Customers are leery of paying more than $5.00 for a comic. Having a book that costs more than that BEFORE a retailer’s markup doesn’t bode well for anybody.
- Have a physical copy available for preview. Being able to see the quality of work and where the money is going helps a lot.
- Have eye-catching covers. It makes it easier to have the book be a conversation piece by the register then. That in turn helps the book sell easier.
All said, it was an interesting and educational voyage. I learned a lot and hopefully, some of these nuggets of knowledge will help you out when you’re trying to get your book on the shelves!