June 30, 2009:
THE BLUEWATER COOLER: Publisher Darren G. Davis rants and raves about the comic industry: ISSUE 15: Economics 101
Sorry for not writing as much lately, so after a lot of thought and a Happy Birthday shout-out for my brother Scott....I am back.
Business is about finding and taking advantage of opportunities. Those
that don't often find themselves looking for other lines of work.
Recently we announced a tribute book that will feature the life story of recently passed singer Michael Jackson. And it has created a whirlwind of buzz and criticism.
But there are some out there who criticize my decision to move forward on the Jackson book. What they see as profiteering, I have to call opportunity. I'm not going to use the argument that if Bluewater didn't do it, some other company would step in and fill the void. This year Bluewater has found a modicum of success by publishing a series of unauthorized biographies. We have established a niche for biography comics. Some have praised them, some just sit back and heap scorn because the subject matter doesn't fit their narrow view of what a comic book should be. But the argument is, and always will be, that these books sold. I sold more units for these titles this year than all of my other titles combined. There is a market for these titles. And there is a market to tell a professionally done life story of Michael Jackson..
Now I've taken shots before...both personally and professionally. Some deserved, some not. And it's part of the business. But the one that gets me steamed is the sanctimonious and hypocritical blowhards who hide behind screen names accusing me of being a "bottom feeder." I suppose if that is my lot, then I am in good company with organizations like Time Warner (who owns People Magazine and Time which are both doing a tribute magazine this week), Viacom, and Simon and Schuster. All other these global corporations are rushing Jackson-centric publications or programs into being. Yet I am singled out by some in the comic community because I dared to capitalize of an already existing niche. If I'd never produced a bio comic, that's one thing, but Bluewater is responsible for a dozen and growing number of these titles.
But let's address the heart of the matter.. Was the decision the right thing to do? I understand that people could perceive it as a negative. But if you look at it from a business decision, it makes sense. Every month I put out 5 titles that span various genres. In my opinion they are quality books. Some may argue because one or another isn't their cup of tea and that's alright..not every issue of the 10th Muse was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but on the whole, Bluewater puts out high quality books. Problem is, as an independent, putting out these titles is no longer enough. Yes, each of the titles has their own fan base, but lets look at the industry as a whole. When you go to your local comic shop, are you still spending as much? No. The industry has been hurting for several years...and it's not just the independents. Marvel's numbers are down, so are DC's, Image, Top Cow...all of them. To remain an effective business, you need to diversify...to find profit centers that will subsidize other books. I don't have the marketing reach of a Marvel. I don't have a product division to mass create toy lines. I don't have an entire division to make films based on my characters. I need to find other opportunities. The unfortunate and sad passing of Michael Jackson offered such an opportunity. I am not in business to trample on his legacy. I plan on telling a strong and respectable story of a man whose career I admire. Some still may think it is wrong, but I will let the market decide. In fact, in just the first two days, I have received 6,000 pre-orders for the title. This doesn't make me right or my critics wrong, it just means there are people interested in what we will provide.
Some of these bloggers and other people who have issue with my decision have alternate agendas. Some view the world of comics in a very narrow way; that there is only room for their preferred genre. Some are professional bloggers who look to create controversy. And yes, there are some have done work for me in the past and gone away unfulfilled because of their misinterpretation of the covenants of their agreement.
Now I do not feel I should be immune to criticism. If the product is garbage...let me have it. If the content is substandard, if the art is amateurish, if the printed product is junk, then I deserve the scorn. But to criticize a subject matter before you've had a chance to review it is just presumptuously foolish. To dismiss this title out of hand is unfair. And to characterize me as a vulture or a jackass or a bottom feeder is grossly unjust.
Bluewater is driving in new readers to comic book stores. I did a signing
for the Michelle Obama comic book and most of the people that came never
knew there were comic book stores. They were excited and picked up other
things while in the store. We are promoting the heck out of these comic
books, not only for us - but for the comic book industry. When Marvel
and DC are struggling to sell 90,000 copies, not a good sign for the
industry as a whole.
My job is to pay the bills, pay the mortgage, and put food on the table for my family. And if that means producing a book that will potentially bring enjoyment to thousands, then there's the bonus.
Do not get me wrong. I love comic books. They have been part of my life ever since I could walk. But the production, distribution and publishing of comic books is a business. And at the end of the day Bluewater Productions needs to make a profit. Just like Marvel, just like NBC-Universal, just like the bakery down your street. In the end the tribute book will sell or it won't. I don't expect those who criticize my decision to buy it (they were never going to buy it anyway) or even change their minds about me and Bluewater. The market will decide whether the decision was the right one.
I thing I have learned is not to get into pissing matches in forums. Not only do I not have the time, I don't have the energy. People know how to get in touch with me....it's not that hard :)
We will be having some big news for Bluewater coming in the next couple weeks. So check back!!
Until next week!