Feeling Ripped Off. I should start this update by telling you that my laptop was recently stolen from my car and do I ever feel...violated. Sure, I was angry at first and then, as the realization sank in that my laptop held every single presentation or list I created this past year, I discovered a new sense of devastation. Since then, I have had to learn how to be creative and find solutions to get me through this dark, dark time. Going with out my laptop is like losing my microwave oven. I am sure there are worse fates to suffer but for now, this is a definite challenge.
Learning From Teens. Earlier this month I had the pleasure of moderating a panel for Barbara Moon over in the Suffolk County Library System on Long Island. This year's event was called Picture This: Using Images to Illuminate Young Adult Literature, and was hosted by the fine folks at St. John's University. My particular panel was on what teens read and why they read it. The panelists were a 12 year-old girl, a 16 year-old boy and an 18 year-old girl. I will keep their names out of this as they would probably find someone hunting them down for some sort of copyright issues...I think.
These kids are primarily manga readers and fans of anime(animation videos) and they also help support their local library's manga and anime club. They give the librarian's information and suggestions on titles that the library should carry. The books and videos they recommend have very high circulation numbers which is one of the best reasons why a library should consider creating a reading group such as this for teens.
It's how the kids get the information that may be of great discomfort and a lesson learned, for the publishing industry. These kids, with some slight trepidation and verification that there wasn't anyone present from the law enforcement community, admitted they read their books online via scanalations or downloading bootlegged animation. Yes, they use any means possible to find the books and anime that they want to see.
How does publishing benefit? For one thing, these kids all admitted that they will buy the books they really like and the other stuff is just left as 'junk'. As a publisher, I would think that you would use this as a test market area to see if your next story has a following. Post intro pages online, promote them and then count the amount of page views and click throughs. If the audience meets your criteria for a solid audience then you take the story to print. It's a way of streamlining the process and taking a lot of the guess work out of your endeavors.
Kids have been bootlegging materials for a long time. From the earliest days of transistors to the arrival of the digital age, kids have been clever enough to figure out clandestine ways of getting the music or stuff they really want. I remember hearing that the Greatful Dead actually encouraged people to record their shows. Did they loose money? Not in the long run, no. They gained in audience loyalty and people filled concert halls where ever they toured.
I made plenty of my own mix tapes as a kid and I shared them. It was our way of finding new music from bands that we wouldn't normally hear on the radio. I know, it was the days of punk, early rap or, hip-hop. I wouldn't have ever heard of Parliment or the Sugar Hill Gang if it hadn't been for a tape my best friend brought from San Francisco. Nor would I have ever heard of the Ramones, Talking Heads or The Clash, had it not been for some boot legs.
I guess the point here for the graphic novel and comics publishers is this: Don't fear the web, embrace it. You have plenty of web comics creators out there who are proving the value of using the web just like it was a new version of the Sunday Funny Papers. They are getting new readers and then, selling them a book. Look up The Perry Bible Fellowship, Unshelved or Mom's Cancer and you will find funny, touching and outrageous stories that will likely compel you to buy the book.
Next Time on The Graphic Novels Guy: Water Falls on NEIBA and The MSLA Project
John Shableski works for Diamond Book Distributors as a sales manager with a focus on the independent bookstore market, public and school libraries. He's been a moderator and panelist at Book Expo, Comic Con International, a moderator for library panels at the New York Comic Con, a guest speaker at library events, regional book shows and a symposium coordinator. He is currently collaborating on several graphic novel symposiums across the country. He can be reached via email at email@example.com