25 September 2008

I'm all worked up about this Minx thing.

I don't know why I'm all worked up about it but the cancellation of the Minx line of graphic novels really left me scratching my head.  I worked in book retail for a lot of years.  During those years I put a lot of time and effort into cross promoting good comics and trying to get the kids that were dumping cash on YA stuff like Gossip Girl and Twilight to check out comics.  It was hard.  There were good comics I think that audience could get behind but they were hidden away in the graphic novel section.  Not even the fast selling manga section.  The.... shudder... graphic novel section.  It's like shelving Miley Cyrus CD's in Jazz and expecting the girls to find it.

Then DC put this Minx line together.  I was sent some ARC copies and promotional materials before the launch.  I liked what I saw and I was excited.  I thought these books were a step in the direction toward breaking into that YA girl's market.  They looked like YA girl's books.  They were YA sized.  Good stories.  Good art.  I thought they could pull it off.  But apparently it did not work out.  DC has pulled the pug.

Better bloggers than I have covered this over the past couple of days.

Comics Worth Reading

Occasional Superheroine

Comics Reporter

The Beat

There is plenty of "armchair quarterbacking" about why it failed.  Myself included.

I posted this at Occasional Superheroine:

As soon as the first boxes came in and I saw that the thin little books would be shelved in graphic novels I knew it was going to fail. The books are small YA format and are totally lost in the GN section. Plus, they just can’t compete with manga. I tired. I created end caps for them but they were in the wrong part of the store. Could I have put them in YA? Sure. But it would have gone against the shelving code on the sticker and would have conflicted with the title look up computers so, no, not really an option. They might have had a chance if shelved with Gossip Girl and similar books in YA and that would not have taken marketing dollars. That would only have taken a phone call to Borders and N B&N to make happen. Just a call to say “hey, these books are YA so can you change your stickers to put this line of books in YA?”. It would not have taken a major marketing initiative on Random House’s part. Just a phone call. My advice to DC and all publishers is to visit a bookstore from time to time. Ask to talk to the shelvers. Ask to talk to the inventory managers. They know. They know where each book should be. They know which kinds of books the kids sitting on the floor in YA are reading and which kinds of books the kids sitting on the floor in manga are reading. Ask a bookseller. They won’t even charge you. (Yet.)

And emailed this to the Comics Reporter:

I feel a bit like a parakeet because I’ve already commented about this at Occasional Superheroine and Comics Worth Reading but I guess this issue has me a little worked up.  I’m not this line’s target audience but I liked it and hoped it would work.  I was in book retail at the time and was excited to have something I could recommend to the kids buying Gossip Girl and other YA stuff.  I was an inventory manager at Borders during the time Minx was being hyped and when it rolled out and I can tell you lack of marketing was not an issue.  It was the most marketed venture I saw during my 7 years with Borders other than the monthly marketing rolled out by manga publishers.  (DC and Marvel don’t touch in a year the displays, shelve talkers, flyers, book marks, etc. etc. that manga publishers dump on bookstores in a week).  Minx did a good job with the marketing.  They just forgot to ask us to put the books in the right place.  It’s that simple.  You hit on it pretty good in your post. “My gut says that a bigger set of factors may have been more along the lines of what I would call structural: how/if to sell these books through Direct Market accounts, finding the right tone while still getting good books out of people, how to pay people for the investment of time in the projects necessary to make the books, where to shelve them in bookstores, how to keep them a vital concern within the corporate structure and competing interests of DC's overall culture.”  Where to shelve them is everything.  The spine is everything.  Manga publishers understand this.  Marvel and DC don’t have a clue.  As I said at CWR and OS, it would not have taken any marketing dollars on Random House’s part to make this right.  All it would have taken is a phone call to Borders and B&N to say, “Hey, this new Minx line is for a young adult audience so we would appreciate it if you would sticker the books to be shelved in YA.  Thanks!”  It would have taken anyone in inventory management about five minutes to log in and change the subject code in the company database.  It’s no big deal.  We did it all the time.

Regardless of the marketing or even the quality of the books I think a big part of the problem is that DC just did not have the patience to play the YA market in the way it has successfully been played before.  These things seldom catch on overnight.  YA (and similarly manga) usually have the most success when there is a series of books for the reader to invest in.  This takes years and it takes word of mouth.  I thought that was what the Minx line was after.  I guess I thought wrong.  Oh well.  Another comics line down the tubes.  It's a shame.  They had a lot of good talent.  I'm a little sad that some good cartoonists lost what could have been a good gig.  I don't know why I'm so worked up about it.  Maybe I just wanted to find out what happened to the Janes.  Maybe I should drink less coffee.

Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith

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