With the publication of Fell, Warren Ellis started a mini-trend with what Image has now branded as their Slimline format: 24 pages @ $1.99. Fell has been very good, and a solid success story from a sales perspective, while Casanova has been a critical darling with respectable sales for an Image Central title without a well-known creator attached.
Shadowline, Image co-founder Jim Valentino’s personal imprint, has recently latched on to the format with their mini-series Sam Noir: Samurai Detective, but has taken a rather odd approach with it by…well, let Shadowline editor Kris Simon explain it:
Sam Noir is done in that format, as well as an upcoming March title called After the Cape. However, the $1.99 price tag won’t be implemented. Why, you ask? Because our creators won’t bring in numbers like Fell does, and we like them to actually make some money off their book! Plus, if a fan really wants to read a book, I don’t think a dollar will prevent them from doing so. We price them at $2.99, whereas the rest of our books are $3.50.
I’m not sure which part of this is more wrongheaded, the less for more approach, or the wishful thinking of “if a fan really wants to read a book…”
In an industry littered with failed attempts from the Big Two and self-publishers alike, the “if a fan…” approach is absolutely mind-boggling coming from someone not working off of venture capital, a trust fund or a long-term business plan. It’s not like Shadowline has a track record for launching successful titles, or standing by struggling ones, with several flaming out well before their time — ie: Blacklight, The Intimidators, Emissary — and by Brown’s own admission, they’re not expecting their creators to move enough copies to make a $1.99 cover price viable.
Further down the thread, she adds this little tidbit: “…all of our black and white titles are/will be 24 pages, for $2.99. Color books that are 32 pages are $3.50.”
Why taint the fledgling Slimline format like this? Assuming “fans” even know about any of Shadowline’s upcoming titles, how many are going to be willing to pay full price for 2/3rds the content and no color, when they generally don’t even buy their full-length, more expensive color titles?
Shadowhawk, the nominal flagship of Valentino’s imprint, shipped 2,365 copies of its 15th issue, a pathetic number by almost any measure, and well within the range of other titles they’ve canceled much, much sooner. Are these the fans who are going to support full-price black-and-white titles with fewer pages than everything else on the shelves?
Why put the burden upon “fans” to support an ill-conceived business model, one which more often than not has resulted in failure? Why not put the burden on the publisher, to either stand behind the work they see fit to publish (like they’ve done with Shadowhawk), or simply not publish work they can’t afford to sustain?
Is there any other industry where one of its top companies is run so ridiculously? Where most of its companies, period, are run so ridiculously?