Thursday, October 03, 2013

Someone Explain DC's Business Model To Me

Before we begin, I'm not talking about their writing or their art or their editorial choices. While I may not agree with all of those when talking about individual books or even across their entire line, I at least see why they think their choices make sense. I may not like what happened with the Batwoman team, but I understand why DC did what they did there, for example. What I don't get is how they run the publishing end of their business. I'm not saying there isn't a method to their madness, but I'd really appreciate it if someone could tell me what it is.

Marvel and Image both make sense to me: they release singles in print and same-day digital, then when they get 5 or 6 issues collected, they turn it into a trade. If they think it'll do well enough, they make a hardcover first; regardless, that first trade comes out no more than 2-3 months after the last single in the collection comes out. Then, if it's a hardcover, they'll wait six months or so and release it as a softcover. Marvel also has their Unlimited service for very cheap but very late access to their books. This all makes sense to me.

Really, really good
Then I look at DC's release schedule. Print singles and same day digital, just like Marvel and Image. They even drop the price on their digital by a dollar after a couple of months, which makes some good sense. But DC waits four or more months and sometimes as long as eight months before releasing the hardcover version of their trades. A month or two difference might not seem like much, but it can have a significant impact on buyer habits.

I grabbed the third trade for All-New X-Men last week, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm on the fence about adding it to my small group of singles that I grab on release; if I do decide to do that, I'm going to have to buy two singles at $4 each to catch up. My local shop, and most shops of a decent size, keep 2-3 recent issues of popular books on the racks, so it's easy for me to do that without going digital and, more importantly for Marvel, to take the plunge in an impulse-buy manner if I happen to be at the shop next Wednesday and find that none of my normal comics are in that week.

Now, let's look at a DC book that was released last week, Justice League Volume 3. The last issue collected in that trade is #17, compared with All-New X-Men's 15. Justice League's most recent issue, ignoring all the Villain Week stories, is number 23, compared with ANX's 17. As I said before, it will take $8 and two singles for me to catch up in All New X-Men. For Justice League, using the cheapest method that doesn't involve back issue bin diving, it will take $19 and 6 issues. If I want to wait for the trades, Justice League Volume 4 will be out in April of next year, 8 months after the final single issue it collects comes out.

I'm not saying there isn't a reason for all of this, but for the life of me, I can't see it. Someone want to enlighten me?
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