These days, a lot of folks are turning to trade paperbacks instead of what some now call “floppies” or individual issues. (I guess they use that term since computer discs have largely fallen out of favor.)
There are good and bad aspects to this, so I thought I’d elaborate a little on them.
SUBSCRIBING TO TRADES
Every store I’ve ever been a regular customer with has had a subscription service. Usually, that means you order something, you get it. (But not always. My latest home base changed subscription sheets recently and apparently didn’t look at my last sheet. Since I get a lot of comics that most others don’t necessarily buy, I missed getting the latest issue of The Stuff of Legend, a personal favorite. It’s been ordered and should be in soon, though!)
I suppose that if you told them you wanted trades instead of individual issues, they’d order them for you. But trade subscribers are notoriously fickle, I keep getting told.
Let’s say you want all the trades for Spider-Man. A trade usually appears every three to four months, which isn’t as regular as floppies. So you, being the subscriber, aren’t sure when your next trade will show up. And stores generally do NOT make a practice of calling clients when new product arrives. Well, some do (if you spend a lot of money there), but not many.
You lose track of time since you don’t need to check out the lists of comics coming out each week, and they begin to stack up at the store. If you don’t come by to get them, they will often end up back on the shelf. That could be money lost for the store.
And you may have stopped into another shop or bookstore and found the trades you were missing there. You buy them because you know you don’t have them yet. Again, bad news for the LCS.
TRADES ARE NOT THE DEATH OF COMICS
These happenings are why I was unhappy when the practice of printing trades began a few decades back. Most stores I know made their money off individual issues. I thought this was going to be the end of many LCS’s because I couldn’t see people buying trades on a regular basis.
Now, some people are very regular on their trade-buying. But that’s rare, particularly if you don’t buy those monthly issues. So they aren’t necessarily the doom and gloom I expected at first.
Also, trades are helpful in catching up on missed issues. Some stores buy maybe the first and second issues of a series. Then they stop. If you buy those books and come looking for the third at that same shop, well, they’ll be glad to order it for you, especially if you add it to your subscription.
That happened to me at one local shop. I bought a rather obscure title there every month. Then, when the fourth issue was due, I went back to get it. Turned out they had not ordered it. “People want the Marvel books, not that one,” I was told.
I found it elsewhere. Oh, and I did buy the trade when it came out.
Now, trades are more popular in Europe where people like longer stories. I happen to agree with them on that, but I still buy individual issues, holding off on trades until I’m sure I want to keep them!
TRADES DO HELP INDIES GET PICKED UP
These days, with self-publishing being so popular, several comics companies I know of won’t talk with a creator until he or she has put out enough individual issues to collect into a trade. That way, if they decide to pick it up, they know you have the artwork for at least four or five issues ready for printing. Hey, you already did print it, right?
This many issues also helps a publisher know you’re committed to making this title come out regularly. I wish I could remember every book that published one or two issues, only to fade into the ether, never to be seen or heard from again.
I also believe that a trade can give a TV or movie production company just what you have in mind for the whole story. And every comic can help a director or producer know how to portray the story on the big or small screen. They just have to read it.
The bad news is when those folks decide they need to “improve” the story for their companies. That works out extremely rarely. You also lose fans when you alter the story so that it’s unrecognizable. Come on, folks! If the story didn’t work in the first place, no one would have bought it!
These days, the folks in the industry are trying to figure out what is the future of comics. Trades? Digital? Webcomics? Floppies? If someone has the answer to that one, please be sure to share that information below!