Note: this is purely, 110% hypothetical, not based on anything real or actual. But the idea is floated constantly by readers, so I thought I would ask to see what answers I get: Let's suppose a book like DMZ stopped coming out monthly and instead you got a 150-page original graphic novel every seven months or so, same production values as the trades, same everything as the trades. But obviously the cover price would have to go up...So how much would you pay for it? What's the highest that price tag could be before you decide it's too expensive to buy it?
To which Val responds in part:
Of course, this is the model that Vertigo should be doing. At the very most, have 2-3 strong-selling monthly floppies (if any), and everything else would be in graphic novel form right off the bat. Be easier to sell, get them right in the bookstores, easier to market, easier to promote.6 issues for $20. Squarebound, decent paper, suitable for viewing upon your bookshelf.This is indeed the wave of the future.
There are lots of good thoughts from each in the comments, plus lots of thoughtful responses from others, so take a look to get the full thrust of the arguments.
I thought I'd add a few thoughts of my own. Let me preface by saying I know absolutely nothing about the sales figures or economics involved, so if there's anybody who actually knows something, please listen to them instead of me.
I'll also confess that some of my skepticism on this issue stems from the small-c conservative in me, who wants things to remain the way they always were, and doesn't relish change in the way I've purchased my comics for 32+ years. I've done my best to filter that insipid bias out, but you should know where I'm coming from.
My first thought is, this seems like it might be bad for innovation, for new stories and new comic creators.
In the long-term, going straight to graphic novel form might make more economic sense, for titles and creators that people are already familiar with.
But what about new things? Would enough readers who are willing to risk $2.99 to try out a first issue of something new be just as willing to pony up $20? Especially if it's an odd concept or an unknown creative team?
It's easy enough to say, sure, everybody would have been willing to make that investment in Watchmen. But how much of that is hindsight? If a brand new graphic novel about unknown characters just turned up on the shelf, would you be willing to risk $20 on something you might not even end up liking?
And if you say, "I'd buy anything by Alan Moore," well, doesn't that just show that this system might make it very difficult for new talents to get their work published? Would you be equally willing to risk $20 on something by John Smith and John Doe, whom you've never heard of before?
If, instead of a $2.99 issue #1, Y the Last Man had just turned up on the shelf one day in a five-issue length trade for $14, would it have sold as well? Would as many people have tried it?
Again, try not to look at it with hindsight, already knowing that you liked these comics. A more mainstream example is DC's Booster Gold comic, which was not expected to be very good, but surprised people and has gotten generally pretty favorable reviews. Well, if it arrived instead in a 6-issue brick for $20, how many of us would have just skipped it? I'm thinking a lot.
So I'm concerned that this idea, if not properly executed, could stifle some projects before they're ever published. Vertigo might be reluctant to give a graphic novel to someone who wasn't already a name, and some worthy projects might not be picked up by readers unwilling to plunk down that much change.
How to properly execute? I'm going to say don't entirely kill the floppy...release a "first issue" simultaneously with the graphic novel, comprising the first chapter, at a cheap price. Also, DC/Vertigo would have to be pretty generous with review copies, to "mainstream" critics and bloggers, to get word of mouth out, to encourage people that the trade is worth the price. They should also heartily embrace digital previews, and not just 4 or 5 pages, but again whole chapters available so folks can see what the book is about. Finally, they would have to radically revamp the solicit/preview system, because a one-sentence blurb that ends with a question mark is not going to be enough to convince some people to make a big investment.
So color me skeptical...but if you get full commitment to the steps above, AND find way to ensure that new talent and new concepts aren't getting locked out, hey, maybe it will work.
A second, brief point: when Val says "get them right in the bookstores," I've got to wonder how much better her bookstores are than the ones I've got around here. In my local Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks, the graphic novel section is a black hole. It's large but completely unorganized and impossible to find anything; maddeningly incomplete, if you're trying to collect runs of things; infuriatingly random selections; and it seems like nothing ever sells, because 90% of the titles, complete with the same bind splits and creased corners, have been on the shelf for years. If you're lucky enough to be one of the books that gets an endcap display, you might sell...but that seems determined more by what titles have gotten lots of media attention than by any any rational system (ie, lots and lots of Civil War and Death of Captain America and whatever ties into current movies, little Hernandez Brothers or Y the Last Man).
If book stores truly are going to be the savior of the industry, someone might want to tell the bookstores. Because right now they treat graphic novels like shit.