The seemingly extraordinary sales success of DC's "New 52" relaunch this month is the kind of thing that excites me as a fan (Hey, I love the DCU, I'm sorry), and makes me curious when the other shoe will drop. After all, the kind of massive increase in orders that DC's entire superhero line is seeing has to have an equal and opposite reaction somewhere else, right? That's just sales physics.
And yet, according to this fascinating roundtable with indie publishers, sales for September seem to be as strong as ever in almost all cases. Which seems... counterintuitive, at the least, and downright confounding at the most: Where did retailers get all this extra money to order all the extra DC books from, if not the mythical long tail of publishing? I can't tell whether there's a lot of optimism on display in that roundtable or whether indie publishers seem to have dodged a bullet with DC's massive expansion, but one thing is for sure: If DC's New 52 has brought in brand new readers to the stores, the next year is going to be very, very important to get right for indie publishers.
I think it's fair to say that no-one really expects the New 52 books to keep selling at the numbers they've apparently managed for their first month so far, right? There'll be some level of drop-off sooner rather than later - especially if anecdotal evidence of speculators buying multiple copies of first issues turns out to be true, and widespread - and, presuming that there are some legitimate readers amongst the numbers of people deciding not to continue with Deathstroke or Resurrection Man or whatever, they'll presumably be wondering what else is out there.
And that's where everyone else comes in. I mean, really, it's where the individual retailers come in, because it'll be them that'll be facing said new readers asking them what looks good these days - And, seriously, retailers, I hope you're going to get really good at answering that question in the upcoming months, because I suspect you're going to be hearing it a lot - but let's be honest: Creators and publishers and fans and everyone else alike need to be particularly active to promote the books they love during this period too, in order to ensure that said retailer knows what's out there and well-loved by existing customers, in order to better recommend things to new customers.
(It goes without saying that publishers and creators should also be making a point of making their books easily accessible to new readers, and offering as much variety within their lines to appeal to as many people as possible, right...?)
I've gone from being extremely pessimistic about the effect that the New 52 relaunch would have on other publishers to being cautiously optimistic that this really might end up being the mythical high tide that raises all boats, after all. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind and start moaning and declaring disaster if month two figures show the direct market collapsing...