Selling comics is serious business

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Reference no: EM13962131

Secret Acres: Selling Comics Is Serious Business

Just about everyone remembers a favourite comic book hero from childhood-whether it was Spiderman, Tin Tin, or even Garfield. LeonAvelino and Barry Matthews readily admit that they are kids in grown-up bodies with real day jobs (Avelino works for Sports Illustrated and Matthews is an accountant for an e-commerce firm). They just happen to love comic books and their latest form-graphic novels. Their love for comics in all forms-and their desire to start their own business- led them to found Secret Acres, a comic book and graphic novel publisher based in New York City. Secret Acres has published several works from up-and-coming authors (they have eight books on their list so far). The company also sells books from independent distributors. Often asked whether they think Secret Acres will succeed or fail in the next few years,Avelino quips, "People think we're too small to fail." He laughs but then adds, "That pisses me off. I think we can totally fail."

But Avelino and Matthews do not intend to fail. They admit that Secret Acres faces many economic challenges if it's going to continue and eventually succeed, Matthews says, "Every decision we make, we know what the outcome is going to be because it's all small and it's very close to us." Right now, Secret Acres can use its small size to build relationships with its customers. "We are able, because we're small, to produce a very specific kind of comic book, a specific kind of graphic novel, that appeals to a specific audience," explains Matthews. "I love that. We have a lot of control over what we do and we're not doing anything specifically to turn a buck." That said, the accountant in Matthews knows that, to stay in business, Secret Acres must sell enough books to push unit costs down, keeping production expenses and prices as low as possible.

Matthews also refers to Secret Acres' relationships with bookstores, which are personal because he and Avelino do all the work themselves. "When you have a small group of stores you are selling from, you have to collect from them on a one-to-one basis," says Matthews. Sometimes the relationship becomes awkward when Matthews or Avelino needs to remind a bookstore owner of an unpaid balance.

Another challenge facing the duo is the uncertain future of the print publishing market. The introduction of e-readers such as Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook created a new delivery system for printed work. The e-reader hasn't led to the buying frenzy that its manufacturers had hoped (some competing models have already disappeared), online delivery of printed matter is alive and well-and it's likely that some form of e-reader will eventually catch on. "Publishers are nervous because no one knows how popular e-readers will be in the long run," says Matthews.

Another popular product over the last decade is the graphic novel, the fiction genre that combines comic book techniques with the longer, more complex structure of a novel. Graphic novels are especially popular among teens and college and university students. They have also received serious attention from the literary world. College and university courses are now taught around the graphic novel. And, each year, the American Library Association publishes a list of recommended graphic novels for teens. A firm like Secret Acres may be able to capitalize and succeed on a literary trend that continues to gain in popularity.

Matthews and Avelino haven't quit their day jobs yet. They know it will take some time before they can call themselves full-time publishers. But they love the comic book business and they are willing to wait for the good times they believe are ahead. "We have faith in the fact that if these books find the right audience, they'll do fine," says Avelino. "I'm OK with being patient. We need to keep going long enough to build a back list that is self-supporting." And Secret Acres already has a following among comic fans-their secret is out.


1-How would you describe the Secret Acres' competition? - 150 words

Reference no: EM13962131

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