Greg Goldstein, Publishing President at IDW, cautions over “soft” Direct Sales comic market

Greg Goldstein, Publishing President and COO at US comics publisher IDW. Image: IDW

Greg Goldstein, Publishing President and COO at US comics publisher IDW. Image: IDW

Greg Goldstein, Publishing President and COO at US comics publisher IDW (publishers of series such as Star Trek, Transformers, True Blood and many more) was interviewed by comics business site ICV2 at San Diego Comic-Con, and makes some interesting comments about the state of the direct sales market and the challenges the company faces in the next year.

A veteran publishing and media executive working primarily in the popular arts, Goldstein manages the day-to-day aspects of IDW’s publishing business, plays a leading role in acquiring and launching new brands and book imprints for the company, and manages partnerships with external licensors and Intellectual Property owners.

He’s developed creative and profitable publishing programs for dozens of the world’s best-known entertainment brands for IDW (and others, previously) including TransformersStar TrekTMNTSpider-ManBatmanGodzilla, and Star Wars.

In Part One of the two-part interview, talking about the market and what’s going on at IDW, Goldstein discusses trends in the Direct Market (comic store channel) for comics and graphic novels and how IDW is reacting to them.

From the start is that the direct sales market is “soft” and that’s clearly a major concern for IDW, as well as other publishers reliant on that sales route to fans. That said, titles such as Transformers, are enjoying continued success. During the second part of the interview he also mentions the success of the company’s True Blood line, although getting fans of the show to buy anything else was hard.

“There were new customers going to comic book stores that were only going to buy a True Blood comic,” he notes. “The question is, how do you convert that person to some other potential comics? It’s a challenge for us.

True Blood was a fantastic success for IDW, but its sales didn't appear to translate into fans buying other comics

True Blood was a fantastic success for IDW, but its sales didn’t appear to translate into fans buying other comics

“At the time, it was one of our best‑selling collections ever. It was just a phenomenon. People were hungry (no pun intended) for True Blood content, and we were able to deliver it. I don’t want to say I think they were looking for True Blood comics. They were looking for the content.”

It’s also interesting to note that Goldstein notes the reduction in the number of variant covers, reflecting a feeling that these don’t help retailers who might get left with copies of of one or more variant, or even the “regular” cover of the book.

Overall, he notes the IDW line as whole has been scaled back – a 18 to 20‑per cent reduction in titles.

In Part Two, they talk about the book market, the games business, IDW’s editorial turnover, some recent licensing events, and IDW’s key releases in the coming months.

This part notes IDW’s success with younger titles and a decision to scale back on game-related titles, and that these tie-ins don’t appear to have the same kind of back list sales that other comic collections or graphic novels enjoy.

Prior to joining IDW, Greg was VP of Entertainment and Gaming for Upper Deck, responsible for the company’s blockbuster slate of games, including Yu-Gi-Oh!,World of Warcraft and the Vs. System, so he’s acutely aware of the vagaries of the games market.

As VP of Brand Development for Activision from 2000-2002, he established strategic partnerships with the largest Hollywood licensors, and worked closely with Marvel comics to successfully develop Spider-Man into one of the biggest blockbuster licensed videogame brands in interactive history.  Greg’s career has also included a successful stint at Topps, where he helped launch Topps Comics as Director of Publishing.

The major problem for comics publishers, he notes in the interview, is battling for attention in a busy media market, where potential readers aren’t just interested in comics but games, TV, film and more, too.

“The biggest challenges are not our competitors in the industry,” he says. “Our biggest challenges are all the distractions that everybody has today. When I see somebody an hour on social media, that’s an hour that they’re not consuming other entertainment.

“The question is, how do we capture that? You see this year a lot of the big studios are trying to deliver short‑form entertainment to get the big intellectual properties in front of consumers that are looking on their phone anyway and they’ll watch a four‑minute short or a two‑minute short.”

It’s an interesting interview that covers a lot of ground, that will definitely be of interest to anyone working in the comics business.

• Read the interview in full on ICV2 | Part One | Part Two

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