Friday, August 1, 2008

POV shot: ashcans and albums

As I've mentioned in prior posts, the opinions expressed here are my own, not Stuart's. From time to time, I'll post "POV shots".... my commentary on certain elements of our business or the industry in general. And I'd like to hear your opinions too.

Here's my POV on artist sketchbooks, ashcans and albums:

We were among the first booksellers to carry the self-published artist sketchbooks. You can find more about that on the "sketchbook" page on our website.

If you are thinking of doing a sketchbook, you can find a page of Stuart's tips on that on our website as well.

From my POV, the early ashcan books, humble productions, usually done at a kinkos or on a home printer, and chock full of little doodles and other personal sketches are gems! I love seeing a more personal side to the artists work. The format also works well for shipping... most can be dropped into a flat rate mailer with cardboard reinforcement, so filling orders is quick and easy.

You can go more high end and still retain these benefits from the ashcan format. Just look at the Chris Sanders vol 2 sketchbook, and the ashcan size books produced by Adam Hughes. Those books do really well for us for obvious reasons... but the format and price point helps too!

Albums are the french import comics. This format is an oversize hardcover that's very slick and impressive. With the success of the ashcan books, some artists started moving to a "album" type format for their sketchbook. The first breakout book in this category was the Jose Lopez "Mariachi Samurai"... a killer sketchbook in any format due to content, but a trailblazer in this new style as it was an impressive book for the $25 price point. Around the same time, artist Alberto Ruiz launched the Brand Studio books, which use the album style format and are the same $25 price point.

Personally, I much prefer the ashcan books over the album style.

For real "studio" use, not collecting, the ashcan style just works better. The ashcan books are an easy price point at $10 - $15 dollars. They don't feel so "precious", so you can toss them in a backpack or portfolio and carry around for reference. And they are easy to ship all over the world for a flat rate.

And on the retail end, if we're selling the book or you want to sell it yourself, a $10 - $15 dollar book will ALWAYS sell more copies than higher price point item.

The album style books are beautiful. They look great on a shelf.... but if you aren't careful with the layout, images can get lost in the binding in the center. With the album style books, it's harder to buy a big stack of them... for price issues, as well as lugging around a con, or shipping. A fistful of ashcans can be wrapped in a grocery bag.

While we are known for pristine copies of books that appeal to collectors, I am personally a fan of what we call "studio copies"... the lower priced, more beat-up item that can really be thumbed through and used. For various reasons, we couldn't make a living selling just studio copies of items, but I think the ashcan books are a good compromise.

I know I'm an anchor in a motor boat world, but let's keep the ashcans around for awhile.

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