It’s funny (or not), but Jason Copland and I were just having a conversation a week or so ago about whether Kill All Monsters! would work better as a mini-series or a complete graphic novel. Almost immediately, Marc Bernadin asked his question about the failure of Highwaymen.
Although my thoughts went immediately to branding, others thought that the mini-series format was the key. Steven Grant, for example, said, “As many have pointed out (I did a column on the subject a couple months back) mini-series are now often dismissed out of hand by readers who fully expect any mini-series worth mentioning to show up sooner than later in trade paperback collection. (Though I realize it borders on fraud, if I were a publisher today I’d never again allow the phrase ‘mini-series’ to be used in conjunction with any of my books under any circumstances, regardless of the series’ intended length. From a marketing standpoint, stamping any series as a mini-series except posthumously is getting suicidal and the general level of mini-series success is such that publishers now may as well skip the minis and go straight to the trades, since that’s where all the money is now anyway.)”
One of the “many” he mentions who’ve pointed this out is Johanna Draper Carlson, who points out that the mini-series format was her reason for not buying. And though in the specific case of Highwaymen, my decision was based more on marketing and my not knowing whether or not it was a comic I’d enjoy, I agree with her that there are many comics that I do fully expect to enjoy, but hold off on until the trade collection comes out. So, should we be pitching KAM! as a graphic novel?
This isn’t a new question for us, and I had to think back to a conversation that I had with Josh Fialkov in San Diego last year when I was first pondering it. Josh experienced quite a bit of trouble selling his Elk’s Run mini-series only to have it picked up as a complete graphic novel by Random House. In spite of his adventures, Josh surprised me by saying that he was still for releasing single issues as a mini-series prior to collection.
But his logic was solid. All the promo work he did on the Elk’s Run mini-series and all the critical attention he got from it helped get Random House’s interest. And I dare say that it got readers who passed on the mini-series interested in buying the graphic novel too. I don’t know if Josh still feels that way, but it makes sense to me. I’m interested in seeing how Highwaymen does as a trade collection, and I’m curious about whether it would do better or worse had it not been released first as a mini-series. There’s no way for me to get the answer to that, but I suspect that the mini-series buzz (and all this post mortem attention) will only help the sales of the tpb.
So, maybe mini-series aren’t entirely dead, but should be thought of as loss leaders for the eventual collection? Just thinking out loud.