Friday, September 19, 2003

In which I sort of lose track of the point but cover a lot of ground anyway

Dirk Deppey over at the Comics Journal Journalista blog says...

Neil Gaiman prepares himself for the "comic shops are underordering my graphic novel" blues. Given where I work, I can of course sympathise. Fortunately, I'm sure the royalty checks from the many, many, many copies sold in bookstores will ease his pain somewhat.

... which is funny, but kind of misses the point. I'm sure that Dirk doesn't feel that the sales of Ghost World or Jimmy Corrigan through bookstores makes up for the absence of many excellent Fantagraphics books from lots of comic store shelves.

There were a lot of reasons for doing SANDMAN:ENDLESS NIGHTS, but money wasn't really one of them. I got (I just worked it out) exactly a 40th the advance for it I would have for spending the same amount of time writing a prose novel, and will make a tiny fraction of the royalty that I'd get for a novel (DC pays a real royalty, but not a big one, and it's being split with the seven artists, which is as it should be). Most of the other reasons took care of themselves: the joy of seeing a Manara story drawn by Manara, for example. Finally working with Bill Sienkiewicz. Giving Karen something really cool for Vertigo's tenth birthday. Creating an original hardback graphic novel that the book trade could get behind was another bit of the whole.

But a big part of it was wanting to give the comic stores something. These are the places that I started, and Sandman started, after all. Back when we used to release Sandman hardbacks, I'd hear from delighted retailers that they'd shifted a hundred or more, and I'd paid their overheads for the month. That they liked getting new people, some of them even female, into their stores, and that these people would go on and buy other things, would discover Alan Moore or the Hernandez brothers or, or, or....

And I liked that, because it felt like we were giving something back to the comic shops, which were the places that everything started.

Where ENDLESS NIGHTS was concerned, we've tried (with varying degrees of success) to make sure that the comic shops had the book before the bookshops, hoping to be able to send people into comic shops.

Paul Levitz mentioned to me, several months ago, that DC Comics decided, earlier this year, to survey comic store customers and bookstore customers to find out who was buying their graphic novels. They put reply paid cards into several of their top-selling graphic novels, coded for where people bought their books, and waited for the replies to come in. The results puzzled and astonished them: there was no significant difference between the two sets of buyers. Gender, income, education, age spread, all that was, rather counterintuitively, identical across the two groups. Whether the bookbuyers bought their graphic novels in Borders or at Midway Comics had more to do with accidents of geography and availability than anything else.

And it's worked, to some extent: there are lots of nice messages coming in from people who have gone into comic shops for the very first time, now that Endless Nights is out.

I'll extract from a few, to give you the flavour:

I went to the Atlantis Fantasywold Comic shop here in Santa Cruz for the
first time ever...not sure why it took me so long--mostly because i bought
most of your work on eBay or at signings i guess!

It's not icky in there at all! ;-) It's bright and lovely and there was
actually even a girl working there (what a shame that it surprises me!).
Both she and the man behind the counter were friendly had wonderfully
helpful and I walked out with Endless Nights and both issues of 1602. Not
hard to find either. There was a huge display with Endless Nights on the
counter and a spinny thingy full of Sandmans...again, why have I never
gone in there??


Thank you so much for mentioning Golden Apple Comics on your site. I've spent a good chunk of today searching for a comic store in my area, as I just moved to LA. One of Golden's locations is just a short bus ride from me - perfect. I even talked to a gentleman, who I am assuming is the owner, who spoke highly of you and said he was just on the phone with you this morning. You had called to make sure he had Endless Nights. It was in. As was 1602 issue 2 and Neverwhere DVD. I spent a bit more money than I'd planned but I am quite pleased with everything I purchased. 1602 is amazing and I can't wait until the next issue. Endless Nights was both amazing and depressing. Despair had me almost in tears. Very powerful writing in all of them, and the artwork was amazing as well. Please pass on my appreciation to the all of the artists!

And now I think I will go and treat myself to sushi. It seems like a good end to a good day.


And lots of ones from comic store regulars who did just fine:

Dear Mister Gaiman:

I'm one of the fortunate folks in Raleigh, NC where the comic book proprietor was savvy enough to get Plenty Of "Endless Nights" Copies. There were enough that they put my copy aside more out of habit: "Sandman book, yep, Garrett'll want this." Great stories, lovely stories, by the way. I guess I'm writing all this to stave off the rising wave of "Why in the heck am I at work before a hurricane?" panic. At any rate, please keep up the great writing. You're my favorite writer, bar none.

Sincerely, Garrett


Regarding Endlesss Nights - happy dance, indeed! Got my copy from the Silver Snail in Toronto, and had to elbow past the group pawing the few remaining copies. Devoured the first story illuminated with a tiny flashlight while my wife slept beside me. Batteries for the hurricane be damned!

I get many of my odd links thanks to your diligence. Here is one in return. It lists over 4000 bunny names, and is quite comprehensive. For a bunny-name-list type of thing.



My god. The bunny names....

The next one is also pretty typical, though:

I'm sure you're going to get a stack of accolades and stories and other such e-mail...but here's one more.

I dutifully went to my local (Pasadena) comics shop to get "Endless Nights" to find (despite their assurances last week) they'd sold all their copies. (They apparently only got half their order. I don't know why. I'm not sure they know either.)

Undaunted, I went to the very first comics shop I found when I moved out here and found that they, too, had sold out. The proprietor (somewhat sadly) told me his competition down the street would probably have books left, but if they didn't would I please return and ask him to order one for me?

I had a moral dilemma then, wishing I could both patronise the shop and read the book tonight. I ended up driving to the other shop, where I did find the book and had a lovely conversation with the guy at the cash register. Then I came home, read the book, and can declare that it was worth every mile driven.

I also solved my dilemma by deciding to go back to the second shop and buy a copy for a friend who won't otherwise read it. Everyone wins, right?

I hope none of your readers complaining of not being able to find "Endless Nights" are in the LA area, 'cause there are definitely books to be found with a little effort. If not (say, if the impending rush tomorrow makes the rest of them disappear), Phil at Kings Comics and Cards in Burbank will happily order them.

Oh, and good luck with the huricane...

-- Heather

Some people have had to go into a lot of comics shops in order to actually find a copy, which may be good for teaching new people where their comics shops are, but is lousy from a making new customers point of view. And while I'm sure that that some of the shops who are telling the people who are going in that they were shorted on their order really did only get half -- or a third -- or none -- of the copies they ordered, in my experience this is also what comic shops tell people when saying "Heck, we jes' didn't order enough," is too embarrassing actually to admit.

The comic stores that really puzzle me are the ones who are saying that they didn't know there was going to be a demand for it. It's not like DC didn't take the cover of Diamond Previews, or warn the retailers that there was going to be a lot of media attention for the book.

And if I've devoted too much time to maundering about this, it's from a sort of frustration. I do understand that lots of comics shops are small, and are out on the edge, and only have so much money to spend on things every month, and have to guess about where they put their money. But if the same people are buying the graphic novels in both places, I'd like to send them out of comic stores holding a copy of Endless Nights, and maybe something else they wouldn't otherwise have known about.


Hi Neil,
Thanks for making my day with 'giddy harumphrodite'. Wonderful expression. Or is it a quote?

Also, I think that your Village Voice picture isn't so much a Minneapolis Weird Hair Day photo as an Oh My God He's Turning Into Michael Chabon photo. That may be because I have just finished re-reading Kavalier & Clay, and I keep wondering just how well and how long you two know each other.
Enjoy your hurricane,

It's a half-remembered and probably mis-spelled quote from a Rudyard Kipling poem, where he explains that a marine "is a kind of a giddy harumphrodite, soldier and sailor too".

I can guarantee I'm not turning into Michael Chabon, who is much better looking than me, and whose hair always looks as though it's happening on purpose. I first met Michael on a panel in Chicago, with Chris Ware and Scott McCloud and Will Eisner and Ben Katchor, and we've not seen each other as much as either of us would have liked since, but when we're in the same place we take advantage of it, and chat and eat and chat some more.

Hi Neil.

I see that you are doing two conversations followed by signings at San Jose State University on Oct. 16th. I'm going to the later reading, the one at 7:30pm, and I was wondering if there was any significant reason why one is free and the other is priced? Will one be privledged to something that the other won't be?


I don't know. I think that one's a kind of "in conversation" while the other will be a much longer reading/talk/Q & A sort of thing. But that's my assumption from looking at probably the same websites that you've been looking at.


hi neil,
you mention the article by the journalist who saw the line of hundreds of fans waiting in line... the best writer you never heard of, etc... if i remember correctly, isnt that the article that mentions you signing girls' breasts? heh. no wonder you gave us no link.
has anyone mentioned the inspector linley mysteries on pbs? because for some reason my brain seems to think he looks slightly like you.
no, you havent signed my breasts, just my sandmans. :)

I don't remember if that was in that article or not, but the reason I didn't link to it was that it's a pay-per-view article, and not a very long one.

Hi Neil,
Bust Magazine just released its "Tales From The Dark Side" issue and named Death one of the "Top 25 Dark Ladies of All Time." There's an image from Endless Nights and the following:

Death first appears in Neil Gaiman's Preludes and Nocturnes, the first sequence of comics in The Sandman series. Her brother Dream is sitting on a park bench feeling sorry for himself when she arrives, talking about Mary Poppins, and telling him, in the way that only a sibling can, to stop being so "bubble-headed." This is her role in the comic, to be the voice of reason for her family. Death's job is also, by definition, to be there when your time is up, but she is the last personification of the Grim Reaper one might expect to see. Dressed like Siouxsie Sioux in a pair of black jeans and sporting a gold Ankh pendant, she is there to usher the living to whatever comes next. Not in a depressing way, but matter-of-factly, and with care. As one of the characters in The Sandman describes her, Death is "...just a friend. Sometimes. Maybe." - Shelley Brooke

Other top "Dark Ladies" include Elizabeth Bathory, Joan Crawford, Frida Kahlo and Medea.


Yay for Bust. I meant to mention this when it came out -- my assistant Lorraine has a subscription to Bust -- and completely forgot.

I love ENDLESS NIGHTS so far, but a quick comment about the photo in the back - no black, leather jacket? I nearly didn't recognize you. Did you break out a leather jacket when writing the stories for ENDLESS NIGHTS, like you wore during the writing of THE SANDMAN?

dave golbitz

It was a hot day in a hot studio, so I didn't bother.

But oddly enough, the mysterious possibly elephant-hide (according to a leather worker who pointed out that she'd destroyed several leather needles trying to penetrate the thickest, hardest, wrinklediest leather she'd ever encountered, while customising it, and had also discovered that it was made in India and decided that that probably meant it was elephant) black leather jacket, worn from 1995 on, which had been sitting in a dark closet since around the point I started writing American Gods, has just surfaced, and is being happily worn again.

The original Sandman leather jacket (1988-1995ish) was auctioned on eBay for the CBLDF, and made over $6000 at the time -- and has made more since, I understand.

Hey Neil, when you have a moment, could you post on your journal that our site is now able to sell CDs again? Due to the link in your journal yesterday, our album sold out and the page was refusing people. Huge, massive thanks to you.

-Adriana and David Roze


And let's see... someof these answer themselves:

I missed you on NPR earlier today and was wondering if you knew of anywhere I could hear the program online?

Hullo Neil--
I'm sure you've already received a thousand or so copies of this link, but
I'll make it 1001...

Great interview, hope you're staying out of the storm!

--Bill^2, ex of the Well crew
"We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." --David Zindell

Nope. You were it.

And I'd talk about NPR and things but it's too late and this is already too long, and tomorrow will be a long long day...