Article Information
TitlePublisher's ways are unfathomable
AuthorRik Sanders
Context Information
Magazine PublicationStripSchrift (1996, number 287)
Article Contents
from the article "Publisher's ways are unfathomable (1996)":
Just after publication of Le triangle rouge and Le retour de Cromwell Stone, Le Lombard published the album Styx by Philippe Foerster and, again, Andreas. Foerster wrote the scenario and made pencil drawings. Andreas was responsible for the inking of the pencilwork.
Styx is a successful, melancholy, detectivestory, pivoting around crash, a perilous new drug. Whoever uses the drug becomes a genious, yet dies afterwards of an overdose. Private detective Laurel Hardy gets, after having been asked to do an appearingly simple routinejob that turns out to be much more complicated, on track of a gang that is responsible for the production of crash. He seems to be able to help his brother, policeman Frank Hardy, who wages a war of many years' standing against the drugssyndicate, at last. But things turn out just somewhat different.
The appearance of Styx (1995, Le Lombard) means that there have been published three albums of Andreas by three diverse publishers in a short period of time. This is confusing to the customer, who will likely not buy all three books, but will make a choice, because of financial restrictions. Publishers, too, will not be pleased with this situation: their author appears to be distributed over several publisher's lists, and the excess of Andreas has probably a negative effect on sales figures.
I asked representatives of Arboris, Sherpa, and Le Lombard for a reaction.
According to Herman Jonas of Arboris such a situation can occur when a draftsman is not bound to a publisher.
Herman Jonas: Often his rights are represented by an agent or a publisher. This person will determine with which foreign publisher to do business. The company that offers most money, or that will be prepared to share in the costs of a new project, will be chosen. It's a liberated gang, for example, one can never be certain of the rights of an entire series. If another publisher offers more, you've lost the series.
Concerning Andreas, his books are published in France mostly by Delcourt. Le Lombard also does some strips, but it keeps the translations into its own hand. At a certain moment we heard that Delcourt wanted to publish Le triangle rouge. Accordingly we have expressed our interest for a Dutch translation. This was short-wired then fairly quickly with Delcourt. We took part of the total printing costs for our account. The Dutch version thus was printed at the same time as the French version - this cuts printing costs - and published simultaneously too.
Has there been any consultation of other Andreas-publishers like Le Lombard, Oranje/Blitz and Sherpa?
Herman Jonas: No, publishers don't correspond a lot with each other. There is no consulting-culture, there is a kind of competition, an aversion to telling a colleague what you are working on. Actually this is not good. There should be more communication in the strips publishing world, for example to determine if we as publishers are not saturating the market. Or that we inform each other if one of us attracts a foreign author that is also enlisted with another publisher. But I fear that publishers are to much individualists to have a structural contact with each other.
Mat Schifferstein (Sherpa) of Sherpa agrees that the policy of publishers can be unfathomable. According to him this is because there are so many strips published abroad
Mat Schifferstein (Sherpa): Sherpa only publishes a handful of books each year, though there are enough other books in which we are interested. It's just that we simply do not have the money for it, or another strips publisher hijacks the title from under our noses. Our negotiating position with Delcourt for example is not so strong, because we are less commercially oriented than most other publishers. A high impression (site-editor: number of published copies) is difficult for us, let alone that we can pour a lot of money in a cooperative relationship. Thus it can happen that a story like Le triangle rouge ends up with Arboris.
That Le retour de Cromwell Stone has been published by Sherpa had to with the fact that we had done the first part as well. And it is a black-and-white strip. Many publishers judge the printing of it to be too costly in comparison to the profits. That's how we could come to an agreement with Delcourt. Only, it took nine months, after the publication of the French version, before we had round up everything with Delcourt. Then we published Le retour de Cromwell Stone as fast as possible, and that coincided unexpectedly with the publication of Le triangle rouge.
Yves Sente of Le Lombard considers the copublication of the three Andreas books a seldom coindicence. Even so, he considers it a symptom of the sometimes unfathomable publishing policy in the world of strips.
Yves Sente: The main cause is that strip draftsmen are currently working not for one fixed, but several publishers. We also loose the overview regularly. Added to this, I use are yearplanning in which every month a fixed number of books is to appear, according to a certain distribution. For example one leader - a new album from a well-known series - and two new first albums of a brand new series. This is enough work for me and I can't also take into account the plans of my colleagues.
Despite all confusion an competition, the consumer has found its way to the Andreas-albums. De rode driehoek (1995, Arboris), in a numbered edition of 1000 copies, is going well.
De terugkeer van Cromwell Stone (1995, Sherpa) is even sold out. "We're still thinking about a reprint." says Mat Schifferstein (Sherpa) "Part 1 of Cromwell Stone has appeared with Zet.El and, as reprint in the K2 collection of Sherpa. Le retour de Cromwell Stone we published in the same form as the book of Zet.El. We still have to decide if we are going to do a reprint of the book as a K2 book. It would be a nice gesture to the ones that bought the first part of Cromwell Stone as K2 book. The problem is only that bookshops don't fancy the K2 collection. They find the size too clumsy and don't stock any copies. Despite this, we pursue, since we think that a series like Cromwell Stone only comes to its full right in such a large size."
Yves Sente of Le Lombard has not received the sales figures of Styx. On the size of the impression he can say that in total, French and Dutch, there are 15000 copies.
(site-editor: Yves Sente of Le Lombard: ) "Our aim with the next project of Andreas, Capricorne, is to reach a larger audience. The traditional comic-book reader is, when he opens an Andreas book, often deterred by the unconventional drawings and the unusual page layouts. The intention is that Capricorne will be a more common adventure series that will sell amongst the large group of common comix-fans."