We're Too Sexy!

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James A. Owen
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 03:06 pm:   

We're Too Sexy
A brief explanation as to why one of the most highly praised, fastest-selling, lavishly produced publications Coppervale has ever released has found itself championed by independent booksellers, noted authors, national advertisers, and the media, while being embargoed-nay, virtually exiled-by the national bookselling chains, who have determined that the mechanical actions of removing a flysheet, scanning a barcode, and disposing of the two squarebound volumes and the slipcase comprises too arduous a range of motions to engage in, when the only benefit would be the possible sale of a thirteen dollar magazine that was fully returnable to begin with


It's the dichotomy that kills me.

Right now, this very moment, there are several thousand copies of Coppervale's high-end arts magazine International Studio shipping to every chain bookstore and most of the independents in the country. It's a fifteen dollar magazine, and worth every penny.

Its companion publication, the new high-end fiction magazine Argosy, costs thirteen dollars, is worth every penny, and is outselling IS by a more than forty-to-one margin in subscriptions and direct orders from independent bookstores. The debut issue was supposed to have been in Barnes & Noble, and Borders, and Books-A-Million, but it's not, because, frankly, we're too sexy.

Fully half the print run was allotted to go to mainstream stores and newsstands, and a direct order for most of that quantity was hand delivered by the publisher a week before Christmas to a warehouse in Los Angeles where they have remained ever since.

The non-distribution has nothing much to do with Coppervale, personally, or else the current IS would not be shipping to the stores. Our distributor, Rider Circulation Services, has placed the blame squarely on the format: the wholesalers don't know what to do with it.

To be fair, this potential problem was addressed early on; the 'two volume' concept, at least as applied to magazines as opposed to say, the Harry Potter gift set or Complete Far Side, eluded them completely. The slipcase was also a black monolith at which to hurl femurs-seen as a hindrance in processing returns, and not a sales tool.

They argued that the barcode would be inconvenient, placed on the back of the slipcase (never mind that back placement of the barcode on books hasn't confounded too many salesclerks), so we flipped the slipcase opening so that the back was now the front.

Still the wholesalers protested, before finally proposing a solution of their own-that we print and shrinkwrap with the package an additional flysheet containing the barcode that could be removed and scanned to assess returns. We agreed, at considerable additional expense. It apparently didn't do the trick, since they can't seem to sell any.

The distributors are accustomed to turning in a print order prior to production; Argosy already existed (in a format approved by the distributor and wholesalers) because we wanted to debut it at the World Fantasy Convention. Otherwise, it's possible that the single most remarked-upon aspect of Argosy-the format-would have been rejected as unsalable prior to printing, and we wouldn't be having this problem.

I also believe we wouldn't have the groundswell of support we've developed precisely because of the lushness of the package.

Our distributors' solution-having to date not moved a single copy-is to delay the next issue to give them more room to sell the first one, which becomes outdated in a little under two weeks. Delay the next issue, which generates new subscribers every time I turn on the computer; which is generating thousands of dollars in sales for independent booksellers who are selling the first one; and which promises to surpass the first issue in terms of critical acclaim.

Delaying the next issue would also mean delaying ad billings from the advertisers still willing to stick it out-and at the moment, that's a big problem. Our advertising accounts, some of whom I have courted for up to five years, were sold on the basis that advertising in our magazines would bring both prestige and exposure; the first is swinging right along, but because of the embargo, it's the second one that's tanking.

Argosy has no circulation at all in what advertisers view as the primary market-the chains-and our distributor, in a clear indication of who they feel has the stronger strategy, has offered to 'set aside' a quantity of the warehoused magazines so Coppervale can continue to fill direct orders.

You know what Argosy is. Let's tell everyone else.

Booksellers who place an order for Argosy in any quantity, and use the phrase, "We're Too Sexy" in the purchase order will receive our distributor's discount of 10% in addition to the normal wholesale discount.

New subscribers who use the phase "We're Too Sexy" in their order request will receive the first issue free of charge.

Current subscribers who go to the Argosy message boards at the Coppervale website and post the phrase "We're Too Sexy" along with their address (for verification) will have a free issue added to their subscriptions.

Companies wishing to advertise in Argosy are asked to please send an email to coppervale@skyboot.com tell us we're too sexy, and name your rate.

And to whomever it was at Barnes & Noble who casually lit the match on the literary pop culture explosion that's about to hit him: brother, you asked for it!

James A. Owen
Publisher & Editorial Director
Coppervale International
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Alex De Luca
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 03:31 pm:   

Hi everyone,

What! It's not like we're asking for the major retailers to put a 1000 (or 500, or 100) piece puzzle together! OK, here's what I'm going to do to try to get the big stores to carry International Studio and Argosy. I think we should all try this out and see what happens. Print out this link from Ingram Periodicals:

http://www.ingramperiodicals.com/ipi_titles/searchresults.asp?su=AR00&descript=A rt+%2D+General

In the "I" section there is listed International Studio magazine.

Now, print out this link:

http://www.ingramperiodicals.com/ipi_titles/searchresults.asp?su=LI13&descript=L iterary+%2D+Short+Stories

In the "A" section there is listed Argosy magazine.

Now, armed with my printouts of titles that Ingram Periodicals (BARNES & NOBLES'S and BORDERS'S DISTRIBUTOR (Hey James, did I put the apostrophes in the right places? It's, Its or Its'. . ? Sorry)) carries, I'm going to go to more than one of each of these retailers and request that they order every available volume of each title: two of IS and one of Argosy. I don't have to actually BUY them. The stores, however, being bastions of customer service, should order these magazines if I request them to. This way a few MAJOR retail stores will have at least one copy of each volume. They'll be forced, if you will, to scan the barcode on the bloody flysheet and place them on the display shelves. Ingram will now see that the big guys are actually ordering these magazines. Hopefully Ingram, at that point, will order more. See what I mean? Apparently there has NOT been a problem with the smaller stores getting IS and Argosy. So, what Im going to do is go to the big stores and ORDER them. Im going to go to the smaller stores and BUY them (weve got to keep them in business).

Lets support good art and stories.

Thanks for listening,
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John Picacio
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 08:49 pm:   

I'm going to follow Alex's excellent advice and do the same thing this weekend. As far as James' statement, I think it's a master stroke. I couldn't agree more with his approach. What's not to respect about taking a potentially negative situation and turning it into a potential PR bonanza?

Big props to James and Lou for having the nuts to do this.
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James A. Owen
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 10:46 am:   

My cojones are mighty, and my Kung Fu is strong. And if Argosy is too sexy for a chain bookstore, we'll just have to become fabulously successful and wealthy without them.

James A. Owen
Publisher, Editorial Director, Unapologetic Designer of Argosy Magazine
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Alex Irvine
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 03:32 pm:   

Not to be a wet blanket or anything, but I used to work at Borders, and they don't order magazines for customers. If you ask them, you're almost guaranteed a song and dance (that is partially true) about how impossible distributors are to deal with. So good luck with the ordering campaign, but I wouldn't be optimistic.

Which is too bad, because they're beautiful magazines and should be widely seen.
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James A. Owen
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 09:28 am:   

Thanks, Alex. Lou and I were just talking about you - good synchronicity. He won't spill the beans, but said it's so good he doesn't want to spoil my reading of it.

We've got a group of Borders managers who are pushing for it on the corporate level. One of them is also one of the editors for our NEXT magazine, Words & Pictures, so he has a vested interest in making it work.

More noise can't hurt - especially if the song and dancers are going to be carrying it in their stores on orders from above, sooner or later.

So, about that Irvine book, Lou...
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Alex Irvine
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 04:32 pm:   

James--Different story if you have people on the inside rallying. The song-and-dancers don't actually care one way or the other which magazines show up from Ingram or whoever because they don't have any influence. A good friend of mine is the periodicals guy at a Borders, and we had many productive rants about the inanity of the process. So cool, best of luck; like I said, I hope the mag shows up everywhere.

Especially now that I'm going to have a novella in it. Glad you guys picked it up, and I'm very much looking forward to the art etc. That Lou is a cagey guy; he's just amping up your anticipation...
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Some Cagey Guy
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 07:25 pm:   

All publishing is politics.
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Lou Anders
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 11:36 am:   

Argosy Available In Two Formats

Beginning with issue two, Argosy Magazine will be produced in two separate formats. The slipcased, two-volume format produced for issue one will now be called "the Connoisseur edition", and will go out to our direct sales customers, subscribers, independent bookstores, and direct sales comic stores. A second, newsstand-friendly edition, dubbed "the Proletarian edition," will be produced as a single-volume magazine. This version will contain all the interior pages of its sister edition, but won't be shrink-wrapped or slipcased and will carry a barcode on the front cover. The Proletarian edition will ship via our distributor Rider Circulation Services (www.gorcs.com) and should be available in major chains such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, BooksAMillion, and Tower. Both editions will retain for $12.95.

We feel this compromise solution will keep our loyal subscribers happy, by offering them the higher end collectable, slipcased version, as well as satisfying our loyal sponsors, by giving them the national platform they require for their advertisements. Issue two is currently with our printer, and should ship to subscribers in early April, with the chain stores receiving it in May.
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John R Munden, Ph.D.
Posted on Monday, March 20, 2006 - 10:16 am:   

Quality never confines. Hang in there with your superb magazines, which I consider collector stuff.

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