Despite popular belief, Jason and do not, in fact, only collect Funko stuff! It’s definitely been an obsession for a while, but we collect all kinds of other stuff as well, so we were super-happy to get a chance to share some of those items in this awesome YouTube tag! Check it out!
I love dragons so much. Tell me that you don’t love dragons, come on, I dare ya. So obviously…Dragon Funko Pops. Hells yeah! XD
My husband and I are huge nerds. I’m certain that I’ve mentioned this more than once. We may not be the worst kind of nerds, but most of the things we enjoy are the geeky kinds of things, and with that comes a certain amount of collecting. I’m big into shows like Doctor Who, movies like Star Wars, and anything ever done by Joss Whedon; he has an outrageous number of horror movies, many of them VHS tapes of some of the worst pieces of cinema ever filmed. I have McFarlane Dragons all over my bookshelves, he has an entire shelf of horror character figures to go with his movies. We both almost exclusively wear t-shirts plastered with nerdy sayings, superheroes, or video game characters. The list goes on, but I don’t think I really have to go much further to prove that yes, we are huge nerds, so I rest my case.
The point is that, because we’re nerds, and because we amass nerdy stuff, we regularly frequent what we refer to as “Geek Shops”. A nicer phrasing would be “comic shops”, but since not all of these stores necessarily focus on comics, we kinda figure that “Geek Shop” is a more accurate phrasing. These are the places you go to buy toys that you will insist are “collectibles”, and various forms of the kind of literature that makes your family roll their eyes and yell at you for wasting your money. These are the shops where the nerdiest of us go to get our guilty pleasures. These are the kinds of shops that my husband and I have watched fail time and time again.
The pop culture example would be Stewart’s comic shop on the Big Bang Theory. It’s a nice looking shop, and the Big Bang cast frequents it regularly, but we’re never under any kind of misunderstanding that Stewart is in any way successful. He regularly mentions such things as being unable to pay the bills, not having anything to eat for the day, etc. Even with people regularly in his shop, he’s failing miserably. The subplot is part of the humor of the show, but in real life my husband and I have seen this kind of thing time and again. Since we first started frequenting “geek shops” several years ago, we have seen no fewer than five of these shops disappear within a year because they couldn’t hold their own, and a few more downsize to significantly smaller shops because they overstepped their bounds and had a really rough time making a go of it. Alternatively, there are a few shops that have withstood the test of time, that have been around since long before hubby and I started shopping there, and will probably be there for years to come. So what’s the difference? Why is it that some shops are perfectly successful and others can barely stay open for a few months? I have a few thoughts. I’m going to share them.
The owners don’t consider their market/location.
When you open a specialty shop in a big city, chances are that someone will be into it, simply because there is a greater population and a greater variety of people and personalities. Alternatively, when you open a specialty shop in a less populated area, you have to consider that your clientele will not be as varied. Several times I have seen someone open a “geek shop” and immediately order a crap-ton of different comics, books, and collectibles from a great number of distributors. They want to have variety, so they order some video game stuff, some superhero stuff, some TV-related stuff, some movie-related stuff, and maybe even some tabletop board games, stuffed animals, collectible card games…you get the point. They order everything. And then they fail miserably because they can’t sell it.
In a big city this would be a more reasonable approach because chances are, at some point, someone is going to walk in who desperately wants a particular item that you happen to have in your vast inventory. In a small area, the chances of a customer arriving for each of the hundreds of things you’ve decided to stock is very unlikely. You might get lots of people coming in and buy comics, but you might find yourself sitting on thousands of dollars worth of tabletop games for years, unable to pay back all the money that you spent on them in the first place.
In the area where my husband and I grew up, big collectors are few and far between. People like us have slowly been appearing over time, but as a “by population” statistic, it’s a small percentage. Therefore, someone who opens a shop full to the brim with collectible figures in our area is likely to find themselves drowning in those figures for months, and maybe even years, until eventually they sell them all at a loss just to pay the last month’s rent on the store.
I’m not saying that a shop in a smaller area shouldn’t order lots of stuff, but you have to scope out your market first. Buy a few of a bunch of different things, see what sells, and then focus on that stuff. I’m sure that’s right up there in some of the top lessons they teach in marketing classes, and yet a large number of comic shop owners find themselves deep in the hole because they fail to have that little bit of common sense.
They cater to a certain crowd, and alienate everyone else.
Several of the geek shops I’ve seen fail had one big thing in common: they were constantly hosting tabletop or collectible card game tournaments in the shop. This, I’ve come to believe, is an enormous no-no. Why? Space. One particular shop I’m thinking of constantly had their entire store filled wall to wall with tables to host these tournaments, and the result is that no one else who comes in can reach anything. Entire walls of product will be inaccessible unless you want to press your entire body up against the dudes playing Magic the Gathering, or else climb right over the damn table. I have witnessed, on dozens of occasions, customers walking into a store, seeing the army of gamers taking up every inch of floor space, and turning around to walk right back out. No one wants to deal with that, I’m sorry.
Maybe the store owner earns a little bit of money from the tournament itself…maybe a few of those gamers buy something on their way out. But how many customers does the shop lose because they just can’t be bothered having to fight through the crowd just to be able to see anything?
I’m not saying that these shops should never host tournaments, because I’m sure there is some revenue to be had from them, but you have to consider the other customers as well. One shop I know of has a room off to the side that is set aside specifically for these tournaments. The gamers are away from the product, the door can be shut if they’re making too much noise, and other customers can come and go as though it’s any other day. That shop is successful. The one that constantly has it’s entire floor space covered in gamer nerds is not.
They spend tons of money on stuff they may never sell.
This one goes along with knowing your market. There’s a vast world of geeky items and collectibles out there, and for every item there’s someone who desperately wants it and will spend ridiculous amounts of money on it…but that person is not likely to ever walk into your shop.
I die a little inside every time I walk into a geek shop that has a $2000 sword replica hanging on the wall, or a huge glass case full of resin statues that range anywhere from $100 to $5000, because chances are that all of those items will still be there the next time I visit…and the time after that…and the time after that. Those items almost never sell, because honestly, what do you think the chances are that someone who just happens to have $3000 of disposable income in their pocket and really desperately wants a life-sized stainless steel replica of Ned Stark’s sword is just going to happen to wander into your store? Sure all that stuff looks awesome, but if you’ve bought it just so that your customers can say, “Wow, that’s so cool!” and then walk away…well, it’s not a very good investment, is it?
A more successful shop – one that has already stood the test of time and proven that they’re going to be around for a while – can get away with a few of these items because they have the capital to be able to survive if that item never sells. But when a brand new shop opens up and has their walls covered in the kinds of items that only the richest and most dedicated of nerds would ever even consider buying…that’s just dumb. There, I said it. Sorry, but it’s true.
They try to cheat people.
This is not something that every shop owner does, of course, but I’ve noticed it in several shops, some of them being the ones who eventually crashed and burned.
Here’s the thing…geeky stuff has become much more mainstream over the years, and that means that some of the items that we previously could only get at geek shops are now available all over the place. Therefore, where geek shop owners used to pretty much be able to choose their own pricing for items, now they have to consider what that item is being sold for at the Walmart down the street…and a lot of the time they don’t.
I’ll give you an example. I love Funko Pop collectibles. They’re adorable and I love ’em. When the hubby and I first discovered them they were something that we only ever saw in geek shops, but in recent years the cute little figures have become a lot more popular and can be found in lots of stores and also bought online. Therefore, tell me, please…why would I spend $20 on one of these figures from a geek shop when the local Chapters has the exact same one for $12?
Hey, profit has to come from somewhere, I get that, and if a collectible is obscure or hard to find I can totally understand a geek shop charging extra for it because it’s not like you can just walk down the street to buy it from someone else. But if you actually can just walk down the street to buy it from a dozen other someones…well, maybe – just maybe – you should consider not charging 30-50% more than those other someones. There are plenty of people out there who would prefer to support their local specialty shop, but the overwhelming majority of people are going to choose to pay less because of course they are.
This is all just my opinion, of course. I don’t claim to truly know anything about marketing, or business models, or any of that nonsense. All I know is what I see with my own eyes, and when I’ve seen the things I mentioned above, the result has almost always been a “Closed” sign on the door of an empty building.
Join me, my fellow nerds. Do you frequent “geek shops”? Do you notice these trends yourself, or have you noticed other things that tend to contribute to a shop’s downfall? Share!
A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
40. Where to find inspiration
Ah, inspiration…that elusive elixir of writer-juice. Did I seriously just say “writer-juice”? That is a lack of inspiration right there, if ever there was one.
If there’s one thing that’s as hard to get a grasp on as motivation, it’s inspiration. How many times has a writer sat down in front of a blank piece of paper or an unsullied word processor file and just stared, dumbstruck, unable to produce words? I’d be willing to stake my reputation (such as it is) that for every word that made it on to the page, a hundred went unwritten simply because the writer couldn’t grasp the inspiration required to create.
There’s an old adage that one should “write what you know”. On one hand, I disagree with this concept. If we all only wrote what we “know”, the world of literature would be a pretty boring place, since everything would have to be based on facts and the physical reality of this world. We would never have books about magic and dragons, alien worlds and alternate realities, creatures of the night and immortal gods of the universe. If we write only what we “know” we find ourselves trapped in reality, and while that is fine for some books, it cuts our possibilities by a vast, positively immense number.
On the other hand, writing what we “know” can be excellent inspiration. Look at the world around you. Some of the people we see every day can make excellent characters for our books if we just tweak them a little bit. Look at their habits and mannerisms, their quirks and unique personalities. Some of my favorite characters are based on people I know in real life, and many popular, successful authors have admitted to doing the same.
Similarly, sometimes we only have to look as far as our own pasts to find nuggets of inspiration for our stories. Two years ago for NaNoWriMo I decided to write a supernatural romance (don’t judge me) and was having a difficult time with the setting. I already had an idea of who my characters were going to be and I knew I wanted them to get trapped together, but I was having a hard time with how they would meet and why they would get trapped there. I wanted my idea to be at least marginally original, since much of my story was likely to follow along the lines of the ever-expending world of soft-core vampire porn (what did I say about judging me?!). I thought about it for a while before I came up with a great idea. My female character would work in a paper mill. It was a great idea for several reasons. One: I worked in a paper mill, so I could describe it realistically. Two: I know what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field, so I could express my character realistically. Three: it gave a believable explanation for my characters to be trapped there together…see, my male character was a werewolf being hunted by other werewolves, and since a paper mill is rife with the smells of steam, pulp, and chemicals, it’s reasonable to believe that the other werewolves wouldn’t be able to track his scent from there.
Of course, inspiration can come from many other sources: dreams, other forms of media (remember, nothing is truly original anymore), world experience such as traveling, and not to mention good old fashioned research. Inspiration can really be found anywhere if you’re just willing to look for it. But I do truly believe that most of the time all we have to do is look at ourselves, our own lives and experiences, the people and places we’ve known or seen, the things that interest and amuse us. Sit back and think for a minute, and then…write.
A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
18. If you could write any genre (and it would sell), what would it be?
Fantasy, definitely. No question. I enjoy writing other genres as well (hello, zombies!) but fantasy is definitely the most fun for me. I love being able to do anything I want, create anything I want, and be able to say, “Hey, it’s okay! It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s fantasy!”
I guess that’s a kind of black and white way of looking at it, but let’s put it this way. If I had made the main character in my zombie novel have some kind of supernatural special power or ability, people would scoff and wave it off as ridiculous. Even though we already have an extraordinary premise (the zombies), the story is still set in the “real” world, and the crazy premise is actually one that we can almost believe as being plausible. Even though you know better, the idea of something that’s so ingrained into our storytelling history (monsters and the like) intermingling with the “real” world makes an acceptable level of sense. Superpowers, on the other hand, are pure fantasy and thus don’t have any place in a story where “plausible” things are happening.
Does that make any sense? Oh well, it works in my brain anyway. 😛
Continuing on from that thought process (however flawed it may be), writing fantasy allows you to pretty much do whatever the heck you please. Want a dragon in there? Boom! Dragon! Want your main character to be able to transform into an animal? Bam! Done! Anything your childish imagination can come up with is fair game because, hey, it’s fantasy!
A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
8. Describe your dream writing space
If I had the time, ability, and financial stability to actually make writing my whole career, I would dedicate a whole room to it, a study if you will. I’d paint the walls a nice, warm, chocolate brown, and I’d have big heavy curtains on the window in case I felt like I needed to be in the dark. I’d have a handsome desk – not your average computer desk, but one of those big writing desks that the authors in movies always seem to have, with notes scattered all over the place, a lamp or two, and a laptop or typewriter plunked in the middle. But besides the desk (which would presumably come with an ergonomically correct chair), I’d also have a big, cushy armchair so I could just curl up with a pen and some paper if I wanted. Finally, the walls would be lined with bookshelves, filled with all my favorite books and my dragon figures (because, hey, dragons!).