The thing about Stephen King is…

FantaCo sold a lot of horror film items in the mail order, as well as comic books.

I’ve seen at least five movies based on the works of author Stephen King: The Shining (1980), which I did not like; Stand by Me (1986), which I was very fond of; Misery (1991), which was quite good; The Shawshank Redemption (1994), which I LOVED; and The Green Mile (1999), which had its moments. Also saw at least parts of some miniseries.

I’ve read various comic book adaptations of his work. I devoured his articles in Entertainment Weekly magazine. But until the fourth quarter of 2012, I had NEVER read a Stephen King book, not one. Not even his nonfiction On Writing, which actually DID intrigue me. Or his book namechecking baseball pitcher Tom Gordon.

Let me tell you a story that’s only vaguely about Stephen King. I’ve told it before, but it was some years ago.

It would help if you understood that FantaCo, where I worked from 1980 to 1988, sold mostly comic books in the retail store. However, we sold a lot of horror film items in the mail order as well, including back issues of Fangoria magazine, Freddy Krueger (plastic) claws, and books and comics of the horror genre, some of which we published. It was partly from that experience that I got all “horrored out,” as it were.

There was a graphic novelization of the Stephen King’s Creepshow drawn by Berni Wrightson in the mid-1980s, published by some company. Having connections in both the comic and horror markets, we at FantaCo absolutely knew, from both comic and horror film stores we dealt with, that there was still a demand for this title, but no one seemed to be able to get any, for no explicable reason.

I went to the library and looked up the publisher’s information in Books in Print. The grapevine had it that there were still many copies of the book remaining. I wrote to the publisher and got no response.

About a month later, I called the publisher and was told the book was no longer available, which I had heard from others to be untrue. A couple of days later, I called again, and THIS time, I reached someone else, who acknowledged that they had copies but that it was not worth their time and money for them to send out the books, only to deal with a huge percentage of returns.

Now direct market comic book stores such as FantaCo were quite used to buying comic books on a non-returnable basis, but at a higher discount than the comic books sold at your local drug store. I said, “What if we bought the books on a non-returnable basis?” I thought the guy’s teeth were going to fall out. “Non-returnable?” So, we took 100 copies of Creepshow at 70% off the $6.95 cover price, put them in the store, listed them in a Fangoria ad, and blew through them.

I called the publisher again and ordered another 100. By this point other stores, seeing the book in our ad, were clamoring for this item, so we ordered an additional 500, and sold it to these horror book stores, and a few comic book stores, at 40% off, non-returnable. We kept on ordering in lots of 500 or 1000 until the publisher really WAS out of copies. The publisher made money on an item it had given up on, retail stores got to sell a book they could otherwise not get, we made a decent profit even wholesaling someone else’s book, and this kept the Wrightson/King book from just being remaindered. Talk about your win-win-win-win.

So now it’s Columbus Day 2012. I’d taken all the newspapers I hadn’t perused, which were several, and read them all. I’m in the North Albany branch of the library, with my daughter on the computer, using MY library card (so that I can’t be on the computer, too), while The Wife and my sister are finishing up at the YMCA next door, and I’m rather bored. Then I see it: a book I just had to read…