Wednesday, January 21, 2009

COMIX NEWS: Diamond raises order threshold for pubs [UPDATED]

Diamond Comics Distributors announced this week that they will raise their order minimum from $1500 to $2500, a move that will have an immediate effect on small press publishers. In other words, a given comic (outside of the ones from the corporate publishers) needs to sell $2500 minimum in order for Diamond to carry it and place it in their catalog Previews. Because Diamond is the dominant comics distributor for North America by an overwhelming margin, this will make it much harder for the next Bone or American Splendor to get a fighting chance at success.

Among the many reactions around the Net includes this from Ohio retailer Steve Bennett, in his column at ICv2:
...I never deluded myself into thinking I could make everyone a comic book reader but firmly believed there were comics for everyone, if they’d only give them a chance.

And that’s pretty much over; of course it’s been over for a while now, seeing as how we live in a world where a start up publisher is more interested in publishing (and retailers more interested in ordering) Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes instead of the next American Splendor. And when it comes to self publishing, well, I’ve seen the numbers and heard the horror stories and know just how tough that route can be for someone with a dream but not enough financing to hang in there until there’s enough material to be collected into a trade paperback.

Newsarama has a roundup of other reactions so far.

Bennett offers the internet as a solution for independent publishers, and in this I have to agree. The majority of us here at Sunday Comix publish our work online, either in addition to or in place of print. The rules of the game have changed completely from when I began self-publishing in the mid-90s, and to survive today, one has to learn to adapt.

Speaking for myself here, I think regional distribution is worth pursuing for print publishers. To the right you'll see a list of retailers in the Central Ohio area. If you're a creator, hit them up and talk to them about carrying your book, and think further down the road about going state-wide and even Midwest region-wide. It's a longer road to travel, but if it keeps your book afloat, it's an option worth pursuing.

UPDATE: Diamond's Bill Schanes talks to Newsarama. Highlights:
There will be a lot of vendors, again, “lot” being relative, on the comic book side that we’ll have conversations with about some title reductions – or repackaging or reformatting based on long history of sales where the sales are continuing to decline, so there’s less consumer interest with every issue and they’re already under the old benchmark, so they’ll be under the new benchmark by quite a bit. So maybe have to go to quarterly or bimonthly, or raise the price. Those who are creative can figure out how to continue to exist out there, at least through Diamond...

We’ve always taken a position that there is free access to the marketplace, and we want to help the small guys get bigger and we’ve helped grow many small guys to medium guys and medium guys to beiger guys, and are thrilled when that happens, but it’s not an imminent right to be in the catalog. Not everybody can be on the grocery store shelves with their products. The grocery store has to make some tough choices based on what it thinks the consumer base will want...

...if we see a new comic cross our door that looks promising, with a good concept or a good creative team, we’re going to give it a try. But when we have a brand new creator or a brand new talent team, that’s a judgment call. Hopefully we make the right call based on our years of experience here, but we may occasionally miss one. There are times that some creators have called me and said that they think we missed a good one, and sometimes we agree, and sometimes we don’t. But that’s a healthy dialogue, and we’re very open-minded with that.
So from a small presser's perspective, distribution by Diamond should no longer be looked upon as the automatic next step after completing the book. It's easy to think that way; I know I used to. Pursue alternatives, even if it's only on the local level. Another option is digital distribution. Check out this CBR piece about iVerse Media's plan for putting comics on iPhones and iPods.

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