Since I was just picking a fight with Brian Hibbs, now I’ll quote him extensively. His latest Tilting at Windmills is an anniversary post, looking the original Diamond catalog from when he started in 1989! We’ve lost some soldiers along the way, but the Diamond catalog is now a bloated thing,
In 1989 there are just fifty “other” publishers with products in the catalog. Only six are still in business today and have published continuously in that time (Archie, Fantagraphics, NBM, Slave Labor, Titan, and Viz) — the small publisher putting out the most number of titles appears to have been Eternity Comics, who offered 25 comics in 1989. Eclipse ties with Archie for second place with 20 items offered. Viz back then published nothing but periodical comics — eight of them.
In July of 2014, there are one hundred and eleven “other” publishers — more than twice as many! And they’re publishing more comics: the publisher with the largest number of SKUs appears to be Dynamite, with a whopping 119 line items offered (34 of them individual new comics), while BOOM! has 87 SKUs (37 new titles), and Avatar has 65 SKUs (12 new titles), while Archie has 29 line items offered, but only 20 of them are new non-variants, so they’re pretty much the only publisher selling exactly the same number of titles a quarter-century later. Viz has 65 titles listed — all of them books — but only 17 of them are new — still about a doubling of releases.
First off let’s give a hand to Archie, Fantagraphics, NBM, Slave Labor, Titan, and Viz for surviving all this time! (I know SLG is in rough shape but they are technically still here.)
Hibbs goes on to make many salient observations, including the relentlessly ticking clock of standard attrition and how publishers have to try to jump start it with variants and stunts:
I’ve been selling periodicals in some fashion for at least thirty years now, and I can tell you one thing that hasn’t changed at all in all of that time: there is generally a month-by-month drop in sales with all ongoing books, and that makes it incredibly important to launch a book as high as it possibly can — to find the highest possible “ceiling” for that title — so that as the numbers drift downwards, they take longer to fall into the “not profitable” column.
To reduce it to a simple (but unrealistic — things are never this simple) formula you can understand: if “Dweelzeman” sells one fewer copy a month at the average store, then getting stores to stock/sell 50 copies of #1 as opposed to 30 copies of #1 extends the life of the periodical by nearly two years.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.