§ Chris Butcher finally weighs in with his thoughts on the Diamond changes and it seems we’ve reached the end of an era:
I have always argued this, and while my arguments haven’t fallen on deaf ears, exactly, many companies have made decisions that embrace a “streamlined” DM, to what I feel will be their eventual detriment… Once you eliminate the bottom, the middle becomes the new bottom. I’m having a hard time seeing how anyone is going to be renegotiating their exclusivity deal with Diamond from a position of anything approaching “strength” in the next few years. Diamond has just told you that they want the low-hanging fruit, and that fruit’s just gonna get lower and lower.
But even more importantly than that: Diamond is pushing content out of the Direct Market.
Let me say that again:
Diamond Is Pushing Content Out Of The Direct Market
We established this way up at the top there, “Diamond’s job is to serve the direct market.” So you tell me, by denying entry to creative people, by setting the minimums above what _all comics_ not in the top 300 can accomplish, and only ‘working’ with their core publishers, how are they serving the direct market?
For historical counterpoint, John Jackson Miller looks at the just-pre-Diamond era, and finds that about 2/3rd of the publishers of that era released four or fewer issues a year.
Using the shipping lists and cancellation lists from every week in 1997, the staff of Comics Buyer’s Guide and I calculated that Diamond had shipped 5,695 different comic books (not trades, but comic books); we also counted 391 different trade paperbacks. These are not Top 300 entries; this is everything.
Now, one of the interesting things about that calculation was the representation of publishers, and the number of issues they shipped. Those 5,695 comic books, we counted, came from exactly 500 different publishers, from A & T to Zub.
More than two-thirds, or 340 publishers, released fewer than four issues — not titles, but issues — in the year, meaning they weren’t even releasing a quarterly series. And more than one-third — 169 — of the publishers only put out exactly one issue in the entire year. More than 10% of the issues Diamond released represented publishers releasing three issues or less; single-issue publishers accounted for about 2% of all items.
We weren’t able to run market shares based on the whole 5,695-issue list, because we only had estimated sales for the Top 3,600 issues or so. We did find that the 32 publishers that only placed one comic book in the Top 300 all year accounted for 0.16% of Top 300 units and 0.23% of Top 300 dollars for the year. Some of those publishers probably also had issues under 300th place, but we can kind of see the numbers we’re dealing with; it’s possible that a third of the publishers Diamond was dealing with were producing less than 1% of its combined sales.
I’m torn. On the one hand, it’s easy to see that Diamond’s cost cutting in the present era is based on a similar principle — a disproportionate amount of manpower was directed at selling one percent of their product line.
On the other hand, there’s no saying that that one percent doesn’t contain the greatest comic of the year.
It seems to me that the more profound problem is that we, at present, have a system set up where it’s very feasible that the best comic of the year couldn’t be published in such a way that it would make $2500 at wholesale.
Thank about that one for a while.