Heads turned last week when it was revealed that webcomics packager Rogue Wolf had purchased Cold Cut Distribution. As the only other distribution option to Diamond for the direct sales market, Cold Cut has a small but potentially important role to play in carrying items that Diamond doesn’t stock or restock. Todd Allen learns a bit more about the new operation from co-owner Lance Stahlberg, VP of Operations.

What made you decide to buy Cold Cut?

LS: It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Struggling in the self-publisher pool as I was had huge potential of burning me out before I got my break.

I saw that getting involved in the comic distribution business would help me on two fronts. It would give my Rogue Wolf comics a huge boost in exposure and enable me to build a solid network in the marketplace. At the same time, it created potential for a more flexible schedule so that I could more effectively juggle my career aspirations around my financial needs.

As I mentioned, I’ve become a student of the industry. Seeing Cold Cut for sale was a sign from above that it was time to start my graduate studies.

More: Comics Related looks at some message board postings by Stahlberg.

AND, Cody Machler speculates on whether Cold Cut could emerge as a viable alternative to Diamond.

Unfortunately, while I feel most retailers would love an alternative to Diamond, I also feel that most retailers are lazy and do not like change. As such, I doubt those retailers would be willing to buy from multiple distributors; the mainstream books from Diamond and the independent books from Cold Cut. Therefore, the only way Cold Cut can truly lure retailers away from Diamond is to keep the big, mainstream publishers from resigning exclusive contracts with Diamond. And in order to do that, not only will Cold Cut need to make an attractive offer to those publishers, it will have to overcome the “best friends forever” relationships that exist in the direct market.

Our guess? Launching a full-scale alternative to Diamond for the floppies is almost impossible, given their immense existing infrastructure. The reality is that Baker & Taylor, the huge book distributor which offers returnability at a Diamond-like discount for graphic novels, is already the alternative to Diamond for mainstream books that Diamond just doesn’t seem to be able to offer at a competitive level.

Where a Cold Cut could fit in is in offering lower discounts or speedier reorders on selected titles from smaller, specialty publishers. It’s certainly a niche with potential, although whether the Rogue Wolf guys really have what it takes to grow the niche remains to be seen.