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Industry Issues — UPDATE

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UPDATED: Just to put this in perspective ICv2 posted Diamond’s annual sales figures

Diamond Comic Distributors has released its annual sales figures, reporting that in 2006 Diamond Comic Distributors as a whole (including Alliance and Diamond UK) had gross sales of over $350 million — and Diamond estimates that the 3,500 comic specialty stores it services had retail sales of over $650 million last year.

Tom takes an overview of Six problems facing the industry and they boil down to:

1. The Greatest Issue Facing the Direct Market?
2. Syndicates and Self-Knowledge
3. The Mainstream Comics Event Comics Publishing Dilemma
4. The Alternative Comics Serial Comics Publishing Dilemma
5. Manga’s Publishing Dilemma
6. Loss of the Professional Class?


It’s a good, thoughtful read, although we’d quibble with a few points — the high water mark of comic shop saturation was probably the early 90s not the late 80s, although it was the wrong KIND of comics, as card stores began carrying valuable, collectible Image comics and such. There were some 5000 stores then, if we have our math right.

Point #6 involves comics folk not being able to cash in on the current boom via actually creating comics, but Chris Butcher has an alternate view:

The Mouse Guard guy is hitting a bunch of conventions, but he’s not the one lugging cases of his books (I hope), he’s got a publisher for that. Kean Soo’s Jellaby will be coming out from Hyperion Books next year, a young-readers graphic novel aimed squarely at the Bone-reading audience, and while mainstream authors are always encouraged to do promotions and press for their work (and I will be roping Keaner into a number of “personal appearances”) he’s got a team of people out there getting Jellaby in front of reviewers, into bookstores, onto book clubs, and into the hands of its intended audience. Which is gonna be hell for him, he’s so hands on. :)

Making Comics, by Scott McCloudThe real reason that I’m not entirely worried about “The Loss of the Professional Class”? It’s a secret I probably shouldn’t spill on my blog, but… Alright, here goes: Judy Hansen, of Kitchen & Hansen Literary Agency. Judy Hansen is Scott McCloud’s agent, and got him out of the deal with DC and into Harper Collins’s warm embrace. Scott set Judy up with Flight, and moved them from Image’s money-on-the-back-end deal to Random House, where… I don’t know how private those details are.


Based on our own personal observations, we’re twixt the two viewpoints. If you are even moderately skillful you can get all the work you can handle these days, but it takes a LOT of work to make what one would consider a “successful” living. No one is coasting, not even the superstars, who seem to be busier than ever directing movies and designing video games and what not.

  1. The first two points are solved(?) by the Internet. As a college student in the boonies of Eastern Iowa, I used mail order to get my comics fix, with an occasional journey into Iowa City.

    Newspapers offer many extra strips on their websites than they do in their papers. Syndicates now offer subscription services for comic strips and other features.

    There are many creators publishing online, and then self publishing. The most visible being the Unshelved guys, who were at BEAgiving a great talk and selling lots of books and shirts. They visit lots of library conferences, and are the Dilbert of librarians. (example: A patron returns a book. With a raw slice of bacon bookmark. True story, with three people in the audience having also experienced this.)

    “It takes a lot of work, and a long time, to become an overnight sensation.”–T. Adair

  2. I would like to correct an error in Chris’ comment. I represent clients through the Hansen Literary Agency. I still have a few clients such as the Will Eisner estate, Wendy and Richard Pini, Mark Schultz, Bryan Talbot and Chuck Dixon through the old Kitchen and Hansen Agency.

    But after negotiating to revert all of Will Eisner’s graphic novels from DC and place them at W.W. Norton, and many other deals, as the partner in the old agency who actually did all the trade book negotiations and contracts, I moved foward with my own agency.

    All of the clients mentioned including Scott McCloud, Kean Soo, Kazui Kibuishi, Hope Larson, Svetlana Chmakova, and many other fabulous creators and wonderful clients are exclusively represented by the Hansen Literary Agency.

  3. I redid the math on those Diamond sales figures five times and was positive I was calculating something incorrectly because it means that, on average, Diamond accounts grossed $185,714.29/year. Assuming that there’s probably 20-30 major accounts making twice that much, if not more, how many of the 3,500 accounts are scraping by on $50k or less each year?

    And what, exactly, defines “comic specialty stores”? Is that brick and mortar only, or does DCBService.com count, too? Does Midtown Comics count as 1 or 2 accounts? What about the bodega down the street from me, and several others like it here in the City, all of which seem to carry 15-20 Marvel & DC titles every month? If they’re among the 3,500…yikes!

  4. “There were some 5000 stores then, if we have our math right.”

    Among the dozen or so direct market distributors in operation then, there was a high-water mark of 9000 or more accounts. A number of retailers did have accounts with several distributors, in which case they may have been counted as more than one “account”.

    It’s hard to quantify the criteria for defining “stores”, but I think 5000 is low for the high point.

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