Chris Butcher adds thoughtson the news that Cold Cut Distribution is up for sale:

Y’see… The writing’s been on the wall regarding…something…happening for a little while now. About a month ago, I stopped receiving Cold Cut’s weekly update of new product. I just figured my e-mail was bouncing or something, but… nope. No new product coming in. I also noticed that earlier this year (maybe?) the company was down to one (excellent) employee named Matt. I sincerely hope that whatever happens, Matt ends up okay because his customer service is top-notch, and he worked really hard for our business. And I’ve been wondering for a little while now how the new shipping charges in the U.S. (basically: everything through the U.S. Postal Service just got a whole lot more expensive) were going to affect anyone doing mail-order/distribution… I wonder if that contributed anything? I have a feeling we’ll never know.

Meanwhile, Matt High, the lone Cold Cut employee, has this sage observation at his blog:

(PS In other news, I’m pretty much keeping my public mouth shut about the comics news that hits much closer to home – selling of Cold Cut. But I do find it slightly amusing but entirely not unexpected that various people are speculating about this-or-that, without ever contacting us in any way, shape or form. It’s not like we’re hard to get ahold of, people!)

UPDATE: Dan Vado writes to Spurge and pretty much pisses in everyone’s Wheaties

This is more on the subject of your pondering about the industry and boom times more than it about Cold Cut. I have never seen the stratification of the industry as bad as it is right now. While, historically speaking, the business has always been dominated by the top two companies, there always seemed to be something of an audience left for everyone else. The comics business in general and the direct market in particular seems to have become a zero sum game, where gains on one side result in losses on another. One thing which I think is killing the direct market is a combination of non-returnability of unsold product and a dangerous reliance on pull-lists and the Diamond Previews. As it stands right now the retailer eats what he doesn’t sell and has no incentive to take chances or even attempt to attract a wider and more diverse audience. The client base seems to be expected to always order out of this giant, ugly catalog two to three months in advance based on not much other than general listings and sample smaller than a postage stamp. We aren’t really in a boom time, it’s just that our standards of success have become lower as our expectations have been driven further and further into the dirt.


  1. No one owes Matt High a phone call for unpacking their opinions on some factor of Cold Cut’s announcement.

    If he really think he’s been wronged or mis-portrayed by any of that writing, he should uncross his arms, unclench his disapproval face and write an e-mail.

  2. Or maybe some of the comics “journalists” out there could stop being lazy and contact him? Dunno, seems reasonable to me, assuming people actually gave a f–k instead of just pretending they do and whining all the time.

  3. ohh my. This looks like it’s gonna get good.

    Someone save my seat. I’m gonna get some popcorn and I’ll be right back.


    In all seriousness, this seems like a very intriguing story to me. Please keep us updated Heidi. :)

  4. Mind you, it’s all totally expected. I’ve been around the internet for 15 years now, so I know how the rumoring and gossiping goes around. No suprises at all. Plus, it’s something that I’ve been very guilty of myself, numerous times in the past. It’s just, I dunno, sort of *sad* to see some people who like to put on airs and claim to be journalists or comics reporters engaging in that sort of behavior. Lowers my opinion of them. Not angry, just disappointing.

    (PS And since this is a Publisher’s Weekly message board, in all fairness I should add that someone from Pub Weekly has indeed contacted us.)

  5. Holy crap, you’re stupid.

    If an article I write requires me to ask a question of someone I’ll ask them a question. If I don’t, I won’t. A lot of articles and a lot of editorials require follow-up questions with the principals. A lot of them don’t.

    That’s a standard that’s worked for two decades-plus of my practicing journalism.

    There’s no standard that says you call someone in order to keep them from vaguely asserting someone out there said something that’s incorrect about them but won’t share what it is.

    Since you’re not on every comments thread where Heidi hasn’t directly followed up on a posting with person to person questions just to make sure she has it right to the princpal’s satisfaction, I assume you know that, too.

    Where was Jim McLaughlin’s phone call?

  6. Matt, all due respect, I haven’t written any article about you yet, although I have posted a link to your announcement and used the news you’ve announced publicly as a springboard to make some observations about the industry.

    That’s called blogging. News reports are different. That’s why someone from PW has contacted you but I’m guessing Heidi didn’t interview you extensively before writing her first post. (Maybe I’m wrong.)

    If I had written an article about you, I would have given you a call or sent you e-mail. If I do write an actual article, I’ll attempt to contact someone at Cold Cut. I always have.

    If there’s anything factually wrong with anything I wrote while blogging — and there’s always that chance — I’m happy to run a correction. I’m also happy to run anyone’s written disagreement with my analysis or interpretation of events. I’m not going to apologize because you’re shrugging your shoulders and making sighing noises and casually insulting me. Put up or shut up.

    BTW: I’m not pretending to be a comics reporter any more than you’re pretending to be a comics distributor. I’ve made a living doing this at least in part since 1994. If I’ve made any statement as factually wrong as the one you make when you assert I’m an amateur, please quit being vague about it and let me correct it.

  7. Hmmm. Yin And Yang. The Direct Market allows publishers to print to order and have little risk. It also makes stores order conservatively and thus take fewer risks on new titles.

    Solutions: stores should order expirementally using returnable trade vendors such as Ingram. Title reorders can then be placed via the DM for better terms.
    Publishers should make the first story arc of a new series returnable. Readers will then likely buy the trade paperback, and tell others. The extra chatter will also advertise the title to readers who might be curious.
    Publishers should work with Diamond to include URLs which direct readers to a sneak preview online. The website should also include the Diamond order code.
    Publishers should also set up email listservers for librarians and booksellers so we know what’s new and interesting.

  8. Torsten, one solution I’d add is publishers getting more information, whether it be press releases, sneak previews, or otherwise, to web sites. Much of the comic book community is getting it’s information online, and right now there are very few publishers taking advantage of that fact. Marvel, Dynamite, Archie… DC and Dark Horse to a lesser extent.

  9. I’m confused. Did Matt mention Tom Spurgeon in specific? Am I missing the source from which a taking-this-personally reaction could justifiably spring? Dan and I are thinking that Matt’s comment was more in reference to those publishers who speculated online about whether Cold Cut was going to pay them when a phone call could have cleared that up for them. It seemed like a tacky attempt at public shaming when the sensible move would have been to pick up the phone. I suppose I could ask Matt if that’s what he meant.

    I don’t think comics journalists owe *Matt* a phone call, but they do owe it to some sense of journalistic standards, surely? But as Spurgeon says, the response thus far has been in the realm of blogging, not journalism. It’s interesting how what once would have been private wheel-turning in the process of writing a journalistic article is now so public.

    In any case, I’m hoping for the best in this situation. Tim or Matt from Cold Cut have been regular fixtures at SLG, picking up their orders on Fridays. Cold Cut has been instrumental, as Dan wrote, in supporting our titles and keeping our back catalog strong.

  10. Well, one of the problems is that Matt’s not being specific at all beyond the fact that there was no phone call, so anyone who posted anything about the story and didn’t call Cold Cut is in effect criticized instead of whomever he means about whatever he’s talking about.

    Further, I took the “comics reporter” phrasing in Matt’s post as aimed at me either specifically or as part of the group. And Matt’s rejoinder generally, which builds on arguments going back to my first post.

    If I was wrong about that, and the criticism — whatever it is — is aimed elsewhere, then I apologize for getting that wrong and I ask all of you to ignore any argument of mine based on my specific experiences of qualities.

  11. Ah, perhaps the “reporter comment” is referring to people re-posting such comments from publishers about lack of payment without taking the time to investigate if there is any merit in the speculation. But I guess if you’re reporting reactions, you’re reporting reactions, not judging the merit of those reactions — or, more objectively, verifying if those reactions are founded on anything legitimate.

  12. Ah, perhaps the “reporter” comment is referring to people re-posting such comments from publishers about lack of payment without taking the time to investigate if there is any merit in the speculation. But I guess if you’re reporting reactions, you’re reporting reactions, not judging the merit of those reactions — or, more objectively, verifying if those reactions are founded on anything legitimate.

    Well, now I’m speculating! And this is turning into a meta-issue rather than a specific one.

  13. I think that’s mostly it. I think there’s a reasonable standard that applies that looks at a lot of factors, including the severity of what’s being claimed and the credibility of the speaker. I found Cold Cut’s press release credible, I find Chris Butcher to be credible speaking about the Beguiling’s take on industry developments. I find Dan Vado credible when he’s speaking on SLG. At least enough to point them out.

    If Chris Butcher or Dan Vado were to write about the intricacies of office politics at Fantagraphics, or something that happened at MoCCA to Chris Oliveros at 3 AM when he was by himself, or what Marvel was doing during its summits, I would downgrade their credibility. And as always, if I were shown they were making stuff up or that their positions where untenable, I would run a correction or a counter-opinion.

    So it’s not really that reporting reaction is legitimate because you’re only reporting reactions and it doesn’t matter if they’re or wrong because you’re saying “This is their opinion.” It’s more like that the reporting of reactions is legitimate if the person and what they’re saying is credible enough for people, including you, to pay attention to what’s said.

    If you had to verify everything no matter what, newspapers would spend a week’s worth of manhours trying to confirm the scores of every college football game instead of believing that the AP is collecting them accurately from sports information directors that are giving them accurately. No one would have reported on Dick Lugar’s anti-Iraq speech because they’d still be fact-checking all the issues it brings up and running things by Tony Snow.

    It’s not really a blog/news thing as much as kind of news thing. People have been writing these kinds of stories for decades. The blog/news dichotomy is useful in that by now people really should be used to the kind of newsgathering that goes on in blogs, which is why I think a lot of arguments based on those ideas are just people picking fights. Although I will admit it’s kind of surprising to me that people still hold obvious blog entries of the newsbrief kind to a standard that doesn’t apply, or, in reverse, that they ascribe to blog postings the achievement of reporting/verification when they haven’t earned it.

    Ah, Friday afternoons.

  14. @Spurgeon: I find it rather funny that you draw the distinction between blogging and journalism when it’s convenient for you, while in the same breath referencing McLaughlin. Remember, it was good old uniformed internet speculation that put his name out there, not Ronee. Of course, not mentioning that fact is the kind of thing I’m used to in connection to that incident and the comics industry in general.

    PS: McLaughlin didn’t get a phone call from us because the story was never about him. That’d be like calling Elissa Lynch to find out what’s going on at Cold Cut. We did get several calls from him, though, refusing to speak on the record about the situation while demanding editorial coverage for ACTOR. I guess comments on blogs are held to an ever lower standard than the blog posts themselves, though.

  15. Dan Vado’s letter struck a strong and sad chord with me, especially when he talked about exclusive deals.

    When it came time to find a new bookstore distributor (see below) I settled on Diamond, and I did so as one of the first publishers they signed. As Dan said, they asked for exclusivity. Of course — all distributors I’ve ever talked to ask. But all it took was my asking that, for the direct market, I continue to be able to work with Cold Cut, Last Gasp, and others. Diamond said yes with no fuss, no argument, but not because I’m a big player with heavy duty lawyers and negotiating power.

    It just required that I think a little bit about the industry and marketplace I wanted to see and take part in, and do what I could to protect distributors who had done a good job selling my books. I know some others that followed made the same request, but apparently too few of us bothered to even think about it.

    Regarding publishers who have expressed fear or misgivings about getting stiffed by Cold Cut, I’ll note that I’ve weathered two distributor bankruptcies (see above re. shopping for a new distributor), which cost me thousands of dollars, and this doesn’t look anything like those to me. The main reason is that if you call or email, Mark or Matt or both respond, honestly and quickly.

    This is not a company that’s racked up debt, or has failed to make money, or failed to make good business decisions. Again, I hope people will consider what they’d like to see in the industry and marketplace, and think about their own long-term future in terms of having more than one means of distribution, before they write them off.

    Diamond has treated me well, and I do well by them, and the same is true of Cold Cut. I just shipped books to both companies, with equal confidence.

  16. It would take eight long paragraphs to point out everything that’s wrong with Guy’s response, which is impressive because he chooses to argue a whole two points of ten or so presented to him. I know this would have taken eight long graphs because I just deleted them.

    Basically, I’m not making anything close to the arguments claimed for me, by structure or content, and my crack about the victim of Guy’s previous editorial oversight wasn’t a brief filed in nerd court but a declaration of how seriously I take his lectures on journalistic process. Although he’s lucky that wasn’t a brief in nerd court, because Chief Justice Shatner would have just given me possession of all his toys.

    Journalism works like this: you pick from a variety of approaches and degrees of immersion; your standard is the truth. If someone shows you failed to meet that standard, you correct yourself and try again. Someone crossing their arms and nerd-chuckling in your general direction isn’t a part of it, no matter how many straw men are presented. Even if you’re really bored on a Friday and subsequent Monday evening.

    So, yeah. Back to work.