Newsarama finally gets Diamond’s recent changes on the record from Bill Schanes. Those following the story will probably have read the whole thing, but it’s worth discussing a bit — most of the changes are because of the economy, but according to Schanes, Diamond is being sensitive to the individual needs of publishers. But it’s still going to be rough. One of the changes less noted among message board commenters, but much noted among publishers, is that not as many items will be offered again:
Clearly we understand that the Offered Against generate revenue for the publishers – sometimes very much needed revenue, and we’re trying to be sensitive to that, and we have been for the last 10 years. We’re just not sure that we can be as generous as we have been in the past with the number of Offered Agains in our catalog every single month. So there will be less going forward. I don’t have an exact percentage, or what the numbers will look like until we go through a whole cycle, but it will be less.
Schanes expects 20 to 30 publishers to be removed from PREVIEWS because of the new benchmark:
BS: I don’t have the number in front of me, but it’s well south of 1%. It’s very small. I will say that it ties up a tremendous amount of energy processing these small orders that are not performing for us from a P&L standpoint. So we’re doing the same amount of work for the bigger titles as we are for the smaller titles with a totally different end result.
Hard to argue with that. Also, while Diamond is working with publishers, everyone has to have their own oar in this boat:
There are a number of different things that can be done that are out there, but we also have to ask publishers what they’re going to do to help themselves? Often times, publishers feel their responsibility to the product is done once they hit send on that final e-mail. We don’t feel that’s fair – we feel that they should be driving business to the retailers, and helping Diamond help market their product. We don’t think it’s the responsibility of the distributor to be 100% of the sales, marketing and commercial arm of the publisher. We can augment their effort, but we should not be the only effort.
• Steven Grant weighs in:
But they’re a monopoly. (Diamond’s recurring argument that they can’t be a monopoly because other distributors exist conveniently overlooks the breadth and depth of their reach, and the ordering habits of retailers who don’t want to be bothered with multiple catalogs and order sheets, and the inability of other distributors to last long in competition with Diamond.) This puts a certain moral burden on them to facilitate distribution of all comics, because their policies decide what gets distributed, and what gets distributed decides who in the business survives. Diamond’s business model is built around the Marvel/DC business model, but not all publishers operate on that model. Some publishers can make enviable profits on very small print runs. Some have businesses built on reorders, not orders. (Diamond has never been comfortable with the reorder process, and their calculations rarely take reorders into consideration.) Raising order limits – meaning where you only needed 1000 people ordering your comic before, you now need at least $2500 worth of orders or you’re Diamond toast – effectively punishes publishers for innovative business models. The upshot for the comics market is a new anti-competitive atmosphere that mostly helps the publisher least in need of it: Marvel.
• John Jackson Miller notes that Diamond has also canceled their long running Diamond Dialogue which, before the internet, was where you would get what passed for inside news:
“It is with a touch of sadness that I announce that this will be the last print edition of this monthly magazine,” Steve Geppi said in the magazine’s editorial. “After almost 17 years and hundreds of issues, the publication is closing up shop. However, this is not ‘curtains’ for Dialgoue, because the same great content will be available online at Diamond Daily. In this age of the Internet, we feel that key product and sales information will make a bigger impact if it’s delivered sooner to retailers, allowing them to make more intelligent ordering decisions as quickly as possible.
• Radio Comix Publisher Elin Winkler comments on the end of the Adult Only supplement:
Potentially, this could spell the end of independent comics (and adult comics!) being available in the direct market (comic stores), not to go all doom and gloom here at the end. Just think- not being able to get anything but Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite or Devil’s Due comics in comic shops- no Radio Comix, no Antarctic Press, no Slave Labor, no Oni Press, no Lightspeed Press, no Top Shelf, no Fantagraphics, no Drawn & Quarterly, etc. Imagine comic stores where all you can get are superhero titles or comics based on licensed properties (TV shows, movies, cartoons, video games). It’s not a cheerful thought, even speaking as someone who currently works in a comic store as a retailer. It will not help diversity, which in turn will not help to expand the readership of comics as a whole. Yeah, yeah, I know, diversity doesn’t pay any bills or make anyone rich. But it bothers me that something like this is threatening the industry that I’ve been working in for nineteen years of my life.
• SLG’s Jennifer de Guzman:
If you want to know more, I suggest you read this article by my boss, SLG’s President Dan Vado at The Comics Reporter. It’s about the new ordering benchmarks implemented by Diamond Comics, the biggest (err, only) distributor of comics to comic book stores. The benchmark has been raised from $1500 to $2500, which means we have to sell more comics if Diamond is going to list and fulfill orders for them. It puts all smaller publishers in a difficult position, and probably means the end of independent serialized comics. Unfortunately, the book market isn’t doing very well either, with Borders seemingly constantly on the brink of bankruptcy and bookstore sales indeed down 13% in November (compared to 10% for all retail).
The blogosphere has been in a tizzy for the past week about the recent changes at Diamond Comic Distribution. And for good reason, too – it’s probably the biggest news in small press comics in a couple of years. As expected, reactions range all over the place – from dire “The sky is falling, this is the end of the direct market as we know it” to “No surprise, this has been expected for some time, it’s all business”. No need to hash out all of that discussion here – if you are really interested, just do a quick blogsearch and it will bring up more than you ever wanted to read. It is of interest to me, because I did work in the comic book industry for fifteen years, including the almost-unique perspective of working at a small-press indy distributor that was in direct competition to Diamond.