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New Diamond policies expected to have massive effects

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Diamond Distribution, the largest and practically only North America distributor of periodical comics, is in the process of rolling out a few new business processes, and the results could be a very different landscape for comics publishing. Or, as non Diamond-exclusive publishers told us in private emails (a sampling):

“It is going to be rough for us Top 20 publishers. It will be epic for anyone smaller. Lots of folks will vanish due to this, even some bigger guys.”

“I expect the new threshold to annihilate many of the smallest publishers and keep a lot of new ones out of Previews.”

“I suspect that this will put a severe crimp on what little remains of the B&W pamphlet field.”

and

“This is the single biggest event since Diamond became the monopoly that ruled comics.”

Hysteria or prescience? Read on.

The changes have been revealed as Diamond calls publishers to tell them of the new policies, rather than any formal announcement, so the details are still a bit sketchy. However, several publishers have noted that given the import of the new policies, it’s appropriate that Diamond reps — and even VPs — are calling each publisher as opposed to a general e-mail.

One change was to eliminate the “adults only” supplemental catalog that previously was shipped to retailers with their copy of Previews. The products from the catalog will remain as a pdf file available for retailers, as reported by Simon Jones at Icarus Comics, whose products were carried in the catalog. Although the end of the “adults only” catalog is a loss for those who publish such material, it’s also a sign of the times as the Internet and home porn long ago made dirty comics more of a quaint novelty as opposed to a major component of the adult entertainment industry.

In a change that will have a far greater impact, according to numerous reports, Diamond is raising its benchmark for products it will carry from $1500 to $2500. Jones has the clearest explanation of this change, (although he later amends perhaps the most key point of all) but the short version is that unless orders to Diamond on a product are consistently greater than $2500 at wholesale, Diamond will no longer carry the product.

According to a letter from SLG’s Dan Vado published at The Comics Reporter, at SLG’s discount level, a comic would have to sell $6000 at retail to meet the benchmark. Comics selling this amount are well within the top 300 comics published every month, including well-known or critical faves. Quoth Vado:

The average person reading this may not realize that most small press comics (and by that I mean floppies) do not meet that benchmark. I think if the average reader knew how lousy some of our sales were they would be stunned. I can’t tell you how many times people have wandered into our booth at one convention or another and engaged me in conversation and walk out scratching their heads and reeling to find out that the comic or graphic novel they just love more than anything sold maybe 300 copies total.


Jones puts this in even greater detail:

To put this into perspective for you… perusing ICv2’s top 300 graphic novel estimates for November 2008, Salt Water Taffy volume 2 from Oni Press placed at 294. This is an all-ages book that has received great buzz (it’s recommended by YALSA), and is likely to have strong “legs”… long-term, consistent demand.

…and it sold 413 copies at $5.95, which means it is at the very cusp of the benchmark.

Because later listings almost never do as well as the first, this book may not realize its full sales potential if Diamond were to enforce its $2500 benchmark and not list the book again. This is a book that’s in Diamond’s top 300! It’s from the publisher of Scott Pilgrim!


Following the news, we contacted a number of publishers not in the front of the catalog to ask how this might affect them. Few were wiling to go on the record, but all echoed Vado’s concerns that this will be a huge change for the industry. At the very least, it should seriously winnow down the monthly Diamond behemoth of a catalog. Going through Previews every month is a numbing task for a journalist; for retailers, it’s little better, and printing it up every month is a significant expense for Diamond, which has already taken steps to remove such categories as apparel from the catalog.

While the holiday and piecemeal rollout of the new policies leave a lot of questions hanging in the air, one that every person who responded to our enquiries mentioned that this will be a coffin nail for the small, independent comics periodicals, i.e. floppies. The last time Diamond raised its benchmark, to $1500, it was pointed out that under this policy books from BONE to CEREBUS wouldn’t get into the catalog under this policy. The new benchmark would leave out the first issues of things like 30 DAY OF NIGHT, so we’re not talking obscure indie material, but mainstream genre fiction.

One publisher we contacted went on the record, PictureBox’s Dan Nadel, who shared his thoughts on what the new policies might mean: 

I’d say it’s huge and seismic. For example, neither Travel nor Goddess of War met those numbers back in the fall. So, comic stores wouldn’t have had two of the best reviewed alt-books of ’08. Looking at it from their perspective, I understand the need to be cost-efficient — business is business. Long term, it strangles a small publisher’s ability to get into comic book stores in a concise, economical fashion, as opposed to more time consuming and difficult process of soliciting or invoicing dozens of individual stores. What is signals to me is that in defiance of the trends of the culture towards smaller, more creator-owned work, Diamond is just interested in propping up already popular works. They’ve given up fostering the next Dash Shaw or Yokoyama — they’re essentially cutting off the potential for growth or surprise. This also must hurt retailers, constricting their choices and making it more difficult to get smaller works that their customers expect or request. So, hmmm, Diamond is neither serving the publisher nor the retailer. They’re just acting like a regular ol’ big corporation, albeit, I know, one with plenty of people who probably disagree with this policy. But overall, it’s a real shame.

I should add that Diamond is a smaller part of my business than for those publishers or for comparable arts publishers since I do the bulk of my business through my bookstore distributor, DAP and online. I should also note that Tony Shenton, who does a great job for me rep’ing my books to comic book stores, will now become even more important. Tony’s great and perhaps (though I haven’t asked him) benefit from this shift in terms of being even more of a go-to guy for publishers like PictureBox to get its products into comic stores. So, it’s not disastrous for me. Just a little less income in an already very difficult environment.

Shenton is an indie sales rep who works with several publishers, and while he’s likely to get a lot busier, the idea of a new distributor rising out of all this is something several people have come up with. In his letter, Vado wrote:

On another side note, next month SLG was going to be rolling out a website for retailers only where they could reorder our books and get our vital info without sorting through all of the consumer crap on our regular site. I am going to be offering some publishers an opportunity to participate by listing their stuff on that site, in essence trying to become a distributor myself. There might be some opportunity to make money on that bottom half of the scale that Diamond cannot handle right now.

 
At the very least, this is going to a) make whatever online rollouts were going to happen happen that much faster and b) just about cement the graphic novel format as the format for comics. We’re still in the early stages of reactions and revelations about the new policy, but it’s quite possible that while everyone in the comics industry has been patting themselves on the back for avoiding the worst effects of the recession, that just ended with a bang.

In an even bigger picture, Diamond has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on comics periodical distribution for nearly a decade. While a lot of people view it as a benevolent monopoly, there are some who don’t, and those voices are likely to get much louder in the coming weeks as the effects of the new benchmarks begin to be felt. It’s also likely to throw even more of a spotlight onto just how much of a hegemony Marvel and DC really have on the direct sales market.

We have a lot of phone calls and interviews scheduled…certainly Diamond’s side of the story needs to be heard and evaluated. Developing…and how.

MORE: John Jackson Miller looks at the chart numbers to see what would be affected.

  1. I’m unafraid to go on the record.

    Diamond has been affected by the economy just like every other business. In a business in which the profit margin is already so small, in a niche/luxury industry, it seemed inevitable that the quotas would rise.

    This 100% affects our little three-person company. Linsner.com has existed as a weird, independent entity for almost a decade. In our first year soliciting product with Diamond, we won the Diamond Gem of the Year Award. We’ve had a high turnover in the brand rep department, which admittedly makes it tough to develop a marketing plan in a tough niche industry. When I have had a brand rep long enough to develop a good strategy, like the much-missed William West, it has affected our sales in a strongly positive way.

    Our usual benchmark is within the pricepoint affected, & I predict that this enormous change in Diamond’s policy will do two things.

    First, for those tiny-to-small-side of medium-sized publishers who will no longer be able to distribute through Diamond, this is a death knell. There are going to be those publishers whose artists can shift their vision into other formats that will succeed & meet these benchmarks in time, but for many small vendors who were only getting by as it was – they’re gone, off to get day jobs. Because there is no other distribution alternative. The selection in retailer’s stores will shrink as well.

    Second, because there is no alternate method of distribution, something will have to pop up in its stead as a means to sell the comics that are left. This is a horrible moment for many but a golden opportunity for someone. I’m sure artists will be working even harder than they do now, hawking their wares on their own sites. Much of their works might move online. But something will pop up to fill the gap even if it’s only for awhile. People have told me for years comics are dying. My brothers in particular have given me grief about my “career” (quotles not mine). Graphic novels have been gaining popularity over single-issue comics for years, but I don’t think that format will disappear before some clever, savvy person online has figured out a way to distribute the ones that are left.

    We smelled this coming a few months back & have experimented with different art products (portfolios, limited sketchbooks). Happily those items have done very well, & I am very grateful that our shift in direction occurred just prior to this announcement. Who knows how I’ll feel about it in a year: maybe we’ll get more Dawn stuff published with Image.

    Smart small companies, the ones that can afford to revamp, will. I am sad for the havoc this will wreak on my beloved indie comics in the meantime.

  2. Heidi,

    This is obviously not the most important thing you’re talking about, but still, it’s wrong, so I’ll point it out:

    Previews Adult doesn’t ship with every copy of Previews. It has to be ordered separately. It does currently ship with the one Previews pack sent to each retailer.

    Andrew Neal
    Chapel Hill Comics

  3. Is Diamond cutting its long tail to spite itself?

    Diamond Book Distributors currently represents 95 publishers to the book trade, offering more than 6500 active items. According to Books In Print, some of these publishers are ONLY distributed via DBD, while others use more than one trade distributor. Many jobbers, such as Ingram, also offer a selection for those who prefer to use one account. In this regard, libraries are much like comicbook stores, using one primary vendor. Chain bookstores go direct to the distributor, as business terms are better.

    How does the new COMICS policy affect BOOKS distribution? If DBD has an “exclusive” to distribute Slave Labor to bookstores, will DCD allow Slave Labor to use the DBD orders to hit the new minimum? Will Diamond treat the trade publishers like comics exclusives, and just pass on the order data to the publishers, letting them decide whether to print?

    Publishers are smart to set up business-to-business portals for retailers. Too often, retailers complain of Diamond being out-of-stock on a title that is readily available elsewhere. By communicating directly, publishers can encourage initial orders via Diamond (since retailers also have to reach certain discount levels) while also offering exclusives, promotions, and clearance items. (Signed copies might not be feasible via Diamond, but if an author or artist stops by the publisher’s office, a few copies can be reserved for the stores which sell the most copies.)

  4. This is without question absolutely horrible news for the comic book industry.

    In the early 1990’s when I lost interest in buying super-hero comics it was the [very] small press that kept me coming back to the comics stores. Books like Bernie Mireault’s The Jam, Jason Lutes’ Jar of Fools, Nabiel Kanan’s Exit, Paul Pope’s THB, Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve, Jeff Smith’s Bone, Terry Moore’s Stranger’s in Paradise and Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven got me in the door where I’d buy a few other books that caught my eye.

    I’m not sure how many of those titles would have been available if these new rules were in place then, but I’m guessing very few.

    I don’t know what percentage of patrons are like I was back then (underserved by Marvel, DC/Vertigo, Dark Horse and Image), but it would be a shame if they (however many they are) soon find there’s no longer a reason to visit the corner comics shop.

    Hopefully and alternative arrangement can be found.

  5. Do these same “cut off” rules apply to the big 2 as well?

    If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?

    Lastly, didn’t Diamond just sign a few mid tier publishers to exclusives a few months ago? What happens if THEIR books fall below this new thresh hold? Are they free to shop those titles around through other means?

    the Tiki

  6. Marvel and DC have a very different financial arrangement with Diamond than the publishers being discussed have. Basically, Diamond is working for Marvel and DC, and thus Marvel and DC are more control of their own terms.

  7. Thanks for answering Nat… but can you flesh it out a bit. :)

    Do the mid tier exclusives gain this same safety net?

    the Tiki

  8. Here’s some skuttlebutt I’ve heard from various comicbook store owners… (and also just mentioned in Lying in the Gutters an hour ago!) Currently rumor, but…

    Steve Geppi seems to be having debt issues. (A google news search shows he listed two Baltimore County mansions last July.) The Orioles have had ELEVEN consecutive losing seasons in a difficult market. His Entertainment Museum owed $700K in rent, electricity, and late fees according to various articles, although payment terms have been finalized. In November, the Maryland Stadium Authority forgave $3 Million in back rent to various tenants (including the Orioles). His Baltimore magazine has a circulation of over 600K, but could be suffering from a depressed ad market which affects the entire magazine industry.

    Also, as you may recall, a Diamond press release noted that 2008 graphic novel sales via the Direct Market increased 5%. (I’ll let others gauge the success of periodical comics, since the press release didn’t mention thatnumber.) This new benchmark could be a way to eliminate less profitable titles while increasing profit margins. Given inflation and the use of actual data, it seems fair, although I’m not directly affected by this.

    Hmmm… who owns the comics on display at the Geppi Entertainment Museum? Could they be liquidated if cash flow becomes a concern?

  9. “Exclusive” is not the same as “brokered publisher” — Marvel, DC, and I think Image are “brokered”, but not the rest. (Which is not to say that those working under exclusivity agreements don’t have some protection as well… but that would depend on the details of the agreement, which most of us ain’t privy to.)

  10. Diamond is making a big mistake, I see them like a rhino that has a symbiotic relationship with ox-peckers. These little birds might be small and insignificant to some. However, they play a very important role in the existence of the rhino. Diamond needs all of the indies for the good of the whole of the industry. Imagine if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began publishing today. I don’t think TMNT will make it as a phenomena. Shake them all off and you are left with Marvel and DC. Money talks once again. There must be another way to do this. All indies should join together and start a site where they can offer true previews of their products. Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly should lead the way to help all indies. With so many tools on the Net, small publishers have to think outside the box. There are many people who can use this as an opportunity to help each other and build a better business plan. I am not a fan of Previews, maybe their presentation is what is killing the small publishers. There is just too much. If Previews had a better site and ways to really present these products maybe they would sell more books. If all publishers had an online account with Diamond and a true preview system for their books, people would buy more. This hub would create buzz for all. Less paper and more entertainment for all. There are ways, but are people willing to change.

  11. Thanks for the “brokered” vs “exclusive” definition.

    I do wonder about those “mid tier exclusives though and how this effects them. Tis an interesting conundrum.

    I’ve been saying it for the past month… 2009 is the dawn of a new era in comics. No hyperbole… just history unfolding before our eyes. :)

    the Tiki

  12. Not the most original sentiment, but I’ve long resented the fact that Diamond is the ONLY major distributor and that such a monopoly is allowed to exist. But for that, we have Marvel Comics to thank in the mid-90s, when they killed Heroes World and set off a chain reaction that destroyed Capital (the # 3 and # 2 distributors at the time).

    Thanks, Marvel! Your business practices are as lame as your product!

  13. This is a total byproduct of the main event here, but I find it hilarious how all the poor selling or underselling alternative comics are being outed in the process of this discussion on the various media blogs.

  14. Diamond Comics Distributors would be the last people I’d want f&%king handling my book.

    Dictating terms, barking orders, judging and deciding what comic books Joe Q. Public can or can’t read. Who the f%&k do they think they are???

    Freakin’ American Idol???

    May Steve Geppi’s scrotum rot and wither away – and shitty happy returns to Diamond.

    Long live Haven Distribution – and all the cool folks at Hi De Ho Comics who support my work.

    ~

    Coat

  15. To respond to your comment, Firefly, the fact is that Diamond is actually a de facto monopoly rather than a legal monopoly. Reason being that while there is a practical difference between direct distribution (which is what Diamond is) and newstand distribution, there is no recognized legal difference between the two. So long as any of the newstand distributors are still in business, Diamond is not considered to be a monopoly.

  16. >>This is a total byproduct of the main event here, but I find it hilarious how all the poor selling or underselling alternative comics are being outed in the process of this discussion on the various media blogs.

  17. Niko said, “This is a total byproduct of the main event here, but I find it hilarious how all the poor selling or underselling alternative comics are being outed in the process of this discussion on the various media blogs.”

    Not to hard to figure out – just take the PREVIEWS catalog, and subtract all the books not on Diamond’s “Top 300” sales list. Viola – instant list of titles that are “on the chopping block”.

    But more importantly – don’t confuse “poor selling through Diamond” with “poor selling overall”. A perfect example of this illustrated in the recent “media blogs” you preciously mention is Jane Irwin’s comment on her book, Vogelein, sold 334 copies through Diamond initially, but the book is now in its fourth printing (i.e. thousands sold): http://comicsworthreading.com/2009/01/16/diamond-raises-order-minimums/#comment-101166

    Pretty much every small press comic publisher realizes that the majority of the indy sales are outside of Diamond these days. And the best small press publishers consider Diamond just a portion of their overall sales stream. So don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.

  18. Just a little clarification for Jones about Salt Water Taffy. It may have sold 413 at $5.95 retail, but that isn’t quite the 2500 benchmark, even if it is in the top 300. In fact, it is a long way from the benchmark. The 2500 is wholesale (to quote the above article: “the short version is that unless orders to Diamond on a product are consistently greater than $2500 at wholesale, Diamond will no longer carry the product”). To make it the title would have to sell about twice as many copies.

    Last year I decided to make the move to trades, but I have failed due to years of habitualization. This year I’ll have better ‘luck’ as only two of the titles on my pull list have any hope of surviving this change.

  19. Matt M: Whoops, yes, accidentally left DH off that list. They are, as I understand, brokered.

    In general: expect to see less fresh material from the smaller publishers, and more reprints or things with blatant similarity to something already selling that can be used to convince Diamond that this is likely to sell.

  20. Mr Bird–>

    Yes, my apologies. In my original conversation with Diamond, I heard (or mis-heard) the $2500 figure to be retail value, so I assumed the number was a change to the under benchmark. I have since been corrected (rather sternly, I might add). Now I know the situation is a bit scarier than originally thought.

  21. Firefly: “… we have Marvel Comics to thank in the mid-90s, when they killed Heroes World and set off a chain reaction that destroyed Capital (the # 3 and # 2 distributors at the time).”

    Actually, we have DC Comics to thank for that. Marvel bought/dealt with heroes World to distribute their own product. I remember nearly falling over when I read the news story in Comic Buyer’s Guide that, to “remain competitive” (as Paul Levitz said), DC made an exclusive agreement with Diamond.

    Many distributors could have hung on until Marvel/Heroes World failed in their endeavor — and everyone suspected they would — but thanks to DC’s bid to show that it’s figurative penis was just as large as Marvel’s, several distributors were left with no product to distribute.

    Had DC just waited and conducted business as usual, the landscape of comics would not have changed so drastically.

  22. I’ll be honest, this is something me and my husband have figured was coming for quite some time.

    Let’s be honest, the economy does suck – and comics (floppies especially) are insanely expensive for stories that read in an average of 6 minutes or less. At $2.50 and $2.99 we had already priced out just about every person under 25 and now at $3.99 for some and soon the be the rest – that’s just going to break the bank for most readers.

    American comics (not Manga, that seems to be doing just fine) is fighting a slow losing battle for survival. We must find some other way to distribute these books. And readers, it’s up to you to be excepting of a new medium for that distribution.

    What’s the medium? Looks like it’s the web. Maybe now is the time to put something together that would be a viable distribution point for all indy creators.

    Look, we sell our comic, The Uniques (www.uniquescomic.com) for 99 cents an issue online. And then sell the printed trades of the issues. It works too. And it would work even better if there was a venue set up where all people could go to purchase a wide variety of good, solid, comics.

    This can’t be an industry where just Marvel, DC, and a sprinkling of Image and Dark Horse are allowed to survive. As creators, as a whole we need to stand up, band together, and find something new, dammit!

    I for one, don’t want to watch everything crumble and fall apart. Let’s get to work and figure something out people.

  23. Joe Nozemack, Oni Press’s Publisher, sent Heidi a more detailed response, but I thought I would add a quick note.

    Salt Water Taffy seems to be discussed a fair amount here, but it should be pointed out that though the numbers may seem low for the direct market, there are additional numbers not listed here due to sales to libraries and book stores. This book was always targeted more for schools, libraries, and book stores and its sales reflect this. With the combination of these two distribution entities (DCD & DBD), the book isn’t in any jeopardy.

  24. Niko L, two examples above already say this, but to repeat: I don’t think the fact that my company fits in the guidelines that are affected by the benchmark imposed means that it’s a “poor selling or underselling alternative comics are being outed in the process of this discussion on the various media blogs”. ;) Much of our business comes from re-orders, which we handle through our online store. No need to rub salt in the wounds of folks who are gonna be hurt by this by saying, basically, y’all got booted by Diamond’s new sales figures, so y’all must stink. Yeah, I’m sure that’s “hilarious” to small publishers affected.

    We’re also looking for alternate methods of distribution. Someone mentioned that cold Cut is now Haven Distribution, which looks like a solid effort. But bear in mind, Haven is for pre-existing books, NOT new material.

  25. Is this terrible news, or is this excellent news? Mediocrity in comic selection has persisted for so long under Diamond’s rule, that perhaps the official elimination of Diamond as a viable distribution option will finally spur independents to make a serious effort in opening new markets. And I don’t mean alternate ways of accessing the withered Direct Market, I mean *new* markets.

    As an independent creator working to build something outside of Diamond and it’s system, most people in the world of comics have likely never heard of me or my series. But over the last couple of years, my title ‘Dreamkeepers’ has sold hundreds upon hundreds of copies, in TPB format at over $20 per issue, with stellar reviews from consumers and professionals alike. Sales are not lagging – rather, they are accelerating.

    Based on the statistics I’ve been seeing in blogs today, it would seem I’ve already surpassed what I could have hoped for by submitting and struggling to contort within Diamond’s rates. And rather than have my books marketed to a limited and stagnant pool, they’re just beginning to see the brim of a potential customer base – the customer base that doesn’t care about comic shops.

    I’m not trying to brag about my ‘success’ – I mean, I’m working a night shift to make ends meet. But I do want to emphasize that there is a whole world outside of Diamond, full of people who want to buy good work. I would encourage all creators and small publishers to start discovering it!

    If anyone wants any more of my two cents worth, lookup my blog vividstuff at blogspot.com, to read my series of articles on Diamond, the state of comics, and their future.

  26. I was initially under the impression that these figures were based on retail value; if they’re based on wholesale value, then obviously it’s much more significant.

    Nonetheless… I have my doubts as to whether there’s a place in the modern world for the very-low-selling pamphlet. It’s a questionable enough format for the major publishers. From the point of view of a reader, it has virtually nothing to commend it but nostalgia. If Diamond are killing it, then perhaps they’re putting it out of its misery. A lot of these books would probably find a larger audience as webcomics anyway.

    The impact for re-listed trade paperbacks may be more important in the long run.

  27. Diamond also cancelled the “Diamond Dialogue” magazine (a “glossy” full-color monthly mag for the retailers, full of so-called “news” ( = press-releases by Diamond, DC, Marvel & Co.)

    All the independent (smaller) comicbook-publishers should use distributers like Last Gasp (in San Francisco) !
    most of the independent comicbooks we’re selling at our store we are ordering by Last Gasp (and NOT “Diamond”)!

  28. I thought someone had hit the nail on the head when mentioning the “mediocrity of comic selection”, but then I realized that they were just speaking of the choices, rather than the product.

    Why is no one blaming the real problem – the mediocrity of comics? Secret Invasion and Final Crisis have no effect on your book. If it’s good, it’s good. In many cases, this isn’t the case, but it’s easy to blame the big guy. I really don’t mean to sound like a mouthpiece for Diamond, but if that’s how it comes off, so be it. Unbeknownst to many, the bar for getting into Previews is *quite* low. I know people out there protest the fact that there’s this panel of people out there who decide “who has talent and who doesn’t”, but that’s how life is, just like any job interview. If you can’t draw hands, you simply can’t draw hands -it’s going to affect you if you submit a book called “Hand Man”. I, for one, never felt comfortable deciding “this won’t sell”, but there have to be limits somewhere.

    There’s so much bile online, saying “Diamond’s killing the industry” and “Diamond kills creativity”. You know, it’s funny that everyone laments the fact that the indies are in the back of the catalog, yet everyone knows they *are* there. If you hate the Premiers so much, just flip to the back of the catalog. End of story. Instead, it comes off more like “Diamond doesn’t make it easy for me to find the stuff I like”. It’s there, you just have to do some legwork on your own.

    If people were buying the books, this wouldn’t be an issue. Retailers and publishers have relationships with Diamond – not the man on the street. It’s amazing how many customers are conditioned with this “I f’ing hate Diamond” mentality, when they have no dealings, unless Memphis messed up a shipment and their copy of Walking Dead didn’t show up. Other than that, as has been displayed in the various threads, most fans have no idea as to how Diamond works. Are you upset that the book you always meant to get to won’t be there when you finally decide to buy it? Are you upset with the fanbase that they don’t share your tastes? Are you upset with the publisher for not doing the most they could in order to promote their books? No, you blame The Man. That’s too easy. Diamond should be a *part* of your business, but not necessarily the end all be all. As for Previews, it should be just one form of your marketing, and not *all* of your marketing. There are more problems here than what’s going on at Diamond, and people should take this opportunity to think outside the box.

  29. As was pointed out, Diamond has to adjust its business model to survive this recession. Those that think Diamond is just doing this to somehow screw the little guy are just not following the news. Almost every business out there is reporting a drop in sales/income that is at least in the 10-15 percent range, and if Diamond doesn’t lop off some of the dead wood, then the only national comics distributor left will be history.

    And though I am no expert, as I recall, Diamond is a monopoly by default because they were pretty much the last man standing.

    What’s the possible outcome of all of this? Well, one possibility is that the small press and ‘zine world may return to its early and mid-1980s roots, before the black and white explosion fueled by the success of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Back then there were only a handful of large-scale B&W publishers who had material for sale in comics shops.

    All other small press/’zines were self-printed on copiers and distributed through ads published in a handful of ‘zine distribution periodicals such as Mike Gunderloy’s “Factsheet Five”; Tim Corrigan’s “Small Press Comics Explosion”; Kevin Collier’s “Fan Scene” and “Fandom Times”; etc.

    And just to give you some idea of the significant niche these ‘zine advertising/review periodicals filled in the 1980s, it was not uncommon for the better ‘zine publishers to regularly sell out 200-300 copy print runs per issue through these outlets. And quality-wise, a number of these self-published 1980s ‘zine were hands down better than some of their 2000s counterparts being distributed through the Direct Market. In short, those folks who currently look like they are currently going to get lopped off by Diamond because their minimums are so low would fit right in to the informal ‘zine business model of the 1980s.

    Maybe the time is ripe again for an old idea to be reborn.

    And me, I’ll eventually be self-publishing and self-distributing “Maelstrom” #9 — which, if it comes out this year would be the 35th anniversary issue (I use glacial time to schedule the publication of MY ‘zines).

  30. There are so many good points on this comments board:

    M High Says:
    01/19/09 at 9:47 pm
    Niko said, “This is a total byproduct of the main event here, but I find it hilarious how all the poor selling or underselling alternative comics are being outed in the process of this discussion on the various media blogs.”

    Not to hard to figure out – just take the PREVIEWS catalog, and subtract all the books not on Diamond’s “Top 300″ sales list. Viola – instant list of titles that are “on the chopping block”.

    But more importantly – don’t confuse “poor selling through Diamond” with “poor selling overall”. A perfect example of this illustrated in the recent “media blogs” you preciously mention is Jane Irwin’s comment on her book, Vogelein, sold 334 copies through Diamond initially, but the book is now in its fourth printing (i.e. thousands sold): http://comicsworthreading.com/2009/01/16/diamond-raises-order-minimums/#comment-101166

    Pretty much every small press comic publisher realizes that the majority of the indy sales are outside of Diamond these days. And the best small press publishers consider Diamond just a portion of their overall sales stream. So don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.

    THE ABOVE IS WORTH REPEATING. Thanks, Mile H. You make a great point.

    There might be ANOTHER REASON to WHY THE FLOPPIES ARE DYING, which a person above touches on:

    You read through them in 6 minutes because it’s all advertisements and no content, since they’re parsing the story out so stingily, as the floppies are just one sliver of a bigger arc to be collected in a TPB.

    Back in the 1970s, when you read a Marvel Comic, took took a half hour or 45 minutes to read through the story, that’s how dense it was. Because they were not creating chapters to collect in a future TPB or creating storyboards to suck up to Hollywood with…..THEY WERE CREATING COMIC BOOKS! (remember those days, Marvel and DC?)

  31. The worrying bit is that this COULD cement the position of the graphic novel and make readers switch to it – except right now, bookstores are scaling back their graphic novel orders (when they don’t close entirely), while the market remains crowded. That doesn’t bode well for graphic novels in the short-term.

  32. Will West: if the book is great but it’s not in comic shops because Diamond doesn’t want to distribute it (or screw up on an order) and the comic shops don’t want to order it after Issue #1 because it’s not from Marvel or DC nobody is going to see it and nobody is going to buy it. Thinking that indie comics (especially from small publishers) are on the same footing in shelfspace is just ridiculous. Most small indie comic books don’t sell not because they are bad but because nobody can’t find them!
    And if your theory of ‘what is good sell’ was true Marvel/DC would sell a lot less books. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

  33. Absolutely disgustipating and a half.

    Now more than ever, small press needs to show some serious brotherhood and come together to find solutions. Alternative distribution networks must be explored.

    Fuck Diamond and the hoof’d thing it rode in on.

  34. I have never liked Diamond ever since I tried to setup a comix shop and having to get a min of £300 a month of stuff off them

    To be honest I think its something that can drive the small and indie publishers if they do indeed change the polices

    Lets band together and form a new independent run comic distribution company that actually does good in the industry and doesnt work for the man (the man been Marvel and DC) whose comics I havent bought in years.
    Do we really need 12 different comics for the X-men? really? really?

  35. I have never liked Diamond ever since I tried to setup a comix shop and having to get a min of £300 a month of stuff off them

    To be honest I think its something that can drive the small and indie publishers if they do indeed change the polices

    Lets band together and form a new independent run comic distribution company that actually does good in the industry and doesnt work for the man (the man been Marvel and DC) whose comics I havent bought in years.
    Do we really need 12 different comics for the X-men? really? really?

  36. As a novelist who has turned to comics creation, I’m still learning about the different distribution systems, but I agree there are great opportunities here–if the cost of printing a catalog is one reason for the trim, why can’t someone come up with an online indie catalog available to retailers only? And exactly what is a retailer these days anyway? Almost every writer or creator I know sells their own stuff personally at some level, unless they are rich enough to simply hand out free copies. And with digital comics, it’s backward to have a print catalog. Even in my limited knowledge, I don’t see this having much to do with the decade ahead, when people are wanting content for their iPods, cell phones and whatever pops up.

  37. JM Ringuet: “Good” is subjective. Perhaps that’s not the best word to use here. Maybe “familiar” or “tested” work better. You pointed out that retailers don’t want to order after #1. That’s the magic answer. Diamond serves *retailers*. If retailers are juggling orders based on speculator whim or word of mouth, Diamond is just filling orders accordingly. If your book doesn’t sell, it’s not because of Diamond (unless they lost a shipment, as you mention – accidents happen). If they decide not to carry your book, it’s because it’s too much of a financial risk. My argument, honestly, has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself. Yes, there is a lot of crap out there, but spun properly, it can still be mistaken for a rose.

    A lot of this is simply in the numbers. If you create a superhero comic, and you’re not Marvel or DC, you’re going to need to charge a higher price just to stay viable, due to lower print runs, limited budget, etc. Now, that brings the retailer/customer argument of “Why should I spend extra money on Superhero X when I know what I’m getting from Superman?” Sure, it’s tired and it’s limiting, but Superman is tried and tested. A retailer has an idea of how many Superman books he can push, and a customer pretty much knows what his investment is going to get him as well. Yes, this is sad and it’s safe, but it’s how the model works.

    I’ll agree, most of the innovation has come from the small press. Everyone loves to use the TMNT example, but it’s a good example. The problem is that surge left the door open, and the imitators screwed the pooch. It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, and that’s what happened over time to the general image of newer publishers in the small press. Your book might be good, but retailers are wary because they took a chance on a similar book in the past and it didn’t pay off.

    These are all just symptoms of the real problem. As grassroots as people love to be, until recently many people didn’t seem to treat this as what it is: a *business*. Now, there are textbooks and college courses, but the deal with fewer newer publishers getting into Previews is that they really just don’t always know what they’re doing, be it a case of marketing, or having enough issues in the pipeline, or even understanding a publishing cycle. Honestly, it rarely has much to do with the comic itself, so it’s not even a case of whether it’s “good”. Diamond may not have done the best job conveying all of that, but some might say that it’s not Diamond’s job to educate those who aren’t in the know. You wouldn’t take a test without studying, would you?

    Keep in mind, this argument pertains to newer publishers who are lamenting the barrier to entry. There are successful, tried & true independent publishers who are doing well, and they seem to have something in common – Diamond is a portion of their business and not *all* of their business.

  38. One reason behind my outburst earlier in this post other than spousing the kneejerk reaction is that I’m really sick and tired of Diamond sending their pet monkeys at small indie shows such as APE to butter you up ( with complements and kudos on the great job you’ve done with the new issue, etc, etc ) for a sample copy of your book so that they can take it to their secret cabal AND have a committee decide on whether or not it gets inclusion in PREVIEWs or not. Two times in the past have I submitted the Deposit Man and twice I get the same bullshit answer of why they can’t carry it because “we don’t what genre to market it in or don’t know how to explain it.

    But excuse me, isn’t that my job to explain it to the buying public – to write the solicitation?

    I tell them it’s simple: “The Deposit Man is the landlord of the afterlife. He evicts miscreants and misfits through the bad filing of paperwork. You could compare it to Spawn if he had starred in a situation comedy.”

    I fail to see what’s so hard to understand? I mean, if Harlan Ellison can read it, comprehend it and say nice things about it – shouldn’t that alone be a shoo-in for the average consumer to make a informed decision to buy it or not??

    And in a small useless conclusion, may Steve Geppi’s scrotum contract Somalia poisoning and THEN rot and fall off.

    Thank you – you’ve been a great audience.

    ~

    Coat

  39. Many great comments up above.
    As the publisher of Carnal and artist for Demi the Demoness, we see this as a double punch for our adult comics line. Not only do we have to sell more comics to get Diamond to ship our books, (which they have been carrying for over 15 years) but they have taken away the only thing that let adult comic readers know what was coming out. Very few customers are going to go through the bother of asking the store clerk if they can log on and print out the Adult Previews pdf.

    I just have one question that have never been answered to my satisfaction: How will Diamond make more money by refusing to ship orders that don’t reach their minimum?

    Suppose Walmart said that it was too much bother to sell anything that cost less than $2.99? So they take all the products out of Wal-mart that cost less than $2.99. Will Wal-mart make more money or less? I don’t understand how not selling comics to people that want them (even in low quantities) makes Diamond more solvent.

    If they were well run, they ought to be able to sell one single comic to a store and make a profit. Tons of other distribution companies in other industries do this all the time (lcar parts for example) – why can’t Diamond?

  40. I like how the first response immediately blames the economy. It seems to be the “be all, end all” excuse to treat people badly and lookout for number one these days. I have no love for Diamond and they are hurting the industry that actually supports them. I would love to see another option emerge that would give them a run for their money.

    Jeff

  41. Fools : Don’t you see that Diamond is doing this (under the guise of economics) for a very simple reason : mind control. If the independents with alternative views on life (think Planetary, gee what happened to that?) are squelched, then the consumer will just have to graze at the same old d.c marvel smorgous board with the same uniform messages. DC and Marvel are run by big corporations that take their orders from their illuminati reptilian shifting puppet masters.

  42. Fools : Don’t you see that Diamond is doing this (under the guise of economics) for a very simple reason : mind control. If the independents with alternative views on life (think Planetary, gee what happened to that?) are squelched, then the consumer will just have to graze at the same old d.c marvel smorgous board with the same uniform messages. DC and Marvel are run by big corporations that take their orders from their illuminati reptilian shifting puppet masters.

  43. well…that is one creepy look at the future!

    a] I do wish that a delegation from Indie publishers would go into the office of Diamond and have an intensive talk about this
    b] I wish someone would go to Diamond with this BEAT-article and let them respond intensively about that situation
    c] I think and hope that HAVEN will get bigger and bigger and then Diamond can have DC/Marvel and Haven all the others!

    What I am personally am afraid of is loosing my current reader stuff.
    I am one that likes Marvel over DC, but mainly stick with Indie-titles like (duh) Nocs, Vampirella, Cavewoman, Witchblade, She-Buccaneer, Hotwire, Hack/Slash, Tarot witch of the black rose, Terry Moore’s Echo, Fathom, Red Sonja, Elephantmen, Beyond Wonderland…

    I am worried about the fact that my retailer most likely (here in the Netherlands) will not order via Haven and thus I won’t be able to get future issues of my beloved titles.

    Aside from my personal loss, I think this eventually will make the comic industry pretty “gray” with all those happy Independent colors, and that will eventually also affect the Big Houses I think.

  44. Why doesn’t Diamond just list the comics that don’t meet the benchmark online on their site or just list everything online. That way they wouldn’t have to publish a huge book every month.

  45. Well, if the new process streamline the distribution then I would agree that there will be more exposure to their products. The costume industry is always indirectly impacted by these (movies or comics) since the costumes trend are driven by them. Will wait and see how everything will translate.

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