THE ENGINE thread on the new Fantagraphics stroefront i Seattle craw more shocking revelations from Eric Reynolds, in response to questions from retailer Brian Hibbs:

“If you’re talking initial orders here, how does that work out after returns are factored in?”

That’s a good question that I haven’t done the math on recently. I did mispeak a bit in saying “the direct market accounts for about one-fourth of our initial sales.” What I should have said was, “Diamond accounts for about one-fourth of our initial sales,” which is much different and I should re-read my posts before I post them. But it’s still interesting, no?

I came to this by looking at a few recent or about-to-ship titles, including THE COMICS JOURNAL LIBRARY VOL. 7: HARVEY KURTZMAN, which I would consider a strong direct market title. Initial Diamond sales accounted for about 27% of the total initial orders. Other “direct market” avenues (direct accounts, Gasp, Bud Plant, etc.) accounted for another 4-5%. The remaining sales — almost 70% — went to Norton.

Our book trade returns hover around 20%, on average (which is pretty much optimal). So, you might see the direct market’s share go up a bit over time, but not necessarily — it really depends on reorder activity between Diamond and Norton, and Norton’s reorder activity is much stronger — and reliable — across the board than Diamond’s, as well.

Anyway, to answer your last point, I wasn’t referring to PEANUTS — I think the Kurtzman book is a pretty solid example in the other direction; unlike many of our books, this book is probably better-suited for direct market sales than book trade sales, given that it’s positioned to people well-versed in comics history.

The return rate in particular is very interesting. When the graphic novel boom began, he return rate was 8-10% which was ridiculously low. 20% is indeed a healthy number, meaning enough books are being ordered in.

Read the entire thread for more frank talk on the new reality.