SharkcoverUpdates on two stories that are really frosting the ass of the internet these days:

§ Marc Oliver Frisch reacts to the reactions to his original Figure Skating column…

§ …which includes Dick Hyacinth’s lengthy reaction and round-up which qualifies as must reading:

I think the much stronger argument would be that sales charts might prevent stores from pushing marginal DC/Marvel titles to their customers. In other words, why bother recommending Crossing Midnight to a Fables fan if you’re pretty sure the former will be canceled soon? In my experience, “bad” stores don’t make these kinds of recommendations–it’s the better stores that actually go out on a limb by suggesting material that their customers may end up rejecting. (Besides, some of the “bad” stores probably only order enough copies of Crossing Midnight to satisfy their subscription customers, so there wouldn’t even be a shelf copy to recommend.) And, needless to say, any readers who pay attention to the sales charts may very well reach this conclusion on their own, thus robbing Crossing Midnight (or whatever) of additional sales.

MEANWHILE, in this corner, BARCODES. While Johanna has a useful link round-up It’s SLG’s Jennifer deGuzman who really comics out swinging calling Steven Grant’s declaration that barcodes would kill indie publishing “alarmist and irresponsible.” DeGuzman points out that as low margin as comics as a business are, we’re not talking outlays of thoussands of dollars here:

So — $400 initial cost and an additional $300 a year or so, depending on how many books you publish. Is that a “hefty” expense? Typing some numbers into a program and waiting a few seconds while it exports into a .tif or .eps file? Is that a burden? Sending in an application for an ISSN — is that an incredible burden? (I know, we all have a lot to do, but this is business. It requires work.) Some speculate that Diamond might require UPC barcodes, which are more expensive. Getting a vendor number from GS1, the company that controls UPCs, starts at $750 and $150 a year after that — and are what DC and Marvel use on their issues. I’m not sure that Diamond is going to require UPCs, but we already put either a UPC or an ISBN on our individual issues. Other publishers, who aren’t set up for this, need some information from Diamond Comics.

We’ll throw in our own two cents here — this move, while part of the larger move towards POS systems, cold also be an attempt to winnow out the “Hobby publishers” from the Diamond catalog, as SImon Jones suggests, and we’re not sure that’s a bad thing. Diamond must spend time and resources on companies that can’t afford a minimal investment in being professional. We’re not saying that no barcodes = crap, far from it, but perhaps ALTERNATE resources are better spent dealing with such publishers? We’re already rapidly evolving into a two tiered distribution system — bookstores and comics shops — it’s not hard to see other methods developing for micro-publishers.

Or, to put it another way, do we really need to set up a system fpr serious publishes that also caters to folks like SLG blog commenter zitsmyname?

I was planning on making a comic and,no iaww that suckz well thankz for tellin’ the pepz

Thankz, indeed.


  1. So you can’t afford barcodes…
    1. Publish a webcomic which allows you to: a) track visitors, b) publish a letter column without the actual editorial requirement, c) publicize your comic cheaply and efficiently. Attend local shows, network, hand out paper samples of your work, and discover and learn about other people doing the same thing.
    2. Find an alternative means of distribution. Small press clearing houses. Fanzine collectives. Create a studio and sell an anthology to a publisher. Print it on demand via iUniverse. Sell your book on the subway or out of a baby carriage!
    3. Purchase the Business Plan For Dummies Kit with CD. Calculate all your expenses. Can you afford to publish your book with your own money? Will a bank lend you money? Does the Small Business Administration offer advice and loans?
    Ask questions. Learn. Think. Plan. There will always be obstacles, but also rewards. It takes determination to make a dream reality.

  2. I still get the impression that people aren’t reading the Diamond letter when talking about costs etc for small press. They emphasize you can do the traditional way and buy a small or large lot of bar codes OR you can use all these listed sites which are about 29-40 dollars per bar code. Options are definitely being offered.

    I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m the one who is wrong, because I’m still seeing so many comments on other blogs about the 400+ dollars to get started. I posted info about the hub bub here:

    This should become a dead issue sooner than later, assuming I’m correct in saying that those 29 dollar per bar code options are viable.

  3. Michael–>

    No, it doesn’t necessarily take as much money as people think, and those recommendations from Diamond are viable. But technically, they’re not fully supported by GS1 which makes no guarantees to the uniqueness of numbers offered through third parties. So buyer beware.

    Second, you must consider secondary costs, such as acquiring layout software that can correctly handle EPS files, or paying the printer extra to set the label properly. (Yeah, one would think professional layout software would be ubiquitous for all publishers by now. But they’re not.)

  4. Absolutely makes sense, regarding the buyer beware. For UPC express in particular I know a few people who have used it and met with success. They also provide a refund, so it gives you 48 hours to check on the status of it. I’m sure there are horror stories from some if not a number of those types of 3rd party vendors though.

    Those secondary costs though occur regardless of who you get the bar code from.