It was announced that Diamond Comics Distribution, the largest supplier of the direct comics market (i.e. the middleman between me and the stores to you, the reader) announced that its terms for solicitation are changing – a book has to make $600 wholesale in sales. Most publishers terms of sale are around 60% off, so you can see how that cuts into the coffers of many self-publishers. The larger independent publishers out there will be okay. The small, onesy-twosy publishers, such as myself, are probably good and screwed.
Except you have to realize if you are putting independent comics out anyway, Diamond is not a very good place for you to be. It serves the large superhero demographic very well, but not independents. Yes, you are getting your book into almost every retailer’s hand when the Diamond Previews book comes out, but it is buried in the back and not likely to be chosen anyway. The odds are against you; this was just the final nail in the coffin.
This is why I went online and with Lulu.com for printing (and selling) Golden Boy. It is better to get books into the hands of people that want it and make something off the effort than have it lost and unwanted in the direct market. I plan on doing a little leg work and hunting out a few more stores out there to hand-sell books to, like my deal with the local shop, Krypton Comics. However, back to Diamond, I keep coming back to Seth Godin’s Bootstrapper’s Bible. There are a couple of great lessons here which apply to comics, and my case specifically (emphasis mine):
Never start by selling your product in major stores. Instead, use mail order. Or sell directly to just a few customers for lots of money per sale. Or use the Internet. The last step in your chain is traditional distribution.
Be cheap. In everything. DonÊ¼t pick a business in which access to money is an important element. That means that building a cable service, a worldwide cellular phone system, or a chemical refinery probably wouldn’t be on your list. When you do need capital, donÊ¼t pay retail. Borrow from customers or suppliers. Find an equity angel. But donÊ¼t borrow at 18 percent! And donÊ¼t use your personal credit cards.
It didn’t cost me a dime to set up at Lulu, and it avoids the traditional methods of distribution by a long shot. Now, I’m not making as much money potentially by going offset for these books, but I’m not losing any either, and right now, that is the most important thing. Also, for as much as I love my work on Golden Boy, I’m much more excited about possibly pimping Quick Step through traditional means since it is fewer pages (thus much cheaper to print) and my best work to date. And with the fans that I am making off of it and Golden Boy, it might have a shot.
This is just a small portion of the things I think obsess about daily (besides the zombie apocalypse angle). I’ve been holding back here a bit, especially with the business and comic talk. Time to get some of this off my chest – it may help some other poor bastard from hitting the wall as much as I have trying to figure it all out.
UPDATE: Read Tom Spurgeon’s take on the new Diamond terms. Good stuff.
You can also browse through the Parlor archives.
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