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Thread: SEB-standard: Week 15 - The Winding Road(s) of DISTRIBUTION

  1. Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    SEB-standard: Week 15 - The Winding Road(s) of DISTRIBUTION


    A diamond is hard and unyielding.

    A diamond is also worth a LOT of money.

    So, you can see that when Diamond Comics Distributers named themselves, they really hit the nail on the head. Now, there has been a lot of talk of late --and before that (of early?), but let’s focus on the now,-- about Diamonds change of policy. The basically doubled the number of issues you have to sell in order to be carried by Diamond in PREVIEWS. That’s fine. It’s their business. I, personally, am less thrilled by their policy of being able to decide whether or not you can sell those numbers BEFORE they choose to solicit you, but they are professionals, and they have been doing this a while, so I understand that they are not guessing blindly.

    So, if you’re a small press-er and an unknown, how do you get your book into readers’ hands?

    Ok, I’m not talking the digital/web route. They are an option, but I personally hate them. Reading comics from my screen hurts my eyes. My eyes aren’t that great to begin with, and the glowing screen is just not as optic friendly as the printed page. I say this not to whine, but to bring up an oft neglected point. People are always talking about how the internet and digital technology are the future of comics. WRONG. They are A future of comics, not THE future. There a LOT of people who have computer related eye problems and I don’t see the comic industry eliminating those potential paying customers.

    But I digress.

    The question was how do you get your comic into the readers’ hands. And, as a part of that, how do you get your comic onto retailers’ shelves, if you can’t meet Diamond’s minimum (or they decide that you can’t)?

    The answer? I don’t know. I haven’t done it. But I am going to speculate. Throw out some ideas I’ve been thinking of. See what sticks. Right now, I’m like a monkey trying to discover fire.
    Ok, there are several routes you could take. In fact, I suggest you do EXACTLY that. Take SEVERAL routes. The more you limit yourself, the more you’re hurting your chances of success.
    One route is an alternative distributor, like HAVEN. I agree with zen meister columnist, Steven Forbes, when he said he sees a big growth coming for them. With less indy companies being able to get into PREVIEWS more indy companies will seek distribution though HAVEN. More companies with HAVEN will generate more revenue for them, and get them noticed by more retailers, which will in turn improve their business and yours.

    Another, more basic route, is your LCS. Odds are, if you create comics, you also READ comics. If you do this, you PROBABLY get them at a specialty shop (or several). Talk to them. See if they’ll carry your book. Set up an in-store signing and/or other promotion. Use comic-shop locater and contact other stores. If they are close enough to visit, visit them, If they are further away; email them, call them, find their MYSPACE or FACEBOOK account., register on their site or forum (if they have them). Send them a link or download of the first issue --Wait, Seb, I thought you don’t like digital comics!? –I DON’T, but this is for promo purposes. If the retailer reads and enjoys (that ‘and enjoys’ part is key) your book he or she is more likely to order it and/or recommend it to his customers.

    And here is my favorite idea. KA-BLAM is now offering COMICS MONKEY, a print-on-demand distribution service, that will print and ship your comics directly to retailers who order it from them. This changes the game DRAMATICALLY.
    How, you ask?
    COMICS MONKEY’s tagline is “No Benchmarks, No Thresholds, No Minimums, No Fees” So, while you only get back 10% of the cover price, this is damn good thing for the self-publishing small presser. Before you get all huffy, let’s review. 10% of 2.99 is .30 cents (ish). Now, I know, I know, you’re thinking 30 cents is not a lot. But do you remember when Forby was raining doom-and-gloom on our publishing dreams (Seb, you’re gonna have to be more specific than that!) Good point. Do you remember when he crunched the numbers that publishing a book would cost. You had, after the cost of any additional creators (art, ink, colors, letters, editors, etc,) you still had the overhead of printing and shipping. Plus you had the wait time of about 6 months before you saw any money from Diamond. This cuts that out. You don’t pay for printing. You don’t pay for shipping. Well, you do, in that it is those fees are a part of the 90% of your cover price that goes to COMICS MONKEY. I realize that it sounds even scarier when you say that 90% goes to CM, but think back. When Forby gave you the numbers, he said that after all was said and done, after printing, shipping, and paying any contributors besides yourself, you were in the negatives. Using CM, you’re STILL going to have to move some decent numbers to see a profit, but not CRAZY numbers. Now, you can use that money to recoup from paying your co-creators without having to first recoup from the printing. THAT is a serious cut in overhead.

    Plus, come on!! They are called COMICS MONKEY! How great is THAT!!??

    Now, let’s say you use these routes, but you STILL want to try and get into PREVIEWS. You figure Diamond still has access to more comic shops, and therefore, more readers, than CM. And, maybe you just can’t let that dream of seeing your book in PREVIEWS go. Well, all of the other routes can help with that.

    After you’ve sold some issues through these other methods, and hopefully along the way, you remembered to send copies to stores and comic news sites (for review), and the word “on the street” is favorable, you collect your series in TRADE form. Now, here you have some MORE angles. First, I suggest getting it an ISBN and contacting INGRAM and some of the bookstore distributors. Also, now that you have some sales numbers and exposure under your belt, you can try the trade with Diamond. If they go for it, trades are easier to hit the benchmark numbers with. Now, you’ve got the exposure AND the proof that you can meet the requirements at Diamond, so on your next project, they may be more willing to try you in PREVIEWS.

    And remember, just because you’re book is in previews, doesn’t mean you should abandon the other routes. This isn’t a physical journey, so forget the “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road” ideas. You can take the high road, the low road, the virtual road, the back road, the road less traveled, and several other roads all at the same time. You can make like Jack Kerouac, and be all OVER those roads!

    Oh, of course all this hinges on one other important detail.

    Your book has to be GOOD!

    Well, just some food for thought. See ya on the roads!
    Last edited by SebastianPiccione; Thursday, February 05, 2009 at 02:31 PM.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  2. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks, Seb.

    B&N isn't the place to crunch numbers, which is why I name checked you and Matt on it.

    I'm torn about the CM news. Honestly and truthfully. People may be excited about it now, but they're thinking only about right now. They're not thinking about the future, and that's where a lot of them are going to be slapped in the face before the year is out.

    CM has to do one of two things: list every single comic they print, or implement quality controls such as Diamond does. There is no middle ground. Sure, they may say certain things right now, but they've yet to distribute anything as yet. Let's see what happens when they're one year in.

    As soon as they implement quality controls, they've got a conflict of interest on their hands. They are being paid to print books, not decide which books would make them money.

    Why aren't other printers getting into the act? I'm talking big ones, such as Brenner. They could, and cut out the middleman of the distributor. Something to think about.

    And Haven is going to go the way of Diamond as well. Not necessarily with high benchmarks, but they're going to reach a place where they have to set one, because they'll lose money on the ones that don't reach it. Haven is in an enviable position to be the Diamond of small press.

    Neither of them are going to do exceptionally well, but they'll do well enough.

    Back to CM. They're also going to reach a point where they're only going to ship once a week or so, depending on the orders that come in. Since it's only for retailers, they'll be dictating the frequency of shipping. However, since it costs a decent amount to ship things, CM will do so only when they have enough orders, because it will be cost effective that way.

    There are other ways, but not many. Digital comics are going to be a very big thing in the near future, and small pressers will have the choice of either going through someplace like CM or Haven when it's done, or selling books themselves. There are things to be said for selling books yourself. Pro's and cons to both sides, and only the individual can determine which one is best for them.

    Overall, another good column.

  3. Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    I agree on all counts, my sage friend.

    I figure, in the now, Comics Monkey can be used wisely as one of many stepping stones to getting your book to be found by it's audience. Once THAT is done, there are more options open.

    Plus, I am comforted by Ka-Blam's admission that there will be bumps and bugs with CM, and their willingness to face them and address them as they come. That lets me feel that they are willing to work at this long haul and big picture.

    Is it perfect, no. But then, neither are the other options, so it's just a matter of rolling with punches and persevering.

    It's just nice to see this door open while the Diamond door...well, it hasn't closed per say, so much as they have set a HUGe, burly bouncer at the door, and your name better make the list if you want in!
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  4. MattGrant Guest

    Well there goes my column for the week! I might have to re-tool it a bit.. bascially covers the same stuff though... and probably not as well. Argh.


    Good column, though, Seb.

  5. brianwolf Guest

    Comics Monkey, eh?

  6. Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Matt - You and are so in sync with these columns! It's too funny!

    Brian - Yes, I see potential here.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  7. tylerjames Guest

    I've been thinking about this topic a lot since reading the Newsarama article and discussing it over here on PFB. Here's one advantage that wasn't really brought up that could give Comics Monkey a nice advantage over Diamond and Haven: Print and distribute with them, and your book will never be out of stock.

    Let's say you have a self-published book you really believe in, and you go the traditional route, scrape up some cash to print your 2,500 copies through a printing house, luck into a Diamond distribution deal, and the best possible outcome happens...your book is wildly popular and sells out immediately. In one sense, great. In another sense, you're screwed. You now have to cough up more money (because your Diamond check wouldn't have come through yet) to print more books to get them back to Diamond, so they can get them back out to shops, and hope you do so before your books 15 minutes of fame are over.

    With CM and print-on-demand, however, your books NEVER are out of print or out of stock. If you have that runaway hit, the presses will run as long as orders keep rolling in.

    While the quality control issues are certainly going to matter, I think this Print-On-Demand, always in stock mantra will have some serious power.

  8. StevenForbes Guest

    Only if they find a way to lower the cost.

  9. Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Only if they find a way to lower the cost.
    I'm sure they will, if/when the need arises. They said in their press release that they hadn't intended to start this just yet, but the timing of Diamond's threshold change made this an optimum moment. They know they have kinks to work out as they go, but for now, this will be a great help.

    Also, if you get to the point where you are selling enough copies of anything that the 10% becomes REALLY not enough, then you are obviously doing well enough to try Diamond and a larger print run elsewhere.

    For now, think of this as the "kiddie pool" of distributors. You can get wet and cool off, and do everything you can do in the bigger pools, but on a smaller, safer scale.

    Hopefully, nobody pees in it.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  10. Cary Guest

    ok now see here's where i get all disgruntled and grouchy. Comics Monkey is gonna be cool, for a certain sector. it's gonna be great for a few titles in getting them the exposure they would have never gotten otherwise because quite frankly they SUCK at marketing. Haven, much the same. they're gonna discover a few "holy moley Batman this comic is good!" titles, and that's about it. you'll hear about it of course. it's gonna be the new fad thing to see these books as our very own Quixotic mission to take down the big three.

    meh. i'm over it.

    why? because i have the same attitude about these new guys as i do Diamond. they do not sell your book. they simply ship it. in the case of Comic Monkey, they print AND sell it. so? we're gonna get lost in the shuffle of several hundred books, same as what's going on right now in Diamond, and we're back to square one looking for someone else to take pity on us. that's crap. Indy comic book creators have one, and only one salvation. learn to market your books. don't expect anyone else to do so because they don't give a damn about your book selling. they just don't. they could care less. if the creators aren't doing the heavy lifting...welcome to the obscurity bin.

    so how would i do things differently? well first off, use what's there already. i say go for it. use Comic Monkey. Use Haven. i already am, trust me. but don't let that be the end all be all of your marketing strategy. don't even let it be the bulk of the iceberg. because there's no reason to feed into that trap. i propose a multi-pronged attack.

    1. Conventions. these are key. people love buying new books at cons. they have extra money with them just to do so. all you have to do is convince them YOUR book is the one they want. do that with eye contact, with excitement and enthusiasm, and energy. working on the next comic is not how you get this done.

    2. Personal contact. some people live in the same place and have used the same LCS for 20 or 30 years. others, like myself and Steven have lived all over the country and in other countries and have patronized a huge number of different stores. to this day when i travel i make it a point to find the local store and go in there, look around and buy something. even if it's a goofy one off trade i've been considering buying but just haven't gotten around to yet. then i take that opportunity to chat the guy up, tell them i make my own comics, and if i was planning ahead (which i almost always am) i whip out an issue and hand that dude over with my compliments. has that been costly? not really. i did a print run for promo purposes about a year ago and i've still got copies of that left so i'm putting them to good use. otherwise they just sit and take up closet space. why not, right? follow this up with emails, calls or whatever and you have a potential new customer in every single town you visit that runs a COMIC STORE. hello. they buy and stock comics. see the train of thought here? plus if you've ever had a pull box at a store, they're gonna remember you. they're loving the local kid makes good vibe. they want you to come in and sign books. you can't buy that kind of press without night vision goggles and an heiress with loose morals.

    3. Alternate means to the end. What's your point, really? selling comics? if so, then SELL the damn things. every decent sized town has book stores and those books stores have comic book sections. Borders. Barnes and Nobles. Booksamillion. Hastings. chances are your town has one or all of these depending on your region of the country. go in there. talk to them. they sell floppies and trades and again the local kid doing good is a big deal. sure you'll get some ambivalence now and again, but you'll get some good responses too. this guy can give you a number to his book buyer, who can help you. or that guy can talk to his supervisor...see what i mean? and if you don't think this works, ask Mat Nastos about it when you see him. cause the dude sells as many issue of the Cadre as he WANTS to sell. if he's feeling several thousand this issue, then he's rocking several thousand. that's not printed, that's ordered, sold and out the door thanks for the check. think about it.

    4. Niches. if your book is superheroes, well this doesn't work so well. but if your book is a period piece set in Roman times, or some weird sci fi noir, give ren fairs and sci fi cons a shot. people DIG comic books! you just have to give them a reason to buy the damn book! if you paid 100 bucks for a table at the ren fair for the weekend, and you ended up selling 400 bucks worth of books...can you do that math for me? cause i can! you don't have to sell 12,000 books at once to make your book a success. and every single book you sell is a fan if you've done your job inside the thing, who will come back for subsequent issue, check out your website and be back for more.

    so ultimately, why do you need Haven, Diamond or Comics Monkey? can you not address an envelope and mail a comic off to Joe Q Comicfan who really likes your stuff and can't wait to see issue 2? ok. so can you not also mail that same comic for FULL COVER PRICE plus SHIPPING instead of the 40 cents you'd get from Comic Monkey? see that's the beautiful thing about self distribution. yeah, it's time consuming (which is why you press your friends and family into service if at all possible) but you aren't giving discounts that eat into your bottom line.

    anyway, that's my take. back to your regularly scheduled rant.
    Last edited by Cary; Friday, February 06, 2009 at 12:17 PM.

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