I wish I was wrong. I wish I was ignorant or ill-informed or obtuse. But I’m not. Small press publishers are in dire straits… and it’s going to get worse.
Please read this shocking news from Diamond and come back to read the rest of this post.
As I stated in my August, 2008 interview at CBR, I decided to go the self-publishing route “to ensure our books reach the largest audience by using several [distribution] mediums.” I went on to say that I planned to “release free single-issue comics digitally through Wowio, the online comics service” and that “print issues will be made available on the… website” and “trade paperbacks [collections] will be solicited to retailers through Diamond.” The reason for this three-prong distribution model is that I recognized a move by Diamond and the “big publishers” to strangle the life blood out of creators. It would appear that Diamond has decided to go after the small press publishers as well.
In a Newsarama interview posted the same month, I went on to explain my move to self-publishing in greater depth. I stated that my purpose was “to put the power of choice in the reader’s hands while offering creators several ways to benefit from their hard work. By offering digital downloads, POD (Print on Demand) hard copies and Diamond solicited trades, readers have several options when it comes to getting their books.”
I then went on to explain why POD was the best option for creator-owned books: “To be honest, many, many small press books are not even breaking even. As a result, books are being canceled and some creators are even getting stuck with bills from their publishers. On the flip-side, readers are feeling the pain and frustration of the cancellations, too.” With this new rise in revenue thresholds, don’t you think we’ll see more books that were floundering financially–books you enjoy–getting the ax or moving to alternate modes of distribution in light of this new increase?
Here’s the real kicker. Shortly after my CBR interview was posted, I was openly ridiculed on CBR’s Lying in the Gutters column:
“Could you move your comics from front-of-previews Image Comics, to back-of-Previews Wowio-funded Chimaera Studios and spin it as a good thing?
No, I couldn’t either.”
Mr. Johnston failed to see this day coming: the day when Diamond made yet another wily move to ensure the demise of small press publishers. And before you say it wasn’t underhanded, did you notice the article stated that “The distributor began informing publishers of the change last week by phone?” If this new move was above-level, why notify publishers by phone instead of simply sending out a Press Release?
Listen… it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that standard distribution through Diamond is going to become less and less feasible for small press publishers. After Diamond’s newest threshold increase, I don’t see many small press publishers still publishing comics in five years unless they wake up and realize that distributing their products through Diamond alone is simply not going to be a viable option for them in the future.
And mark my words: this is not the last increase we will see from Diamond!
Not Gonna Do It
I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but I think it is imperative that creators become pro-active and explore alternate means of distribution for their properties. When are creators–and gossip columnists–going to realize that simply having a solicit in Previews does not make them or their properties more “legitimate” than a creator who chooses other avenues of distribution for his or her property?
Perhaps that realization will come sooner rather than later as small press publishers begin to disappear one by one.