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#206624 - 12/04/05 09:35 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
ATKokmen Offline

Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 1170
Loc: New York, NY
Originally posted by Mark_Innes:
The idea of bookstore consignment scares the pants off of me, how do I deal with returned books that are beat up and unsalable? How long does it take to get paid and what kind of discount is involved?.
If the question is "How do I sell into the traditional bookstore market, anyway?" then, honestly, there are many ways of going about doing so. The right way for your own level of interest and ability might not be what anyone else might select for themselves. That said, there are plenty of books and online resources about how to be a self-publisher, how to set up selling terms and discount policies, what to expect from the bookstore market, etc.. It might be worth doing a bit of websurfing or library visiting to track down those resources.

To your question about returns, though, let me toss in these two cents worth:

Any publisher's returns policy (unless that publisher is remarkably gracious or incredibly stupid) will specify that returned books must be in resalable condition in order to receive credit. Now, yes, some measure of returned stock may be shopworn or in less-than-pristine condition. And, yes, many publishers will process returns even when the returned books are not in perfect condition (either to foster amity with the customer, or because the expense of rejecting the return exceeds the expense of processing it, or for whatever other reasons.) But a publisher can always chose to refuse returns of unsalable books.

Probably not too helpful, but my mind's turning to clay this evening, so that's probably about as cogent as I can be right now...
"[T]hough goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind." --John Phillips

#206625 - 12/30/05 06:29 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Empires Offline

Registered: 12/14/99
Posts: 357
With Media Play dumping out now on Ingram, how will the publishers look at the consignment idea? Did their demise affect anyone directly? If so how? Just out of curiousity.

#206626 - 04/25/08 08:14 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Peter Urkowitz Offline

Registered: 08/28/00
Posts: 3231
Loc: Salem, MA, USA
This is a really interesting thread, and it still seems very relevant today, so let's bump it up a little.

#551008 - 07/09/09 04:54 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query [Re: iangould]
Jim Friel Offline

Registered: 11/05/99
Posts: 454
Loc: Oakland, CA USA
Ten years later:

I encountered, in what connection I forget, the Wikipedia article on the Direct Market a couple of months ago. It was pretty inadequate and contained some statements that were simply wrong (the direct market was formed in the 1980s...), and I found myself rewriting large chunks of it, though there were sections I didn't touch which could use work too.

If anyone can add or correct anything in the article, please do so, because it's still incomplete at best.

#553572 - 07/25/09 11:05 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query [Re: Jim Friel]
Peter Urkowitz Offline

Registered: 08/28/00
Posts: 3231
Loc: Salem, MA, USA
Thanks for the heads-up on that, Jim.

#581073 - 12/19/10 10:53 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Pr [Re: iangould]
Stephen R Bissette Offline

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
My students at CCS (the Center for Cartoon Studies) wrestle with this dilemma DAILY. There ARE no distribution platforms readily available for ANY of their new work, save (a) the conventions, which are often prohibitively expensive to attend (travel, rooming, tables, etc.), but they go, and (b) retailers they establish direct contact with and sell to/through, and (c) one or two lone minicomics/indy distributors, at most.

Comics distribution, such as it is, is closed to the current generation of creators. I see it clearly.

Comics distribution for many is at the ground-zero (much to build on, but little to earn from at this juncture) of "build your own" circuits. For some, the shows—essentially the comics equivalent of regional arts/crafts shows/festivals—are the working venue; for others, they labor mightily to forge an online presence, working toward sales of merchandizing (including hard copies of their work) as a possible income stream down the road. How long is that road, though?

In any case, it has nothing to do with Diamond and less to do with any model previous generations dealt with, save the initial stages of the 1960s prozine (WITZEND) and underground comix movements.

As for the bookstore market:

Please, no illusions. Bear in mind the tightwires monoliths like Borders and Barnes & Noble are walking (will one of them fall/fail in 2011?); the closed nature of distribution (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc.) to those venues; and, the fact it, only local/independent retailers provide an occasional venue for non-mainstream works, and that's as time-consuming and difficult to earn from as direct sales to comics retailers.

It's a tough new world our current generation of cartoonists enter—but, hey, it was no piece of cake in 1978, either, when my Kubert School graduating class was staggering into the new light of day.

This can be daunting to contemporary creators even on the most regional basis. I've had VERY recent experience with this via both essentially self-published print-on-demand regional fare (GREEN MOUNTAIN CINEMA, a few years ago; I contacted and/or drove personally to damn near every indy bookshop in VT, moved about 600 copies, and chased every damned invoice for payment, save from TWO bookshops) and via established regional publishers (University Press of New England, with THE VERMONT GHOST GUIDE, still in print since 2000, and THE VERMONT MONSTER GUIDE, just released fall of 2009).

The latter experience was heartening, but a statewide book tour that also spilled into neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire has yet to earn the book out (we had a modest advance), and I paid my own way (a few hundred of dollars up in smoke). What's most frustrating is that the local book chains won't even rack either book in their "local authors" sections.

I wouldn't even ATTEMPT it with my comics work these days... and I've got mainstream work (SWAMP THING) still in print around the world! There's no easy rides; there's nothing like the distribution options we had in the 1980s and early 1990s; and no quick profits to be made, except by the lucky or those plugged into pre-established titles (and even then, the risks are great).


PS: @ Joe Zabel, first page of this thread:

"Great thread, Jim!

Back when was new, Stephen Bissette suggested we have a discussion board devoted to comics history. At the time, I wrote in opposition to the idea, because we were suggesting so many different boards that I thought it would be confusing. If Rick's reading this, maybe you ought to reconsider the idea-- threads like Jim's would be great to have as permanent reference resources.

Not meaning to change the subject. 'Fraid I don't have anything to add on distributor history."

Joe, I was sooooooooooooooo right.

And I now teach two semesters of comics history every year at the Center for Cartoon Studies; it's my favorite class to teach.'s loss!

#581419 - 12/26/10 11:54 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Pr [Re: Stephen R Bissette]
ChrisW Offline

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 10034
Loc: Lincoln, Nebraska USA
At some point in the last ten or twenty years, comics gained the respectability they wanted from the mainstream marketplace. Manga probably makes up the largest share, but if the direct market died tomorrow, there's an audience out there that would demand more comics. I think the advantage will be to those creators who can sit down and make a 200+ page graphic novel. The upheavals wouldn't be pretty, and a lot depends on how much survives in current form.

I'd like to know of these legions of superhero tpbs are actually profitable for Borders and B&N. 20 different Hulk collections and row upon row of Marvel/DC logos is just unappealing. Frankly I wouldn't expect booksellers to ever get any more open to "independent" comics. Fairly or not, they know where their shelf space should go, and they sell Bone and Strangers in Paradise among other things so it's not like they don't know what else can be done.

This would probably put an end to regular series except at a very low level of self-publishing. Publishers would contract for x number of pages which they could divide up into chunks an appeal to mainstream publishers/retailers/Hollywood/toy companies. The direct market as we know it would probably be wiped out for a generation.

Some day, there will be a need for comic specialty stores again, but since we don't know what form of brick-and-mortar retailers will exist in any other medium - not just bookstores competing against the Kindle, but how easy will it be to get drawing supplies? - we don't know what it's going to look like.
If This Be... PayPal!!!

"I think ChrisW is the funniest man in entertainment still alive..."
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#581434 - 12/27/10 12:09 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Pr [Re: ChrisW]
Allen Montgomery Online   content

Registered: 05/08/00
Posts: 7089
Originally Posted By: ChrisW
I think the advantage will be to those creators who can sit down and make a 200+ page graphic novel.

Hey, we agree on something.

I could be wrong, but I'd like to think that the relevant sections of bookstores — mystery, drama, horror, fantasy, etc. — will come to include comics that fit into those categories, rather than separating them all into a generic comics section that holds such disparate works as Blankets, Bone and JLA: Final Crisis. The Humor section of most bookstores already includes Beetle Bailey and Cathy alongside prose works by Erma Bombeck and Jerry Seinfeld.
"The trouble with being a ghost writer or artist is that you must remain anonymous without credit.
If one wants the credit, one has to cease being a ghost and become a leader or innovator."
— Bob Kane

#581448 - 12/27/10 09:47 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Pr [Re: Allen Montgomery]
Defiant1 Offline

Registered: 03/07/04
Posts: 256
Loc: Atlanta GA
The only thing that will help comics survive is an increase in volume being sold. Comics have to be on the mind of people in mainstream society. People have to have an outlet and means by which to buy them in more places than a comic book geek haven. TPB's make money now because they are essentially reprints of comics that are already printed. The art has been paid for already. If you go straight to TPB, you simply lose the vehicle which paid for the artwork. A higher price point will discourage sales. The monthly comic is a bite sized portion that allows people to decide if they like the story and art. Volume is how printed products make money. All the sales go into paying for the printer setup costs until the volume gets high enough to make a profit. That's why you see variants and publishers constantly trying to coax collectors and retailer into buying the same comic twice.

There is a three-fold problem hurting comics.

1) Poor quality -I won't argue whether comics today are poor quality. Obviously, if you are buying them today, you are most likely happy with the quality. The people who quit buying comics far outweigh anyone clinging to some new issue of Spawn

2) A distribution bottleneck - Marvel & DC are saving money by having less points of contact with distributors, but it is hurting their market penetration. The comics are simply not getting to the general public.

3) No marketing/Negative markewting - There is no marketing or pushing of comics. If you think about it, shoe stores used to give away comics. Airlines used to give out little fun books with comic like content on Airplanes. Restaurants used to have their comics in a doorway as you entered them. There was an interface with the public that went beyond sticking them on a shelf in some geek haven of a comic shop and waiting for some Star Wars fan to wander in. There is no interface between the mass public and comics. People act like comics are too cool to touch and too cool to read. Slab your book, put it on the wall and befuddle everyone who just wanted to have fun reading a story. I can't count the number of times a collector has told someone "No, you can't handle a comic like that." If it's not yours, stop it. By treating comics like they have to stay hermetically sealed, all it does is make the 'normal' folks out there back away and decide they aren't cool enough to understand the hobby like we do. The negative marketing outweighs the positive. Along with that comes the lying. The 90's exodus of collectors was partially because collectors were told comics would be hot and they were only worth a quarter 3 months later.

Comics Discussion Forum -

#581451 - 12/27/10 10:47 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Pr [Re: ChrisW]
MBunge Offline

Registered: 07/19/01
Posts: 3386
Loc: Waterloo, Iowa, United States
Originally Posted By: ChrisW
Manga probably makes up the largest share, but if the direct market died tomorrow, there's an audience out there that would demand more comics.

That vastly understates the difficulties of making a living at comics without the Direct Market. Remember, if the retail ends goes, it will take all the publishing, distribution and marketing aspects of the industry with it as well. Yes, creators can always take their work online, but prose authors can do the same and how many of them are making a living at that?

Comics will always be around, but people also still create radio dramas.

A good comparision for comics is the pro wrestling business. For many decades it prospered as a group of many regional promotions around the country. The rise of cable TV led some of those regional promotions to expand nationwide, putting other promotions out of business until one group (WWE) dominates the industry. There are a couple of other organizations, but they're like mom and pop stores when measured against the WWE Wal-Mart. If the WWE went belly up, it would essentially take pro wrestling as an industry with it. The difficulties of recreating regional-based promotions in the present media and economic environment would be too great and the cost of creating a new national promotion from scratch or any existing promotion expanding across the country would be too high. Pro wrestling would still exist, but it would likely be something that sustained itself at a level below old time traveling carnivals.


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