Last week, I wondered out loud what the future of Diamond Distributors might hold, even if it has one at all. There has been a LOT of conversation regarding what changes some would like to see happen when the Coronavirus eventually fades away, so I thought this time I’d talk about what could take place or at least considered as we move forward.
Diamond apparently did offer some help to local shops, but not as much as they need, it seems. The most Diamond looks like they are willing to send is about 25 percent of what they owe, which has some stores in a quandary. How can they survive if they only receive that much?
There has been a common perception, true or not, that Diamond actually has a goodly amount of money at their disposal. I understand that they are trying to survive, much like the LCS’s across the country. I sincerely hope that Diamond is not trying to outlast the shops, thinking that other stores will come along and replace any that close their doors permanently.
As I mentioned last week, some companies are clearly looking into becoming “the next Diamond” when it comes to distribution. I’ve heard of at least three organizations exploring their options, with one even polling a great many stores this past weekend, finding out what stores would like to see change in the months ahead.
The longer time moves along, the less convinced I am that the industry should return to “the way it was before.” Granted, I’ve long had concerns with how Diamond has done things, but I’m coming more and more comfortable with the idea that others should be given their chance to see if they can improve things. I understand that many shops have preferred placing orders from only one distributor, that being more convenient for them in terms of time and effort. But I’ve seen lists of suggestions online that owners would like to see happen and, as I look them over, I don’t see how Diamond could BEGIN to make even a fraction of all that happen. Also, Diamond has told some in the industry that August was the soonest they could begin to ship product. That may be too late for some.
There have been several lists of “improvements” people would suggest online, so let me point out some I find appealing or at least interesting. Please understand that many of these come from LCS’s! I can already hear some collectors screaming in pain at some of them!
- Fewer variants. Less is more, money not spent on a variant will be spent on another comic or collected version…or maybe they spend on the materials needed to protect those comics and strengthen the shop.
- A single-issue story/one shot should be clearly labeled as such in our solicitations. Stop using the #1 issue bait that implies a new ongoing. It’s not needed if the content is quality and gives value back to the consumer. Consumer trickery and publisher wordplay are not needed to return the market to a healthy place.
- Training about the ways to safely pack and ship things. These items are collectibles in the eyes of almost every customer.
- Not every issue of an ongoing comic needs to be a twelve-issue story. Recent history showed a lot of effort is wasted on obtaining even more of an existing customer’s money rather than bringing a new person in the door.
- Longer delays between single issues and trade paperback release. This empowers the single issues to feel more valuable month in and month out by making them the only way to read the comic. We have to remove the “I’ll wait for a trade” mentality.
- Delay digital release. Relatable entertainment media like movies have their digital releases months after they are released in theaters. It would be beneficial to not cannibalize the market share.
- Late shipping product from publishers should be made returnable with no FEES.
- Any product that changes to a higher price after being solicited gets mandatory returnability with no fees.
- Create a line of dollar comics with original content from main publishers.
- Previews needs to be streamlined. Get back down to a single catalog for comics …possibly split into no more than two catalogs; one for publications, and one for collectibles.
- Don’t collect every arc into a trade paperback. Sales to retailers (especially non-returnable books) are not what have actually sold to consumers.
- Returnability as common practice. Negotiate a flat amount of each issue of returnability or a percentage of returnability. 100% of publishers trying anything would be a good start.
- Marvel’s overprint policy prevents material from flowing from publisher to reader. There needs to be an overprint policy that allows easy reorders (within reason, of course).
- Create a push for promotions aimed at kids and teens. These need to explain why that age group should buy into the comic concept.
- Clear awareness about what exactly will be found in a shop every Wednesday.
- Make weekly series’ 100% returnable. At least after issue #1.
- The frequency of new titles defaults to monthly for the first three issues. This allows retailers to find the sales ceiling. Afterwards, they can go twice monthly if a publisher chooses to do so.
- Always seek to increase market share for the companies that need the direct market to stay in business. This more evenly distributed and diverse market would only strengthen the marketplace in its entirety.
- Assign connected one-shots a series code. Annuals should be part of the main series code.
It’s interesting to me that some stores still consider digital to be a threat. Honestly, comiXology and other digital platforms have been around for years, and they still haven’t really hurt LCSs as much as some feared they would.
NOW IS THE TIME FOR DISCUSSION
If we wait to talk about ways to improve the industry until it is back up running, I fear that will be too late. We should be considering this NOW, before any system of any kind gets going.
One of the things I notice in what people want to see is the notion that “less is more.” The Previews is now too big and cumbersome, for example. It should be cut back into one book.
On the other hand, I still think we should be open to having more than one distributor operating. That would allow customers and stores the chance to shop around.
And, as always, stay safe and well, and keep reading your comics!
What do you think? What changes would you like to see? What would you like to see the industry keep? Please share your thoughts in the space below!