If Diamond distribution goes out of business, will that cause smaller publishers to follow suit?
The news that Marvel Entertainment has signed a new exclusive distribution agreement for the comic book market, ending a partnership with Diamond Comic Distributors after 24 years, has sent shockwaves through the comic book industry — with some believing that the shift might bring about the collapse of the industry as it currently exists.
[…] This isn’t the first time Penguin Random House Publisher Services has dealt with the comic market; it already supplies a number of comic retailers with product as a distributor of collected editions and graphic novels for DC, Dark Horse, Archie Comics and IDW Publishing, although the new deal marks the first time the company will be handling single issue comics. Despite the new arrangement, Marvel’s book market accounts will continue to be serviced by Hachette Book Group. In a statement accompanying the announcement, Marvel president Dan Buckey said, “Comics are the core of the Marvel Universe, and we are confident this new partnership will continue to grow and evolve this resilient industry.”
Not everyone was necessarily convinced about that last part, however. Much of the worry on the part of retailers is rooted in financial reality. Many store owners are likely to be financially impacted by Marvel’s shift, with a new 50 percent discount level being implemented on product (meaning that retailer cost is literally half of cover price) regardless of order size, as per PRHPS policy. This is a significant change from Marvel’s current arrangement with Diamond, which offers a sliding rate up to 59 percent, with some retailers estimating the change could negatively impact somewhere in the region of half of Marvel’s U.S. market.
Potentially offsetting the discount drop, all shipping costs will be waived under the new deal, consistent with PRHPS policy for other publishers. However, multiple retailers already dealing with PRHPS have spoken out about the company’s shipping, with items reportedly arriving damaged in some form and raising concern that overall quality of Marvel product available to customers will be impacted beginning this fall. (“Most graphic novels that we receive from PRH do not arrive in anything approaching ‘mint’ condition,” as Californian retailer Brian Hibbs wrote recently, to cite one example.) Both Marvel and PRHPS are said to be aware of the problem, and working towards a solution.
So what they’re worried about is that no proper arrangements whatsoever will be made to ensure products are kept safe as possible during delivery? Maybe that’s why specialty store proprietors should consider supporting the idea of comics shifting to graphic novel format and retiring the floppy format altogether. The more you stick to outmoded models, the worse it’s going to get, considering the price they cost, which can amount to far more than the trade paperbacks combined in a whole. And I assume floppies are more vulnerable to damage than paperbacks and hardcovers. That said, even Diamond’s not escaping scrutiny here:
The lack of clarity on Diamond’s part is troubling to many inside the industry for one simple reason: if Diamond goes under, so could a significant portion of the comic book industry. Rumors about the financial stability of Diamond had been circulating for some time prior to Marvel’s announcement; the company halted payments to vendors during its COVID-related shutdown last year citing “inconsistent payments from customers,” and former DC president Diane Nelson stated outright that the company “may not even be solvent” when discussing the split between Diamond and DC on social media last summer. Not only is Diamond the contractually exclusive comic book distributor for some of comics’ largest publishers — including Image, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, and Dynamite Entertainment — it’s also the sole distributor of a number of smaller independent publishers, as well. The collapse of such a distributor could prove a death blow to many, especially if it owes money to publishers if it goes under.
Well, at least that lays out the mistakes so many publishers made over the years, to rely on one single distributor, when here, they could’ve set a better example and sought out a few more if that made things easier. Again, this is why I strongly suggest all publishers still hooked on floppies let the format go, and make the move to trade format, as Zenescope appears to be doing. I just don’t understand why many publishers believe the audience can’t get used to a simpler approach to serial fiction rather than the way it’s been done since the 1930s. They’d do well to wake up, and start realizing the benefits of a shift. We’re facing a “brave new world” indeed, and publishers are going to have to start proving they have what it takes to be realists in business. Or else, they won’t last much longer.
For now, if a service like Penguin Random House does prove worthy, maybe they should decide to go for them as well.
Originally published here.