A “New System” for Publishing Comic Books
I formed my own comic course of miracles Comics published 14 issues before fading from view. After a six-year hiatus, I’ve returned to the self-publishing game with SINNAMON: GRRL VS. WORLD #1.
A few people have asked why this comic is only available via ComiXpress. They ask because in the past, SINNAMON comics were available at comic book stores. Those fourteen issues were published through what I call the “traditional system”.
Let me outline the basic steps behind the “traditional system”:
1. Get the comic book listed in a distributor’s catalogue. Since the late 1990s, the catalogue with the widest market penetration is Diamond Previews.
2. Take note of when the book will be listed in the catalogue. Normally, the book is listed three months before it’s available for sale. For example, if SINNAMON #13 was coming out in December, it would be listed in the September Previews.
3. Wait for the orders to come in. Keeping with the example above, orders for SINNAMON #13 will arrive sometime in November
4. Send the comic off to the printers.
5. Sometime in January, receive payment from Diamond for the books.
Other than keeping track of various deadlines, the system isn’t very complicated. All things considered, it’s probably the only way a publisher can get his or her book out to comic shops all across North America. But is it effective for smaller publishers like yours truly? I would say not.
This isn’t a diatribe against Diamond Distributing. There are small publishers who have complaints, but the reality is that the overwhelming bulk of Diamond’s sales come from five or six publishers. There’s going to be an obvious imbalance in the treatment of someone who might produce sales of 1,000 books compared to someone doing thirty or more times that amount.
I stayed in the publishing game until 1999. When I encountered problems getting SINNAMON SAGA #2 completed, I threw in the towel. I had been considering this for a while, because I had the gut feeling the “traditional system” was not in my best benefit. It took a few years away from the business to gain perspective and figure out why my gut was probably right all along.
Why? Let’s look at what I consider to be the major weaknesses of this “traditional system”.
Start with Diamond Previews. Each month’s issue is the size of a small city’s telephone book. How exactly do you make your book stand out from the many hundreds of books listed? You could advertise. How much money do you have set aside for advertising? Now if you’re reading this article, odds are very good you have nowhere near the advertising budget of companies like DC, Marvel, or Image.
Fine, you say. You’ll be creative and find other ways to get people to notice your book. Go for it! Every small publisher should embrace the principles of guerrilla marketing.