The Beguiling’s Chris Butcher discusses the new Diamond thresholds

Beguiling manager Chris Butcher presents his thoughts on the Diamond threshold changes on his blog.

Chris rightly pointed out in an earlier posting that under the new thresholds, the first Scott Pilgrim volume would probably not have met the requirements. Thankfully it did, and Scott Pilgrim has gone on to be a successful graphic novel series for Oni Press and is about to jump to the big screen in 2010 (directed by Edgar Wright) —- the fifth volume Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe arrives in stores today.

The biggest problem with the Direct Market has always been the reliance on the bigger publishers to carry the day. What little independant comics publishing we have in Canada these days definitely falls into the “and the rest” section of the catalogue. From UDON, Drawn & Quarterly, Red 5, Arcana Studio to Aardvark-Vanaheim, I Box and other self-publishers, one can’t help but be concerned for the well-being of these companies when the avenue of Direct Market sales through Diamond Distributing is potentially closed to them if their titles don’t meet the new thresholds (but DID meet the old ones). There are also many Canadian creators who publish their works through American companies that are also going to be affected similarly at companies like Oni Press, Top Shelf, Slave Labor Graphics, Fantagraphics, IDW — to name just a handful.

Diamond is the only major distribution company to the direct market, and by closing the door on small, new and self-publishers in this manner, the comics industry will definitely be the lesser for it… and regretfully many retailers won’t even notice the change… some even think this is a positive and understandable step.

What we have here is a “chicken and egg” scenario: many retailers don’t order because they are concerned they will be stuck with product they might not sell, and the publishers can’t sell their new products because the retailers aren’t ordering. Publishers are in the unfortunate position of having to do whatever they can to get those retailers to order their product, and if Diamond won’t list their products because the thresholds are too high, then those companies have had the door slammed in their face by the only major option they have to reach the stores in the Direct Market and they are left with few remaining avenues: selling directly to shops in person, selling through the mail, webcomics, convention and festival sales.

Just like the end of Book Expo Canada yesterday is leading to talks of finding something to replace it, it’s time that people start talking about finding ways to help promote small, new and self-publishers or we won’t see the unique creative visions – like O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series — it will just be more variant covers, comics based on movie and television properties and superhero crossovers. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things — it’s just that there’s no reason why one has to put down one in favour of the other.


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