Benchmark Watch: The Ripples Continue

UPDATED: Diamond Changes Thresholds

The reaction and response to Diamond changing its benchmark from $1500 to $2500 continues to ripple through the industry, yielding a variety of responses, ranging from those calling it the end of independent monthly comics to outright anger at Diamond, and others, like Slave Labor’s Dan Vado, who don’t fault Diamond, but rather see the problem as a byproduct of how the industry has developed and grown, as well as the current economic times.

Speaking to The Beat, Oni Publisher Joe Nozemack said: “I would hope to think that the $2,500 minimum that Diamond is instituting isn’t an arbitrarily concocted number. I’m sure they looked at the costs of listing a title, giving it space in the catalog, cutting the p.o. and receiving and reshipping the orders. There is a hard cost to doing all of this and I’m sure this went into the calculation of the minimum. Diamond should not be forced to lose money to list and distribute a title if it cannot prove to have a viable sales history after a certain amount of time. I also don’t think anyone is saying that these judgments will be made prior to giving a title a chance.”

Looking at the change at Diamond, AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer has named his company’s first casualty. Pitzer writes at his blog:

“The short & sweet: Comics are dead, long live OGNs.

“The first casualty that I claim is SUPERIOR SHOWCASE #4. I was working on bringing a new issue out this summer that would have been filled with new talents that I’ve met over the last year. People whose voice may or may not have been heard before. But, I’m going to kill that issue now. Why? Well, at $2.95 there’s no way I’d get orders to put it anywhere near the new threshold. Numbers for #3 were not that great, and I can’t imagine #4 would improve.”

Pitzer also said that a threshold was something that he’d been thinking of recently with an eye on the economy, and that he’s looking at alternative publishing options for Superior Showcase #4. That said, Pitzer added that he’s spoken with Diamond, and “99%” of what he has planned for the company for the remainder of 2009 is still safe, even under the new benchmark level.

The publisher also calls for what others have mentioned – “now, more than ever, is time for small pressers like us to think outside the box and figure out how we can get even more orders for our product.”

Back at The Comics Reporter, Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds tells Tom Spurgeon that Fantagraphics will more than likely not feel any effect from the change – and that he can’t blame Diamond at all for responding to the economy in this fashion. Also, like Vado mentioned originally, Rick Veitch said that the new benchmark would effectively kill his re-listing of products from King Hell Press.

Speaking of the new benchmark, Drumfish’s (which publishes Sentinels) Rich Bernatovech said, “There's pretty much no way that anyone will be able to meet that amount unless they are one of the big companies. By big, I mean Marvel , DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, SLG and a few others. So, what does it mean for us little guys? I'm not sure yet. As it is, we are all always struggling to get our books out there. But with no other way to distribute to almost every comic book store in the U.S., it basically means we're on our own. I'm trying to figure out how exactly I will deal with distributing NEVERMINDS and the other projects that I have started, but I don't see being able to do it through Diamond.”

And at ICV2, retailer Steve Bennett says, “But more importantly we’ve all had a chance to study the new Thresholds for Publishers but I’ll leave it to those far cleverer than myself to comment on just how this will affect the direct sales market, but I can tell you what it means to me; the death of independent comics.”

Former small press and Fangoria Comics publisher Scott Licena will be weighing in on the changes shortly at Blog@, as will our other bloggers with publishing ties.

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