Diamond makes it rough

Diamond Comics Distributors is apparently raising its minimums and discontinuing the print version of its Preview Adult catalog supplement, switching over to a PDF. While the development is worrying on a number of levels, especially for smaller publishers, I find myself fixated on the Previews Adult issue. I’m all in favor of minimizing pulp in the waste stream, and going electronic seems like a reasonable way for Diamond to cut expenses. BUT…

Simon Jones indicates that his understanding is that “retailer would have access to the PDF, which Diamond expects retailers to PRINT OUT themselves.”

There’s just so much that seems wrong with that system, given what I perceive to be the realities of that sector of comics publishing. Here are my concerns:

  • It’s a bad idea to put the onus on retailers, who have their own concerns. Printing out paper copies of the catalog PDF for interested customers takes time and costs money, and many retailers might end up doing a perfectly sensible cost-benefits analysis that tells them that their profits from the comics listed in Previews Adult aren’t sufficient compensation for the inconveniences and expenses of the new system.
  • It potentially inconveniences consumers in any number of ways. Comics consumers are creatures of habit to begin with, so limiting access to the catalog is already a hurdle. (I’m not saying it’s a huge hurdle, but given the general shrinking of disposable income, you never know what hurdle is going to be huge enough to convince people to change their buying habits.)
  • The percentage of comics shops stocking shelf copies of adult material already seems small, and I swear I remember Simon telling me that individual customer pre-orders were a key part of any adult comics publisher’s sales. Hindering a consumer’s ability to pre-order comics promises to compromise the publisher’s most reliable revenue stream. And with higher benchmarks coming into play at the same time as new barriers to consumers, publishers of adult comics seem to be facing a double bind.
  • If Diamond wants to switch over to an electronic version of the Previews Adult catalog, they should really make it more accessible than the print version, rather than less available. And they should educate their consumers about the change well in advance of the change-over, so they know where to go to get the information. Buying any kind of niche comic can be challenging, and buying adult comics can be awkward. The retailer-PDF strategy seems designed to exacerbate the hassles that publishers, retailers and consumers already face. The plan seems like it would inconvenience everyone but Diamond.

    Here are some other links on the development:

  • Two pieces from Simon Jones of Icarus
  • Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter
  • Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading
  • 14 Responses to Diamond makes it rough

    1. gynocrat says:

      An online version would’ve been best, but a PDF is just bad news. And yes, a HUGE inconvenience–shops will print 1 copy at most [because it is expensive to print more than one] and now anyone who wants to purchase an adult comic must go in and ask the shop dude for ‘their copy’ to look through.

      There’s plenty of fans that don’t mind buying the ‘dirty’ stuff from comic shops; and they do so by getting a copy of Previews Adult and writing down the order-numbers of the titles they want. Some call in their orders over the phone, other just hand their list of numbers to the counter guy when they’re in buying their general audience manga. There’s a reason why many online retailers selling BL and gay material, mail those purchases in plain brown wrappers. [argh] What Diamond has done here is they’ve made it impossible to discreetly purchase alternative adult material.

      Is everyone carrying a loaded gun in their sweatpants this season?

    2. davidpwelsh says:

      “What Diamond has done here is they’ve made it impossible to discreetly purchase alternative adult material.”

      Exactly, and while nobody who wants to purchase adult material from a shop that’s willing to sell it should be embarrassed in the slightest, people have been socialized by the brown paper wrapper, and making the process indiscreet, or even creating the impression that it will be, may be a deterrent for a lot of people.

    3. [...] of its Adult Previews catalog, which will instead be made available to retailers as a PDF file. As David Welsh notes, this is bad news for publishers of erotic and the ever-nebulously defined [...]

    4. It probably is the end of adult comics being available in comic shops. We have been anticipating some kind of event like this for a couple of years, one of the reasons we reduced our output and concentrated on online sales and the Demi the Demoness Movie that came out last year.

      Carnal Comics will continue to publish and sell our comics via mail and online to fans of our books all over the world.

      We have no illusions about what this will do to our sales to Diamond. For us adult publishers its a double hit. Not only is their adult catalog going to be very hard for consumers to get to, but the higher benchmarks make it very unlikely for almost all the adult publishers to get Diamond to carry our new products. We have always been a niche in the larger market. That niche has for all intents and purposes been wiped out as far as Diamond is concerned.

      I have much more to say about all this, but I’l stop for now. SSC

    5. [...] Filed under: Comic shops, Linkblogging — davidpwelsh @ 3:39 pm In the comments section of a previous post, a representative of Carnal Comics weighs in on the likely fallout of [...]

    6. [...] “We have no illusions about what this will do to our sales to Diamond. For us adult publishers its a double hit. Not only is their adult catalog going to be very hard for consumers to get to, but the higher benchmarks make it very unlikely for almost all the adult publishers to get Diamond to carry our new products. We have always been a niche in the larger market. That niche has for all intents and purposes been wiped out as far as Diamond is concerned.” – Carnal Comics publisher S.S. Crompton [...]

    7. [...] is Diamond’s new policy – there’s more discussion than I can link to but try here, here, here, here, here, here and here for starters. And the Diamond response can be seen here. Nicely, [...]

    8. Marc Hansen says:

      Converting the pdf to html would not be a big deal. Whether it’s a 3rd party doing it from the pdf and hosting it or Diamond’s production staff simply saving the document from QuarkXPress to html. Also, most browsers can display pdfs with an added plug-in.

    9. [...] in comics stores will soon be dropped. In a further blow to the adult comics market Diamond will be dropping that section from the print version of Previews, in favour of a PDF only available to retailers. Comics are [...]

    10. We’ve been getting a lot of supportive emails and comments from various sources, and wanted to extend our thanks to those both in and out of the industry who don’t want to see our products leaving comic shops.

      We are currently working an arrangement with Haven Distribution who sepcialize in carry the unique cutting edge comics. So we may still have a presence in the comic shop marketplace.

      Further, in looking at our past sales records with Diamond, some of our books do seem to reach the new minimum benchmarks. However, it’s still a somewhat gloomy outlook without an Adult Previews available to consumers it reamins to be seen what happens to future order numbers. We’ll see what happens the next time we try to solict something through Diamond.

      Last week we were at the Phoenix Comic Con and had the best sales there we have had at that Con since we started going there 7 years ago. So the demand for our books is still quite strong and gives us some hope for 2009.

    11. [...] Comic shops, Linkblogging — davidpwelsh @ 2:36 pm Carnal Comics checked in the comments of a previous post with an update, noting: “We are currently working an arrangement with Haven Distribution who [...]

    12. [...] coverage: • Simon Jones (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) • David Welsh • Tom Spurgeon’s initial report • Johanna Draper-Carlson • Heidi [...]

    13. Vik-Thor says:

      So that’s what happened… I’m not a big buyer of adult comics, but enough interested to order the Adult Previews from my online comic store.

      Notice, I said Online comic store. I order comics from what used to be my local comic shop, before I moved to Phoenix.

      Guess I’ll have to see if they can email me the PDF of the Adult Previews…

    14. davidpwelsh says:

      Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing has been posting links to the PDFs at his (not safe for work) blog: http://www.icaruscomics.com/wp_web/

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