Benchmark watch: Fanfare/Ponent Mon

January 22, 2009

I don’t think any manga publisher is immune to fallout from Diamond’s new policies, but some strike me as more vulnerable than others. One that I associate most closely with comic shop distribution is nouvelle manga specialist Fanfare/Ponent Mon, which releases books of extraordinary quality largely through specialty stores. In my experience, pre-ordering through Diamond is the most reliable way to get a Fanfare book in your hands (though they have secured a bookstore distributor, Atlas).

So, since I’m nosy and since I very much want Fanfare books in my hands promptly and regularly, I pestered Stephen Robson for his response to the new benchmarks. Robson worked in comics distribution in the United Kingdom prior to going into publishing, first for Titan, then for Diamond after it purchased Titan in the 1990s. Robson hasn’t communicated with Diamond directly as yet, but he shared some general thoughts on the development.

“From a Fanfare/Ponent Mon point of view I am not too concerned about the effect on the front list in Previews likely to be caused by this shift,” he said. “Bizarrely, if the catalogue choice is curtailed because of this policy, our books may even notch up a few more sales on first offering! No, the general economy scares me much more!!”

One point of concern would be re-lists. “The deepest effect would be felt in re-lists if Diamond do implement this policy rigorously,” he said. “[P]ublishers in our position live as much from back list perennials as we do front list – even some of the longer established ones. Whilst I do receive a continuous trickle of orders from Diamond each month for my back list, there is no substitute for having an image with description and an entry in the order form to boost those numbers!”

And while he’s sympathetic to Diamond’s position in a difficult economy, he shares a widely held concern about the fates of small publishers. “My sadness would not come from any decline through Diamond of my own sales, I will cope with that somehow, but if this quantum change did cause the demise of even one good creative comic publisher, however humble, who currently feed only at Diamond’s table because it is the only one. I, for one, would be much more appreciative if the process could be slowed somehow to allow such fledglings time to find alternative means of selling their produce to their audience or for an alternative means to spring up.”