Manoel is very close to being finished the artwork on The Three Princes. He has six more pages to go and then it will be Ed Brisson’s turn; he is doing the lettering. The three other stories planned for the anthology are progressing nicely as well, with art chores on Dino Caruso’s Six O’Clock Noose almost being finished. With so much excitement building, it was disheartening to learn in mid-January that Diamond Comics (the number one distributor of comics) raised their purchase benchmark from $1500 USD to $2500 USD. The $1500 USD was already considered too steep for many small publishers. To compare, the benchmark that had been around until 2005 was $600 USD.
Let us take a step back for a moment in case you are not familiar with Diamond Comics. They have a mononlopy on the distribution of comics. They are the power. You want to get your comics into comic shops your only real option is Diamond.
Ed Brisson, the organizer of the crime comics anthology in which The Three Princes will appear, explained what this new benchmark means for our project. As a publisher (New Reliable Press is his outfit) he gets 36% of the cover price of a comic he is publishing. If the comic was listed at $12.99 USD (which would be a good price for the crime comics anthology), the publisher would get $4.68 USD per copy. That means we would need to sell 535 copies through Diamond in order to reach the new benchmark of $2500 USD (4.68×535=$2503.80). If the benchmark is not reached, Diamond will still fill the order but would not carry any further books in the series. There is also a low threshold, which is $1500 USD, or, in our example, 320 copies ordered. If the book performs below the low threshold the listing is cancelled and Diamond will not fill the orders.
32o t0 535 copies sold might not seem like a lot but for a small publisher looking to sell a book by a bunch of unknowns (relatively speaking) it is a daunting task because DC, Marvel and Dark Horse have the majority share of comic sales, with Image, IDW and a handful of others making up the rest. The outlook is a grim one for small publishers. Ed Brisson also happily reminded us that the world economy is currently in the toilet, which means comic shops and readers are tightening up their belts and are thus less likely to order or buy comics from smaller publishers.
I do feel our anthology project is a good one, with strong stories and great artwork, and if we do not manage to meet the benchmarks that just means each creator will have to beat the streets and get the comic into readers’ hands in other ways. Still, this is a stinging blow not just to us but to all creators looking to get their comics into comic shops.