I've been following the unfolding story on some of the comics news sites of Diamond's decision to increase publisher thresholds. The thresholds are the minimum sales numbers a book must achieve through Diamond for them to agree to distribute it. More importantly these numbers equate to the profit margins that Diamond are looking to achieve on each comic and book sold through Previews. Needless to say this move has caused uproar in certain quarters of the comics community but here's my opinion of it all.
First of all, irregardless of how much this decision makes it that more difficult for smaller comic publishers including Time Bomb Comics to achieve wider distribution, I can wholly understand the business decisions where Diamond is coming from on this. Diamond do NOT have an obligation to stock every comic book under the sun. They're a distribution business, they only need to stock product they think they can sell and make a return from - just like any other distribution business the world over. If a distrubutor has a product that's not shifting the required units for it to make the costs involved in that distribution viable then they will no longer stock that product. Period.
Secondly there seems to be a general wave of anger with the comments on the various news sites that Diamond are killing off the small press with this announcement. That, somehow, it's Diamond's fault that the indie press may be squeezed out of business. Sorry guys, but Diamond aren't the big bad here. If any fingers should be pointed it's to the comics buyers who only read Marvel/DC, the retailers who only stock the mainstream, the shops who over-order just to get those variants which can be sold at a ridiculously inflated price. You see, it's a lot of us that's to blame here, for not supporting publishers who really needed it or even giving them a chance. Case in point, there's many comments on the varoius comics news forums that go something along the lines of "I really support the little guys but I never buy any of their books" which to me perfectly illustrates one of the big hurdles that the little guys have to jump, often fail to, and are now likely to be taken out of the race as a result.
That said, we indie publishers are a tenacious lot. Unlike the big guys, a lot of us really aren't in it for the money but just because we love the comics medium. So, alternatives will be found whether it's smaller distributors like Haven or (here in the UK) Smallzone, embracing more fully e-books and the opportunities they bring, Amazon listings, e-commerce or building up a base of friendly retailers with which to deal with direct. The only major drawback is the sheer global coverage that Diamond provides as a one-stop-shop will be removed if an indie book doesn't get that all-important Diamond listing in the first place.
Time Bomb Comics are looking at this whole situation with a three steps forward and one step back attitude, which I think is the best stance to take and which seems to be how a lot of our fellow publishers are approaching it. We have projects slated for 2009 and 2010 that will be completed and published whether or not Diamond feel we make the grade, so although it's no guarantee we'll be listed in Previews again we're going to be putting out quality one-shots no matter what.
Not a bad thing, surely?