Monday, May 9, 2016

Class #4 Distribution and Finding Your Audience Part 1

Diamond Distributors – the complexity and necessity of the world’s biggest comic distributor.
Process for preparing a submission to Diamond-- the proper steps, the waiting game.
Diamond Prefers TPB to Floppies. 

     The 3 issue rule of floppies. 
     The minimum sales threshold

Let's break this down into some simple steps.
You COULD distribute your comic book yourself, driving copies of it around to stores and trying to convince comic shops to carry it.

But even if you visited every comic book store within a 100 mile radius of your current location (and of course depending on where you're located) you are likely talking no more than 25-30 shops.

The consignment method is the easiest sales method, but that means a SECOND trip to the store to collect and there is always the risk that you had no sales, or that the owner isn't there, or that they don't have the money to pay you, etc.

Better to do the outright sell up front, and if you need the extra incentive for them, offer to buy them back in a month if they don't sell.

You could present a pricing incentive-- 50% off cover if they are willing to just buy it outright.  40% off cover if they will buy it up front and you will come back and buy back any unsold copies after a month.

This may sound risky, but it's more likely to increase order numbers as a retailer will take a chance on you.

IT IS IMPERATIVE however, that you follow through with your promise of coming back to buy back unsold issues.  If you "forget" you will burn a bridge you don't want burnt.

Anyway, you CAN do this method, and you certainly should because it builds a relationship between creator and retailer but even hitting all of those stores you'll still only end up in 25-30 stores.

What other options are there?

There is a retailer network that works with small press publishers called The Phantom Variant.  Publishers offer special cover editions of certain books only to these retailers driving customers to them.

You can also compile a mailing list of Indy Friendly Comic Shops, stores that are known to stock and support small press:


There should be a consideration in your publishing budget to produce a freebie, a preview copy, it can be a few pages, it can be a digital copy, it could be a postcard but whatever it is you need something that you can send to those friendly retailers to get them to order your book both before and WHILE the book is solicited with Diamond.

REACHING OUT to those retailers-- understand the market.   Wednesday is new comic book day, that means it's likely their busiest day of the week.

That also means Tuesday afternoon and evening is spent stocking new comic books.

Friday is game night for many stores, Saturday is a busy day, most owners and decision makers take a day off and that's likely Sunday so that leaves Monday or Thursday for your chance to reach out to them either in person, on the phone or in an email.

Provide at the very least PDF* copies of your book for the retailers to look through-- and if it's an ONGOING series PDF copies of the first TWO.

Why Two?  It shows that you are serious about doing this, and that you have the product to follow through.

Your first issue will sell better than your second issue, but that doesn't mean you should just let the second issue die or assume you'll be able to get to it later on.

A better option is to send actual printed copies of your book-- and they can be xerox copies if you've not printed them already.

*While PDF copies are okay, and of course they are free-- sending them as an attachment assumes that the retailer is OK with downloading your file, and then after that spending more time on their computer reading your comic.  Most of the retailers I know spend a lot of hours on a computer screen and they don't want to spend more time on one.

So you can upload your PDF to an online portal like Joomag, which creates a sort of digital magazine that can be read online with no download effort.

Some creators have success with creating a video preview and uploading it to YouTube, and then getting a retailer to watch it.  I personally don't love watching videos online, but that doesn't mean it couldn't work.

What else?

Social Media-- you need to engage Social Media LONG BEFORE you start asking people to support your project(s).  If you don't ever post anything on your Facebook account (for example) and then all of a sudden when you have a product you'll see very little results.


Well, they have a Publishers Guide online, and you can read through it.  It tells you everything you need to know, and we'll discuss the details in class.

You're also going to need a cover letter-- and this goes for ALL correspondence you have with publishers, printers, creators working for you down the road,  networking, etc-- it needs to be business formatted.

It goes without saying that you need a business email-- it doesn't have to be as fancy as or but it should have your name in it.  So is fine.

What is business formatted?  Well Miss Manners sets the rules I don't-- it should be formatted thusly:

Cover letter done by Tyler James who does the great How To site

Please note that the Diamond Address in the cover letter is no longer accurate, but you get the gist of his message.

The FIRST THING that should have popped into your head when you look at his cover letter is "Oh snap!  I need a company name!"


Think it was hard to come up with a Title for your comic?  How about a name for your company?

Here is a page from the PREVIEWS catalog-- note how comics are listed-- Alphabetically by PUBLISHER

So if you're VAN LIEW Publishing or MILLER COMICS you're at the end or middle of the 500+ catalog

Even worse than that for small press-- the catalog actually breaks down like this:

Then Alphabetical publishers starting with A

Marvel Comics gets listed with the M's and has it's own mini-catalog-- this is because at one point Marvel stopped working with DIAMOND, starting it's own distribution company and the fences have never been fully mended.

So you need a good name.
You need a base of retailers who will likely order your book.
You need a good cover to help sell that book.

If you have an ongoing series, you need that second (and possibly third) book already finished, and you should be working on the fourth and fifth one.

What else do you need?

A UPC or an ISBN number.

Uh oh.

No it's actually easier than you think.  You need to order a barcode for comic books and an ISBN for Graphic novels

There are a lot of sites out there selling these for $125/ea don't fall for that-- they should cost no more than $10.

Placement of the ISBN -- Front or back cover-- on graphic novels it's more popular to put then on the back cover.

UPC Code- on comic books it's the norm to put it on the front cover.

The reason for the front cover placement is that many stores sell comics already bagged and boarded and if the code is on the back they will have to be removed to be scanned at the register.

Diamond requires them too.

So how hard is it to get into PREVIEWS catalog?  They reject far more than they accept.

But if you put your best effort in you have a good shot at it.