Friday, November 02, 2007

Feeling Bad for Th3rd World Studios

I know a guy who works with Th3rd World Studios. In fact, he is a customer. They are a newer publisher on the scene, and have a couple of comics in the pipeline right now.

One of their comics, Omega Chase (pictured), had its first issue ship the first week of October. On my invoice for November 7th is an overship for more of the Omega Chase #1's. Which is VERY weird because we almost never get an overshipment of an issue more than a week after the initial shipment.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, overshiping is an optional thing where a publisher can have extra comics sent to every store that ordered the regular issue. After a certain point in time, the retailer can send back any of these unsold overshiped comics and the store account is not billed for the overship comics until after the return window closes. The store is then asked to pay for any unreturned copies. Personally I like the program - it has saved us a few times by giving us more issues than we ordered originally on comics that would have otherwise quickly sold out. And if we don't sell them, we just send them back to Diamond - no harm no foul.

Usually the overship copies of the comic come the same week as the issues we originally ordered, occasionally a week later. But I cannot remember, although I am sure it must have happened on very rare occasion, having a month's gap between the initial order shipment and the overship delivery. This one I noticed right away because I know the guy from Th34d World.

So I sent him an email to find out if he knew about this month-long gap between the regular and overship issues and if he did, why they made that decision. Now here is where it gets bad! He calls me up and tells me that they had no idea until a week ago that the overship comics had not yet gone out. He also found out at that time that Diamond decided to hold off on shipping issue #2 because they wanted retailers to have time to sell the overships and increase their orders for #2 before they send out the #2's. Well, they weren't exactly happy about any of this over at Th3rd World Studios. And they have tried contacting their Diamond representative several times. However, they have received no return calls or emails FOR THREE WEEKS. He also told me that they received information from Diamond before the first issue shipped, telling them that Omega Chase #1 would be shipping in September 2007. That's it - no week of shipment, just a month. And then it STILL didn't actually show up in stores until early October.

You might remember by "Why Steve Geppi Should Hire Me" post a couple of months back. I discuss this very disconnect and lack of communication that seems to be happening between Diamond and everyone else. And there isn't anywhere that Th3rd World Studios can go to get their stuff distributed - Diamond is the monopoly comic distributor to the US. Their only options are to put up with Diamond or self distribute.

Also keep in mind that comic book retailers tend to dislike publishers who offer their comics via a web store while also offering them in Previews for retailers to buy. Many retailers feel like they should be the source of comic book sales, or else do not put the comic in Previews. Some retailers, if they find out that the comics are also available directly to the public via a web store, will refuse to buy any copies for their brick and mortar stores. In addition, many comic book retail store owners ONLY buy from Diamond. If for no other reason than it is easy to keep track of orders and payments when they all go to and from one place. So, having publishers sell directly to comic book retailers is an uphill battle.

The other frustrating thing is that unless retailers like myself contact the small publishers to find out what's going on - why comics arrive late or overships are sent out a month after the initials - they probably just assume it is the publisher's fault. I know I often do. Now I am starting to really question that because I have heard from more than just Th3rd World that Diamond ships out stuff when they feel like it, without really adhering to when the agreed upon date originally was. Distributors have told me that Diamond has had copies of their comic sitting in warehouses for WEEKS and WEEKS before they finally get around to shipping it. I would assume that Diamond has some rhyme and reason for what they're doing, but I have not been told of it, and apparently they do not share it with the publishers either.

Craig and I are in charge of putting together a publisher report card for ComicsPRO members to use. On this report card we will be evaluating publishers on things like weather or not their stuff arrives on-time. Hopefully if small press publishers score poorly here they will step up and inform retailers if it is not their fault, but Diamond's. And hopefully, if enough of a stink comes off of it, Diamond will work on improving the climate they have for small press publishers.

Sure, small houses like Th3rd World don't put much of a dent into Diamond's pocket overall, so they focus on the big guys who do. But doesn't the comic book industry NEED and WANT small press too? And don't those guys work just as hard as the guys at Marvel and DC to get comic books created? In fact, I think many of the small press guys work HARDER at getting their comic books into the hands of the consumers than the big guys do. So, what can be done? Even if the little guys cry out will anyone hear them? Will we eventually see only Diamond's top 10-20 dollar sale publishers distribute through them and the rest of the small press go with web comics and self distribution? Can another publisher step up and survive by distributing all comics that are non-exclusive with Diamond?

I am not sure. But I do know that now that I have taken the time to find out from some of these small publishers what is really going on, I feel bad for them. It is a difficult job to sell a comic no one has heard of, often done by creators few have heard of, via a publisher that few have heard of, with discounts that comic book retailers wish were larger to a largely super hero buying public. They do not need that complicated by a distribution channel that seems to undermine them at every turn.


Anonymous said...

As a small press publisher myself I have to say going through Diamond is a hard road.

For example, I sent in my solicitation to my contact on time in order for it to be in the November Previews catalog. That was back in September I believe.

A few weeks ago I receive an e-mail from someone I've never dealt with telling me my book needs a UPC code. Okay, no sweat, I knew I'd need one with their new policy. I sent it in right away.

Yesterday I e-mailed my contact to find out what my order code would be. I instead got an e-mail from the UPC code guy telling me he's my new contact and they didn't have my book in November's Previews because they didn't have a solicitation.

1. They switched my contact and didn't tell me. This is my third contact in a year. I was informed beforehand of when my contact changed the first time. This time around lack of communication caused me to send in a solicitation to someone who didn't work for Diamond anymore.

2. What book exactly did the UPC guy need a code for if they didn't have a solicitation from me?

3. My book will now be in December's Previews. It will be a month late, probably costing me readers, because of Diamond's lack of professionalism.

It's hard enough trying to sell an indie book without others making these kinds of costly mistakes. It's frustrating to do everything right and still have this kind of stuff happen. This is the second time miscommunication within Diamond has caused my book to be a month late.

Lisa said...

Who are you and what's the name of your book? Feel free to do a bit of soliciting for it!

Scott said...

Diamond has been such a huge hassle, which is why I have no problem speaking up about it and all the nasty details. Though I think most other small publishers are scared of pissing them off.

Also, we emailed and called our Diamond brand manger yesterday and still no word!