Thursday, January 31, 2008

The end of the Monopoly?

I just read on "The Beat" that Cold Cut distribution, a distributor that was pretty much closed up, is now in the process of re-opening under new ownership in Chicago, IL.

Chicago is only about 1.5 - 2 hour drive from my store, depending upon the traffic, so that's one nice thing. It could mean inexpensive shipping for us!

Another benefit - if done right, it could mean the end of the comic distribution monopoly we've suffered with. Now, that big distributor has lots of exclusive contracts with big publishers like Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc. so they still have a huge leg up on anyone else who might try to distribute comics. However, this could be just what the small press publishers need right now. I have talked to a few small press guys who have had a lot of trouble getting the large distributor to continue soliciting their comics. It seems the smallest delay or problem is used as an excuse by this distributor to cancel the offending issues. Unless you go from zero to hero like Zenescope seems to have done, this large comic distributor appears to not really want the hassle of dealing in single issue units of the small press. While some of those comics are junk anyway, there are many that are really great, and not getting the issues into the hands of comic book retailers and fans hurts the whole industry.

I actually wouldn't mind seeing this new Cold Cut signing some exclusive contracts with small press publishers who HAVE established themselves. Publishers who might only do a couple of titles each month, and who don't have 50,000 print runs but still have a decent enough fan following that they've been able to continue to operate over the years. Publishers like Top Shelf and Oni, for example, I think might be the perfect small press targets for an exclusive contract. Having a couple of good publishers like that under their roof could lead to giving another publisher a good chance at getting orders from retailers for a chunk of smaller press titles. And, it might actually help the small press because they could have a better chance at getting their comics out. That would, hopefully, benefit the comic book industry because then people who read the first few issues of a comic only to have the rest canceled by the big distributor would have the chance to read all of the issues.

Let me also make a quick sidebar - I do not like late comics. Especially excessively late comics, no matter WHO publishes or distributes them. If/when this new Cold Cut starts distributing, I hope they will do their best to urge publishers to get stuff out in a timely fashion. Now I understand that sometimes things happen, and a few week delay is tolerable, but months and months are not. Late books should be canceled - but they can then be resolicited for a later shipment date. Retailers can then get a better feel for publishers who are chronically late and those that just hit an obstacle once and then do what they can to get back on track, and then make their purchasing decisions accordingly.

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