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 This might have been something that I would have saved for my Monday post, making sure that I had something to post on Monday, but it seemed significant enough to warrant it's own post. Besides my wife is watching the opening of the Winter Olympics and, spectacle that it is, it is starting to get that Up With People feel that makes me queasy.

Anyway, instead of watching TV I was going over some bookkeeping and something kind of interesting popped up. On a reorder basis, that is for our core backlist titles, Amazon.com sold more books for us in December and January than our main graphic novel distributor Diamond Comics Distribution and their bookstore distribution arms Diamond Book Distributors.

Stressing here a couple of things. First, this was for our backlist titles only and does not include new releases. Secondly, Diamond was out of stock on one of our core best sellers, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac until the last week of January.

But, all things being equal, Amazon outsold the entire direct market AND book market combined for two months on our backlist. Why? Well, who knows. But here are a couple of small factoids that contributed to this. First, Diamond did not ship anything in the week before Christmas. This caused kind of a ripple effect and basically put our backlist reorder business to sleep. We had virtually no sales for three weeks through Diamond, our net total for one of those weeks was a scant $8.03.

Secondly, of course, is the fact that Amazon sells to consumers, who were still buying product right up to the day before Christmas and were aggressively buying books the day after Christmas. Diamond, of course, sells to stores and retailers and most of their buying had been done well before those weeks. Lastly, Amazon sells books at a pretty steep discount, so steep that I have used them to stock our gallery store with a couple of titles.

But, still, it's worth noting that a sales channel like Amazon can jump up there and, for a couple of months, be as important if not MORE important than the company that is supposed to be our main partner in the market that is, allegedly, supposed to be our primary market. If that sounded a little snide, it is. The last few months have brought some sobering numbers. for us, number that make me stop and have to seriously consider moving onto to one of those lucrative careers at Home Depot or Taco Bell. 

Here is a number, 188. That was the entire direct market preorder for Escape from Dullsville, Andy Ristaino's

newest collection from SLG. The numbers for that book were so low that I had to call Andy and tell him that we could not publish the book. Andy blogged and twittered about his situation, he also sent postcards and previews of his book to the comic shops and retailers on our mailing list, at his own expense. The end result? Amazon preorders for the book in a two week period jumped up to 178 copies, nearly doubling the numbers for the book. His plea to the direct market retailers only managed to raise the orders for his book by another eight copies.

Likewise our new Beachbum Berry book, Remixed, has a preorder number of nearly 800 copies at this point in time, nearly 600 of those 800 copies are going to Amazon. Now, the drink mix book was clearly not something meant for the direct market, but it is interesting that through Amazon we may have discovered the sales channel for our tiki books that might outstrip our distribution to bookstores and libraries.

Saying that the internet has changed the way we think about distribution is really stating the obvious. But we have always looked at Amazon as a sales channel that would compliment our main channels, get books to people who don't live near a good book or comic store. But now we are coming up on a change of attitude here. If Amazon is capable of being our main market, it may change the way we do business altogether.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2010 08:27 am (UTC)
The fact that there's really only one distributor is really incredible, especially when they, for whatever reason, just don't ship anything for a week. 8 bucks of sales is crazy.

There's a lot wrong with the current comic market and how it's put together. I'm honestly amazed that indie comics get published at all these days.

I actually try not to buy comics or graphic novels from Amazon, mainly because I like to build a relationship with my local comic shop. I've been lucky enough to live near good ones (That's Entertainment in Worcester, MA, and Atlantis Fantasyworld in Santa Cruz, CA), and in both cases they are owned and run by people who are not only genuine comic book fans but also really great to drop in on every couple of weeks, and I'd rather give Joe my cash than Amazon. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to do preordering in a long time, and even after flipping through Previews, it's hard to commit to dropping fifteen or twenty bucks on a book I might not be that into. I'd rather take a look at it first, and that's hard to do with Amazon.

Another worry if you (and non-Marvel-and-DC comics in general) decide to shift to Amazon as a primary market is that it may lead toward a homogenization of the types of comics available. Without being able to take much of a look at books (and flipping through is especially important with comics, since so much depends on the art), your readers may tend to drift toward keywords and lists of similar books, rather than being able to scan a shelf of covers and pick up things that look interesting on a whim. I know I find fewer new books overall by browsing Amazon than I do in an actual bookstore, and I would be sad if that's what my comic buying experience became as well.

That said, of course, I'd rather you guys get to both keep publishing comics AND eat and live indoors and so on, so it would be better than nothing. Browsing like that is important, though, and it would be sad to lose that.
Feb. 13th, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
Doesn't offer amazon publishers the opportunity to upload sample pages that people can look at?

As to homogenisation because of keywords, well, hypothetically, if I were to search for "fantasy comic", and found a list of fantasy comics, with synopses and sample pages, that would be a HUGE step up from the tiny blurb buried in the back of the Previews catalogue. (I have to decide from that, or any previews I can find online, if I want to have a comic, because my local comic shops don't get the kind of English language comics that might interest me (which are all not superhero/"mainstream") without preorders, what with stocking most of the shops with German language stuff. ;))
Feb. 13th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
It isn't so much that we might make a decision to have Amazon be our primary marketplace, it's that the decision might be being made FOR us by a combination of factors.

I want to support comic book stores, I really do. The point of my post was not to say that I am frustrated and tired with the distribution system and the direct market (I am, but not the point). I wanted to show that there is an emerging, if not totally emerged, competitor for the graphic novel dollar.
Feb. 14th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
Well, I can tell you that I usually get SLG graphic novels from either Amazon.com or your online store (when there's a sale, because otherwise Amazon is cheaper). I have pretty much no choice though. The comic shops in my area rarely get anything from SLG (one of them got Sarah Winchester #1 at least, so that was good). And Barnes and Noble and Borders are a crapshoot with that kind of thing. They might get it, they might not, you just never know (they usually don't though).
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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