Responding to Johanna Draper Carlson’s criticism of TwoMorrows’ charging to buy their Free Comic Book Day offering online (and the announcement to their offering digital editions of their mags), John Morrows offers an insight into retailer apathy:
With the exception of a handful of the top stores in the country who actually stock our stuff (and achieve pretty nice sales by doing so, thank you very much), our experience is stores, if they carry our magazines at all, only order enough for their pull lists, without a single extra copy on the shelf for a potential new reader/customer to discover.
Over the last three months, we did a mass mailing to over 1500 comics shops, offering a free TwoMorrows Sample Kit, with a free copy of each of our mags for them to display, to see how they sell. You’d think a lot of stores would jump at getting $40 worth of free stuff to sell, no strings attached. Exactly 60 of them took us up on the offer (that’s less than 4% of shops). In 2006, we did a similar offer by phone, calling 500 shops, and got 18 stores who wanted the freebies (3.6%).
Hopefully those will result in some new regular customers for them (and us). But if less than 4% of the country’s comic shops display our wares, we’re never going to increase our circulation that way. Diamond, with rare exceptions, won’t fill retailers’ reorders for our magazines, due to Diamond’s seemingly arbitrary dollar order minimums (I still can’t get a straight answer out of anyone at Diamond as to what those amounts are on our magazines.) So we have to get creative in finding other ways to build our audience.
That said, at least Diamond carries TwoMorrows work, which is more than can be said for Comic Foundry, as Tim Leong points out:
Diamond has chosen not to carry Comic Foundry Magazine… According to Diamond: “a B&W title at the price you’re using just won’t work well in the current market we believe.” Fact: our cover price is $6.25 for an 80-page B&W magazine. Now they might not think that will sell, but it isn’t consistent with what they’re already approving. Such as Issue 14 of Draw! magazine, that’s 80 pages, B&W and retails for $6.95. Same with issue 15 of Write Now! Both same specs, but 70 cents more.
I called Diamond for more clarification and spoke with Tim Huckelbery, who let me know the news in the first place. He said, among other things, “When I was looking though it and reading a magazine of that type, which is about comics, which has lots of images of comics characters, that is looking to be timely and topical, I was expecting color. That, just for me, is how my brain is wired.” So, to be a timely magazine with topical content (and feature images of comic characters) it has to be in color? I’m sorry, I’ve thought about this all afternoon, and I don’t really see how this makes sense. What about The Comics Journal or Comics Buyers Guide? Neither of those are full-color, right?
…Diamond is the major distributor in comics. Without being in Previews means a serious hurt in circulation. Can the magazine survive without Diamond? I certainly hope so. I’ve got a will, I’m just looking for a way.
In the interests of full disclosure, Tim’s a friend and I’ve seen pages from the first issue of the print Comic Foundry; it’s pretty damn impressive, doesn’t feel as if it’s lacking for not being in full color, and is something that I’d like to see on the market. Diamond, not for the first time here? You’re kind of wrong.