- Posted by Johanna on August 30, 2007 at 6:46 am
- Category: Graphic Novel News
Gary Reed, former publisher of Caliber Comics, has announced the formation of Transfuzion Publishing in conjunction with Rafael Nieves (who, according to the PR, “has been published by Marvel, Moonstone, Caliber, and Slave Labor and was involved in the publishing end for both Comico and Moonstone”).
What makes this publisher different is their release plan. They’re selling their books (not stapled comics) direct-only — and not direct market, but direct to customer. As the press release says,
The company initially will release its titles for direct ordering and will not be offered for solicitation via Diamond Comic Distributors. Sales will be available from the various creators, from the Transfuzion website, and other avenues currently being set up.
That’s kind of nebulous, especially that last part about “other avenues”. I’m not clear on what makes this effort different from any webcomic creator releasing collections through Lulu.com. Except for the principals’ years of experience, which means that they’re sitting on a backlog of out-of-print material that they hope still has some interested readers. Why’d they choose this route?
“It’s a simple goal,” said Reed. “We think that there is a market for these books but the direct market is restrictive. From what I’m reading and hearing from retailers is that there is just too much product and of course, most of it designed around spandex. We think there are other avenues…whether libraries, schools, online retailers like Amazon, whatever.”
Transfuzion is not looking to bypass the direct market but as Reed explains, “the simple fact is that the books wouldn’t get a lot of support in the direct market and to be honest, we’re not in a position to provide them with a lot of support in terms of advertising, marketing, and other promotional venues. We’re not stupid. If any retailers or distributors want to carry our books, we’ll do everything that’s economically feasible to do so.”
It’s good to see a publisher realize that promotion and marketing is essential to create success, but I’m confused why Reed thinks that books sold directly don’t need just as much (or even more) promotion. Simply getting listed on Amazon won’t magically bring sales. Of course, when they’re making convention appearances or otherwise hand-selling, they can speak directly to customers, which will help. And sales don’t seem the only goal for them, so long as the material is back in print.
Transfuzion is structured on the principle that it must prove itself in terms of production, sales, and demand before venturing into the more costly distribution of the direct market. … Reed concurred, “the last thing I think the direct market wants is a bunch of collections of older edition comics which is essentially what we’re starting off with.”
Both Reed and Nieves were adamant about Transfuzion being an outlet but not something that they plan on being exclusive with. Nieves, who has a publishing history with Moonstone, sees Transfuzion as an opportunity outside of his regular work. “Over the years, I’ve had many requests to reprint some of my earlier work, much of which has not seen print in years. Transfuzion allows me that opportunity, finally, to re-present stuff that I’ve done, and repackage it in a format that makes it more… special, I guess is the word, without the constriction and restriction of newsstand or comic shop sales.” Reed said that while he will publish a great deal of information via Transfuzion, he will still seek other outlets. “I still have Deadworld with Desperado and I’m looking to place some projects with other publishers or do freelance work for hire, so Transfuzion is not my exclusive domain.”
There’s more information available at the press release link above. At least they’re clear-eyed about it all:
If we don’t think the books can sell well enough to print a minimum order, then why even go through the printing to sell a few measly copies direct? That’s a valid point. Chalk it up to ego in some cases. None of us are ashamed to admit that. But the primary reason is that we do think we can sell books. Maybe just not in the direct market. I can’t speak for all the other creators involved but for me, I have found that I don’t have a big presence in the direct market. I can live with that and I even “get” that. However, I have found that I do good sales directly to fans (why they don’t order from stores is beyond me) and I sell well on the Internet.
Reed continues on to tell a story about offering retailers free promotional material and no one taking him up on it, which is a pretty harsh clue. So they’re going to take a flyer on making more material available elsewhere. With print-on-demand, if fewer customers are willing to pay higher prices, they don’t even risk much of anything. They’ve launched with five books with more than 20 to follow.
With such a low-key start, I suspect “no one is talking about us” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But this seems more and more a sensible strategy (not the below-the-radar bit, the “who needs the direct market?” part). It seems the direct market doesn’t serve anyone but superhero publishers any more. So this may turn out to be a very smart publisher decision.