Transfuzion Avoids the Direct Market

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”).

Transfuzion logo

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.

Similar Posts: Transfuzion Launches, Plans Changed § ComicsPRO Requests End to Some Convention Sales § Minx Selling More in Direct Market? § Publishers Respond to Con Sales Debate § Marvel Chooses New Distributor for Bookstore Market, Dumps Diamond Books


14 Responses to “Transfuzion Avoids the Direct Market”

  1. Wesley Green Says:

    I think Gary makes some very valid points from the standpoint of an indy publisher in today’s market. As a new-ish indy publisher myself, I’ve designed my business model so that Diamond is just part of the equation not the answer. With Marvel and DC flooding the market, retailers only have so much to spend- and that includes those “indy-friendly retailers”. So indy publishers are put in the position where we have to take advantage of every distribution channel there is. I wouldn’t be surprised if more indy publishers make the web their number 1 method of distribution in a handful of years.

    Wesley Craig Green, publisher
    Ambrosia Publishing

  2. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    I think that Nieves was involved with Tales from the Heart — if this gets that in print as a collection, I’m there. I don’t care what hoops I have to go through to get it.

  3. Dan Vado Says:

    Rafael Nieves was the co-writer of Tales from the Heart (SLG was the publisher). I have wanted to do a collection of this series for years, however Rafael’s co-writer has not responded to any of my queries about reprinting this. One would assume she is looking for a bigger book deal just like everyone else is. From the SLG end there has always been a willingness to collect this material altogether. In our warehouse somewhere are two book collections we did do years ago, if we can find copies we will put them up on our site for sale.

    To comment on the direct-to-consumer initiative, all I can say is I understand the motivation. Honestly, on our nearly 22 years of publishing I have never felt a greater sense of disconnect from the direct market than I feel right now. I don’t think I am alone in that feeling. Yet, the audience is out there based on our web sales and our sales at conventions.

    Things have gotten to the point where I am researching buying our own print-on-demand equipment to keep some of our stuff out there and to develop new creators.

  4. David Oakes Says:

    Wow.

    And I mean that as more than just “Dan Vado is going to spend a lot of money on the industry so I don’t have to.” This excites me more than ll the universes, gladitorial events, television licenses, and celebrity authors put together, and turned to 11.

    You go, Dan!

  5. Joe Williams Says:

    As much as people complain about “event fatigue” I haven’t seen enough people add up the numbers and realize that what DC and Marvel are doing with their massive flood of new titles, variant covers, crossovers, events and reprints is what they’ve always done- try to flood the market to prevent other publishers from gaining a toe-hold (while also maximizing short-term profits for their investors of course).

    It’s been disappointing as a fan and a creator to see over the last 10 years the market recover from the dire 90s but yet the wealth and breadth of material available doesn’t seem to find it’s way onto shelves at any of my local stores which were much more supportive of indy comics 10-15 years ago than they seem to be today because they are ordering so much Marvel and DC they don’t have any money left over to order stuff from the non-exclusives (and let’s face it the exclusivity doesn’t help since retailers realize they’ll make more money selling another copy of Justice League than they would an issue of Optic Nerve).

    It’s amazing to me that I could find a lot more Slave Labor comics at my local shops 10 years ago when their quality and output wasn’t near what it is today (outside one or two books perhaps) and yet the industry seems to shove them aside. DM shops are a closed circle which is cannibalizing itself while people applaud at how much DC and especially Marvel are eating- paying no attention to how little of the corpse is left!

    Meanwhile Slave Labor and other publishers threaten to actually increase the audience for comics but the system is trying to squeeze them out- in the end it may be a good thing when SL and other publishers find a way around the Diamond choke hold but like all such transitions it will surely leave some in the dust and it doesn’t have to happen but that would require people thinking of the long-term health of the industry instead of their next quarter profits and continuing their monopolies.

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 6, 2007: Heidi in the bubble Says:

    [...] “Things have gotten to the point where I am researching buying our own print-on-demand equipment to keep some of our stuff out there and to develop new creators.” – SLG Publishing founder Dan Vado [...]

  7. Jed Walls Says:

    This is another classic example of “if you build it, they won’t come.”

    These new systems sound fantastic, but until we are able to make a claim to legitimacy the indy publisher is all but shut out of market share dollars.

    What I see here is that people will go for older titles they’ve been dying to see … what will draw them to new titles?

    Jed Walls

  8. Blog@Newsarama » Quote, Unquote Says:

    [...] SLG Publisher Dan Vado [...]

  9. mikebarklage.com » Blog Archive » Controlling the Distribution Says:

    [...] heartening to discover that other publishers are adopting the Barklage Comic Distribution Plan, bypassing the direct market and other mainstream distribution outlets in favor of website and [...]

  10. Gary Reed Says:

    Wow…not sure how I missed all of this, but I did.

    I know it’s rather late but I’d like to respond to a few things before I comment overall.

    Johanna said…”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.

    Fair enough in questioning that. But we’re not relying on simply listing on Lulu and driving customers there from our websites. We plan to promote to libraries and I have done a number of library visits and talks to get a good idea what goes on there and I have a good presence in many of them (mainly for the Penguin graphic novel adaptations). I’ve done book trade shows and while I don’t believe the “book market” is the panacea that so many others do (I’ve dealt with them many times…the returns can eat you alive), it can be a useful avenue. The major focus will be promoting the “genre” aspect of the different titles. For example, Jack the Ripper and Red Diaries to sites, stores, and other parties interested in mystery and crime. That’s a simple example and undoubtedly, will have to expend energy and creativity in developing those areas. But the comic shops are already a special interest avenue…and that’s superheroes. Sure, there are exceptions but you can never plan on being an exception.

    Also, by other avenues, it means digital distribution in the many differnt ways developing and exploitation, of course.

    Johanna said…”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, we know that. But spending money in the direct market seems to be a total waste. Not promoting in one market doesn’t negate promoting in another.

    Since this was announced, we are now being offered by Diamond (February releases) but Wesley summed it up perfectly…Diamond is part of the equation and not the answer. I have no animosity about the whole situation…it’s just the way it is.

    Dan’s right about Tales from the Heart. It would make a wonderful collection and if ever came to pass, I think it should be a Slave Labor book as they’re the ones that took the initial chance on unknown creators and an untypical storyline.

    And Dan is also right (he’s right a lot)about the polarization of the market nowadays. So, Dan if you do get some print on demand equiptment, I know a publisher who might give you some business…

    To Jed…I think most of the publishers interested in the different avenues could give a shit about market share. Marvel and DC have to please stockholders, they’re trapped in the same corporate grab all public companies have to do…not just survive but grow or else heads will roll.

    I was never a big believer in “sales”—to me, the profit was always more important. A lot of times, that’s two different games being played in the same market.

    I discuss things a bit more in my blog which is at http://reedgary.blogspot.com/

    Thanks Johanna.

  11. Jed Walls Says:

    Cool! Just eliminate the word “market share” out of my argument and allow my question to still stand.

    How could this method be used to attract people to new titles?

  12. Transfuzion Launches, Plans Changed » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] August, I covered Transfuzion Publishing’s first announcement, in which they declared their intention to avoid Diamond Distribution and sell direct to [...]

  13. Red Flag Publishing » Blog Archive » Name dropping myself Says:

    [...] came across another mention of my name from a while ago of which I was previously unaware. It seems a comment I made at the Comics Worth Reading blog was picked up by the author of the SLG LiveJournal: “As much as people complain about [...]

  14. Brian Germain Says:

    From the sounds of things Gary’s Transfusion is still direct market just not direct market through Diamond. In essence Transfusion is it’s own distributor. distributing to patrons and retailers alike, and well before mass distribution this is how it was done and it seemed to workj pretty well for the comic market. I would like to leave you all with this final thought. if everyone didn’t buy their comics from diamond then diamond wouldn’t be able to rape eveyone with their insanely high prices and insanely erratic policies, let alone the amount that they want to take from the creator which causes those insanely high prices. But people do so Good Job Diamond that’s just good business sense keep up the great work and keep raking in the dough.

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