Diamond Agrees to Ship What It Offers

Last year, Diamond Comic Distributors, the company that all comic retailers have to order from, since they exclusively carry DC, Marvel, and Image, raised their order minimums. In short, if a publication that was offered for sale through the Diamond Previews catalog did not get enough orders, Diamond would cancel that offer and not ship the product to retailers. Since many customers preorder from Previews, that means they might order (or even prepay for) something that would never arrive, making for disappointed customers and bookkeeping headaches. Unless they checked the cancellation list several months later, they might not even know why the comic they wanted never showed up.

It was a move that depressed the direct market. Unusual publications (i.e. non-genre, non-superhero, non-licensed) sought out new markets — publishing on the web or targeting bookstores — since they would be less likely to find their audience and were given no time to grow one. Stores that wanted to stock a diverse line of comics and graphic novels found themselves frustrated, since they risked committing their funds to buy something that they’d never get.

Now, Diamond has backed off somewhat on their dictate. Heidi MacDonald reprints an announcement from the distributor that says

Diamond will place a purchase order with a publisher or vendor to fill retailers’ initial orders for any products offered in PREVIEWS, even if those orders fall below Diamond’s minimum purchase order levels. This policy takes effect with product solicited in the January 2010 PREVIEWS. … “We feel that this modification allows us to better serve our retailers so they in turn can better serve their customers,” explained Diamond Vice President of Purchasing Bill Schanes. “If a title or item underperforms, we will still place a purchase order to fill initial orders. We’ll then address our need to avoid unprofitable SKUs by not listing subsequent issues or like products in future issues of PREVIEWS so both retailers and their consumers should order with confidence.”

In other words, if they offer it for sale, they’ll commit to shipping it, even if it doesn’t make them enough money.

So now, if you see WEIRDO COMIC #1 in Previews and it strikes your fancy, you can get a copy. You may never see WEIRDO COMIC #2 … but at least you’ll get what you agreed to buy. Ideally, this will result in more satisfying single packages, including original graphic novels and stand-alone story issues, since the publisher may only get one shot.

2 Responses to “Diamond Agrees to Ship What It Offers”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I’d love to see some hard figures on how much business was lost when Diamond changed policies. Also, once the policy was enforced would like to see how small press publishers never got their books shipped. Of course, Diamond is never going to release that data.

    I’m glad to see Diamond go back to their old policy. I know that I stopped ordering from a couple of small press manga publishers because I didn’t know if the titles would make minimum.

  2. Johanna Says:

    You could get a VERY rough estimate by examining the cancellation lists. Code 3 is “Cancelled by Previews”. That was rarely seen before the policy change and appeared much more frequently afterwards. I believe books that never shipped because they didn’t meet the sales minimum fell in this category.

    As your experience shows, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy and a vicious circle. Books in trouble couldn’t get out of it because of customer uncertainty.




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