PvP Goes It Alone for Publishing, Leaves Diamond as Well

Comic Book Resources has the press release: Scott Kurtz’s popular webcomic PvP will no longer be releasing print collections through Image Comics. Instead, he’ll be self-publishing and selling books through his site store. It’s a natural change for such a visible webcomic leader, since many other strips do the same thing, and without another hand in the pie, the books can be more easily profitable.

More interesting to me was this second part of the announcement:

Sales through brick-and-mortar stores are declining and online sales are increasing…. Although Kurtz has no immediate plans to offer future collections through Diamond, he’s still eager to work with interested retailers.

Like other publishers (although the circumstances there are very different), Kurtz doesn’t think he needs to work with the monopoly comic market distributor to succeed. By extension, he’s also willing to go without widespread comic shop placement. And he’s right — he’s reaching his readers directly. They read him online, so why not let them shop online and eliminate the middlemen? Or they buy from him at conventions, where they can get signatures and sketches — he’s debuting his eighth book (which was self-published) at San Diego. The best comic shops, those who are willing to work with multiple distributors and directly with publishers, will still carry him, but the smaller places who only sell what Diamond sends them, will miss out.

One does wonder what this, if it becomes a trend, means for Diamond Comic Distributors? Of course they’ll continue with the big superhero and licensed comic publishers that populate the front of their monthly catalog, but the most exciting work these days is coming from either determined self-publishers like Kurtz, who’ve found their own way forward, or from traditional book publishers, who have their own, more reliable distribution systems. The more people leave the system — and succeed when doing so — the less necessary Diamond looks overall. I wonder what internal conversations there are like these days.

7 Responses to “PvP Goes It Alone for Publishing, Leaves Diamond as Well”

  1. Richard J. Marcej Says:

    Actually on the surface this kind of reminds me of Blockbuster Video.

    During the height of video rentals, Blockbuster ran smaller rental companies out of business and became the “leader” in this service. Because of this, they “ruled” with an iron fist brandishing about, leveling late fees, declaring what movies would be included in their inventory, etc…

    Now, within the last few years, with brick & mortar rental stores like Blockbuster falling out of favor thanks to online business like Netflix, the once mighty Blockbuster has been scrambling, desperately, to grab back their customers. But, thanks in part to the bad will they’d built up over the years, they have little or no customer loyalty.

    I can see this same scenario playing out with small/independent publishers and Diamond. Diamond ruled with a monopolistic fist in the 1990’s- early ’00’s, catering to the large companies and making the small venues jump through hoops.

    Now, the tide has turned and with the small publishers, frustrated with lack of cooperation and opportunity through Diamond, have embraced other venues like the internet, to distribute and sell their product. While Diamond will see their distributing practice, to b&n shops, begin to shrink thanks to the new technology and internet competition.

    Perhaps if they had worked more with the independent publishers, the groups where most of the new and exciting creative works were coming from, there may have been enough of a good will working partnership that could have held off the new distributing venues (well, at least for awhile , anyway).

    (hey, sorry to be so long winded).

  2. Torsten Adair Says:

    A few comments:
    If PvP does not use trade distribution, then that makes it harder for libraries to acquire copies. Smarter libraries use local comics shops to help select titles, but if the shop doesn’t stock the title…?

    Jimmy Gownley did this a year ago, when he closed up his Renaissance Press imprint and moved to Simon & Schuster’s Atheneum imprint.

    Diamond is getting squeezed from both sides:
    a) small publishers going off to the web to promote and sell comics better than Diamond can;
    b) large publishers moving to companies which can do a better job of selling and marketing titles to bookstores and libraries. The learning curve for selling graphic novels has plateaued. Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan know how to sell graphic novels;
    c) large publishers are also DISTRIBUTING their own digital copies via other methods. Diamond does not have an ereader app. It does not have a retail component. It does not distribute digital files. They could invest in one of the digital distributors, but that raises some interesting questions from retailers (and possibly regulators).

    With the many small presses they distribute to the book trade, is Diamond “too big to fail”?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Richard, not at all. It’s a good point, that sometimes companies have long memories and actions can have effects over time.

    Torsten, another excellent point, to consider all your potential customers. Libraries do have specific rules about who to buy from, don’t they?

    They used to say if Diamond went down, they’d take the whole comic market with them. I don’t think it’s Diamond Books that’s the concern — but if something happened, an awful lot of comic shops wouldn’t be able to survive without the weekly superhero shipments.

  4. Tim Gagne Says:

    Do these little books matter to Diamond’s overall bottom line? No matter how proud a creator is about their work, I don’t think leaving Diamond is damaging Diamond very much. It is basically a win win. Creator makes more and Diamond will make more by not having to process orders on marginal sellers. If a creator has cultivated a solid fan base, the fans will find the books. The only people losing out are the handful of retailers who may be selling the books with any success, and there is certainly no lack of material for them to make up the loss.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Will any one publisher matter? No, but each one is one more leak in the well. Enough drops, and it goes dry. Diamond has for years been a one-stop shop, but now, to get some publishers, retailers have to go elsewhere. The more they have to do that, the more they’re encouraged to seek out better deals and take business elsewhere.

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