Boom! finds a new distribution Haven

Haven Boom Dual Logo

 

There’s something fitting about a publisher named BOOM! being the potential catalyst to blow up (see what I did there) the status quo of the Direct Market ("DM"). This week, BOOM! Studios announced an agreement with Haven Distributors that raises a lot of questions about the current state of the DM and the relationship Diamond has with publishers of varying sizes.
 



The Press Release:

RETAILERS WILL RECEIVE BEST DISCOUNT FOR NEW SHIPPING BOOKS THROUGH HAVEN DISTRIBUTORS

Skokie, IL – May 5th, 2010 – Haven Distribution is proud to announce the deepest discount option available to Direct Market retailers for BOOM! Studios and BOOM Kids! titles.

Starting with BOOM!'s July-shipping books, Direct Market retailers will be able to buy the full line of BOOM! products at 50% off cover. Retailers now have another distribution option to receive the entire line of newly-shipping BOOM! Studios and BOOM Kids! titles and receive the best discount on these books available! In addition, BOOM!'s complete backlist of single issues and trade paperbacks will also be available to order from Haven with that same deep discount.  

Haven Distribution now joins Diamond Comics Distributors in offering the complete line of BOOM! products.

“I am proud to let the Direct Market know that they can order frontlist BOOM! titles at a steeper discount than our competitors and we have no 3% reorder penalty on backlist items," said Haven Distributors Director Lance Stahlberg. "Since we started carrying select BOOM! titles last October, Direct Market retailers have been begging us to expand our offering to BOOM's complete line. We are pleased to announce that now retailers will be able to get the best discount possible on newly- shipping BOOM! titles and be able to order BOOM! backlist single issues, and BOOM! trade paperbacks at a great discount also."

For July shipping BOOM! titles, Haven will be accepting orders starting May 5th. On that date, BOOM!'s full backlist of singles and trades will also be made available.

This newly-struck deal serves as an expansion of the distribution agreement BOOM! announced with Haven last October for second printings and specialty items.  

Haven Distributors is just one of a growing list of distributors offering BOOM! Studios and BOOM Kids! publications. This past summer, BOOM! Studios announced mass market distribution deals with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollinsCanada, with Simon & Schuster distributing BOOM! Studios and BOOM Kids! line of graphic novels in the United States and HarperCollinsCanada distributing in Canada.

Previous to the addition of Simon & Schuster and HarperCollinsCanada, last March BOOM! announced a newsstand distribution deal for their BOOM Kids! line through Kable Distribution Services, Inc., best known amongst comic book fans for distributing Archie Comics throughout North America in the United States and Canada.

The entire BOOM! Studios and BOOM Kids! line of publications are also offered in the direct market by Diamond Comics Distributors.

Retailers needing more information on how to order from Haven Distributors can call 1-877-HAVEN-50 or sign up on their website here: http://www.havendistro.com/retailers.html
 



Why this is a (potentially) big deal

Without getting into a long and drawn out history of the Direct Market (maybe I’ll do that another time, if you’re all interested), suffice to say the current state of affairs positions Diamond Distributors in a dominant position as the de facto sole source supplier for comics and collected editions. While many comics’ fans like to paint Diamond as a villain, the truth is its position evolved largely as a result of actions taken by Marvel and DC. Today, Marvel and DC combine for roughly 80% of sales into the DM, and understandably hold a lot of sway with Diamond as a result. Smaller publishers have struggled to build influence with Diamond, and have really had no choice but to accept Diamond’s policies as there has been no viable alternative if they want to get their books into the hands of comic store owners.

It would be one thing if BOOM! and Haven simply signed this deal as a “me too” but you’ll notice that it’s more than that. The press release highlights how the store owners will get BETTER financial terms if they order from Haven.

•    A bigger discount
•    No reorder penalty

What is BOOM!’s motivation?

I haven’t had the chance to speak to Ross Richie or his team about this decision (although I would like to), but it’s clear that BOOM! is taking an aggressive approach toward getting its product in the hands of end consumers. This isn’t the first time BOOM! has moved to expand the reach of its comics into new markets.

•    Book store distribution deals with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollinsCanada
•    Newsstand distribution through Kable Distribution Services for BOOM! Kids
•    Online distribution deals with most of the leading digital comic initiatives

It’s difficult to quantify the impact these expanded initiatives are having for BOOM!, but you can be sure that collectively they stand an excellent chance of bolstering the company’s reach, longevity and financial well-being. Remember, for as much as we all may love comics from all walks of life, it’s VERY difficult to gain scale in the Direct Market.

Some of you may be wondering why BOOM! is willing to bite the hand that feeds it, when other publishers are loathe to? It’s an excellent question, and one I think is easily understood if you look into the Direct Market sales and market share data. Diamond provides a list of the Top 300 comics and Top 300 collected editions sold into the DM each month. According to the Comics Chronicles website, BOOM! accounted for just 1.41% of sales into the DM in March:

Total Dollars Sold of Top 300 Comics and Collected Editions, March 2010 (In the Direct Market)


Marvel — 49.83%
DC — 29.56%
Dark Horse — 3.75%
IDW — 3.66%
Dynamite — 3.44%
Image — 2.71%
BOOM! — 1.41%
Zenescope — 0.85%
Viz — 0.65%

BOOM! understandably wants and needs to sell more books, and smartly recognizes that its relationship with Diamond by itself isn’t likely to allow that. Having its books in Target and Wal-Mart via Kable, or at Disney theme parks thanks to its Disney/Pixar license, or available in book mass market retailers are all essential to expanding the reach.

Within Diamond, all publishers are not created equally. Marvel and DC are the duopoly that sets the market. As they say, Diamond and the Direct Market goes. Beyond the Big 2 are the “mid-tier” which includes: Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, Image and BOOM! What’s important to remember is that within the mid-tier, Dark Horse, Image and (just recently) IDW get favored status, too. They are Premier Publishers and are afforded prominent placement within the Diamond Previews catalog. Several of them also get larger discounts and retailers aren’t subject to reorder penalties. BOOM! and Dynamite don’t currently have premier status. That’s a key distinction.

Another point to consider is that BOOM! and its BOOM! Kid’s books, as critically acclaimed as they may be, aren’t selling in large quantities in the DM. Whether that’s because store owners are unaware of them, or are put off by the less-than-optimal discounting Diamond provides, or it's simply a function of the DM not being geared toward all-ages and kids’ books, the data is hard to combat.  I took the data from the Diamond 300 Comics list for the first three months of 2010 and looked at the average sales, by publisher, PER BOOK.

Publisher                Average Units/Issue
Marvel                                              27,745
DC                                                    27,440
DC (Ex Vertigo)                              23,882
Dark Horse                                     14,271
Dynamite                                         10.448
Archie                                                 8,967
Image                                                 8,554
Avatar                                                  7,736
IDW                                                     7,520
Aspen                                                 7,107
BOOM!                                                5,463
 

Note: All numbers are approximate and based of data provided by Diamond via its Top 300 lists for January through March, 2010


When you look at the data that way, what does BOOM! really have to lose by challenging the status quo? Given the amount of quality books BOOM! publishes on a monthly basis, it has to be disconcerting to see its average book selling 5K-6K in a Direct Market that has somewhere north of 3,000 retail outlets. Why NOT rock the boat a little?

Now the onus is on Haven to deliver

Haven (formerly Cold Cut) has been trying to emerge as a viable alternative to Diamond for a few years, but has faced challenges scaling its business. Haven has, to this point, largely served the very small press and indie creators who get virtually no attention from Diamond. Marvel and DC have shown no interest and even the middle-tier publishers have stayed away. This move COULD serve as the first step in Haven’s evolution. But the onus is now on them to deliver. They’re offering financial incentives for store owners, but will that be enough? Many owners aren’t going to want the hassle of maintaining another distributor relationship for what amounts to a few extra dollars a month. Haven is also going to need to prove it can handle the logistics that come with pre-ordering higher volume books. The door is now open, but Haven has to walk through it.

I'm not sure how this is going to shake out, because this wouldn't be the first time an announcement of this ilk was all bark and no bite. That said, something about this one feels different. Individually, each of BOOM!'s moves to expand its reach might not seem that significant. But in total, they're trying to disengage themselves from relying on a market that hasn't been optimal for anyone outside of Premier Publisher status. In the coming weeks, I hope to speak to the parties involved, and we'll look at a follow-up article if the opportunity arises. On that front, if any retailers want to share their views on this announcement, and their experience/interest in working with Haven, feel free to contact me directly.
 


Jason is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.

 

Comments

  1. This sounds promising.  Competition is a beautiful thing.  It generally increases quality and/or decreases price.  I like both those things.

    My favorite example of the effect of competition (via MarginalRevolution.com): 
    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2009/08/the-benefits-of-competition.html 
    Atheists offering to take care of pets after the rapture for a nominal fee.    

  2.  Competition drives better prices,Let’s hope this is the case here.I think we can all agree that helping our pocketbook would be a good thing.

  3. Good for BOOM!  They’re a solid company putting out quality product, and if this guarantees that more people will see it, then I’m all for it.

  4. Thanks for this article.  I would be very interested in reading an article on the direct market as you mentioned.  I wonder if other great small publishers will follow suit.  I’d love to see Oni Press gain some more footing as well (but I’m not going to pretend that I know what I’m talking about here). 

  5. @stuclach   That example is hilarious! Supply and Demand, I guess. 🙂    And I agree with the commentors on the site, it is VERY reassuring that they promise NOT to have sex with your pet.

  6. …or eat them!   LOL

  7. I like your Average Units per Issue table, too.  We typically see market share information that is informative, but doesn’t tell the whole story.  Marvel and DC’s actual issues (on average) sale roughly the same number of copies (I’d wager the difference isn’t statistically significant).  Marvel has a higher market share than DC because they put out more comics, not because their individual books are more popular (ignoring selection issues).

    It is also interesting to note (based on the table) that Vertigo books sale more (on average) than DC proper as evidenced by the fact that DC’s average per issue falls when Vertigo is excluded.  That surprises me.

    @AlanRob – I love that example, too.  I use it every chance I get.  Entrepreneurship exemplified. 

  8. Haven has yet to impress me.  They have talked the talk for some time… now BOOM! gives them the opportunity to walk the walk.  Balls in their court.

     

     the Tiki 

  9. it’s interesting. no doubt about it. i with-hold judgement until we see what they can do.

  10. This is very interesting. As a HUGE supporter of a free market fueled with competition, I’m very interested to see where this heads. BOOM! has been a great company with a slew of high quality books. They should be doing much better than they are as far as units sold. Hopefully, this will help them get their books in the hands of the fans.

  11. I’ve been involved with Diamond from both a retailer and creator perspective.  Without going into too much detail, there were more negative experiences than positive ones.  For whatever reason, Diamond has had the entire industry by the balls for far too long.  Haven’s entry can only improve the market as a whole, and I hope they make it.  

  12. Just in time for Stan Lee’s new books with Boom! interesting …