Controlling the Distribution

It’s 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 convention sales directly to the customer. Of course, I never got news coverage for doing so, but you know… they’re known in the industry and I’m not.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about comic book distribution lately. The direct market is ever more hostile to indie, non-superhero books. Amazon takes 55% of every sale, then asks you to ship them two books at a time, which even at USPS media mail rates wipes out the narrow profit you might have had above printing costs, so that’s out.

As one of my previously-mentioned dozen-or-so creative project ideas, I had recently started to gauge interest in a “CDBaby for comics” site, with orders fulfilled either by me for a fee or by the creators/publishers for only the cost of the transaction. Seemed like a service that I might use if someone else created it.

Then I found out about Amazon’s new CreateSpace print-on-demand service, which blew away that idea.

CreateSpace is more or less built for B&W graphic novels and RPG books (although there are a couple of good indie RPG distribution sites already). The pricing scheme simply doesn’t work for prose novels or color comics. But for B&W comics… let me put it this way: if this had been around four years ago, Shaenon probably would have bypassed me and used CreateSpace for Narbonic. Her share per book would only be slightly less than what she’s getting now.

Actually, the pricing isn’t much better than the previous kings of online POD, CafePress. The formula for finding the break-even point at CreateSpace is .02p + 3.15 = .7n, where p = the number of pages, versus .03p + 7 = n for CafePress. If you plug in the stats for a test case or two, you’ll find that you’ll only save a buck or less per copy at CreateSpace.

The difference is the service behind it. With CreateSpace, you get to list your book on — customers can wish-list your item, order it with free shipping, stumble upon it while browsing, etc. That’s a huge advantage. And on top of that, there is no risk or hassle of paying up front for a printer or fulfilling your own orders.

What’s more, indie publishers like Oni have been publishing in smaller sizes to save on printing costs, but since CreateSpace charges the same price for every size, you can go full size without worry.

Assuming CreateSpace’s print quality and customer service are decent, I may never pay to publish another comic after Narbonic vols. 5 and 6. Even if I take another crack at self-publishing, I may just go with Amazon’s print on demand.

One Response to “Controlling the Distribution”

  1. […] Mike Barklage points out the value of Amazon’s new Print-on-Demand service. […]