"Kowalski, status report."
"I am randomly pushing buttons as we spin out of control."
"Can I push one? It'll make me feel better."
--The Penguins Of Madagascar
Hanging out with some people online, a dead pool was recently started for how long until Diamond bites the dust. The big publishers aren't going anywhere, not with their alternate distribution deals in place. Marvel and DC still have newsstands, so they can still get their product out (and will probably use that as a loophole to get around their exclusivity clause in the event Diamond goes under). Dark Horse has some problems, but they do have the Star Wars license. There are people who will buy ANYTHING Star Wars, and with Diamond out of the way, the profit margin gets bigger, so they should be fine.
Image? I'm not so sure about. Their solicitations for monthly books is just barely in the double digits. They are in a more flexible position as far as reorders go, since, being independent, they can go back to press as many times as they want. But 1) they will emphasize the first print run, since keeping things in print lowers the profit margin, and 2) they don't have anything to fall back on if Diamond goes under. I am truly worried that when Diamond crashes and burns, it will take Image with them. It doesn't help that Image is losing marketshare. Remember the early 90's, when Image had more than Marvel did? IDW is stealing market share from them with titles that play like the days of the Indy Explosion (John Sable - Freelance, for example). In fact, it's amazing how many revivals of old titles or repackages of titles (American Flagg, Badger, Archer And Armstrong) are hitting shelves now. Comic fans are looking for books to READ instead of a sequence of events to keep track of (Final Crisis, Secret Invasion). And that goes for Dark Reign, too. Sorry, Marvel, I know how to write dark and depressing. UR DOING IT WRONG.
In the few weeks after Diamond announced its new standards, titles started dropping like flies. Several graphic novels got killed off, as well. There's an uneasy symbiosis going on right now. A lot of stores overextended themselves ordering from Diamond, and Diamond let them skate for a while. So upping the minimum provides a better profit margin in case the stores go under and take the money they owe with them. This also means fewer competing titles that might not sell, just titles nearly guaranteed to sell. But stores are going under as well, now. And some of the ones Diamond is putting its foot down with aren't able to pony up, putting them between a rock and a hard place. Diamond recently downsized its staff, so even the new standards aren't helping. The publishers aren't helping with series that only reward people who've been reading comics for years and no jumping on point for new readers. No new readers equals death. I see it happen so often with sci-fi writers who only focus on their little group of guaranteed buyers that, when they do fall away, either by getting out of the fandom or dying off, they find their stuff won't sell anymore.
Haven is being pretty casual and not exactly adapting to position themselves as the big alternative to Diamond. And even if they did, if shops go under, they won't be able to sell anything anyway.
Shops are bitching that, if they want to maintain their customers, they now need to deal with two distributors, Diamond and Haven, instead of just one. Oh, boo hoo. There were shops dealing with five distributors during the black and white boom (I know. I went to one). You want to keep your customers? You know, the ones like me that will actually PAY $5 FOR A COMIC BOOK?!? Suffer, bitches.
Everyone has gotten complacent. This little business model that shut out the new in favor of this publishing ivory tower is falling apart. And they're getting no sympathy from people like me who have seen friends go under because of late payments or never get a chance because of the "bad reputation" of self-publishers. The logic goes like this: "We can't order from self-publishers, because we don't know if they'll actually ship the books. We only have so much money to order books with, and if they don't ship, they we've lost out on putting the money with other books that actually ship and sell. If we knew they would ship, we'd be more willing to take a chance on them." Which is bullshit. Dabel Brothers finally released issue #3 of The Dresden Files after months of delay. There are self-publishers who make deadline and ship, and there are publishers who appear to have it together who blow it. But the publishers' sins are forgiven and forgotten while the self-publishers get nailed.
Self-publishers will soon be the only game in town for indies, anyway. With the Image Explosion and books shipping late or being cancelled for low orders, a publisher became a quality assurance seal -- we'll make sure we have the whole series ready to go and that it will ship and not get cancelled. We won't let you down. But now, with publishers getting walled out by Diamond and its minimum order numbers, they can't solicit anyway. There is no longer an advantage to getting a publisher behind your book. You might as well work the phones, get the books printed in China for $.50 a piece, and do it yourself. Not only does that put you in a better position since you determine your minimum numbers, but you aren't cutting the swag with someone else.
They're just trying to stay in business. They won't be for long.