Leave it to me to start a publishing company during an economic avalanche and at the same time that print is sounding its death knell. Not to mention that the largest single comics distributor is effectively eliminating the small press from its catalogue( a development that seems to be welcome to everyone but small press publishers).
Yet is strikes me that Rahm Emanuel has it right when he says that every crisis offers an opportunity (or something to that effect) and for those well positioned, now would seem to be the time for the establishment of a serious and distinct small press/alt-comics distributor.
What would that look like? For starters, I imagine an online only catalogue;-a fully functioning, well maintained and attractive website that presents its vendors well and is user-friendly for retailers and potential customers. In order to draw customers to the site it would have to offer at least a few big independent publishers and a number of well-known independent creators. There'd have to be a big promotional push, advertisements and interviews, signings and events.
I'm not a distributor, nor do I know the intricacies of coordinating hundreds of publishers with thousands of retailers. It takes organization, a good chunk of money and decent technology. It takes more than one person in the office. But there are people out there doing this already-it would seem that now is the time to step up the effort and while it sounds crazy, put some money into the enterprise. It might require small press publishers to pay some kind of annual fee-$100. or so-as in a co-op. Obviously this wouldn't cover expenses for the distributor-but it might fund the website. and that's a start.
Easier said than done, no doubt. But as the mainstream has its single source in Diamond, perhaps if there was a single source for alt-comics, interested retailers, art galleries and bookstores would be able to locate and order our work easily.
Freedom from the mainstream might also encourage the cultivation of a broader array of retailers. Jettisoned from comics shops, alt-comics might begin to find a place in galleries, bookstores, coffee shops and other venues. The model exists, undergrounds sold out of head shops-why shouldn't alt-comics sell out of bookstores and art galleries?
My feeling about Ka-Boom ( the POD printer that has recently announced a direct-market distribution service) is that there are too many limitations. Distribution with Ka-Boom requires printing with Ka-Boom and while that works for some things, I couldn't have done "Look Out!Monsters" or "Nice Work" under those circumstances. No, I don't think tying POD to distribution is appropriate to a movement that seeks to break with the norms in all manners of packaging and content.
These are random thoughts, not fully thought out, admittedly--but the important point is that there exists an opportunity in the fallout from this economic wreck. What form it will take-that has yet to be determined. More web-comics? you bet. An "Image"-style publishing house for art-comics? Hey-that's a whole 'nother post. But ideas are flying now--and its time to contribute to the discussion.
While the dust continues to settle-I'll be in Artist's Alley at the NY Comic-Con this week--with the entire line of L.o.M. books--"Look Out!Monsters (made it onto another "best of 08" list! check out Adam McGovern at Comiccritique.com ), Nice Workand Dr. Speck, the all ages alt-comics "super" hero (well-- his head inflates, what kind of power is that?)--and I'm introducing some brand new posters. In these dour times, I'm looking to have some fun--and what better place to find it than at the Javits Center this weekend?