Crowdsourcing has reinvigorated comics, games, and media of every kind... But can it do more?
Welcome to Vivid's new Dealer system. http://www.vividpub.com/Dealers.php
So, how exactly is this thing supposed to work, and what is it for?
We'll begin with purpose.
The retail situation for independent comic creators is awful.
In the Ancient of Days, I wrote about the fatally crippled mainstream market for comics: http://vividstuff.blogspot.com/2008/12/article-3-score-one-for-idiocy-aka.html
We needed a new market. One that served the interests of readers and creators, instead of entrenched middlemen. And lo:
Patreon was born.
Freed from the shackles of dying, endlessly cycling universes, a webcomic supernova of creativity has exploded online. It is now more viable to forge a career with Kickstarter than with Marvel.
And, of course, the mainstream comic market has deftly adapted to the changing times just as-
Ha, I kid. They learned nothing.
Locked with Diamond, unable to tap into the new wave of content, they're fading. At a time when webcomics are more popular than ever before, comic shops are withering.
But should creators even care about stores anymore? With our shiny online careers, why pursue dusty old bookshelves?
Stores do matter.
Our online careers are engaged with only the most proactive fragment of customers: Those who take action to seek and support what they like. Perhaps the vast majority of potential consumers are passive- they won't know what they want until they hear their friends talking, and then see it on a shelf. A functioning retail market means, for creators, the difference between surviving and thriving.
I tried other avenues for store placement- but the main player in that distribution field, Ingram, won't accept inventory from publishers with less than $50K in backlist sales annually. And their print-on-demand scheme, like most, has cost margins that do more to fleece authors than sustain them. Ingram is another behemoth of a company, set up to work with heavyweight publishers- not attuned to a fleet of nimble, independent creative entities.
We could always sit down and phone local bookstores and comic shops ourselves, individually- one at a time, and set up accounts with all of them, and... Probably never draw another comic panel again. For such a venture to succeed would require enormous amounts of time- and time is the lifeblood of a comic. Too much drained, and it's over.
So the comic market is locked behind a distribution monopoly with exclusivity contracts- and the consolidating book market is operating at a scale that prohibits entry. The retail market is built for a handful of aging star destroyers- and we're an armada of X-wings. But we can- and must- make an assault run.
Distribution is our doorway from subculture to culture.
Lock S-foils in attack position.
Imagine a world where your local stores stock exactly what you think they should. You, and other engaged, high-information high-motivation consumers.
No longer are middlemen and corporate goons setting your entertainment table. Flip it! What if we set the table? What oddball gems might we find- gems discovered by our fellow readers?
Crowdsourcing has forever changed the face of funding for artists. And with the current retail situation staring us down? That's a face to change if I ever saw one.
Readers are the ones who drive growth anyways- why shouldn't they benefit from it? Why rely on slow, centralized business models when decentralized independent agents can take action more effectively?
That would be good for creators, good for readers, and good for store-owners.
I'd like tons of comic creators to try this approach- if we all band together, we can create more than comics. We can create a new future.
The Vivid Dealer system is pretty simple. It incorporates the #ComicShopList, which I'll detail next. But first the basics.
Thanks to some badass Kickstarters, I have inventory available that I can offer discounted. Distributors have dropped the ball, so I'm offering these distribution discounts to- you. Anyone. Store owners are welcome to participate directly in the Dealer System if they want.
Anyone that buys five or more copies of a single title can snag the discount. And what they do from there?
Whatever they want.
They can sell to friends. Sell to stores. Deal at conventions. Gift to people around the holidays. Send to reviewers. Keep them- once I ship the books to the Dealer, they're free to do anything they want. (Except return them- that could get complicated, so I'm just saying no returns. Don't bite off more than you can chew.)
It's easy to dump on comic shops for staying within a dying monopoly- after all, they charted this path. But now they don't have many viable escape routes.
Only Diamond is allowed to distribute Marvel and DC titles- who deliberately flooded competition off the shelves. More detail in my 'Comic Industry' articles ( http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/Articles.html ) but to summarize:
For years, comic shops have been force-fed superhero dreck. Now the dwindling shop customers come only for superhero dreck- and, pointedly, nothing else.
Shops that try to stock new titles, indie content, variety- well, it's a huge risk. Every new title eats up shelf space. It's blocking the tenuous IV drip of superhero sales keeping them alive.
Will fresh content attract new customers before that blocked IV kills them?
Usually, no. Attracting new readers requires investment- and it takes time, and money.
Most comic shops simply can't afford to try. And so the glittering, growing party online of new comics and readers is happening entirely outside of the slowly crumbling brick-and-mortar world.
But what if comic shops had access to all of those titles online- with no up front cost, and sacrificing zero shelf space?
Here's my idea for #ComicShopList. It's simple.
One three-ring binder in every store. Filled with these. http://www.vividpub.com/images/Dealers/Print/ComicShopList%20copy.jpg
Store owners can look up anything online, print off one page, and boom. They have something on their table to talk with customers about. And, even better- they can ask the customers to bring their own recommendations.
Retailers can set their own minimum number of pre-orders necessary to place an order. Customers who want that order have an incentive to get their friends signed up. And, just like that, you have a system that plays to the strengths of a physical location- the ability to flip through options, browse, converse, and incentives for people to interact with each other in regard to the market content.
You don't need to be a Vivid Dealer to use this idea- What if everyone used it?
One binder, and a world of options opening up for comic shops. Finally.
I hope to produce a video in 2017 about the #ComicShopList and make a more concerted campaign, but for now I wanted to at least drop it in the mix with our new Dealer System.
Speaking of which, the devil is below:
Dealer System Details:
Shipping is free to Dealers in the continental US- at least for now. I may tweak things as time goes on if we need to.
How will taxes and legal stuff work for this?
Well, the same way it does when I sell books to people normally. Only I'm selling five of them instead of one of them. I still do my own taxes, and Dealers do theirs- just remember to report your income when you make money. If there are any updates with paperwork stuff, I'll e-mail active Dealers.
Not all Vivid titles are available now- only books we can offer solid discounts for. Others are print-on-demand only, and we don't have the inventory to work with. As we run out of existing stores, current titles might be taken off the Dealer stock list. The Dealer system will be open to all Vivid titles, not just Dreamkeepers- any creators who want to be included are welcome. We'll update the Dealer page as titles enter or leave availability.
Vivid will ship inventory from Amazon once a month, during the first week of every month. Dealers will get an e-mail notification with tracking info when their stock ships.
So, to participate- just use the Paypal button on the Dealer page. Order minimum 5 each of any titles you're interested in. Wait for your books to arrive. Then-
You did it.
Anyone is welcome to participate casually, and see how it goes. But for the resolute, I have rewards set up: http://www.vividpub.com/Tiers.php
The most formidable Dealers can rise to the level of Agents, at which point we'll try giving them an annual marketing budget and see what happens.
This system might start small. Most things do.
But what if it could completely change the model for physical book distribution? What if this could be the future of comics- a market for creators and readers, where readers hold all the power, call the shots, and benefit from it? What if we're starting something awesome?
One way to find out.