94 Reviews and Distribution Developments

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By Ian Shires

I mentioned in the opening editorial that I will be starting up doing reviews in the magazine. Hopefully, I will have some publications in and be able to start next issue. I will do everything in my power to get as many books reviewed as are released and sent to us. I will be employing a short review format, giving a basic “Is this book worth buying? If not, what needs improving?” type of review. The part of this that I did not get into up front, was what else we can do with the review entry.

It takes exactly the same amount of work to enter a book into our shopping cart system, as it does to just do a review. And it takes exactly as much time to put in an external URL to where the publisher has the book for sale as it would for us to have the book available for direct sale at our website. We also can allow members to have their own site with products that also appear in our shopping system.

So, this raises a number of questions about how we can grow this. Right now, I am only adding books to forward to publisher’s choice of URL, so no matter if it’s their own site, Comixology, Drive-Thru or Indyplanet, we can list it, people can find it, and they can go get it. To add these other layers will take some structuring of a new distribution model, one that accomodates ANY choice, need, or whim of the publisher, while still maintaining a single source of SHOPPING for the customer. One place to find out about books, no matter how they are available.
If I open up to allow shoppers to download other people’s books from the main “global” shopping cart, all I have to do is set what rate I want to keep. (I am thinking just 5%, because I want as much profit to go to the publisher as possible. I would use the 5% for hosting. Data space and transfer is fairly cheap; I think 5% will cover it.) I would keep track of those sales, make reports available, and allow publishers to use their profits on account have them paid out on request, etc.

I have already set up publisher-controlled sites; they’re available now. It costs $5 a year for an SPA membership, and you can have a site, upload your own books, and make physical copies available (more on printing in a sec), etc., any way you want. The cart will collect 1% from each transaction to send to Dimestore, for the same reason as the 5% above… but since there is no work done on our part past software maintenance, we’re leaving more profit for the publisher. People can also upgrade their sites to include more software for a little more, but $5 a year is pretty good for a website you can do anything with. That is also membership-wise, networked with peers and the whole Indyfest thing. We are truly building our own social media center.
Printing. No matter what the digital revolution does, people still want physical copies, and collecting does not seem to be going away. POD printing makes it easier to have printed copies of publications available to sell at shows, and maybe, to a number of stores you develop relationships and audiences with. Real distribution on a profitable scale is a much harder animal to crack. Right now, you have Diamond. So, yeah. I have run printing for other publishers in the past, and have no intention of rejoining that fray myself, though I would love to find a partner solution that can handle both individual sale and ship-to situations for Indyfest and its members, as well as larger drop-ship to retailers, in a way that will enable us to build a real alternative to Diamond.

I have hopes to get into real talks with King Chan and his Underground Distribution Catalog project, which… didn’t get funded on Kickstarter, and I’m unclear of its status right now. Developing a full system that handles both digital delivery and store delivery of physical copies, that has a promotional magazine to introduce the new to the readers, and carries a new and back issue catalog of what’s available, one that works for customers AND retailers… It’s doable, but it will be tough, and it needs the right people doing the right things.

I have seen a hundred efforts come and go, and have been in the middle of or running a number of them myself. I know what can work and what won’t. Our collective goal should be to have this all be run at a level that puts the publishers first, because if they can’t survive financially, the coolest comics will just disappear. I’ve seen it happen, time and again. That or they get involved with bigger publishers and become corporate, which hey, more power to them, but it certainly isn’t Indy anymore.

Without a small press, introductory level, hobby level, we all lose out. If it’s be pro out the gate or be laughed at, then we have no community. It becomes a good ol’ boys’ club and that’s bad. We must champion learning, growth, and acceptance of newcomers.

Point of this article: We’re going to be working on new developments. We hope you will get behind them and help them succeed, for all the right reasons, and for the good of all. To get into the review system, start here:


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