Self-Publishing: Distribution

Adam Swan, February 12, 1996

Terms: Dollars and Sense

Comics are purchased by the distributor at 60% off of the cover price. The distributor keeps 5% to 15% for the handling of the book, then sells to the retailer at 45% to 55% of the cover price. Retailers work on a 100% markup, or about a 50% margin.

To use COLD EDEN as an example:

COLD EDEN costs $2.35 US in the States.

  • The consumer pays $2.35
  • The retailer gets $1.06 to $1.29
  • The distributor gets $0.12 to $0.35
  • Legacy gets $0.94

(Printing, Advertising, Pre-press work, Shipping, and Office Expenses eat up just about all the Legacy portion, and I subsist on what I eke out selling vacuums.)

Additionally, if your magazine or comic is shipped from the central warehouse, you will be asked to pay 2% shipping and handling.

And, most distributors will ask for an additional 2% discount for paying their invoices within 10 working days.

Important: discounts the distributors ask for are off the cover price of the comic, not the wholesale price that they are paying you. So when a distributor talks about a 2% early pay discount, it means they will be paying you 38% of the cover price, instead of 40%. This has been a source of annoyance for me, because I don’t see how they can say it’s a 2% rebate, when in fact it lowers their wholesale cost by over 5%. A distributor buying COLD EDEN at $0.94 with a ‘2%’ additional discount, will pay only about $0.89. If you divide $0.89 by $0.94, you will see that the drop in price is about 5.3%. (100% - 94.6%)


When you are picked up by a distributor you must decide on the cover price, shipping schedule, and ordering arrangement for your product, including order increments, order minimums, re-order increments & minimums, and order method.

Large companies usually use a 25 unit initial order increment, with no minimum order, and single unit re-orders.

Legacy uses no minimum order, and intial order increments of 5 units. Legacy allows reorders in single units, and, again has no minimum order.

You should also check with your printer to see what their minimum shipping quantities are, it may be necessary for you to ship product yourself, if it’s in very low quantities, to many shipping points.

Diamond prefers to deal via phone and fax now, to allow for a faster turn around time with the products they carry, and to place their orders as close to the printing date as possible, to allow retailers to reorder, and increase their initial orders. Diamond also would like publishers to allow some amount of order decreasing, to allow retailers to over order on spec, and lower their orders if the comic doesn’t live up to expectations. Since I’ve never seen an order lowered, and you can limit the amount it an be lowered by (5%, 10%, 20% etc.), and this might encourage retailers to order more of your product then they otherwise might, I don’t think it’s a bad idea.

Catalogue Listings, and Advertising

Depending on the size of the distributor, they will have different amounts of lead time between the listing of the product, and when it ships.

Diamond, for example … Pay attention, this gets confusing.

The Previews catalogue with a cover date of January, is for products that ship in March. The catalogue comes out on the stands in January, to allow people a month or so to place their orders to the retailers (and then another month for the retailers to place their orders with the distributor, and the distributors to place orders with the publishers, and for the publishers to place their orders with the printers, and for the comics to get shipped back along the whole chain again)… actually, it’s amazing any comic ships on time.

Now, if you wanted to list your product in the February ‘96 Previews, and to ship your product in April, well, it’s too late: The deadline for product information was December 22, ‘95, and this date also applies to colour ad reservations.

The deadline for ad reservations (with Diamond) was December 29, ‘95, and the ad materials were due January 5. ‘96.

The purchase orders are then phoned, or faxed, by Diamond about one month before the scheduled shipping date of your product.

To be considered by Diamond, you must send a complete mock-up of the comic you are soliciting, when you send the solicitation information. This only applies to your first three issues, after that, you only need to send a copy of the cover, to be reproduced in your product listing.

Some distributors, and, quite possibly now Diamond as well, require you to produce the first three issues, before they will consider carrying your product. In the case of comics, this means all story pages, not the editorial, or advertising pages. For a magazine, you would probably want to send interviews, artwork you’re thinking of using, and all non-news sections of your ‘zine. If you can assemble a mock-up of the magazine, leaving out only the sections that deal with current events, you will probably be considered.

For more information though, call Mark Herr (’her’, not ‘hair’), or Glenn Folland at Diamond, and talk to them, they are both very helpful, and friendly.

For an example of a solicitation form, use the pick/copy tool to select everything below this line, copy it, and paste it into a word-processing program. This should give you the correct format for a solicitation form.

Legacy RR #1 Roslin, Ontario K0K 2Y0 Contact: Adam Swan (xxx) xxx-xxxx (xxx) xxx-xxxx Re: Cold Eden #1 Interior: 32 page 50 lb b/w Cover Price: $2.35 (U.S.) Cover: 70 lb. lunagloss, 4-colour $2.95 (Can.) Standard comic format Artists: Adam Swan Writers: Adam Swan, Sean Molloy and Bryndis Swan Cover: Adam Swan The Alexander experiment was a desperate attempt to give a world the heroes it desperately needed, and it created the greatest heroes the world had ever seen. The ‘Quantum Dogs’ became the world’s new royalty, and then legends. But when the world needed them most, they failed. Their mistake devastated the Earth and drove the human race to the brink of extinction, and the ‘Quantum Dogs’ disappeared. The world enveloped itself in a coat of ice and snow, and endless winter, and only one city remained. This is the story of ‘Eden’, the last city on Earth. Cold Eden:The Legacy of the Quantum Dogs. Alan must decide if he can kill an innocent person, to save the life he has found with his family, and Leola discovers that her daughter Dailis has disappeared. Meanwhile, something sinister is stalking the citizens of Eden. Also, the return of the mysterious woman in black…

Stop copying here.

I dress-up the solicitation form with some graphics, but we all know what happens when you post binaries in a non-bin group…

Please send any questions to me at I’ll do my best to answer them.

Adam Swan