In a move that will have a significant, and negative, effect on small publishers, Diamond Comic Distributors is increasing its order minimums from $1,500 to $2,500.
The distributor also will eliminate its Previews adult supplement in printed form, but continue to offer it as a PDF to retailers.
Diamond brand managers began informing publishers of the changes last week; the news became public on Friday in a blog post by Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing.
I contacted Diamond for comment late Friday, but I haven't received a response. According to Newsarama, Diamond last changed the order minimum in September 2005.
The increase of the purchase-order threshold means each book needs to generate at least $2,500 of revenue to be listed in Previews. In an email sent over the weekend to The Comics Reporter, SLG Publishing's Dan Vado points out that figure means "a little over $6,000 in sales at retail based on the discount we give to Diamond."
That means the average $3 comic would have to sell more than 2,100 copies -- a rare feat for many small publishers. (The number of copies varies depending on the discount offered to Diamond.)
"That does not mean that Diamond is going to cancel or not carry books which appear in the Previews but do not reach that benchmark," Vado writes in the email, "but it does mean that if you have a line of books which consistently do not meet that mark, you will not be getting your books listed in the Previews for long."
It'll also mean fewer relists and, obviously, fewer new offerings from small publishers. One publisher I spoke to characterized the new policy as Diamond's way of switching small publishers to the original graphic novel format. Still, I'm not sure how many indy graphic novels could meet the new order minimum.
Of course, we also could see more publishers raising cover prices in an attempt to meet the new threshold.
This morning Tom Spurgeon quotes PictureBox Publisher Dan Nadel as saying the new minimum could jeopardize direct-market distribution for several of his company's books, including Powr Mastrs, Goddess of War and Cold Heat: "If true, I'm fucked."
Update: Charts watcher John Jackson Miller breaks down the math, looking at price points versus copies sold for single issues and graphic novels. He also ponders how the new threshold might affect the tail end of Diamond's Top 300.
Note: This post has been edited to replace the term "benchmark" with "threshold." As Rich Johnston points out, there's a difference.