IDW's Ted Adams Talks Premier Status

When word hit late last week that IDW Publishing had been granted Premier Publisher status through Diamond Comics Distributors, the took many in the comics industry by surprise. Not only is IDW the first publisher in almost 15 years to achieve the status, it was actually the first new publisher to be added to the club of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image who hold down the front portion of Diamond's "Previews" catalog since Diamond became the default distributor for all comic shops in America.

As soon as the news hit, CBR reached out to IDW CEO Ted Adams for his take on what the deal meant for IDW's future. From the books that brought them to this point on through how a spot in "Previews" early pages can help the publisher expand its reach even more in 2010, Adams gave a full run down on where IDW's publishing business is at from comic shops to book stores to the web.

CBR News: First off, congratulations! A new company stepping into the Premier class of Diamond's publisher roster certainly is unprecedented and even unexpected for a lot of folks. Is this something IDW has been setting its sights on for a while?

Ted Adams: Thanks! Achieving 'Premier' status with Diamond has been a goal for all of us at IDW for the last couple of years.

In a nuts and bolts sense, when and how did this all come together? IDW took a much publicized 4% of market share over the past year, placing the company into the Gem Awards category with the other Premier Publishers in January, and you also won the award for best OGN of 2009 with "The Hunter." Did that sales performance provide the turning point for this premier partnership?

I think the growth of IDW certainly factored into Diamond's decision. Our editorial team has been putting together a solid line of books the last couple of years, and that's resulted in both critical recognition and increased sales.

Generally, what do you feel this premiere level means for the company? Do you think much will change about your 2010 plans as a result, or will the effect be more connected to the sales you hope to see over the course of the future?

Our 2010 plans were largely set before the "Premier" decision was made, so it won't have any real impact on what we plan to publish this year. My hope is that we'll have increased attention, and sales, for the projects we've got in the works.

Similarly, we all know that IDW will be seeing many benefits from this status in terms of visibility, not the least of which is a spot in the front section of the monthly Previews catalog and the occasional cover of that magazine as well. What parts of the deal you think are going to have the biggest impact on how IDW is going to be seen in the industry and with retailers?

I think you've nailed the biggest benefit - moving to the front of the "Previews" catalog. I'm told that there are a lot of consumers and retailers who simply don't look past the "Premier" section, and I'm looking forward to reaching those folks with our books.

Is there any specific ways in which your section of "Previews" will change outside of being moved up in the page order?

We've completely redesigned our section. It now includes a Table of Contents, and because we have more pages in Previews, it will allow us to give more attention to each title. IDW titles are also now eligible for Diamond's Gem of the Month recognition.

You've had so many big books and big properties grow out of your catalogue in recent years - is there a specific kind of project or publishing philosophy the IDW staff feels has brought the company this far?

One of the things I'm most proud of is the fact that IDW is such a diverse publisher. I've always said that the thing that's most important to me is that someone at IDW has to be passionate about a book for it to get on our schedule.

That approach has led to a line that includes:

  • Licensed titles like "Angel," "A-Team," "G.I. Joe," "Star Trek" and "Transformers"
  • Creator-driven books like Bob Fingerman's "From the Ashes," Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's "Locke & Key," Fiona Staples, Steve Niles and Ashley Wood's "Mystery Society," Elaine Lee and Michael Wiiliam Kaluta's "Starstruck"; Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's "The Last Resort" and Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood's "Zombies vs. Robots Aventure"
  • Dean Mullaney's Library of American Comics which includes "Dick Tracy," "Little Orphan Annie," "Bloom County," "Bringing Up Father," "L'il Abner" and "King Aroo"
  • Ash Wood's books like "Swallow," "Sparrow," "World War Robot" and the upcoming "FI"
  • Craig Yoe's imprint, Yoe Books, which includes "The Art of Steve Ditko," "The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story," "Krazy & Ignatz in Tiger Tea" and "Krazy Kool Kids Komics"
  • The Desperado imprint, which includes "The Art of P. Craig Russell," "The Art of Tony Harris" and the upcoming "DeadWorld Classics"
  • The ComicMix imprint, which includes Mike Grell's "Pilgrim" and "Jon Sable," Tim Truman and John Osrander's "GrimJack," Trevor Von Eeden's "The Original Johnson," Mike Oeming's and Mark Wheatley's "Hammer of the Gods" and Robert Tinnell and Mark Wheatley's "EZ Street"
  • Scott Sava's Blue Dream Studios, which includes "Dreamland Chronicles," "Cameron and his Dinosaurs" and the upcoming "The Luckiest Boy"
  • Comics based on literary works like Darwyn Cooke's amazing adaptations of the Ricard Stark Parker noves, James Patterson's "Witch & Wizard," Peter Beagle's "The Last Unicorn," Mario Acevedo's "Killing the Cobra" and Robert Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper"
  • Reprints of classic comic books like Dave Stevens' "The Rocketeer," Kurt Busiek and David Wenzel's "The Wizard's Tale," Richard Comely and George Freeman's "Captain Canuck," Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino's "WinterWorld" and the upcoming "Danger Girl Deluxe Edition" by Andy Hartnell and J. Scott Campbell

As vital as the Direct Market is to IDW and comics in general, you also publish for other markets, including the book stores (where you distribute through Diamond's DBD branch, of course) and the growing online and mobile comics realm, from iPhone apps to PSP sales. How does becoming a Premier Publisher affect, if at all, your plans for other distribution? Will you be synching up all three platforms to unveil new product at the same time?

Our goal is always to reach as many readers as possible, and our diverse line means that we have titles that work differently in the three markets you describe, but our preference is to sell our books through the Direct Market. I've been associated with the Direct Market my entire career, which I hate to say has now reached 20 years, and my loyalty will always be with the comic stores who support us.

The digital versions of our titles all include the Comic Shop Locator Service information, and our hope is that people who read one of our comics via iTunes or PSP will like it enough to want the print version.

We've found that some of our titles perform significantly better in the book channel, but, again, our hope is that readers who pick up, say, a Transformers book in the book channel will like it enough to want to read our monthly Transformers comic books.

Lastly, there's a lot of talk and worry these days about print publishing shrinking in the future, with the Direct Market specifically having a hard time finding longterm stability over the next several years. From your point of view, what do you see as IDW's role in strengthening this sales outlet, and what new initiatives do you think will best serve the Direct Market?

I believe in the Direct Market. I was asked to be one of the judges for last year's Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award and had the chance to see the videos that the nominated stores put together. I came away from that experience very encouraged - the best comic stores have an infectious passion for comics and are clearly influencing the buying patterns of their customers. I think what we're going to see over the next couple of years is a weeding out of the bad stores and renewed success for the good ones.

Check back with CBR later this week for word on the IDW deal from Diamond's Bill Schanes.

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