February 1st, 2009
First things first, we really appreciate all the well-wishing and kind words directed our way since our cryptic little announcement a few days back.
Distribution into the direct comics market system is something we’ve had on the drawing board almost since we launched in 2005. It’s a daunting prospect and we’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years puzzling through how we wanted to approach it. We had planned to roll out a brief pilot program of sorts – offering a limited catalog of items available only to a handful of volunteer retailers – by summer of this year. And then take what we learned from that program, retool a bit, add the full catalog, and launch the actual service sometime this fall.
The best laid schemes of mice and men …
With news of the developments in the direct market in January and their impact on independent publishers, we began getting pummeled with messages and emails all asking a variance of the same thing “When are you guys going to start distributing to comics shops?”
We realized that a multi-month pilot program, an indeterminate retooling period, and an official launch 9 months or so from now were off the table for good. Circumstances were dictating the pace. We couldn’t wait any longer.
We’ve got to go now.
This is less than ideal, but unavoidable. We know that just as with the launch of Ka-Blam and then again with IndyPlanet, there will be unforeseen complications, fits and starts, and hiccups aplenty along the way. Things will not always go smoothly. We’ll make mistakes, but we’ll correct them. It’ll certainly take us a while to get our legs under us and to fully hit our stride. We beg your indulgence during this time and promise you that your patience will be rewarded.
There will be a lot more information in the coming days, but for now here are the basics –
Ka-Blam Digital Printing is launching a print-on-demand distribution service to direct market comics shops.
To avoid confusion with our existing business model at Ka-Blam.com the direct market distribution system will be its own entity with its own unique site and url.
ComicsMonkey is the entity and comicsmonkey.com is the url. Other than this blog, there’s not much to see here just yet. We’re putting the site together behind the curtain.
As in the current distribution system ComicsMonkey will sell products to retail outlets on a non-returnable basis at a discount off of cover price. And that’s pretty much were the similarities with the current system end.
This is true print-on-demand … so the entire ordering process will be very different for both suppliers and retailers. But particularly for suppliers (publishers and creators).
How so? No benchmarks. No thresholds. No minimum orders. No prejudice against offering items again … as matter of fact your items once listed will always be available. ALWAYS.
For those of you familiar with our online shop IndyPlanet.com you’ll find a lot of similarities between the way IndyPlanet operates and the way ComicsMonkey will operate. The primary difference of course being that IndyPlanet is a retail site that will accept orders from anyone and ComicsMonkey will accept orders only from registered, verified comics retailers.
Go read. We’ll wait.
Back? OK, so … that’s the basics.
Like, I mentioned there will be a lot more in the way of specifics in the coming days.
I know that this information probably excited many of you and at the same time I’m sure there are a few reading this who had hoped for more or are disappointed by parts of our plan. There are aspects of the plan we’re not happy with, but in all cases we’ve made an effort to create the best program that the circumstances allow. Do we wish the retailer discounts could be steeper? Absolutely. Would we like to be able to pay publishers a higher percentage of cover price? Goes without saying. But we’re subscribers to the economic theory of enlightened self-interest. So while our goal is to create a system that not only preserves independent comics and allows their publishers and creators to prosper in a way that they haven’t for almost a generation, we recognize that we can’t help anybody if we can’t first stay a profitable business.
There’s no road to follow here. No one’s tried anything exactly like this before. But we’re excited to be blazing the trail.
So what’s next?
Right now the shopping cart system is installed and we’re working on the custom code and modifications to the system that will integrate with the software at Ka-Blam and track the sales and earnings. Once we’re convinced that’s functional and working properly, we’ll begin the process of building the catalog and registering retailers.
We’ll announce here whenever the ComicsMonkey listing editor is in place at the Ka-Blam User Control Panel. We’re working on a mechanism that will allow those of you with IndyPlanet listings to create a similar ComicsMonkey listing with a few simple clicks.
OK … so this has already run on much longer than I had intended it to but I’ve got just a couple of more things …
Earlier I asked for your patience while we get our infrastructure in place. I’m also going to ask that you not deluge me with messages and emails. I know you’ve got questions and I want to give you answers. That’s why we’ve started this blog. Things will go a lot more smoothly if I answer those questions publicly once rather than having to answer them over and over again privately. Please keep in mind that at the same time we’re building this new system, we’re also cranking out orders at Ka-Blam for convention season and IndyPlanet orders are absolutely exploding!
So feel free to ask your questions here if you’d like. But please check and make sure someone else hasn’t already asked and received an answer to the same or a similar question.
Lastly, I want to ask your help.
This is a huge undertaking and we’ve got a small staff and only so many hours in a day. A print-on-demand distribution system has enormous potential for growing the independent press. Many creators could benefit greatly from this, but only if we work together.
What we need is for creators to voluntarily act as liaisons between us and their local retailers.
If you’re an independent creator or publisher then it’s very likely that you’ve got a good relationship with your local comics shop owner or manager. You know them a lot better than we do or ever could. Let them know what we’re doing. Tell me them who we are and why you’re excited about it all. Show them the site once it goes live. Show them your books on the site. Show them some of the other great titles at the site. Tell them why they should register and why they should place an order. Tell them that if they support us, then we’ll support them. We’ll build a section here showcasing our retail partners. We’ll post a picture of their store, their location, their store hours, etc. And we’ll encourage our customers at Ka-Blam – and even at IndyPlanet – to shop there.
We can do this, but we can’t do it without your help.
I’ll stop here for now. If you have questions … fire away.
February 1st, 2009
Retailers must be registered and verified to place orders at ComicsMonkey.com.
– Please NOTE: Retail order registration is not yet open. We’ll announce here as soon as it is. –
Both processes are far less painful than they sound. Registration is simply a matter of creating a username, password, and profile – basically telling us who you are and where you want your products shipped. Verification is about providing us with a valid resell certificate from whatever state or states (or country if outside the US) in which you do business. We’ll sell to brick and mortar stores as well as to online shops (however online shops must have an active, functioning comics-based site already in place).
At the time you register you can request a free sample packet. The sample packet will contain a few items from our catalog – some comics, a trade paperback, and a t-shirt, etc.
No cost to you. We want you to see the type of comics we offer and the quality of the printing.
As to ordering from us … it couldn’t be easier. There’s no phonebook-sized monthly catalog for you to slog through, no advance ordering, no new-book-Wednesday. With print-on-demand there’s no need for advance ordering at all.
Our entire catalog will be online and available 24-7-365. If it’s listed on our site it is available immediately. You can order today and have it on your shelves in about a week. We’re anticipating a few dozen products available at launch and (if our growth rate at IndyPlanet.com is any indicator) hundreds and hundreds more to follow in very short order. The catalog will be categorized by genre, product type, and rating, as well as by status — “New”‘, “Featured”, etc. Browsing will be easy to the point of almost effortless.
If you think the only great comics out there are found in that phonebook-sized catalog mentioned earlier, then you’re in for an enormous surprise. Just hop on over to IndyPlanet.com and take a look around if you don’t believe me. There’s some absolutely TERRIFIC stuff there. Many (hopefully ALL) of the comics you see there will also be available at ComicsMonkey in relatively short order.
At ComicsMonkey.com there will be detailed descriptions of each product and large sample graphics. The ordering process will be driven by an OS Commerce based shopping cart system. Powerful, but very simple to use. Find an item or items you want, put it in your cart, adjust the quantity, and checkout. Your discount will be calculated at checkout and you’ll receive an invoice.
Our beginning discount will be 35%. Yes, we’d like to be able to increase that over time and after building working relationships with retailers, but for now that’s what it will be. All sales must also be prepaid at least for the foreseeable future.
All sales are final and non-returnable (except for damages of course). Retailer pays all shipping costs, though we’ll use the lowest cost shipping on a given order. USPS flat rate will be used whenever possible, unless the retailer requests otherwise.
There’s no minimum order, no order fees of any kind.
February 1st, 2009
So for suppliers (publishers) here’s how it will work –
1) You must be a registered user at Ka-Blam.com. It’s free and easy so don’t worry about that.
2) For anything you want to offer for sale at ComicsMonkey you must first place an order at Ka-Blam. You don’t have to actually buy anything if you don’t want. Your order can have a quantity of “0” and there’s no setup fee. The purpose of the order is to get you and your items into the Ka-Blam system. Each user is assigned a user number and each item has an item number – this is how we track and manage everything. If you’re already a registered Ka-Blam user and have placed orders in the past for the same items you’d now like to sell them you’re already covered.
3) Once you and your items are in our system you’ll be able to be to access the ComicsMonkey listing editor. Publishers are responsible for creating and maintaining their own listings and sample graphics (within our guidelines of course). Publishers will set their own prices as well (although again this MUST be within our guidelines).
4) Once your listing has been approved, it’ll go live in the catalog.
5) With each order of your item … from the very FIRST item sold … you’ll accumulate earnings.
Everything so far is virtually the same as at IndyPlanet, but here’s where things vary. At IndyPlanet you set your price and then receive the difference between that price and your printing costs. It can’t work that way here because ComicsMonkey is selling to retailers who in turn have to resell the item at an increased price to make a profit. So instead you’ll get a percentage of the cover price, probably 10% but we haven’t set this in stone yet. I know that sounds like a low number, but it’s really not. If your cover price is $3.99 (which will be a common cover price) then your earnings on each sale will be $0.40. If you have a trade paperback priced at say $19.99 then you’ll earn $2 on each sale.
Yes, those numbers are lower than what you would make on a similar sale at IndyPlanet. However, IndyPlanet is just one outlet. ComicsMonkey has the potential to get your products into many, many outlets worldwide. So while your earnings per item will be lower, the volume could potentially be much higher.
Keep in mind that you as publisher at ComicsMonkey have NO out of pocket costs. None. You have no printing costs, no shipping costs. We sell your book, we print your book, we ship your book, we pay you.
And — as we do with IndyPlanet listings — you’ll be able to monitor your sales and earnings from your Ka-Blam User Control Panel and request a payout via Paypal at ANY time and for ANY amount that you’ve earned.
And at ComicsMonkey (as at IndyPlanet) you’ll be able to list comics, trade paperbacks, posters, and t-shirts.