Alterna Publisher Peter Simeti’s Criticizes Diamond In Anniversary Message

I’ve not covered Alterna Comics too much. It’s one of the smaller publishers out there, and I can appreciate that restraint in overextending a company in an effort to become a larger player. I also appreciate the love of comics as a medium, evident by their move to $1.50 newsprint comics. I even personally know the writer of Amazing Age, Matthew D. Smith, whose work on that title is some of the best writing at the publisher. However, from the moment that I got publisher Peter Simeti’s 12th anniversary message, I gained a new respect for the publisher.

Here is the full text of the message from Alterna publisher Peter Simeti.

“Just a bit of shop talk right now… apologies for the lack of brevity.

2017 was Alterna’s best year in our 12 year history (just turned 12 on January 6th) but it was a year that many shops seem to have struggled. I’ve read reports from even some of the more established comic shops about how their sales are down about 10% from 2016. This is not good, obviously, but it’s odd that we noticed a 250% increase in sales across the board — yes that also includes graphic novels — because of our $1.50 newsprint line.

The biggest uptick we noticed, was in readership and interaction, especially through direct sales. Our direct sales, due to the fact that some comic shops chose *not* to carry our line and the fact that Diamond did *not* want to fill reorders — grew by about 1500%. That’s staggering. Our sales to readers and directly to shops for the first week of January 2018 is already better than our entire month of January 2017. Our December 2017 sales were better than the entire months of November AND December 2016. So while I’m sad to see how many stores are struggling, I wish that more would consider stocking our line as only 15% to 20% of comic shops are currently carrying Alterna single issues and about half of those shops are currently carry the full line of what we make (11 single issue titles so far, with a 12th debuting later this month).

I’m not saying that our comics will *save* a store. Obviously they won’t. They’re priced at half, or in some cases, 70% less than other publishers. But we do promote extensively and a sale of a $1.50 book (with an eventual sale of a $10 to $15 graphic novel) is better than a $4.99 comic that sits on the shelf and never sells. There’s very little effort required to convince a customer to try one of our titles. It’s not really a risk for them and as long as they are open to reading quality indie titles (which many are), they’re open to reading Alterna. Our titles are also less of a risk to stores, as they cost much less. We’ve found that customers don’t just buy our comic (of course) but they purchase other things in the store as well. Adding to the fact that there are 11 titles out right now with 34 total issues available and MOST of our readers buy our entire line — a store is no longer looking at a small sale. Someone who purchases the entire line? Well that’s about $50 in comics. A great value for the reader and a nice sale for the store.

So this leads me to my next point — Diamond canceled over 250 reorders last month (despite our new brand manager trying, she received no concrete information from superiors) and they’re on the verge of canceling more reorders in January (we already have over 100 in the first week). Imagine the year we would have had if Diamond did *not* do that? Imagine the year that comic shops would have had if they could get reorders to customers? If you think about the exponential loss that occurs to the industry due to the fact that reorders are handled in such an abysmal fashion — there could potentially be a loss into the millions across the board. And that’s just on reorders alone. There shouldn’t be such a MASSIVE secondary market for titles due to Diamond’s mishandling of reorders.

If this is the trend that Diamond chooses to establish, then we have to pivot in order to not lose upwards of 2000 reorders a year. Alterna will *not* lose those sales because customers will seek the book out — whether it’s direct, on ebay, on amazon, etc. BUT that’s potentially 2000 sales that retailers will lose out on. And that part upsets me the most. Distribution doesn’t plan on filling the void of the reorder market that exists (would be great if another distributor came along to do exactly that) so I’m taking matters into my own hands.

Comic shops that are looking to reorder (and now PREORDER) direct – please let me know so I can get you a password for the Alterna Comics direct ordering site. Our discount is much larger than what Diamond will give you, we offer free shipping to US shops if the order is a $25, there are no order minimums and if your reorder AND preorder qualifies you for free shipping, then you’ll receive both your reorder now (for free) and your preorders (for free) with no extra charge applied. We currently have our entire catalog on the direct order site.

I want to get orders to SHOPS.
I will happily sell direct to get books to customers (many direct order customers end up adding titles to pull lists — ordering direct helps them catch up on anything they may have missed) but the main goal of ours is to get readers to comic shops.

I hope 2018 sees a shift in what went wrong in the comic industry in 2017 (there’s many things that have gone wrong and I don’t care to discuss them as this is the only area we can actually control to some degree) and I hope comic shops will come on board and give our titles a try if they haven’t already — and for the shops that are on board, thank you for making 2017 such a phenomenal year for us.”

We hope you have a wonderful 2018!

Simeti is looking at a larger picture, beyond what it means just for his company, although his point of view is only from his company’s perspective. I’m certain Diamond has a reason for cancelling recorders, but most likely those are in the short-term interests of Diamond rather than the long-term interest of the industry that supports that company, and so many more.

I have written about the current, shaky state of an industry that is built on the backs of local comic shops. With each one that closes before another is opened, the revenue to the sole nationwide distributor of the two primary publishers of comics books is lessened. Many times, these shops close owing money to Diamond, money that cannot be recovered very easily. Before I had speculated that the collapse of the industry would start with readers leaving the industry behind. However, what Simeti puts forward a scenario where the long term survival of a medium is threatened by the distributor hurts the shops its business depends on and the publishers that provide its supply. Simeti doesn’t offer the answers to this problem outside of shops reordering directly from the publisher. This is not a valid long-term solution for every publisher. However, until someone comes up with a better solution for a problem Diamond Distrubitors is causing, if what Phil Simeti says is true.

All that reported on, Alterna does have a free offer of thirty of their past books for you if sign up for their news mailing list. Just scroll to the bottom of their web site and sign up. You’ll need an Amazon or Comixology account. It’s definitely 100% free and should give you a taste of the publishing taste Alterna has to offer.