Why Marvel Comics Didn't Go "All-In" With Penguin Random House
Yesterday, Bleeding Cool reported the news that Marvel Comics was moving its exclusive direct market business to Penguin Random House and away from Diamond Comic Distributors. Although retailers could still order through Diamond, as a wholesale customer of PRH. Though, as Bleeding Cool emphasised, "You can order Marvel through Diamond and through PRH. But PRH won't charge you freight." And also getting sales reps for everyone. But there's more. We also had 52 questions asked and answered by Penguin Random House to potential comic book retailers. The headlines seemed to be free shipping, a standard 50% discount level for retailers, a specific warehouse for comic book distribution (half an hour away from Diamond Comic Distributors own big warehouse) and assigned sales reps for all comic book stores.
But it was notable that Marvel Comics graphic novels, collections and hardcovers were still to be distributed in the book market by Hachette – and not Penguin Random House. Why was this? A residual contract obligation to Hachette. Not at all, but it is far more revealing of the kind of deals that get made.
Senior industry sources talking to Bleeding Cool have let is know that DC Comics has a clause in their existing book market deal with Penguin Random House – that might even let PRH publish their own DC Comics graphic novels – that states that DC Comics will always get "favoured nation status" at the distributor. This means no other publisher will ever have a better deal than DC. But far more significantly, that while DC is distributed in the returnable book market by PRH, Marvel cannot be. Which is why this deal with PRH and Marvel is just for the direct market, made up of non-returnable comic books.
And it's worth considering when other publishers look to PRH, if the contract holds valid, whatever you negotiate, DC Comics will get the same, or better. And if you are Marvel, there's only so far you can go.