“What happens with remainders,” says Brad Jonas, cofounder of CIROBE (the Chicago International Remainder and Overstock Book Exposition) and president of Powell’s Books Wholesale in Chicago, “is any new genre gets over printed.” In the case of graphic novels, he’s finding that’s a good thing, since Powell’s has been getting more and more comics—and graphic novel-savvy customers over the past few years.
Most of what’s been available, says Jonas, has been bits and pieces from various remainder houses like Strictly-By-The-Book and Texas Bookman. That is when he sees comics and graphic novels at all, since many publishers still pulp their overstock. However, all that’s beginning to change. Last winter comics distribution giant Diamond Book Distribution moved into the remainder business and took a table at the Spring Book Show, the largest remainder show in the south, where it sold anime, manga and graphic novel remainders.
Now TalesofWonder.com, the ten-year-old online retailer of graphic novels, is following Diamond’s lead and setting up a separate remainder operation just for graphic novels, ToWDistribution.com. The two will share staff, office space and a warehouse in Buford, Ga., 25 miles north of Atlanta, but will have separate online presences.
Tales of Wonder president Joe Hovorka sees it as a natural progression. “The remainder business grew out of the retail,” he says, adding “we continue to grow our retail business every year. We believe ourselves to be one of the largest direct retailers in the graphic novel business.” In 2004, Tales of Wonder was named the first Marvel VIP retailer for selling more Marvel backlist titles than any other direct market retail account in the month of January. Since then, Hovorka estimates, that Tales of Wonder’s business has grown substantially, by a factor of three.
In the fall, ToW had a soft launch at CIROBE with a couple hundred graphic novel titles. Now the company has amassed 800 titles from Dark Horse, Marvel, Top Shelf and Chronicle along with related items like Wonder Woman postcards and Emily Strange journals.“Already,” says Hovorka, “our list is deeper than anyone else’s.” And he keeps adding to it in order for the company to be up to speed in time for the 2009 Spring Book Show in Atlanta in early March. By then Hovorka expects to have ToW’s ToWdistribution.com Web site fully functional as well. His goal is for ToW Distribution to serve both the mass market and the direct market with the same turnaround as Tales of Wonder’s retail business, one to two days.