Indie graphic novel publishers Secret Acres and Alternative Comics have signed with Consortium for distribution. The two publishers join an impressive line-up of indie graphic novel publishers already at Consortium, including Uncivilized Books, Koyama Press and Nobrow. The Minneapolis-based distributor has been very proactive in courting new graphic novels publishers as clients; the vendor just signed up the award winning Toon Books lineup in September and is on its way to becoming a major force in getting indie graphic novels into more bookstores.
Alternative owner Marc Arsenault said that Consortium is an ideal partner because they can handle their back stock. “Consortium is one of the most active and aggressive distributors, and Alternative has been very active in keeping our backlist alive.” The publisher—which puts out books by Sam Henderson, Derf Backderf (My Friend Dahmer) and Kevin Scalzo—was previously with Diamond Book Distributors, but found that the main comics distributor couldn’t handle their backlist and “functioned more like a wholesaler for us.”
Secret Acres is the Brooklyn-based publisher of critically acclaimed books by Edie Fake and Corinne Mucha, as well as the controversial Angie Bongiolatti by Mike Dawson. Like Alternative, they will be moving to Consortium from Diamond as of January 1.
“We are thrilled to be moving over to Consortium,” Secret Acres co-publisher Leon Avellino told PW. “They are the only major distributors of independent comics with a dedicated sales force. It can be a little intimidating, too. Consortium works hard and they expect the publishers they distribute to work hard as well. Secret Acres is going to have grow up fast, but it should be worth it.”
Consortium is well known for distributing dozens of high quality independent prose publishers, but the distributor has also been growing its graphic novel business over the last few years, starting with neighboring Minneapolis-based comics publisher Uncivilized Books. Koyama Press and Nobrow joined over the last two years as well, and a growing number of Consortium's prose book publishers are getting into the graphic novel business with titles such as Blue is the Warmest Color from Arsenal Pulp, and several kids graphic novels from Enchanted Lion.
Secret Acres’ move to a more established distributor will have major effects on their line-up, and its ability to reach indie bookstores, Avellino said. “We're a little long in the tooth to continue operating like a bedroom pop outfit. Because Consortium distributes so many of our peer publishers, they can have lower order cutoffs [minimum orders] than Diamond or Baker & Taylor, which encourages smaller, independent bookstores to take risks with their shelf space. Those independent bookstores have long been our lifeblood and with Consortium we expect our relationship with them to dramatically improve.”
For Alternative the back stock is a key element in the move. Industry veteran Arsenault took over Alternative Press in 2012, picking up a huge back stock from the original publisher, Jeff Mason, including books by such acclaimed cartoonists as James Kochalka and Gabrielle Bell. Arsenault noted that titles by cartoonist Karl Stevens continue to sell, and their anthology The Big Feminist Butt, a collection of stories about varying views of the female experience is now in the second printing of its second edition.
There are also mysteries, he said. “Forbidden Planet [a well established comics shop in the Village in Manhattan] orders copies of Nick Bertozzi’s Rubberneckers every month—and those came out years ago.”
Looking forward Alternative plans a line of seven books for spring, and up to 12 projects for Fall, although that may be trimmed. Arsenault’s currently trying to bring back some long out of print titles, including early work by Gabrielle Bell.