Diamond Book Distributors, the trade book distribution side of Diamond Comics Distributors, reports sales in 2014 were “slightly” down, blaming the decline on the loss of a major publisher client. Adjusting for that loss, sales were up in all channels with DBD citing continuing international growth and plans to focus on college bookstores in 2015.

Dark Horse switched distribution from DBD to Random House Publisher Services at the beginning of 2014 and the loss was felt "across the board,” at the distributor said DBD v-p Kuo-Yu Liang. “We came close to making up the loss of Dark Horse,” he said. DBD distributes titles from about 50 publishers as well as pop culture merchandise. Despite the decline, Liang said the pop culture market was strong in 2014 and DBD’s core business, “is great. Graphic novels are growing, toys and other merchandise also did well.”

Liang cited the popularity of indie graphic novel publishers like Image Comics and the continued growth in non-superhero comics. “Retailing in 2014 was stable, chains are healthy, libraries, e-commerce and mass market all showed growth, and Amazon was good for us,” he said.

“Image Comics had a spectacular year, and not just series like Saga and Walking Dead,” Liang said, but also Sex Criminals, Rat Queens, Wicked and Divine, Manifest Destiny and others. Other indie publishers like IDW and Dynamite also did well. Liang singled out the startup Magnetic Press, and its list of licensed Euro-graphic novels, as well as Kids graphic novels from small publishers like ActionLab.

Internationally DBD is looking to grow its markets in Japan, Korea, Singapore and Indonesia. Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand “are booming,” Liang said, and sales via comics shops in the Middle East are growing “30% to 40% a year.” A new focus in 2015 will be college bookstores, with DBD targeting stores run by B&N and Follett. The distributor will return to Camex, the college bookstore convention, in March with plans to showcase toys, games and action figures, as well as graphic novels and books.

Looking forward, Liang pointed to the release of March Book Two, the second volume of the Civil Rights era graphic memoir of Rep. John Lewis (created with writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell). In 2014, March Book One was a news media hit and a bestseller for Top Shelf. The new book goes on sale January 21.

Special sales were big for Book One—Michigan State, Georgia State, and other institutions bought bulk quantities of the book—and Liang expects the same for March Book Two. DBD will attend First Year Experience, an annual conference of college educators and administrators focused on first year college students, Liang said, to “push March Book Two and other titles. We learned a lot from the first March book and we can do even better.”