Image Comics has signed with LPC Group for distribution to the book trade, effective January 1, 2001. They join a growing roster of comic publishers that are using LPC for book distribution. LPC's current comic publishing clients include Marvel, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf, Oni, and Tokyo Pop. According to Image Central head Jim Valentino, LPC has a better understanding of the category than other companies they considered. 'You can't sell what you don't understand,' he said. 'If you treat the books like widgets, they'll sell like widgets.' Other major comic publishers are also considering a switch of bookstore distribution to LPC, which claims to be the third largest distributor of books to the trade in the U.S.
The importance of bookstore distribution to comic publishers has grown in recent years, as sales through comic specialty stores have declined; for a number of publishers, bookstore distribution means the difference between life and death. And for the comic market as a whole, bookstores represent the best opportunity publishers have to find new consumers who ultimately may care enough about the category to seek out a specialty store. With few exceptions (see 'Ultimate Magazine Newsstand Only'), the traditional newsstand distribution of comics has been in steady decline for decades. Since magazine-type distribution had been the primary means of recruiting new consumers into the hobby, the decline of that channel has been a contributing factor in the decline of the market as a whole. Now with the emergence of the graphic novel, perhaps, the book trade can serve a similar proselytizing function.