In the mid-1960’s, Mort Weisinger explained newsstand distribution to me. A publisher contracted with a National Distributor. DC Comics used Independent News, which was owned by the same parent company, National Periodical Publications. Through some strange circumstances I’ll explain later, Independent News also was Marvel Comics’ distributor.The National Distributor was like a bank as much as anything else. It financed the creation of the publishers’ magazines or comics by paying the publisher an advance based upon the anticipated sales of each issue.
The National Distributor arranged with local distributors to deliver to retail outlets. These local distributors, called Independent Distributor Wholesalers, or “ID’s” almost without exception had a monopoly in their city or region. Pittsburgh, for instance had Triangle News. If you bought a magazine or a comic book anywhere in the greater Pittsburgh area, Triangle News had gotten it to the point of sale. The New York area was a large enough market that it had Hudson News, Kable Media, and I don’t know, maybe more. At that time, there were, as I recall, more than 500 ID’s in the United States and Canada.
The National Distributor set “draws” for each ID, that is, how many copies of each given comic book or magazine would be shipped to them. The total of all the draws, plus copies to be sent to subscribers and office copies comprised the print run for each comic book or magazine. ID’s were seldom interested to participate in setting their own draws, and you’ll see why in a minute. Except, once in a while, an ID would decide to simply stop carrying comics, therefore making their draws zero, if you call that participating. Only very rarely did any ID’s request higher draws on any comic book, as many did with The Life of Pope John Paul II. We even got reorder requests from ID’s on that one.
Wise publishers did not accept the National Distributor’s draws and set the draws for every title for each ID themselves, based on past sell-through performance. Publishers, who were paying to print and ship those copies were a lot more careful. The idea of “order regulation” was to minimize waste—give each ID as many copies as they were likely to sell and a few besides, just in case the issue got hot for some reason.