Image Comics Responds to Retailers Regarding Reprints

Saga #7 Second Printing Cover

We don’t normally get into the business side of things in the comic book industry here at iFanboy, choosing instead to focus on the more positive aspects of the comic industry that we know and love… like art and stories. Not that the comic book industry business stuff is always negative, but sometimes it can be hard to parse it all without the expertise that others have that we lack. But every now and then a happening in the comic book industry business side is worth noting and this week, Image Comics has been in the center of one such occurance.

Earlier this week, Image Comics PR & Marketing Director Jennifer DeGuzman sent an update to retailers regarding the policy around reprints of comics, most notably, that Image would be ceasing reprints of popular titles, such as Saga. While the intent of this was a bold business decision around getting a better approach to print runs, the message itself was received with negativity from retailers, many of whom disagreed with this change or didn’t quite understand it.

Minutes ago, Image Comics issued an open letter from publisher Eric Stephenson. Below is the entire open letter, as Stephenson responds to the reaction to the policy, and provides clarity on Image’s intent, and reacts to the requests of retailers specifically around Saga.

Believe it or not, we listen to you.

Just as you use the information provided to you by your customers to place orders for our comics, we use the information we get from you to set our print runs. Like you, we modify the numbers a little bit. We always assume there will be reorders and we make sure to overprint. Most of the time, our final number provides us with just enough inventory to satisfy demand, but more and more frequently, we’ve been selling out.

When we sell out – and more importantly, when you sell out – we know we’re all losing both time and money. It typically takes three weeks to a month to get a second printing to market, and that’s three weeks to a month we all could have been selling more books. That’s frustrating.

It’s doubly frustrating when a book like Saga, a bonafide hit by the creator of Y: The Last Man, Runaways and Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughan, and his insanely talented collaborator Fiona Staples, continues to sell out even as it gets deeper into its run. We did five printings of issue one, three printings of issue two, and there were second printings of issues three to six. We are, as I type this, preparing to go back to press on the first trade paperback collection.

And like the previous six issues, Saga #7 sold out, and given that orders hadn’t skyrocketed upwards from issue six at FOC, we decided that it was probably time to bring the second printings to a halt. Using the information we had at our disposal – your orders – we figured the generous overprint we did for this issue would satisfy demand.

By “we,” incidentally, I mean “me.”

It was a rash decision made somewhat in haste and a little bit out of frustration, and I think it was that sense of frustration that bled into the retail newsletter our PR & Marketing Director Jennifer de Guzman sent out earlier this week. For those of you who found the tone of that newsletter condescending or abrasive – you have my apologies. In communicating my frustrations to Jen, that inadvertently got passed down to you, and that should’t have been the case. We also should have given you more of a heads up on how we were handling this, so that you weren’t completely blindsided by a sudden change in policy and again, that’s on me.

We can’t go back in time and fix the past, though, so instead, we’re going to move forward.

Like I said up top: We listen to you.

So we’re going to reprint Saga #7, and we’re going to offer that reprint to you at a massive discount.

For the second printing of Saga #7, every account ordering 25 copies or more by its FOC date, will get them at an 80% discount, making your cost per copy right around 60¢. And for anyone ordering fewer than 25, we will be extending Image’s maximum discount to you, regardless of your usual discount.

The order code for the second printing of Saga #7 is NOV128073. FOC will be 12/24, and the in-store date will be 1/16.

We did a pretty hefty overprint on Saga #8, too, but looking at current reorder activity, I’m guessing we won’t hold onto that stock very long. More news on that as it develops, but if we have to reprint that issue, too, we will.

In the mean time, though, we simply cannot reprint every single issue of this series on an indefinite basis, so with the FOC for Saga #9 in the not-too-distant future, I’m going to ask you to help us out and make sure to double-check your orders on that issue when the time comes. I have an advantage here in that I get to see this stuff before you, but I promise you – this series is only going to get better from here. Brian and Fiona have some amazing things planned, and you are not going to be disappointed if you continue to support this series.

Thanks, and again – my apologies for the way my frustration on this issue was communicated. We won’t leave you out of the loop on decisions like this in the future, and in fact – make sure to check out next weekly newsletter for full details on our reprint policy going forward.

-e.s.
Eric Stephenson
Publisher, Image Comics, Inc.

SAGA #7 Second Printing
Diamond Code: NOV128073
Final Order Cut-off: December 24, 2012
In stores:  January 16, 2013

SAGA #8
Diamond Code: OCT120541
In stores: December 10, 2012

SAGA #9
Diamond Code: NOV120578
Final Order Cut-Off:  December 24, 2012
In stores: January 16, 2013<

SAGA #1 – Image Firsts Edition
Diamond Code: OCT128195

SAGA Volume One
(Collects #1 – 6)
Diamond Code: AUG120491
ISBN: 978-1-60706-601-9

Comments

  1. lifesend lifesend says:

    That’s a good move that should make retailers happy. I look forward to seeing the numbers for future issues.

  2. rossco says:

    I think Image keep selling out of their books and in particular SAGA is because of the high quality of them. It’s one of my favourite books every month as are manhattan projects and revival. They are my publisher of the year.

  3. Grandturk says:

    An interesting insight into how publishers handle reprinting popular stories. However, I’ve said it before – I have little patience for floppies.

    • jklimp jklimp says:

      This was interesting for me as well. Like iFanboy I tend to avoid the business aspect of comics (I find when I get to deep into comics are less fun for me). I always assumed Image was intentionally letting books sell out to create hype because they would obviously just print more. Now that I’ve typed that out I realize that that never should have made sense to me.

  4. kennyg kennyg says:

    Hope Jennifer didn’t get in trouble!

  5. Kamilo Kamilo says:

    Seems like the real villain here is diamond and their bizarre front-heavy ordering/shipping system.

    • mathewsr75 says:

      I have to agree I loath the diamond system…

    • abstractgeek says:

      i know diamond gets a lot of shit around here, but this has nothing to do with them. Diamond takes the orders from retailers and passes them on to the publisher. they are middlemen. they dont decise what retailers order, or what publishers print.

      The “bizarre front heavy ordering” system is pretty much how most retail merchandise is ordered. virtually every new product in every store is ordered prior to manufacture, thats how supplers set their orders. Every book, dvd, cd etc that went on sale at any retailer this week was ordered by the retailers months ago. CONSUMERS dont have to order in advance, even with diamond. only retailers. If you have to preorder your books its because the retailer has chosen to pass on the responsibility of inventory management to you, usually in exchange for a discount of some kind. Again thats the retailer, not diamond.

    • gevdarg says:

      BTW, the retailer has not chosen to pass o the responsibilty of inventory mgmt to anyone. It’s the reverse. The publishers and distributors have chosen to pass on the responsibility of inventory mgmt to the retailer because the direct market is nonreturnable, which is most favorable to the publisher. I think that’s the point everyone, except the retailers, have been missing. And it’s a point that the people of Image seem to be blissfully and woefully ignorant of.

  6. Classy.

  7. vromaniii says:

    Frankly with all the options out there, digital and trade, I like the idea of stopping reprints. I think the industry was better back in the day when almost nothing saw a reprint. I know it is the retailers that lose out the most if reprints no longer happen, but I would still prefer no floppies reprinted.

    • gevdarg says:

      According to Image, they lose out if reprints no longer happen. As a matter of fact, they must lose out more, given the tone of Ms. Guzman’s press release. I still find her innovative “Field of Dreams” marketing tactic of “If you order it, they will come” to be worthy of the most condescending, self-serving tripe of the year award.

  8. Can anyone clarify the details for saga #1 – image firsts edition? Is this a further reprinting of issue 1? And if so what date is it to be expected by? Unfortunately issue 1 is the only one I don’t have, as I’ve been reluctant to pay the exorbitant secondary market prices I’ve seen around .

    • Several different Image first editions were released this week, including Chew, Manhattan Projects, Walking Dead, Saga, and several others. They are specially priced at $1 I believe. You can look on the comics shipping list here on the site to see all the different ones.

    • Meant to add that it is indeed Saga #1, as well as for all the others. If only they would do this for second issues as well. I’m missing Manhattan Projects #2.

  9. daningotham daningotham says:

    Comic shops get issues of Sage for 60 cents and charge $2.99 for them? At first I felt guilty about not supporting my local comic shop and ordering my comics online for 40% off. Not anymore.

    • TheFyl TheFyl says:

      It mentioned that the 60 cent price is a massive discount to the retailer. That price is not typical and I doubt it would be sustaining to the publisher to remain in business. The reason for that discount is also mentioned in the letter.

      Save money however you see fit. 3 bucks for Saga and many of Image books is more than worth it in my opinion.

    • Firevine Firevine says:

      That 60 cents is a HUGE discount. My shop gets $3.00 books for ~$1.60. $1k-$2k average invoice nets around 50% off cover, depending on publisher. Price breaks higher than that tier sharply, and you have to have massive invoices to get tiny breaks.

    • KillTheG1mp KillTheG1mp says:

      Everything you buy is basically at least, 3 times or more expansive than what the retailer pays for it. That how it works buddy! ;)

      I dunno what the profit margin is for comics, but as an independant small book published here in Quebec, I have to tell you it’s not that much, about just enough to publish more books and pay for printing and paying the writers. Distributors are greedy my friend and take about 50% of all the profits and if you want to sell books you have to be distributed…

      So 0.60$ per issues is cheap! They either don’t make a lot of profit on that, or none at all.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      Yeah, I understand that retailers get things at a discount and sell them at a higher price to make a profit. That’s why I choose retailers, whether it be online OR a physical store I can walk into, that has the cheapest prices. My point is I just keep hearing, not on this site mind you, just from people I know personally, that I should be supporting my local comic shop. That I should be paying almost double what I am paying now for comics just to keep them in business. Why? They are trying to take money out of MY pocket to benefit themselves. I don’t see them supporting me and paying my bills. Why would I pay extra for that? Especially when the customer service at my local comic shop isn’t that good. Then I see on here how sometimes they get stuff at 80% off and sell it for full price. Even 40-50% off is a lot if you ask me. Just saying, my guilty feeling is gone, and I’m much more comfortable getting my stuff from the retailer who can get me the best deal after reading this story. Whether it be my local comic shop or online.

    • Grandturk says:

      Here’s why you should support businesses in your community:

      - You stop buying from your local comic book store
      - Due to the downturn in business, the owner of the store has to lay off an employee – let’s call him Chazz
      - Chazz now has no income stream (because he was paid cash, didn’t pay taxes and can’t file for unemployment), and can’t afford his $4 latte’s at Starbucks
      - Chazz turns desperate, begins burglarizing houses during the day – maybe while you’re at work
      - You get home from work early – catch Chazz in your living room with your prized Bowen bust
      - Desperate, Chazz brains you with a sultry Catwoman statue and puts you into a coma for the rest of your life
      - The end.

      Think Global, Act Local – support your local comic store!

    • Wait, I thought that happened to Chazz because he subscribes to cable TV and not Direct TV. Now I’m very confused.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      Yeah, but I’m more worried about the guy who works in the warehouse of the online vendor that ships me my comics every month. Let’s call him Lazz. He is gainfully employed by an employer who sells me things at a discount. I care much more about his well being. And they have a bunch of employees who work in the warehouse. I would hate to see them get put out on the street. I know the owner of my LCS and he already has another full time job. So his wife never sees him being as he is working two jobs. I’m sure she would like it if he were around more. And he has one full time employee. Who I’m sure would be able to put the skills he has learned working at the LCS to good use working at Walmart or Target just as easily. And probably make more money in the process and have a chance to move up the corporate ladder. Ya see? Everybody wins!! ;-)

    • gevdarg says:

      How is it that you think the retailer is the one who determines the cover price? Last time I checked it was the publisher who determines the cover price. I find it funny that throughout this entire discussion about Image deciding not to do second printings that it is retailers who are being made out to be the devil. Whatever you may think of the business side of comics, it is retailers who determine the nature and the economics of the industry, it is the publishers. Shovel some of this venom over their way.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      Who said the retailer sets the cover price? Saga is a $2.99 book which is why I said they sell it for $2.99. I’m not sending venom anywhere. Just saying I am going to always go for the best deal. Which is what most shoppers do. Unless they have a disposable income. If you set 2 copies of Saga in front of me. One is $2.99 + sales tax and the other is $1.79 and no sales tax I am choosing the $1.79 one. I have bills to pay besides my comic budget also. I need to save money where I can.

    • I would concur with daningotham that if getting a “good deal” is an important factor for his personal purchasing habits, he should absolutely be getting his comics from the large online sellers. I’m not sure many people actually go to their LCS simply to “support” local business. For me, it is all about the experience. I really like going into shops, having the opportunity to browse, talk to the owner and other customers. For that experience, I’m willing to pay a small premium. At my last shop, you got a 15% discount if you had at least 4 subscriptions, and everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable. But when I moved, the new shop offered no discount and the owner was playing video games behind the counter the whole time. I tried on several occasions to converse, only to be told by the owner that he really doesn’t keep up with comics much anymore. Therefore I now do just what daningotham does: shop online.

      In terms of cover price, the price *printed* on the cover (the MSRP) is indeed determined by the publisher, but the retailer can sell it at whatever price they wish, depending on their particular marketing strategy (discount vs no discount). The .60 thing is just Image saying “we’re sorry” to the retailers, and “on this one occasion we are giving a portion of our profits to you, to prove that we are sorry.”

  10. a.j.howard09 says:

    It’s stuff like this that makes you realize that publishers must dreaming of the days when digital readership is sufficient enough to all but abandon monthly floppies. I can see the need for reprints for the first few issues as readers sample an issue or two, then drop out, but that pre-orders were down for the seventh issue of Saga after six straight sell-outs? Dealing with an independent publisher? That’s just arrogant complacency. I understand it’s getting tougher and tougher to run a shop, but it seems like a lot of behavior you hear some of the things some brick and mortar shop owners complain about, and it seems like they are people looking to be coddled by the industry.

    For instance, look at the reaction when DC stopped waiting until 2 PM to sell same-day digital books. Seriously, how many people nationwide still went to the comic shop because they couldn’t wait until the early afternoon to read the latest issue of Legion Lost? Was it even in the triple digits? But the reaction of some store owners make you think that DC was deliberately trying to put them out of business.

    I why people love the Wednesday store experience. It’s something I didn’t grow up with, but I can see the charms in it. I root for the little guy. But I worked in a local bookstore in a growing area throughout high school. You know how much help from publishing companies that store got when Book-A-Million and Barnes and Nobles started popping up close by, or as Amazon got more and more popular. Zilch. That store is still open today because the owners were smart and aggressively promoted and featured the things that made them better than the other alternatives. I get that it’s tough, and sometimes you can make the right moves and it just doesn’t work. And while complaining still works, go for it, more power to the whiners. But know that publishers are probably relishing the day, which is much sooner rather than later, where they don’t have to listen anymore.

    • gevdarg says:

      Believe me, when consumer preferences change to digital, publishers will yearn for the days of the floppies. Because you ain’t making a whole lot of $$$ at 35 cents a sale. That’s 75% less revenue than you would have gotten for a floppy while working with distribution costs of 65%, that’s 5% more than print distribution costs, despite much, much lower overhead. Digital is a pipe dream.

  11. xoman xoman says:

    From baseball cards to Beanie Babies, artificial scarcity is ridiculous & stupid.

    • jasonhart jasonhart says:

      It’s not artificial if they stop doing re-prints & stores keep under-ordering.

    • Indeed. This is not an artificial scarcity problem. Its… pretty much the opposite of that.

    • Why can’t reprints be print on demand, again? Why can’t Image just go around the Diamond model for this?

    • abstractgeek says:

      print on demand is considerably more expensive than standard printing. the reason image has issues with second prints is because the smaller print runs of second prints means a larger cost. print on demand is very expensive. a full color 28 page comic at ka blam printing would be 3.46 a copy. way too high for anyone to make a profit unless cover price were $10 and then no consumer would buy it.

    • Print on demand is way expensive. To set that up with the finishing built in your looking at $100k+ at the very low end a super modded out kinkos style laser printer. They have higher end digital press but thats more $$$. With printing you’re not just buying the ink on paper, you’re buying time on press. Ones-ys and twos-ys are a waste of time and money.

      The cost per unit is a huge, but also its quality. To make that affordable you don’t really fuss with settings and color correcting. You kinda just do that once, queue up all your jobs and press print. No press checks or color, SOO quality suffers basically. Plus you have very little options with paper and other things. Its a nice solution for self publishing in tiny amounts cause you save TONS of cash on not needing to make offset plates but you’re basically paying retail on the paper and printing.

  12. jasonhart jasonhart says:

    Eric Stephenson continues to win me over. What a classy dude. When you’re top dog, this is what you need to do. Take the responsibility on yourself foremost, be fair, but don’t be weak about it.

    Notice, he said the next few issues will have re-prints & there’ll be a massive discount, as a “sorry” for the bad air & for springing it on retailers. But it sounds like if order numbers don’t pick up, they’ll still quit doing reprints, especially after giving retailers more of a fair warning.

    I don’t know the specifics of ordering for a comic shop, & I’m sure there are a lot of factors that us laymen can’t even guess at, but that does seem really off — for a title to be seeing the need for re-prints 6 and 7 issues in, consistently. I have to believe the readership has steadied somewhat by now.

    • Dean B. Dean B. says:

      Couldn’t agree with this more and these are my feelings on it exactly.

    • gevdarg says:

      Maybe for the laymen there are a lot of factors to guess at, but for the rest of us, we know that Image wants retailers to have more “belief” in their product than they do because Image will get every dime of revenue for what they sell into the market. The same can’t be said for retailers. Retailers shoulder all the risk. That’s how the direct maket works, which is why publishers abandoned the newsstand market for it. If Image wants to get all the missed sales opportunities that they imagine exist for “known over-performers” like Saga, then they need to “believe” their own hype and do larger initial print runs. Other than that, they should accept the fact that retailers are going to order what they think they can sell until it is proven otherwise…and they are supremely wise to do so when they ultimately bear the risk.

  13. Poopmonster Poopmonster says:

    I got a reprint story. I was at a comic shop outside of Denver when the new 52 started. A guy was in looking for Green Lantern books and the counter guy was trying to sell the guy on a reprint of one of the GL books as being more ‘valuable’ in the long run since there are fewer copies of a reprint. My thoughts were 1. What a dick. 2. why aren’t reprints cheaper? 3. hasn’t this guy heard of the internet?

  14. stuclach stuclach says:

    Articles like this one always remind me how glad I am that I went digital.

  15. ScottE ScottE says:

    I know I don’t know all the details but just reading this printing sounds like quite a bigger process compared to digital and I really think selling them at the same price doesn’t add up, in my opinion.

    • gevdarg says:

      Print is not some archaic, complicated process. Image just doesn’t want to incur the risk that comes with having the faith in your product to overprint to match the demand of a “known over-performer.” They don’t want to overprint, so they wanted to shame and guilt the retailers into over-ordering. Period. But you are right, selling print and digital at the same time doesn’t make sense, so they need to dump digital until consumer preferences change. Because when digital is doing an estimated 10% of print sales at what will be 75% less revenue in the future (that magical 99 cents price point), everything about their business is going to get a whole lot more complicated.

  16. Sellouts and 2nd printings were THE reason i went digital. I got sick of new things that i just heard about (usually image and other indies) selling out before lunch on Wednesday, so i was like screw it, if these local stores won’t carry inventory, i’m getting these books on comiXology now instead of waiting a month for a reprint to maybe come in. Now i’m like 100% digital and print is only for collections that i love.

    Digital sales isn’t there yet, but it seems like there is a growing frustration with publishers/creators with how tied their hands are with figuring out better ways to reach an audience and make living off of their work.

  17. ryanwhodat ryanwhodat says:

    I don’t have a local shop, but luckily there’s a great shop about an hour away that I visit about every 1-2 months. They must greatly overbuy because they usually have huge runs of all the big books. I tell them every time I’m there how much I appreciate that.

  18. JohhnyNormal JohhnyNormal says:

    This issue should fall firmly in the retailers laps.
    A commitment to lazy/ sloppy ordering, which would cause ES to be pulling his hair out.
    Instead of a commitment to the book and actually bumping orders up sufficiently for months on end.
    Order:sell:order:sell:order:sell
    How is a publisher supposed to manage that?

    They have to put their foot down at some point and say commit to our product, which you sell out of every month, in a manner that supports the business model. Make a real calculated purchase decision in advance.

  19. I’m still pissed that my LCS at the time, the largest in the state, only received 7 copies of Saga #1 from the first printing and I had that shit on pre-order for so long. They had about 200+ for people with pull-lists and then more for the stands, but only got 7 total. They gave them to the first last names of pull lists, and mine being B wasn’t one of them.

    Similar issue with the second and third printing of that issue. I had to go to some obscure shop to actually get a copy of the #1 third printing.

    • That is proper shit!

      I pre-order my lot online at least two months prior from a shop in Northern Ireland (I am obviously based in the UK) & whenever stuff comes out it gets sent too me for every friday. I’ve tried some of my LCS but they’ll all run by arrogant or completely clueless bellends & I just don’t have the time for attitude or being made to feel like a prick, so I stick with online always a guarantee if you do it quick enough when the new list of solicits come up!

    • abstractgeek says:

      Now that is most likely a diamond issue. if they ordered 200 and only got 7. there was a screw up on diamonds end

    • JSAkid JSAkid says:

      I like it, maybe this will get some of the retailers to order more copies to begin with instead of just a handful of indie copies and if you miss it or not there 1st thing in the morning Wednesday (which I never am) you won’t get a copy. I usually don’t have this problem by having a pull w my lcs but in the event they forget an issue I’m screwed. My favorite lcs only carries specific titles cause I ask them to but could probably benefit from more indie sales by carrying a few more copies, which I encouraged and my guy told me he was gonna do, so I hope these good Image and other non big 2 titles sell for them cause the whole reason they don’t order many or even some series at all is that they don’t want to take the chance of titles not selling then sitting on the shelf. I get it on the never ending new Image 1st’s but obvious hit books like Saga and Manhattan Projects, and many others would definitely sell. Classy letter, good incentive….and sometimes online is better but it just isn’t the same as the Wed ritual.

  20. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    *my last comment wasn’t intended to be a response to the above thread but the article in general.

  21. gevdarg says:

    Gee, they’re doing a second printing on the TPB. I wonder if bookstores got this verbal lashing? I highly doubt it. Image needs to put its money where it’s mouth is and up their intital print runs. Show the same faith in their books that they demand of retailers.

  22. merlin3649 says:

    as someone who works at a LCS, one of the biggest problems with ordering new or indie titles are the customers. While there are certainly helpful customers out there who keep their subscriptions updated and let you know in advance what titles they like — many simply don’t. It’s often impossible for us to get a title for someone who doesn’t tell us they want it until after the book’s already released. While we do try to anticipate long-term demand with significant titles (does anyone else need my 8 extra copies of Saga #7 that are apparently causing such a problem?), we can’t do that with every book, especially when Dynamite/DH/IDW/Image alone probably debut 5+ new series a week between them, not even counting the new series output of the Big 2 and the smaller companies. This is especially hard when we bear almost all the risk if something flops.

    TLDR: update your pull lists regularly!

  23. BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

    My store sucks at stocking Image books, but gets a ton of Marvel and DC. I can understand why Image, who is pumping out a ton of good stuff, would be frustrated with their books always being treated as second class, and under ordered as such.