Generally, the tone of these press releases is celebratory. After all, the concept of “selling out” is meant to convey that demand for the product was so robust that it exceeded the publishers’ own expectations. And while that’s certainly true, there are dynamics in the direct market (for comic books) that make the concept of “selling out” a lot less impressive than the PR agents would have you believe.
Let’s focus on Image Comics for a moment. Image (probably my favorite publisher soup to nuts these days) puts out a diverse catalog of creator-owned titles. Image has generated a tremendous amount of buzz behind many of its newer books, whether it be Chew, Skullkickers or Morning Glories. Most recently, Image announced that five books sold out and were going back for additional printings:
Taken together, the five titles are an almost perfect example of the diversity of creator-owned comics showcased by Image on a weekly basis: BLUE ESTATE is a crime comic that leads readers through the tangled web of mistaken identities, backstabbing conspirators and dubious alliances; GREEN WAKE is a riveting horror tale set in a town plagued by a string of grisly murders; NONPLAYER is a sci-fi/fantasy epic that takes inspiration from mutli-player online roleplaying games; UNDYING LOVE is a horror/action series set in modern day Hong Kong that mixes Chinese folklore with vampire mythology; THE INFINITE VACATION is a high concept sci-fi love story set in a parallel reality, where an app that allows users to answer the age-old question of "what if" has changed everyone's lives forever. … (continued)
Blue Estate #1 – 5,296 copies
Green Wake #1 – 4,209 copies
Nonplayer #1 – 8,869 copies
Undying Love #1 (2nd Printing) – Unavailable
The Infinite Vacation #1 – 7,786 copies
Where a publisher can get into trouble is if they overprint the comic beyond what the store pre-orders are for a particular issue. Diamond’s pre-order system and final order cutoff are designed to stop that from happening. Think of the final order cutoff process as effectively a “print on demand” for comic books.
What happens, sometimes, is that retailers are too conservative with their orders (better to be safe than sorry) and realize that they could’ve sold more copies than they ordered. But rather than calling up Diamond and saying, “send me another 10 copies of Blue Estate #1 this week”, they are told by Diamond, “Sorry but we don’t have any additional copies of Blue Estate, it’s sold out.” So they have to wait for Image to order a second printing of the comic, and get their incremental orders filled that way.
Jason Wood is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.