Image Comics Publisher on Sell Outs

One of the things that causes us comics media to roll our eyes the most is the never ending press releases about comics titles selling out.  It seems that many of the comic book publishers are constantly selling out their titles, which of course is a great PR message, but when we see the sales numbers declining across the most of the entire comics industry (with a few exceptions) month after month, it becomes fishy.

Image Comics is no stranger to this tactic, with many of it’s titles (especially recently) selling out at the distributor level.  We’ve heard lots of criticism about this in and around the industry and today Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson spoke out on the topic, and it’s not what you’d think.

In a blog post on his personal blog, Stephenson made the following comments about selling out:

Selling out – it’s great PR, but ultimately, it’s not exactly great business. It creates a roadblock between between readers and the material they want to read, and between retailers and the books they want to sell. In short, it does more harm than good.

Addressing retailer complaints about selling out Saga #1:

A couple retailers have made what I consider to be a fair comment: We should have known a new series by Brian K. Vaughan would do well and could have printed way more than we did.

But using that exact same logic, here’s the thing:

They also could have ordered more.

Shedding light on Image’s publishing strategy:

There’s not a single title we currently publish that is part of some event-oriented marketing scheme. We are not out to create short-term spikes. We lived through that war, and we’ve learnt our lessons well. That’s why we’re committed to publishing the absolute best comics we can, with an eye not just to selling them month-to-month, but over the long haul – as trades and hardcovers that grow sales and keep readers coming back for more.

Bottom line: We all lose when we sell out.

Sure, it gets Image some nice PR, and there’s a lucrative secondary market for sold out books with high demand, but that stuff is fleeting.

We’ve all got the same goal – and that is to get books in the hands of readers.

So let’s do more of that.

For those interested in the behind the scenes/business side of the comics industry, this is a must read as Stephenson shares details of ordering strategies and what the challenge is in terms of being a publisher and meeting demand.  If you’ve ever gone to the comic shop and was disappointed because they didn’t have a book you wanted, this could be part of the reason why.  It’s no shock that it’s a tough market out there these days, but it’s clear that somewhere along the lines, the system is broke, be it at the publisher level and/or the distributor level and/or the retailer level.  It’s refreshing to see behind the curtain though to see how these things work and you can’t help but wonder if the other publishers (Marvel and DC) are having the same frustrations.

Think about it.  If Image is having a hard time meeting demand, that’s because the retailers and Diamond aren’t accurately communicating to them what that demand is.  Every time someone goes to a store and the store doesn’t have the book they came looking for, there’s a better than good chance that that store lost a potential, long term customer.  Especially if they’re a Brian K. Vaughan fan.  They’re in it for the long haul.  Imagine if everyone who went to the comic shop could get what they wanted. Would it be such a rough marketplace then?



  1. and that’s why I’m about 90 % digital. It happened to me during DC’s new 52 launch. I contemplated buying Animal Man#1 at a slight markup($2 above cover price) about a week after it was released. then I just got it digitally. It scratched my itch

    • @ Jesse1125, I think you hit it right on the button. Even if you do not perfer the digital option, it is a option. I do feel bad for publishers with the guessing game, but as a consumer whom is given so many options from pre-order, to pull list, ordering online, back ordering and digital, this really isn’t a big problem. Most store give buissness card and go out of their way to inform the customer of their desired product.
      I guess for a new comer it can be disheartening, but how can any buisness predict growth. They can only guess, based on past data. It happens to every buisness. Hell, Apple isn’t hurting from a lack of product at release time. In the end we need a movement of more people whom want comics.

    • @OliverTwist: I’m not sure I agree with “most stores”. I’ve been to comic book stores in just about every region of the United States and a couple in England and I would say that most stores wouldn’t go that far in informing the customer about their desired product. I’ve even seen good stores only go so far as to tell the customer when they *might* get more copies in again. That’s about as far as I’ve ever witnessed. Mostly I’ve seen/experiences “sorry, we’re sold out.”

    • I will never, ever understand why people don’t set up pull lists with their local comics store. If you’re complaining that they don’t have a comic the day it comes out, YOU’RE TOO LATE! You should have ordered it directly from your comics store when you first heard about it. That’s how companies like Image and all the smaller publishers know how many comics to print. It goes like this:

      1. A new comic is announced.
      2. Smart comics fans hear about it and call their LCS and ask them to order it for them.
      3. The store adds up all of the people who want the comic, and maybe order a certain percentage of extra copies for you idiots who just grab off of the shelves IF it’s a big publisher, or a big name creator, or a famous title.
      4. Diamond tells the publisher how many copies have been pre-ordered by comics stores.
      5. The publisher prints enough copies to meet all of the orders, plus a certain percentage of extras in case more stores re-order copies.
      6. The comic comes out, everyone who pre-ordered gets their copies. If it’s a good comic, it sells out, and idiots who don’t set up pull lists try to buy a copy, and whine when there isn’t one left for them.
      7. The idiots, the comic store, the publisher, all lose out, because you were too stupid or lazy to order in advance.

    • @megavikingman: And it’s a dumb system.

    • @Conor:

      I’m not disputing that. It IS a dumb system. But it just strikes me as even more moronic to whine, “I missed this comic I really wanted!” when you didn’t even take the most basic step to ensure that you got it.

    • @megavikingman: The point is that people don’t want to take those steps, and more importantly, they shouldn’t HAVE to.

      If comic books want to be taken seriously as an entertainment medium alongside all of the other popular forms of entertainment, then it must break free of the shackles of the direct market and its draconian limitations. What we have now is a system designed to keep the medium as small and as insular (and as shrinking) as possible. If the only way to read the books you want to read is to find out about that book and pick it out three months ahead of time and, in many cases, do so using a giant catalog that you usually have to pay for, then this industry is doomed. You don’t pick up casual fans that way. You don’t expand your audience by making it as difficult as possible to buy your product.

    • Our points are not mutually exclusive. You’re talking big picture, long-term. I’m talking right here and now. There are no casual fans visiting a website called “iFanboy.”

      You’re absolutely right, though.

    • @megavikingman: There are absolutely casual fans who come here. (Hell, we have some on staff.) We meet them all the time. That’s kind of our whole point: we welcome all kinds of fans.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with Mr. Stephanson’s assessment. At two local comics shops I was told by the proprietors that they sold out of SAGA #1 in 15 minutes, no exaggeration (I, fortunately, had my copy). But what else needs be addressed is the end consumer letting their LCSs know what their interests are and hopefully voicing their particular desire to read a book. And not just the day it comes out, but as much as a month earlier. So it is a communication issue, but not limited to orders from shops to Diamond to publishers, rather end consumer to LCSs to Diamond to publishers. That, however, means that every level of middlemen need to be doing better jobs of getting information into the hands of people that don’t show up in shops every new comic book day and aren’t necessarily aware of Previews. I don’t know what the answer is, but there is at least one more branch of the buying nature of the market which needs to be addressed too.

    • Yep, I’ll definitely be trade-waiting for this one. I just don’t have the time or energy anymore to deal with this kinda crap where I need to pre-order or special order an item that I’m not even guaranteed to get from my LCS. Reading comics shouldn’t be so much work.

    • Oops, sorry I meant to reply to the thread as a whole, not WhiteReadBlack’s specific comment.

  3. Where I work, about 90% of the people who adjust their pull lists come in the two weeks before the book hits or three days after.

    Ordering is not a science or even an art: it’s a guessing game that only routinely proves you wrong about everything you think or believe to be true about new product on the market. It’s the whim of popularity and word of mouth.

    A whim where orders must be placed two months before the book ships. If it ships on time.

    • The thing that bothers me about this statement is that if I am a regular customer anywhere else and there’s an item I want and I request it 2-3 out before it comes out typically I can get it. Why can’t shops contact Diamond as soon as they hear a customer wants a book if it’s a few weeks before it’s release date (2-3 weeks)? Is Diamond unable to send extra books a few weeks before the release date? Shops have no problem having 18 copies of a Fear itself tie in that sits on the shelf year round but you don’t have any issues of Saga?

      To me also I feel that I shouldn’t have to commit to buying a book two months out before I even know what the interior of the book looks like. I don’t read books in the shop, but I do like to look at the art and even wait for reviews. Knowing the popularity of most Image books the fact that most if not all shops don’t carry their first issue’s and overstock Marvel and DC books to me is incredibly dumb and a wasted opportunity that is causing shops to eventually go out of business.

    • The problem is most image books aren’t that popular. there are a few exceptions, but most image books sell far below cancellation numbers for marvel and dc. in feb, the highest charting book from image was fatale at which was ranked at 100. It’s selling 1000 copies more than savage hawkman. even chew which is a big critical success and certainly a favorite around here comes in at 158, around 12,000 copies, just a few hundred copies more than static shock. Chew has been around long enough for retailers to get a good read on how many copies they can sell. Many of the top image books do much better in trade, and im sure many retailers weer expecting saga (much like y the last man) to do the same.

    • Bello, I agree. Completely, without question.

      Diamond takes, in general, two weeks to get anything from “I ordered this” to my store because of how things are shipped out and processed. Which, in this day and age, I find almost ridiculous.

      There is an order-adjustment that hits closer to ship, but is still not “that week.” The figures they show us are a generalized form of “on average, other stores ordered this.” That’s as much of a heads-up as we have as to what people are ordering. But as Stephenson pointed out, NO ONE ELSE jumped on this too. So when we see the report and see “Ordering 20 copies of Saga seems on par with a store our size” all we can assume is “Yup. Sounds legit.”

      The ONLY way a store can accurately track how much of a book to buy is to go by how it HAS been selling. We only just now got comfortable with our orders for DC to make sure we get enough for subs, how much moves off the wall, how much to leave as shelf presence, and to not sit on a stack that will never sell.

    • how can a book become popular when its not available for purchase? The flip side to that coins is that you can’t expect a shop owner to to buy a dozen copies of every creator owned book that comes out in a given month….because that’s a HUGE and most likely fatale gamble.

      Its a viscous circle really and points to a giant question mark with the business model that desperately needs to be solved.

    • @wallythegreenmonster: A key point here is that this particular book has broken the general rule of HOW comics become popular. Instead of being a Locke & Key or Walking Dead, which started out slow and gained speed, it hit like a Batman book.

  4. I saw SAGA in Previews and put that one straight into my not quite year old hold because my LCS was smart enough to tell everyone there might be a shortage on a BKV book. There was a shortage at that LCS but everyone that had ordered a book for their hold was insured a copy (man what a great book).

  5. Is there another industry that works this way? Where the customer is to blame for not ordering the product in advance? Crazy making. So glad I’m 100% digital now.

    • I don’t think Stephenson is blaming the consumers completely for the problem. He says that the retailers should have ordered more, which they should have, irregardless of pre-orders. This would be like a bookstore finding out Stephen King’s got a new novel coming soon; whoever’s in charge of ordering will order plenty because King’s books consistently sell well. The issue with Vaughn is that he hasn’t put out a book in a while; Ex Machina ended years ago, Runaways is almost a decade old, Pride of Baghdad is a critical darling but not exactly burning up the sales charts.

      Likewise, there are some retailers who haven’t quite grasped the impact of digital. Remember when this happened with “Chew”? How many reprints of those first few issues came out? How many retailers figured they’d jump in on the back end when the reprint was solicited, watch the numbers industry-wide and in-store and order a 2nd printing accordingly? But now, a lot of people who would have waited for that reprinting will just go the digital route instead. I wonder if Image will even offer a reprint.

      So, it’s hard to fault a store owner for ordering conservatively. On the other hand, if a storeowner thought there was a good chance of Vaughn’s book being popular, he should do everything in his power to assess demand before the ordering date. Advertise, talk to regulars, etc.

    • the main difference between a Stephen King novel and comic book, is that by the end of the week (and really by the end of Wednesday) its starting to become old, dead stock. Whereas a novel can be considered new for months after release. Even then, they can be discounted or sold as remainders, which comics can’t really do.

    • Imagine it more like “Stephen King wrote 20 pages of a book. That’ll cost you a dollar. You need to know how many pages 81-100 you’re going to buy before anyone reads pages 1-20.” Now replace “Stephen King” with an author who maybe hasn’t written a novel in the past ten years. Sure, you’re sure it’ll be good. But HOW good? This person may be a decent seller, but maybe never had a Harry-Potter-scale-blockbuster. Sure, maybe you can talk about this with the customers, gauge their reactions and what not.

      Except you have ordered about $15,000 worth of single-serving chapters this month to put on the shelf, a not-insignificant-percentage of it is new stuff from hot new people who are just as likely to be blockbuster stars as they are to fall into obscurity in six months.

      I would LOVE to know for sure what’s the next hot thing. I would give a testicle to be able to, without over-burdening these shelves with excessive and never-moving inventory, buy exactly enough of every item each and every single month from Previews to satisfying the Wednesday, Friday, and six-months-later-and-heard-good-stuff customer.

      I love comics. And when I buy a book, I hope that it’s good. No, scratch that. I hope that it’s AMAZING. That it takes me someplace else, is full of awesome words and gorgeous art, and that other people will enjoy it as well and we can talk about how great it is. That capitalism can support the creative and prove the system isn’t broken.

      But in this economy, that isn’t a gamble that can be taken very often. And Previews is THICK with other books, equally vying for attention, to be that next awesome thing. So to say, “We have to stand by the creators who will be the next big thing,” it’s a wonderful dream to have. It’s a dream I want to come true time and again, rewarding everyone who pours every drop of sweat and effort into their work to entertain and enlighten people they may never meet. But sometimes we can’t see which pony to pick. Because sometimes we’ve gambled on that race, and saw that horse was only good for glue and dog food.

    • @mrgraves: And that’s why I can’t completely fault store owners for ordering conservatively – it’s a crapshoot on its own. However, a guy like Vaughn is one of the closest things we have to a Stephen King-like author, whose popularity alone can sell books. A retailer looking to make some extra money could easily have advertised and built up some buzz leading up to the pre-order deadline. “Remember ‘Y’? Remember ‘Runaways’? Remember ‘Ex Machina’? He’s coming back in March!” I bet someone who did a little selling of the book would have had some serious pre-orders, certainly more than 5 or so.

      I think we also make the assumption that every retailer and consumer is tapped into some kind of “comics media” outside of Previews (websites, podcast, etc.). If you were following the media up into January, you knew what a big deal Saga was. Heck, you’d have even known earlier last year (was it C2E2 or San Diego when it was announced). But only a small percentage of a small percentage is plugged in to such media hyping this up. So, if the retailer, the guy on the ground, wasn’t hyping up what a big deal this was, some consumers may have had no idea until the day the book came out. Again, when bookstores hear a King book is coming out, they hype it months in advance – advertise in store, send out emails, post on the website, etc. Our retailers need to consistently do the same. If they do and no one shows interest, then yes, now the onus falls back on the fans. But the retailers have to make the effort to get the word out first.

    • @BC1: I love Vaughn. I love Fiona Staples. Saga excited me. I wanted it to be as big as…well…anything of sufficient size. And it turned out to be about fifty thousand times bigger.

      And the number of people who subscribed to it was on par with subs for Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man for us. Which is to say, “four.”

      The problem with hype is that it’s HYPE. A fad. And people, having been saturated in a fad-induced environment for most of their adult lives, who also have in the past year slowly cut back lists due to how much budget they have to spend each month (not including the people who have stopped buying comics at ALL since the past summer), politely nod. Previews is four-hundred-monthly-pages of “This is the new AWESOME HOTNESS!!!” You take it all with a grain of salt

      But the situation at hand isn’t that we didn’t adequately inform people about this, but we had no way of discerning “That sounds cool” from “I’m SERIOUSLY picking this up.” Small businesses have to weigh options about what they purchase. This isn’t a grocery store where you rely on the fact that people will get hungry and need to buy detergent. This is an entertainment industry, with all the perils attached. The mere act of going on a limb on a book could mean telling an employee “Sorry, we need to cut your hours this week because we can’t afford to pay you.”

    • @mrgraves: And if your store made every effort to make people aware of this and the numbers didn’t justify going above and beyond the pre-orders, that’s fine, that’s knowing your business. But when stores have customers, and not “people off the street” or the mythical “new readers”, but long-term customers, coming into the store wanting this book and not finding it, then something happened. Either Diamond didn’t send enough (happens, not the retailers fault), the store didn’t make the effort to advertise beforehand or use past sales data to order properly (which it sounds like your store did use data from other Vaughn books as a bellweather), or the customers didn’t speak up and say “order this book.” Unfortunately, in a lot of stores the second option is true – retailers don’t do enough to gauge interest or predict it from past data.

  6. How awesome is image, and eric, to acknowledge this is a problem publicly and try to fix it. Do you think dc or marvel would put this statement out?

    • this “problem” doesnt seem to be affecting marvel, dark horse and idw. dc seemed pleased that they were selling out new 52 titles and going back to press. Is it really that awesome to be asking retailers to buy more of your books, or is it kind of self serving. Not that its bad, its just hardly an act of nobility to try to increase sales of your product.

  7. Selling out is everybody’s way to vote with they’re money and print more, or order more but the demand needs have to be as accurate as they can. I bought two issues of Saga from my more Indie LCS, one for me and one for my friend cause the distributor was sold out and the LCS we both go too is more big two than Indie and didn’t order enough Saga, I tried to tell em. But I love going to these two stores and chatting about comix as the whole thing as many of you know is just part of the ritual and fun in it. I’ll never go fully digital but have tried a few issues and like it but it doesn’t beat (for my $) holding the book in my hands and flipping back to re-enjoy the cover of an issue I just read and really liked, plus the smell if new books is timeless. I’ll probably end up in a little of both worlds and hope I can stay there awhile cause I’m enjoying both formats.

    • doing multiple small print runs with fast turnarounds murder your bottom line. Your buying all this rush printing (and doing pre-press over again, since they don’t keep plates) and extra shipping…it really works against you.

  8. You can’t sell what’s not on the shelf. Its business 101.

    i went all in with the digital comics because my local shops were often sold out before lunch on Wednesday, and having a job with responsibilities, that made buying comics very difficult.

    Browsing and discovering things on the shelves was half the fun of buying comics for me…it was the experience, and that had become so difficult to keep doing. Reading previews and pre-ordering was never fun for me so i was left in a lurch.

    I won’t pretend to fully understand the challenges of running an independent comic shop, but as a consumer you hate wasting time and gas running around to shops that don’t have things that just came out. If you’re sold out by Saturday you’re leaving my disposable income on the table and i’m less likely to want to go back.

    • My store is very frustrating with these Image books. There have been a bunch of new series I wanted to check out – some I put on my pull list, others I hoped to find on the rack (Peter Panzerfaust, No Place Like Home, Thief of Thieves, and more) so I could browse through and see if I wanted. But my store has had none of them. They order maybe one copy per book, only for subscribers.

      I got Saga because I signed up for that long ago, but none of this other stuff ever seems to make it there. DC and Marvel stuff, sure, but we’re pretty much bare on the Image books. I hope all these sellouts, and books like Fatale, Manhattan Projects, Hell Yeah, whatever, I hope my store starts to get more of this stuff to put on the shelves but I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s a small store, and they don’t want stuff out that doesn’t move, but this Image stuff isn’t even getting a chance to sell.

    • i couldn’t even even get Amazing Spiderman or Batman after lunch on the Wednesday they came out. Seriously whats the point in having business hours when inventory is that thin?

    • @bcdx97 If you can’t find it in your LCS you can always check out online. Personally I couldn’t get Thief of theives or Alpha Girl at my LCS but found them for cover price at

    • @TheRealVenom Yeah, I get stuff from Midtown sometimes, but they sell out, too. If I really want to read it, I know I can get the 2nd printing or the TPB, so it all works out okay in the end. But I would like to get a chance to browse the books at the store.

      I just realized that there are previews on Image Comics website, which I should check out more often. But it would be nice to skim through the books in the store, Here’s a little list of Image books I’ve never seen in stock at my store – No Place Like Home, Peter Panzerfaust, Hell Yeah, Manhattan Projects, Thief of Thieves, Fatale, Screamland, Undying Love, Lil Depressed Boy, Infinite Horizon, Butcher Baker, Witch Doctor, ’68, Near Death, Marksmen, Last of the Greats, Red Wing, Vescell – and those are just the books I had some interest in. Who knows what else is missing.

      I know this site has been loving Image as of late – let’s hope the stores start showing that love, too, and start giving some of these books more of a chance. Several times lately I’ve heard people asking about Image books my store didn’t have – let’s keep bugging our stores until they do.

    • @wallythegreenmonster That is pretty sad. If they don’t have enough stock for Wednesday, how are they going to make money the other 6 days of the week? I know New Comic Day is the big day, and running a comic store must be a maddening proposition, but retailers need to do a better job than this.

    • @wally “I couldn’t even get ASM or Batman after lunch on weds.” Haha really dude? Do you live in very rural area or something?

    • @wally you have a really shitty shop.

    • @craig—a decent sized city with about 10 shops that i know of. To be fair i don’t know what they are doing now, i’ve been mostly all digital since the New 52 last september. And i buy my few print books from an indie book store across the street that carries less titles, but has decent quantities.

  9. I have no problems with them printing less and selling out. Especially hot titles like Saga, Fatale, Manhattan Projects etc etc. I am one of the few who see’s this in some small part as an investment as well as a hobby. Less copies of hot titles= more demand for it= $$

    • Because that worked so well for industry in the 90s? Short term it did, I guess.

      Never have been into scalping, personally.

    • Scalping is somewhat a harsh term. Its an investment plain and simple. Demand is greater than supply. Economics my friend.
      Knowing I can get 2 copies of a hot #1 title and turn around in a few weeks and sell one for a 300% profit works just fine for me.

    • Yeah, if somebody wants to buy it and somebody wants to sell it, I guess that’s all cool. If you are capitalizing on the situation, I guess that’s what capitalism is all about. Image just needs to make more and our stores need to order more. You’re just playing the hand you’re dealt.

      I was actually looking up my books the other day online, the best one I had was Invincible #1. I guess I could sell it and make some bucks but I don’t NEED the cash now or anything.

    • I have Walking Dead 1 thru current and was surpised to see how much the first appearance of Michonne and first appearance of governor were going for on Ebay. I always knew I could get some money for the 1st issue but the TV show has made this series a real hot seller…My girlfriend thinks I should sell them while they’re hot but I don’t need the money so I’m not really wanting to let them go..I don’t collect comics as an investment but TheRealVenom has a point.

  10. I am really amazed that they go from Press to Distributor to Store in 3 weeks or less. That is an incredibly fast turnaround which means cost. North American printing is already expensive enough, but doing it on a quick turnaround…sheesh.

  11. Two of the more interesting things to me to come out of that blog were: That they are taking the risk of letting retailers return unsold copies (my understanding is DC did the same thing at the start of the new 52). And that he wants to make a stronger direct market.

    I think the first thing is very cool, and I hope it is done more and more often with new books, great way to build up audiences.

    The later thing I’m not sure about ( honestly), didn’t we all decide that the direct market as it is will need to collapse before comics can evolve? Or at best it’s a bad compromise, until some one can come up with something to transition away from it.
    I would think Image would be in a prime position to lead that charge to something new, not reinforce the broken system that typically does put more of the risk on the small business retailers. That being said, I do get it at that publishers can’t go back to the days of mass printings and stuffing them on spinner racks. I also don’t have a clue for what the thing to replace direct market should be (online is great, but not a full solution yet).

    • when did “we” decide the direct market had to collapse? I know that’s a perspective often brought up here, but its a perspective i dont share, and its a perspective many don’t share. be careful not to take the views of a vocal group of posters on a website as the views of the buying public as a whole. If it was, image would be the top selling publisher. and everyone would still be reading thor the mighty avenger and captain britan.

    • I know right? Who would want to buy comic books at a comic book store? That’s stupid this whole system needs to evolve or dieeee!!!!! Jk I love my LCS

  12. The key to great communication is cutting out the middle man.
    I recently heard that Valiant comics contacted (almost?) all the comic shops across North America explaining to them what their initiative is. My co worker at the shop spent about a half hour talking business and what the company has to offer. As a retailer (if I were one), to have that interaction available to me directly, means something. That would most definitely give me further incentive to order their product.

    Understanding what you’re ordering is also key. Understanding means knowing and knowing is everything. As a retailer, if you know what you’re ordering then you can explain it to your customers and give them a reason to be excited about it. As for being the client, understanding could mean knowing whether or not they’d be interested in that comic.

    Lastly (but not leastly because that’s not a word…), it does indeed come down to the wants of the clientele, and in some cases people don’t know what they want until its presented to them. Of course this needs to be done in the right way. I think alot of new comics readers jump into the medium thinking that superheroes are all that is offered, when in fact there is SO much more, as most publishers have already proven. I would suggest marketing in other non comics related media. (such as magazines, is it safe to say that most maxim readers have read some sort of comic strip at least once in their lives?).

    To be fair, the reason most of these titles are selling out the way they are is because of that last minute hype the comics sites give to these titles. Best example of this was Hell Yeah! or even Luther Strode. Both titles flew under the radar (despite previews catalog cover spots) and then Bam! First issue sell outs. There needs to be greater outreach.

    Regardless, like jazz, it all comes full circle and depends greatly on good communication. We all need to play our part.

  13. That’s exactly what happened to me. I went to my LCS and found out that SAGA 1 sold out. I just couldn’t wait for a reprint so I bought it on Comixology. I must’ve saved a dollar on it as well. I guess that’s a 1UP for digital.

  14. Why is there this assuption that ‘old’ comics are dead stock? I would have thought that the mythical new customer would quite like to see prominetly displayed, cover priced full runs of (say) Batman or AVX, whether they came out last week or last year. (as opposed to being marked up and filled in back issue long boxes).

    Being able to sell complete packages like this over the long term must surely be part of expanding the market. Granted, this would only really be viable for mainstream properties with enduring appeal, but in these cases could retailers not see a great up front investment delivering longer term rewards?

  15. If Image made first issues of these potentially hot books (Saga, Fatale, Manhattan Projects, Secret, Thief of Thieves) returnable then retailers are REALLY idiots if they didn’t order a bunch of extra copies and it makes those sell-outs even more depressing

    I’d love if they’d do that for ALL Image #1s but the stuff from the big names is a definite start. I assume the new Morrison book will be returnable too when it comes out.

    • returnability is a great incentive, but keep in mind the retailers still pay for the books when they get them and then have to wait to return them for credit. it’s still money out of pocket and can cause cashflow issues. my local retailer used to sell 5 copies of y the last man a month. maybe 7 ex machina. thats only 12 total assuming no one bought both. he ordered 25 copies of saga and sold out. he doubled what he could reasonably have expected to sell. (25 is what he sells on a book like green lantern it is not a big store) and it wasnt enough. BKV is not a big seller historically at this store. He has long pushed image and other indy comics, and has single handedly built a solid readership for books like walking dead or chew, but for every chew there are several skull kickers, butcher bakers or prophets, which have strong issue 1 (due at least in part to speculation caused by the sell out press releases) and then drop to only a couple copies a month.

      Since y the last man was far more successful in trade, i wonder how many retailers expected people to wait for the trade/hardcover. image has certainly conditioned its audience to do that. I was actually planning to with saga, as im sure it will get a really nice hardcover and im done double dipping. i wound up changing my mind and buying issue 1 off the rack. im still not sure ill buy issue 2. i still may wait as the first issue made me think this is going to be a series that will read better collected.

    • Since he ordered five times more than he ordered on Y, that’s definitely taking a chance. I’m sure that’s better than most.

    • @gobo

      They did make Saga #1 returnable. From Stephenson’s blog post:

      “Especially since we offered an incentive for Saga #1 that made it returnable for retailers willing to order more copies. In fact, that incentive was available to retailers for Saga #1-3, along with the first three issues of books like Fatale, The Manhattan Projects, Secret and Thief of Thieves.”

      That “lucrative secondary market for sold out books with high demand” Stephenson speaks of has been the butter for comic shops for decades. I’d argue it has caused MORE damage to the industry than piracy.

  16. It was hardly a surprise that there would be huge demand for this. My LCS had about 50 copies on the shelf – they were gonzo in a day. Lucky I got mine…

  17. Honestly this is all a bit too little, too late. Between last year’s push to digital distribution and over a decade of piracy publishers shouldn’t be spending their time on this issue.

  18. Well I know from experience that my LCS barely gets Image books for the store. He says he gets a lot of costumers getting it for their pullbins but he doesn’t think getting a lot for his shelve is worth it. I can kinda see that since I know a good chunk of costumers at his store ONLY want Marvel/DC books. Although he does get a lot of Dark Horse books which is helpful when I want a Hellboy one shot.

    But I go around that problem by just ordering the books from Image or any other small publisher that I do want to buy. I am a bit annoyed smaller stores, like mine, won’t try to see if their costumers will be smaller marketed books….But as long as I’m getting my own books I really don’t care.

  19. I’m kind of struggling to figure out why selling out is bad for the retailers. In the case of Saga, it sounds like most retailers bought more copies than they otherwise would have and still sold out. This means that each retailer sold more copies than he otherwise would have, which means they each made more money than they otherwise would have. Sure, lost sales are unfortunate if you don’t accurately quantify the demand, but still you made more on this book than another book that could have been released at the same time, which is a net positive for the retailer.

    I think most customers are pretty loyal to their local comic shops — I know I am. If a title I’m looking for is not at my LCS, I may go to another one looking for that specific title, but I’ll still come back to the one I like. I also think this situation is fairly rare, since most metropolitan areas are not littered with comic book shops. In the Bay Area (which makes up the 6th largest metropolitan area in the country), I can realistically see myself going to 3-4 shops, so the LCS needn’t worry about losing a customer. And furthermore, if the title is hot and I can’t get the first issue straightaway, I’ll put it on my pull list and catch up when I get the first issue off ebay for $2 more than cover price.

    • When you’re talking about a comic “selling out” you’re talking about it at a distributor level, which means a comic book store cannot get more copies to fill the demand from customers.

    • Right, but this is a short term problem. The shops should have a much better clue now as to what the demand is. No more than two days after the release (assuming they sold out or never purchased an order and only had buzz in the store), they should be putting their orders in so the distributor can know what the need is — there is more than enough time for Image to get a handle on how many units to produce of subsequent issues so that the unfilled demand becomes less and less over the next few months.

    • @mferrario: It’s a short term problem that happens on a regular basis. We’re not just talking about SAGA, here. It just happens to be the most high profile recent example.

    • Also, suppose the shop bought 5 copies because that’s what he expected to sell in a month. Instead, he sold out in a day. Well, he just did a month’s worth of sales in a day and he now has the rest of the month to move the rest of his inventory. If everything else performs the way he expects, the worst case scenario is he breaks even. The owner might have to report to a customer that he is sold out of Saga, but the smart owner will deliver this news along with, “But if you’re interested in stories like Saga, maybe you should check out (insert in stock title here).” And then his net sales for the month have actually increased. Sure, the customer did not get exactly what he was looking for, but since so much of the buzz in this industry is driven by word of mouth, that customer may now have two titles he wants to read every month instead of one.

      I don’t mean to sound snobbish or aloof — it really would be best if all the shops could fill every order and not be burdened with excess inventory because in that scenario everyone wins.

    • @mferrario

      You don’t sound snobbish or aloof however your reasoning is substantiated on a somewhat unlikely scenario that a customer who does not get what he wants will come back.

    • @smasher

      What @mferrario describes is exactly how sales work and is not unlikely. Many customers in any business have heard about something, but haven’t heard about other stuff they might also be interested in. It’s up to the sales person to identify those needs and offer a product that will fulfill that need.

      In the Saga case the retailer can offer to re-order the first issue, second print maybe and offer a subscription. A lot of retailers or their employees however just tell their customers a product they came for is sold out, offer apologies and that’s it. Sorry, but that’s just bad customer service imo! A customer will come back if you offer solutions and possibilities.

    • @martinNL

      You’re right but c’mon you just said it yourself

      “A lot of retailers or their employees however just tell their customers a product they came for is sold out, offer apologies and that’s it.”

      Yes, sales work that way but do they work that way in comic book shop? We seem to agree that they typically do not.

  20. Its really bad business to consistently turn customers away due to lack of inventory. Making a sale is about getting the cash when the customer is there in front of you and interested. I’ve worked in sales, when customers say “i’ll come back later” they usually don’t. They just get it somewhere else or not at all. And if you’re constantly pushing me and my money out of the door, then i’ll take the hint and stop coming back.

    Yes comics customers are pretty loyal, but i think its really dangerous for a business owner to just rely on that in lieu of meeting demand.

  21. You can’t buy and read everything when it comes out all of the time.

    But if it gets enough buzz to “sell out”, hopefully it will get enough buzz for a resolicit or a collection in trade format.

    I can always check out this year’s hot sell-out from the public library in hardcover next year.

    Or, if not, there’s a metric ton of other stuff to read, watch, stream, play, do, etc.

    • thank you. There is only but soo much disposible income available. I never pre order a book or novel. Sometimes, I’ll pre-order an album or dvd (the price discount is what really gets me to pre-order it). Why in this age and economic climate should we order what we want to read 2-3 months in advance or risk NOT reading it at all?

  22. I really want to see a documentary about the business side of comics, not just the excruciating minutae of Kevin Smith’s friends talk about when their not playing street hockey.

    I’d call it On Any Given Wednesday.

  23. Just tell your LCS to pull every book, every week for you. Then vet out the ones you don’t want and tell them to put them back on to the shelves for those who didn’t pre order. Everyone’s happy, problem solved!