The Previews Catalog: Be Careful What You Wish For

The Previews Catalog

Sometimes we take for granted that the way we view the world isn’t, necessarily, the way the majority of people do. For as long as I can remember, the Previews catalog has been an essential part of my comic buying experience. So much so that I generally assume that most hardcore comic fans are equally beholden to the 400+ page listing of all the comic and geeky goodness that’s coming to stores in a few months. But as I’ve gotten out of my bubble over the last few years and started to get to know a broad swath of other comic fans, retailers, creators and publishers, it’s occurred to me that Previews isn’t as ubiquitous among comic book readers as I thought. Or more accurately, readers don’t REALIZE just how important Previews is to their favorite hobby.

A Quick Overview of Previews
Previews Catalog Diamond June 2010
Previews is the name of a monthly catalog published by Diamond Comic Distributors, who by now you know is the primary distributor for the vast majority of comic books into the direct retailer market. The catalog features everything that publishers (and toy companies, magazine publishers, other specialty retailers) intend to publish a few months from now. The vast majority of products listed in Previews are to be released (barring delays) two months later. So, for example, comics solicited in this month’s Previews are due to be published in August for the most part.

Diamond originally created Previews as a tool for retailers to better plan their ordering patterns. It was functionally a listing of anything a retailer could purchase, from Diamond, to stock its store shelves with.

But the unique model of the direct market quickly evolved the way Previews was used in practice. The comic book direct market is unique in that the vast majority of product is pre-ordered and NON-RETURNABLE. What that means is that if the local store down the street orders 30 copies of Atomic Robot Hamsters #37: The Swimsuit Issue and only manages to sell one (to you, shamefully), they are stuck with those 29 other copies. There is no recourse to return the unsold copies to the publisher for a partial discount or credit.

Why does that matter? Because it makes over-ordering or ordering the wrong things DEADLY. The majority of comic book retailers aren’t making a huge profit margin. They rely on volume and consistent orders from end customers. If they fail to correctly adjust their orders to closely match end customer demand, their available cash flow can evaporate and effectively put them out of business. It’s a razor thin margin for many of these entrepreneurs.

Enter the Pull List and Concept of Pre-Ordering

Because of the non-returnable nature of most comics, local retailers quickly realized that they needed to find a better way to gauge what customers wanted. They simply couldn’t buy one or two copies of anything that looked cool and hope that someone stumbled across it on the shelves.

Sears Wish Book Image 80s StyleSo the idea of PASSING ALONG THE PREVIEWS CATALOG TO END CUSTOMERS came to fruition. I don’t know when this first happened. I don’t know if it was something Diamond suggested to retailers or whether a few enterprising retailers came up with the idea and then Diamond decided to run with it across its network. But it happened. And it happened a long time ago. End customers now had access to a massive catalog of all the comics and comic-related goods that were available in a few months. It was the functional equivalent of the Sears Wish Book for comic fans. Only it came out EVERY MONTH, with thousands of new goodies to choose from.

The idea was a logical one. Retailers would provide regular customers with a copy of Previews and ask them to fill out a pre-order form or “pull list.” Many customers to this day, incidentally, have  a pull list but don’t realize it’s effectively the same as pre-ordering comics via Previews. In any event, retailers began saying to customers…look this over, tell me what you want, and I can get it for you.

Why Pre-Ordering Was Considered A Good Thing

Retailers loved the idea of allowing customers to pre-order. It theoretically removed the risk of too much inventory. If John Doe said he wanted a copy of that Hamster Swimsuit issue, the retailer could gladly order a copy for him, collect his portion of the price, and be guaranteed a sale. And if only two of his customers pre-ordered the book, then he only ordered those two copies (or maybe three so he could have one for the shelf for that random passerby who has a thing for cybernetic rodents with tan lines).

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Anytime you change the paradigm, it’s impossible to predict the many ways that change will influence the development of the market. Giving Previews to customers made sense in so many ways.

•    For Retailers – Allowed them to better gauge end customer demand for products, and thus avoid catastrophic cash flow issues from over or under-ordering.
•    For Customers – Provided them a window into a much wider selection of goods, and would give them the opportunity to assure that any comic they wanted would be available versus hoping that their LCS owner had ordered copies.
•    For Diamond – Helped institutionalize the pre-order process, something that was essential in making the non-returnable process viable.
•    For Publishers – Gave publishers a window to advertise directly to its readers. By allowing pre-ordering, publishers have a much better idea of demand for their goods, and can more efficiently manage print runs and future publishing schedules.

Lee Corso picWin, win. Right? As my friend Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!”

The Distributor Wars (which eventually led to Diamond becoming a de facto monopoly) also gave way to Previews morphing. As the larger publishers were given Premier Status (which we talked about recently when IDW joined the club), the shape and utility of Previews morphed.

Enter the Front and Back Half

Today, you’ll hear people refer to Previews as though it’s two entities: The Front Half vs. The Back Half

•    The Front Half = the front of Previews is reserved for Diamond’s Premier Publishers. Today that comprises DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and IDW. These publishers get major real estate in the catalog and, not coincidentally, also have a broader catalog than other publishers. If you look through a copy of Previews, you will see full color ads, for pages and pages, displaying the wares of these publishers. Making matters even more confusing is the fact that Marvel technically isn’t in the main catalog. There is a Marvel section of just a few pages, but that really calls out to a wholly-separate Marvel Previews insert (usually 100+ pages). If you’re wondering why Marvel gets its own separate catalog while DC doesn’t, that’s a (great) story for another time. Remind me and I’ll get around to it.

•    The Back Half = anything that comes after the Premier Publishers. For those who haven’t seen a Previews catalog in person, think of this as literally hundreds of pages of solicitations for works by “the other guys.” Although this is a gross generalization, it reminds me visually of the classified ads (whereas the Front Half are Times Square billboards).

Why the Front/Back Half Differentiation Matters

I got the idea for this week’s column while listening to my friends John Mayo and Bob Bretall host their monthly Mayo Report podcast. For those who don’t know, John and Bob do a monthly analysis of the Diamond sales trends and, for numbers guys like myself, it’s a must listen. In any event, John mentioned on the show that Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image and IDW comprised more than 90% of the comics sold in April. His point was to say that retailers no longer order from the “Back Half” of Previews to any large degree UNLESS their customers tell them to via a specific pre-order.

So I decided to pull some numbers together to illustrate John’s point. I took the reported % of sales (for the Top 300 Comics and Top 300 Collected Editions via Diamond) for each of the last four months. Here the results, sorted by % share:

Publisher Jan-10 Feb-10 Mar-10 Apr-10 AVG
Marvel 44.62% 47.42% 49.83% 44.87% 46.69%
DC 32.41% 33.02% 29.56% 32.70% 31.92%
Dark Horse 4.88% 3.65% 3.75% 4.07% 4.09%
IDW 3.62% 2.77% 3.66% 3.56% 3.40%
Image 3.88% 3.19% 2.71% 3.74% 3.38%
Dynamite 1.92% 1.98% 3.44% 2.25% 2.40%
Boom 2.02% 2.03% 1.41% 1.28% 1.69%
Viz 1.00% 1.37% 0.65% 0.98% 1.00%
Avatar 0.63% 0.59% 0.38% 0.82% 0.61%
Zenescope 0.21% 0.41% 0.85% 0.49% 0.49%
Archie 0.55% 0.36% 0.44% 0.30% 0.41%
Tokyopop 0.55% 0.31% 0.19% 0.32% 0.34%
Fantagraphics 0.25% 0.23% 0.37% 0.25% 0.28%
Oni 0.22% 0.08% 0.14% 0.53% 0.24%
Random House 0.52% 0.00% 0.28% 0.14% 0.24%
Bongo 0.23% 0.17% 0.22% 0.16% 0.20%
Aspen 0.00% 0.18% 0.30% 0.29% 0.19%
Devil's Due 0.36% 0.00% 0.22% 0.15% 0.18%
Titan 0.11% 0.21% 0.09% 0.30% 0.18%
Radical 0.13% 0.14% 0.16% 0.27% 0.18%
Drawn & Quarterly 0.11% 0.04% 0.04% 0.39% 0.15%
Abstract 0.24% 0.07% 0.12% 0.14% 0.14%
Hachette 0.00% 0.00% 0.29% 0.23% 0.13%
Udon 0.16% 0.00% 0.08% 0.19% 0.11%
Cartoon 0.18% 0.00% 0.11% 0.14% 0.11%
Moonstone 0.18% 0.14% 0.00% 0.06% 0.10%
Archaia 0.00% 0.03% 0.14% 0.19% 0.09%
Raw Junior 0.00% 0.00% 0.01% 0.32% 0.08%
Bandai 0.14% 0.08% 0.06% 0.05% 0.08%
Red 5 0.08% 0.06% 0.00% 0.09% 0.06%
New England 0.00% 0.07% 0.09% 0.06% 0.06%
Kenzer 0.14% 0.00% 0.00% 0.07% 0.05%
Bluewater 0.04% 0.12% 0.00% 0.05% 0.05%
Digital Manga 0.00% 0.00% 0.11% 0.09% 0.05%
Broadsword 0.10% 0.00% 0.09% 0.00% 0.05%
Top Shelf 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.09% 0.02%
Abrams 0.00% 0.00% 0.09% 0.00% 0.02%
Heroic 0.09% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.02%
Norton 0.08% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.02%
Icarus 0.00% 0.04% 0.00% 0.03% 0.02%
Ardden 0.00% 0.00% 0.07% 0.00% 0.02%
Scholastic 0.04% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.02%
Yen 0.00% 0.07% 0.00% 0.00% 0.02%
Slave Labor 0.00% 0.03% 0.03% 0.00% 0.02%
NBM 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.05% 0.01%
SQP 0.00% 0.02% 0.03% 0.00% 0.01%
Wizards of the Coast 0.05% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Alternative 0.00% 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Aardvark-Vanaheim 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Basement 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Digital Webbing 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Hero Initiative 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
AdHouse 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Harris 0.04% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Pure Imagination 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.03% 0.01%
Antarctic 0.00% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Amulet 0.00% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
ComX 0.00% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Groundwood 0.00% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Seven Seas 0.00% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Heavy Metal 0.00% 0.03% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Arcana 0.00% 0.02% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
ComicsLit 0.00% 0.02% 0.00% 0.00% 0.01%
Atheneum 0.00% 0.01% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
First Second 0.01% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%


Over the first four months, Marvel & DC accounted for 78.61% of the reported sales into the Direct Market. When adding in sales of Dark Horse, IDW and Image, sales accounted for 89.48%. John was exactly right, EVERYONE ELSE (including amazing publishers like Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, Avatar, etc..) sell roughly 10%.

It’s become self-perpetuating.

•    Store owners don’t order much from the back of Previews because the stuff “doesn’t sell.”
•    Comic buyers don’t have the opportunity to discover new books because they’re not on the shelf.
•    Sales of the big publishers continue apace, while smaller press publishers struggle to get traction.
•    Diamond caters to the publishers who make them the most money (the old 80/20 rule), and makes it increasingly onerous to be a small press publisher going through Diamond.
•    Comic buyers get frustrated because the “cool book” they heard about on iFanboy or 11 O’Clock Comics isn’t available in their store.
•    Store owners tell them they “should have pre-ordered it and now Diamond won’t make it easy for them to get a copy after the fact.”
•    And so on and so on…

A Happy Ending = Changing the Paradigm Again

This cycle won’t change until the way we acquire comics changes. As long as retailers can’t return books, they’re going to base their buying decisions on a) what has sold in their store before and b) what customers pre-order. And as a result, indie books have a Herculean task of breaking in. Is it impossible? Absolutely not. Terry Moore’s Echo sells well, Jeff Smith’s RASL is doing fine, and David Petersen has a burgeoning franchise with Mouse Guard. But those are the exceptions right now.

Can you fix the system by yourself? No. But if you have a pull list, and if you listen to podcasts or read online solicitations and hear about something that sounds cool…you absolutely can go to your retailer and ask him to order you a copy. If he refuses, find another retailer. Most of the store owners will be more than happy to order it for you without fail. I understand the argument that you shouldn’t feel obligated to decide what you want to buy two months before you get to hold it in your hands, and that’s fair. But that’s the market we live in right now. For the Premier Publishers in the “Front Half”, they can thrive even when most folks have never read a Previews catalog. But if you really want an indie book to have a fighter’s chance, you need to try your best to pre-order things.


Jason 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.


  1. More articles on the business side of Comics please.


    I enjoyed this.

  2. I would be curious to hear if anyone on his site doesn’t use previews. I was of the assumption that most people did.

    Good point about the paradigm shift. I had to practically beg my LCS to have some Mouse Guard for the shelf when it was first solicited, to convince him that they would sell well. Luckily, he eventually agreed, and now, thanks to that, our store has a big MG following.

  3. Also, I would love to hear more about why Marvel has their own catalog.

  4. @bffnut: I don’t use Previews. Never would, either.

  5. I read Previews for the first time a few years ago while I was cooped up in my house recovering from surgery.  Two things occurred that caused me to decide I would never open a Previews again:

    1) I attempted to give my shop owner the list of books I had complied and he said, "Oh yeah, we get most of those" and essentially threw it away. I’m not aware of anyone having a pull list at my tiny, rural shop.  The owner just doesn’t seem interested (though he got much better about ordering things I request after he realized I buy A LOT of books every month.)

    2) Previews is overflowing with spoilers.  I’m not a big spoilers guy.  If the book is well written spoilers don’t matter, but, all else equal, I’d rather not know.

    One of the worst examples of unintended consequences I have ever heard of: 
    A noble goal, poorly executed.  [Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of supply and demand could have instantly determined that would happen.  Which is why a properly structured Economics class (taught by a competent teacher) should be required in the core curriculum of every college (or high school, to be honest).]

  6. @stuclach: Your second point is one of the big reasons why I hate Previews. It’s not onl full of spoilers but it’s one of the main reasons why, I think, a lot of fans (too many) are always looking two to three months down the road and don’t stop to really enjoy the comics they have in their hands,  which is hard to do when you always know what’s coming.

  7. @conor – Precisely.  I once had a professor tell me (after he found out I had left my wife and newborn daughter at home for the first time to present some research), "Those roses aren’t going to smell themselves."  At the time I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.  I recently emailed him a thank you for helping me understand what he meant.

  8. I remember my hometown Comic Shop introducing "subscription services" aka The Pull List back in the early 90s. As a kid I longed for the day i’d be able to afford to to that.  

    The problem with returns is that someone gets stuck with damaged product thats unsellable. Ever go to a Borders or Barnes and Noble and see that discount area of random books? Those are all remainders. stuff that got returned to the publisher, inevitably damaged in transit or too old and was unsellable at cover price. They are then resold at a discount as a remainder item.

    Comics are incredibly fragile…returned stuff would be damaged. There are quite a few Art Book publishers who don’t allow returns either…in their eyes they’d rather sacrifice a few sales than dealing with warehouses of damaged product returned to them. 

    What kind of market would there be for remainder comics? I’ve seen some websites selling them, but I wonder if it would be an interesting way to get fairly cheap, recent back issues. Of course it would cause huge headaches for diamond and cause them to add a lot of staff to handle all of those returns. 

  9. I think the dominance of the Premium Publishers is a result of the nature of the direct market’s primary distribution source: brick and mortar stores.  With new comics coming in every Wednesday, an audience demanding the newest material and the back issue market largely replaced by trades, any comic is poison once it’s been sitting on the shelf for a few weeks.  Why take a risk on an unknown when you have a reliable audience of weekly customers who are just looking for their latest Deadpool/Avengers/Batman fix?

    Companies like Marvel recognize this, which is why they pump out a huge volume of one-shots, minis, and variants–if they can dominate the physical space in a store that means less room for a competitor.

    What I wonder is: Once comics move to a primarily digital distribution model, will you see more of a Long Tail (where the 60 or so "back half" publishers combined sell just as much as the top five publishers) in comics sales or is the domination of the Premium Publishers insurmountable?  We’ve seen it happen on Itunes and Netflix, but are they really comparable to the comics market?

  10. @connor: Is it because of spoilers that you do not use Previews? I’ve never had an issue, though I may have conditioned myself to ignore such things. Unfortunately, my LCSs don’t carry much on their shelves, and I find that if I don’t actively look for new books, I won’t get them.

    I’ve recently switched to an online service, and it seems to me that Previews is paramount to get what you want. 

  11. I wont touch Previews either.  I resent the idea that I have to spoil the stories I’m reading now by looking three months into the future to order a book.The last time I made the mistake of  looking at previews it spoiled a lot of the results of Secret Invasion.

    I feel very very fortuneate to have an LCS that will happily find me a book that I might have missed. My guy even had a copy of StartrekCountdown #2 shipped in from some other store in Ohio for me.


  12. @bffnut: Spoilers is one reason why I don’t look at Previews, but the main reason why I would never use it is that I refuse to preorder comics. I don’t have to decide what movies or TV shows I’m going to watch three months ahead of time and I won’t do it with comics. I’ll decide to buy or drop something that day at the store. I would never put myself in a situation where I had to continue buying a book I didn’t want to any more simply because I had already preordered the next three issues (a situation many people are in currently).

    The distribution system in comics is slowly and determinedly strangling the industry to death and I’d rather be part of the solution than the problem.

    That being said I understand that people in smaller town with smaller comic shops don’t have a choice in the matter which is, again, part of the problem.

  13. My store charges for the copies of Previes, so I don’t use it.  I already pay too much for comics, I’m also not paying for the privelage of making my LCS business decisions for them.

    That means I have to hoof it to another store occasionally when something sells out, but such is life.

  14. @turaho  I hadnt even considered that Marvel and DC’s reluctance to commit to the digital market could be a result of the fear of loosing market share to those smaller companies, that many of us dont even see in our local shops. Interesting.

    @stuclach  Links like THOSE are why I like your comments!

  15. Awesome article Josh. I remember the first time I saw a Previews catalog i had a nerdgasam, at the time it was so cool that you could see into the future. But now with a lot of cool comic sites (this one included, of course.) they’re pertty much irrelevant. Unless your gonna order a bunch manga.

  16. @AlanRob – Thank you, sir.  If you like my links, you would love my class.

  17. @bffnut & @conor: I don’t read previews because I really don’t want everything spoiled.  That is why I like sites like iFanboy.  I can still keep up to date on breaking comics news but not have all my books spoiled. From time to time, I use to look up the previews on Newsarama or CBR to see what new series or minis were being released but I find myself doing that far less these days.  I do have a pull list at my LCS.  I didn’t for the longest time, however, if I didn’t get a pull list I wouldn’t get the books I wanted. My LCS is so small that the don’t over order much.  I tend to only put ongoings or maxiseries on my pull list. I know the guys at my LCS enough that they will save me copies of stuff they think I’ll like to get me to buy it.  Also by establishing a pull list I receive a discount which is another plus.

  18. The shop I go to now is big enough that I can just use the pull list on this site a couple days before and avoid the spoiler issues.  Once I graduate though I will probably be forced to switch to DCBS which means I will have to start using some form of previews.  I am not looking forward to that much work.

  19. @JesTr: Having a pull list and preordering are two different things (unless you have to preorder the books on your pull list). When I was a kid I had a pull list at my store but I never had to preorder anything and I could always put stuff back on the shelf that I didn’t want (of course, this was the early 90s).

  20. Fasinating!

    I never look through previews. I just read up online and buy what I want. No politics involved. Just a hobby 🙂

    ". If you’re wondering why Marvel gets its own separate catalog while DC doesn’t, that’s a (great) story for another time. Remind me and I’ll get around to it."

    This is me reminding you.

  21. i’d also like to know why Marvel gets its own Previews.. although i can prob guess. 

    I’ve never used Previews Magazine…am i understanding that its free? I don’t think i’ve ever noticed it at the shop before, but I never look at the magazine section soo….. 

  22. I’ve had a pull list for several years, but never looked through a Previews till I shifted to the store I go to now.  When we fill out our pull sheets every month, there’s a copy available, and I only use to look up stuff I hadn’t heard of yet.  That’s a dangerous book for me because I would literally order a thousand times more stuff that I couldn’t afford.  I’m a sucker for catalogs.

  23. Conor hit upon exactly why I do use Previews. I live in a small to large size city with a few comics shops, however, they don’t branch out much and pretty much order the standard DC/Marvel fare. So, if I want to branch out I have to order my stuff 3 months ahead of time, which kind of sucks cause if I start a new book that I don’t like, I don’t get the chance to cancel until at least issue #4. Also, if I hear about something good on a podcast such as ifanboy or wordballoon, it can be that much harder to track down if it’s an indie book or something off the beaten path.  I love previews cause it’s fun to look at, but I also hate it. 

  24. I think previews should be friggin’ free! Who the hell sells a catalog? Here, buy this thing that will show what else you can buy. From us. Buy it.

    That burns me.

  25. @conor: I definetly understand and agree that the current retail ordering system is horrible. While I’d onto want to add to the problem, I don’t understand how the method in which you order things is part of the solution. When you buy comicsmfrok the shelf, you are just shifting the commitment to buy a book two months later from yourself to the retailer.

    I don’t want to seem argumentative, but I don’t know if I’m missing something.

    I agree with Mr. Wood, in that what may be needed is another paradigm shift, such as a switch to digital comics. That may put many retailers out of business, but maybe they can put their resources to better use. I always joked that if you can correctly order, with a small margin of error, the right amount of “x” comic book for the shelf with complete sell thru, you’d be better off using those skills to trade commodities.

  26. @bffnut: Of course the responsiblity of ordering falls on the retailer. They’re the store. I’m the customer. It’s their business to order product and then sell it the best they can. Just like any other store that sells things.

    Look at it this way. Let’s say that I’m sitting on the couch tomorrow and decide, hey, I want to go see IRON MAN 2. So I go to the theater and try to buy a ticket and they say sorry, we only scheduled enough screenings to match people who pre-ordered tickets.

    I won’t live in a world where I have to decide what I want to buy months ahead of time.

  27. I’ve found my own path over the years, and it works for me…

    1. I order from Previews. I like Previews, I like to sit down and read through it and make my decisions on what and what not to buy, as well as things that I want to keep an eye on. Spoilers do not bother me. I’ve actually come to enjoy reading comics that way — enough that I’d say that reading Previews is PART of my comics reading process. In that regard, I’m the opposite of Conor’s case. I actually enjoy the stories in the moment because I’m not reading for the BIG REVEAL, I’m actually looking at character, plot, dialogue, etc. I may just be weird in this regard. 😉

    2. I shop at a great shop that has most everything, so my Previews-based pull list actually remains very conservative. I mostly do it because I get a discount for having a pull list. That’s my key reason, if I’m being honest.  So I focus on the books I *know* I’m not dropping, and then everything else I just pick up on top of that. If I read something for 3 months straight that I really like, I add it to my list. If something’s really going downhil, I’ll stop pre-ordering. Yeah, it could take up to three months, but I try to gauge these things by the ends of arcs, etc., so it works out pretty well.

  28. Great article as usual Mr. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDDDD.  I agree with all of the comments.  IF we on this site are a cross section of the comic fanbase, I can with some degree assert that we feel that Previews is a bad thing, but I also think that it is a necessary evil, so what can we do to change it?   Fewer product descriptions (ie spoilers) might equal poor sales.  Changing the layout might just lead to people skipping to the sections that they like or would usually order from(ie DC and Marvel).  Are Previews a valuable tool for retailers?  I don’t know I’m not a retailer but the prevailing wisdom would say yes.

    I have never had a pull list, nor do I think that I ever will.  Fitting in to the stereotype of men my age, I don’t like the commitment.  Do I read Previews?  No, I don’t like spoilers, a sentiment which I think has been echoed by almost everybody who has left a comment so far.  

    The only way I can see to solve this distribution dillemma is through digital distribution or the rise of online comic shops like DCBS.  But this raises another potential subsequent problem, the rise of the big box comic shop, even if it only exists online.

    Sorry if I’m talking in circles, but I think that Direct comic book market is very analogous to the drug trade.  We’re selling and you’re hooked so you know you’re going to buy.  I think that every time I ask the guy who works at my  shop if a book is good or not.  What’s he going to say?  No?  

    I don’t think Previews is the problem, its only the symptom. 


  29. I’d love to know why DC doesn’t have their own insert, and I wonder how much Marvel benefits in overall market share by the fact that all of their books gain exposure through that insert in a way that DC’s smaller books don’t. Blackest Night and Green Lantern dominated the individual book charts over the last several months, but DC’s relative share didn’t seem to reflect that. Is it possible that while readers are looking for the bigger books in Marvel’s insert they may decide to pick up something else they weren’t originally looking for?

    And I’d also like to suggest that the new paradigm shift is already underway. The internet permits readers to purchase directly from publishers, through online pull lists at their local comic book shops (like Mile High Comics’ N.I.C.E. subscription service), or <GASP> they can pre-order their comics directly through DCBS. Then again, this shift has been underway for awhile now and it doesn’t seem to have affected Marvel and DC’s relative position much. I’ll be curious to see how smaller publishers take advantage of the increased accessibility to their products available through the iPad.

    Podcasts make a huge difference for me. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve picked something up because Conor, Josh, and Ron, or Vince B., Chris, David and Jason (on Eleven O’Clock Comics) mentioned it. Maybe someone should start up a weekly or monthly "Back Half" podcast.

  30. @conor: here here! I’d rather not know what’s happening down the line. Unless of course (God forbid) I was as dying, then spoil me away.

  31. sigh.. my shop ONLY sells single issues by pre-order.  which means I see what’s coming out in advance, order it, and pay, yes pay about 100 dollars a month, for product that I won’t see for two months.  it’s the only way he can stay in business and I want to support the shop staying open.  he almost went out of business and seeing that his loyal base ordering through pre-orders would be enough is what kept him open.  I do have a choice as there is another shop locally and of course there’s sites like DCBS.  I don’t read the catalog though as I find the publishers’ own sites sufficient.  maybe someday I will do differently but for now I think the plusses outweigh the minuses of my current situation.

  32. @Conor … I admit to cheating a bit with the article in that I know you, Ron and Josh don’t pre-order, nor do many of my other comics buddies. I figured this would invite a dialog about those who do read Previews and those who don’t. Thanks for being so active today in the thread (I was crazy busy and am just now getting a chance to check in).

    I TOTALLY get the idea that we shouldn’t, as end customers, feel obligated make a retailer more efficient. Lord knows if many comic stores kept better inventory and had even basic sound business process management, they would be higher margin businesses and thereby be able to stock a broader array of things. The fact that most comic stores don’t have any form of POS system astounds me, yet it’s the way things are.

    My counterpoint (and why I don’t mind pre-ordering) is really about the indie stuff. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible for indie creators to make a living, much less have a real hit, in today’s direct market. Without the benefit of pre-orders, many series don’t even get finished. It sucks that great indie guys literally can’t make enough to pay their printing costs. And the only way I know of in this not ideal system to help that process is to pre-order. 

    Now, to be fair, I also pre-order (via DCBS) for the savings. 

    As to the solicits, that’s an interesting side discussion. The solicits we see in Previews are actually spoiled for many weeks before Previews even gets in customers hands, via the internet. And the publishing companies have now evolved into using solicits and the premise of pre-ordering into their own decisions on what to publish and how long to publish it. That’s unfortunately why even Big 2 books like Doctor Voodoo and S.W.O.R.D. are cancelled by the time the first issue hits the stands. 

    Paradigm shift = Needed. 🙂

  33. These business side of comic articles are really nice.  Keep up the good work.

  34. On spoilers: the only things worse than solicits that spoil are solicits that say nothing because they’ll spoil an ongoing story. These are the least helpful pieces of texts in the world, while at the same time shouting that there is something “really important” to spoil. The “Siege:Fallen” solicit is a good example of this. It has also helped create the phenomenon of generic covers rather than ones related to the actual issue, though this is getting better.
    On using Previews: since I have a pull list, I use it indirectly, but I do it mostly for the discount. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t bother. With my limited budget, I can’t buy off recommendations too often, and what I do buy regularly isn’t usually underordered (though Diamond may forget to deliver something…). How many people also do this primarily for discounts? It would be interesting to see what the dominant factor is in people’s using Previews/pull lists.

  35. @BC1: Solicits that say nothing are my favorite kind of solicits. I wish all solicits said nothing. Last year Robert Kirkman had one-two word solicits for WALKING DEAD and I held out hope that more books would follow suit. Alas.

  36. I HAVE to at least skim Previews for titles, my shop is small enough that if I didn’t I never would be able to read Cowboy Ninja Viking, Chew, iZombie, even smaller DC/Marvel books sometimes never make it to the wall. 

    That said I never read the actual solicitation (beyond creative teams) unless it’s a #1, I don’t want to spoil things for myself I just want to know "Oh, here comes iZombie, better pull it and make sure I get a copy"

    There is a shop in town that definitely caters more to my tastes but it’s harder to get to and parking is a bitch so I go to the smaller one closer to my house and (minimally) use Previews.

  37. I don’t read previews, pre-order, or even have a pull list anymore. I live in Fort Worth TX and I can think of about seven comic shops in reasonable driving distance. Sometimes they sell out of a book, or don’t order it, at the small shop close to my house, but I can definitely find a copy at one of the other shops. I wasn’t even aware that people bought comics this way until recently. To me it just seems like a huge hassle and I don’t want to commit to buying a product months in advance. If I lived in an area where that had a small shop in which I had to preorder, I probably wouldn’t even buy single issues anymore.

  38. I love Previews. I don’t think anything very important gets spoiled. I love looking through it, seeing all the art samples, checking out what books are coming out. Also, its the ONLY way I can get smaller, indy books. I don’t get my comics at a traditional comic store, so Previews ensures i get everything i want. Also, my wife is an artist, so while she doesn’t read comics very often, she loves leafing through previews and commenting on what art she loves, what art she doesn’t like, and showing me different things she notices. Plus, Previews has far more than comics in it. I can see what books are coming out, Magazines, DVDS, toys, etc. I love spending ana fetrnoon with my previews catalogue.

  39. @Conor- for a book like Walking Dead, or any ongoing, that’s not an issue for me- most people are either already buying it or are going to pick it up based in word of mouth, not because of Previews. But take “Siege: Fallen,” a one-shot. If you can’t even say what the title is, how does this help sell the book?It entices completeists but doesn’t help anyone else? Also, if
    people had known this was going to be a Sentry-centric book, how much would that have affected sales? Again, I don’t see how it does its job of selling to retailers or readers.

  40. @BC1 – you may have answered your own question. The people who pre-order are the completists. As completists, they’d still purchase it in the store, even if they didn’t pre-order — because it had the Siege banner on it.

    In my case, I didn’t pre-order it, was on the fence about it, and then grabbed it, thinking it might offer a little closure. Hoo boy.

  41. I feel the exact same way as Conor.

  42. The solicit spoiler point doesn’t wash with me, especially coming from anyone of the iFanboy OGs. I can’t begin to count the number of times these guys, on a podcast, couldn’t remember things they read that week. Unless someone is constantly reading solicit text, something 3 months out shouldn’t drastically affect the reading experience. By that logic, writers and artists should just be idea people for solicit texts because actually reading a fully formed comic seems redundant after reading those short blurbs.

    I recently started flipping through the Previews book because I could never find solicits for smaller publishers like IDW online. Now I know when all of my favorite indie books are supposed to come out.

    And I really want to know why DC doesn’t have its own preview book. I pick up the Marvel one simply because I want physical copies of covers from books that I don’t plan on buying. I would definitely do this for a DC book.

  43. @ghettojourno: FOr some people, that comcs become afterthoughts to the solicits. I cna’t tell you how many times I’ve heard "Boring. We knew this was going to happen three months ago."

  44. I do DCBS orders on #1’s, run beginnings, and trades to save cash alongside my LCS purchases so I get Previews. My store discounts it to $3 which is the way it should be. It is the only way to find a lot of indy work. iFanboy can’t cover them all. Over time, you learn which small publishers are worth checking out (Oni, Archaia, Top Shelf, First Second) and which ones to skip (Zenescope and it’s ilk).

  45. I don’t do Previews. I’ve done my overanalyzing of other art/ bussiness stuff to make me angry. My comics are my safe heaven, just read them to enjoy them. Wanna keep it school and maintain the element of surprise!

  46. @dccampo- but if you’d known it was focused on the Sentry, regardless of quality expectations, would that have affected your decision? Seems awfully close to the “bait and switch” to me.

  47. Sentry Fallen Sun is sort of a one off case study, and isn’t very indicative of how Previews business is normally run, so it’s not a good example of the benefits or drawbacks of ordering  this way.

  48. I totally love flipping through Previews. I order through DCBS, so it’s a needed tool to see what I would want to pre-order (and is only $1). For me, it’s about seeing what’s going on in all those other comics I don’t read. And w/o Previews, I wouldn’t know about a lot of the Image/IDW/Dark Horse comics or trades that I’ve ordered b/c it sounded interesting. The insight into how this cyclical process hurts certain titles was interesting to learn, but I’m personally not that outraged by it and will happily continue using Previews and pre-ordering.

    Spoiler-wise, I generally don’t mind being spoiled by Previews, usually most of the real spoilery stuff is omitted anyways. My favorite non-spoiler solicits are for Godland (Image), which just goes all out with hyperbole hype talk and are fun to read.

  49. Wood, you’re killing me with the Lee Corso reference.  A co-worker had to ask me what was so funny.

    I preorder, but for financial reasons only.  It’s a lot more fun to go to the store every week and pick my books of the shelf, but it just doesn’t make sense for me financially.  I wish that it did, and hopefully someday I can be in a place where I get back to that.  But it’s infinitely more affordable to get books from DCBS.

  50. One of the reasons I don’t get previews, among the reasons Conor and Stuclac mentioned, is that I have to PAY for this thing. For gods sake why not create a nice onine tool for this so people can put together a list which can be printed or emailed to the shop.

  51. @rush  DCBS is essentially the previews catalog in online form

  52. @StupendousMan   I do use DCBS. My question is why Diamond isn’t providing a better tool.

  53. @rush: If you have an RSS aggregator, you can load the blogs and feeds of any publisher whose solicits that you want to follow… RSS feeds are free… it’s a start… 

  54. Diamond Previews also has an RSS feed:

  55. I love Previews! Not just to see all the books that come out but all the shirts and pop cultural stuff it has too. The industry gets more money from me because of Previews than they would without it, that’s for sure! in fact, when I get my monthly comics shipment, the first thing I peruse is the new Previews. It’s like being a kid in a proverbial candy shop.

     As for the spoiler issue, I don’t feel it’s too extreme and speaking for myself, by the time my order arives months later, life has so much going on that I’m really not remembering said spoilers.

     Finally, (running a muti-unit restaurant chain) I totally understand LCS needing to avoid waste at ALL cost. You really are talking about a penny-profit business. In business, avoiding waste is critical.

  56. I hate Previews!  I do have a pull list at my LCS, but fortunately he does not necessarily urge his customers to use Previews.  If and when i hear of something I want, whether it happens to be 2 months in advance or 2 weeks late, I let him know and he orders it for me.   Plus, he also tends to order at least one or two copies of certain comics from the ‘back half’, (usually #1s) to see if anyone is interested.  So that’s cool.

    By extension, the only reason I can’t commit myself to use DCBS(despite their awesome discounts)is because of that 2 month pre-order window.  It’s just simply frustrating to me.  


  57. Sorry for the lateness of comment, Wood, been on vacation (sitting in Maui/Hana looking at the ocean even now)……

    I know some people don’t like pre-ordering, HOWEVER, what John & I always stress on our Previews show is the importance (as you point out) of letting stores know when you want something from the "back half" or even stuff from Marvel/DC/DarkHorse/Image/IDW that are not "Top" titles.

     I set foot in well over 100 comic shops a year, and I’d say 75% of them have terrible selections of stuff outside the top 50-100.  So, for those people who are not lucky enough to live someplace that has a LCS with a great selection, the ONLY way they can get some of the best comics being published is to "ask for it by name" .  One thing I note in more every Mayo Report show is how many of the titles in the bottom 50 are really really good comics.   AND most people never even see these books.

     Anyway, great article.  I want comics to thrive, and having people ask for comics they want os one way to help that happen.

  58. @rush: In addition to RSS feeds, most puiblishers have their solicits viewable on-line, starting about 2 weeks before the printed Previews hits the stands.  These are reported on various comics news sites.  I typically aggregate a set of links to all the solicits over on the Previews thread I start each month on, just to make it easy to find the solicits on-line.

    And even if you don’t order from DCBS or Heroes Corner, it’s true that these sites can serve as a free on-line Previews also (though they generally get updated a week or so after the Previews catalog hits the street.)