(originally posted on tumblr)
In this post I am going to go into the basics and purpose behind pre-ordering a comic book from a comic book store or online retailer. For the purposes of this discussion, I am referring to comics that are listed with Diamond Comics Distributors, who regularly supplies comic book shops with their inventory. (For more info on how all that craziness works click here.)
I was inspired by a tweet I saw by David Walker (writer Cyborg (DC), Shaft (Dynamite), Power Man and Iron Fist (Marvel)) about how most people don’t realize the importance of comics and how much the industry has changed. And he’s right. The whole concept of pre-ordering is foreign to most people under 30 because in this day and age we don’t have to wait for ANYTHING. Everything is instant. I should know.
I live in New York. The Impatient Capital of Earth.
We have WiFi in the subway, drive-through Starbucks and even McDonalds delivers. (Yes they do. In midtown. I’ve done it). And almost everything is returnable or exchangeable (Yes. Even Starbucks and McDonald’s). Everything that is…except for comics. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me first explain the difference between ordering a comic book that is currently in circulation vs pre-ordering one that is not out yet.
How to Order a Comic Book That’s Out-of-Stock
Let’s say to go to the comic book store and they are out of a particular title. Usually the retailer will tell you that they can order it for you. You tell them the title you want, give them your name and phone number, and when it arrives, (usually the following Wednesday) they will call you to let you know that it’s in and they will hold it for you for a few days. Then you can stop by the store and pick it up. The courteous thing to do would be to call and let them know exactly when you will be there to pick it up. (Especially if you can’t get there until the weekend). Ordering comics online is even easier. I order from Amazon, Comixology, Peepgame Comix, Westfield and Midtown Comics on a regular basis and I either get digital downloads instantly or my stuff shows up within days in great condition.
How to Pre-Order a Comic Book That Hasn’t Come Out Yet
The comic pre-ordering process works the same way you would pre-order a new outfit, or tickets or a new pair of Nikes. Except when you go to the store, you don’t have to put any money down. Here’s what you do:
You go to a comic book store or call them and tell them the title, publishing company, lead artist and writer and the comic release date. The nice person at the comic book store will look up all of the pertinent info and like the above process, contact you when you book(s) arrive.
Advanced Pre-Orders and Pull Boxes
If you are committed to supporting a comic book shop or artist, then you can start a “pull List” or “pull box” with the comic book shop. (Yes, there are a few online retailers who do this too). What this basically means is that you’re setting up a kind of pay-as-you-go-subscription service with the store and you will pay them what you owe on a monthly basis for comic titles that you put a list. This is great if you really want to support a series because every month when you come in, what you want is right there waiting for you. (For a more detailed explanation of how this process works read Kelly Sue DeConncik’s awesome Pre-Order tutorial post)
How to Pre-Order Online
There are ways you can pre-order pretty painlessly if you really would rather avoid people altogether. There are online comic book shops like Comixology, Midtown Comics, Westfield and TFAW that take pre-orders. However, you DO have to pay upfront when pre-ordering online.
NOTE: Online digital comic subscription services (i.e.- “Pay $20 a month and we’ll send you whatever we have”) like Marvel Unlimited and Crunchyroll do NOT count towards monthly sales. In order for your purchase to “count” towards the success of a comic, you have to be buying individual titles.
Am I against going into the comic book store? Of course not. Does it better support the shop if I make the effort to go into the store? Of course it does. But with my schedule it’s REALLY hard for me to get to a store and I do want to support a lot of what is coming out so I do both. I pre-order in a store when I can and do the rest online.
The crazy thing is it’s NOT just indie titles and imprints that need pre-orders. Seemingly popular “mainstream” books like Cyborg (DC), Run Love Kill (Image), Bitch Planet (Image), Niobe (Stranger), and even the upcoming PowerMan vs Iron Fist (Marvel) need pre-orders to help them to succeed.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s A LOT of work to go through just to get a comic book. Yes it is. It seems the comic book distribution system could be more efficient. Yes it could. (TONS of people in the comic book industry agree with this). But for the time being, this is how it’s done.
Why Pre-Ordering Is Important and….shoes
Without pre-orders, the comic book retailers may NEVER get the comic that you’re looking for. For PoC artists and indie titles this could make or break them. It’s also why sometimes a seemingly successful comic all of a sudden gets canceled. (Greg Pak’s Storm, David Walker’s Shaft, etc.) At the end of the day, indie or major, it’s a numbers game. Comics are not returnable and are non-refundable. (For the customer or the comic book shop). So store owners would rather purchase titles that they know they can sell in order to make a profit rather than take a chance on an indie that no one has ever heard of and get stuck with the inventory.
To illustrate this point further, I’ll use what I call the “Shoe Store Analogy”. The shoe store owner is like the comic shop owner. The shoes are like the comics. The shoe brands are like the publishers and creators. In order to turn a healthy profit, the shoe store owner will stock their shelves with all of the popular styles (Nike, Prada, etc) and items that they see are being endorsed by celebrities and getting a lot of ad attention and hits online.
If you go into a shoe store in a mall and ask for a shoe made by a small company that only manufactures shoes by hand a couple of times a year, they won’t be there. In fact, unless this shoe store owner regularly orders more than just their regular inventory or runs a specialty store you’ll only ever hear…
But, if the shoes are scheduled to come out in 2 months and the shoe store owner can find them in their system, (or they have a relationship with the manufacturer), they can order them for you. Also, if enough people pre-order the shoes, the shoe store owner might just start carrying the brand on a regular basis.
Now let’s apply that analogy to comic book shops. If the comic shop owner knows they can make money by selling established popular successful series, why take a chance on a new, limited run, or indie comic without any promise of profit? (In fact, they may LOSE money. No refunds, remember?) The answer is pre-orders. If you pre-order a comic, you are basically promising that you will come back and buy it from them. Sort of guaranteeing that they will make money off of it. If enough people pre-order, then it creates a demand, the shop will order more, customers get comics, store owners get money and everybody’s happy.
Do you really want to help PoC and Indie artists?
THEN BUY THEIR WORK. This is really one of my pet peeves. I get pretty pissed off when I’m having a discussion about why XYZ project was canceled with someone and they tell me that they only read pdfs off of Facebook or they got a bootleg copy of the movie. IF YOU DID NOT SUPPORT THE ARTIST YOU DO NOT GET TO COMPLAIN WHEN THEY STOP CREATING WORK.
Don’t just reblog pics of comics, actually BUY them.
The average comic book costs $3.99. TPBs are around $9.99 and pre-ordering in a store is FREE.
So if you really want to see some of your favorite indie comics online and in stores PRE-ORDER THEM.
Here’s what I have on pre-order right now:
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur#3 /Marvel (Release Date:1/27/2016)
Writer: Amy Reeder
Artist: Natacha Bustos
Cyborg #7/DC (Release Date: 1/27/2016)
Writer: David WAlker
Artist: Claude St Aubin
Bitch Planet #6 (Release Date: 1/6/2016)
Artist: Valentine DeLandro
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
If you want more information on the business of comics and pre-ordering check out the links below: