Mostly I write these just to make up names for comic book series.

§ June 6th, 2014 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 6 Comments

So it sounds like, based on reports of order numbers, the forthcoming Rocket Raccoon series has achieved that perfect storm of movie tie-in combined with variant cover availability based on exceeding certain percentages of orders of previously-published strong-selling comics, resulting in what sounds like an enormous amount of copies about to flood the market in just a few months. Oh, those variants should sell out just fine, they usually do, assuming their prices aren’t hiked up to ridiculous heights. But the regular cover editions…well, you know how hard it is to find a copy of the regular cover for Superman Unchained #1? There you go.

Of course, it feels like those percentages we have to beat are creeping up ever so slowly, but that may just be my innate paranoia from being in this business for too long. To get those “Deadpool Dressed As Princess Leia” variants on Ultimate Slapstick #1, you have order numbers on the regular cover that either meet or exceed 125% of your orders on Man-Thing Team-Up #17, and of course that was the issue you ordered extra on because, go figure, Man-Thing was teaming up with Deadpool in that issue. So, you have to order lots of Ultimate Slapstick because if you don’t get those “Deadpool Dressed As Princess Leia” variants, the store in the next town over will, and people will go there to get their comics if they think you can’t get them, and you can’t have that.

And then, a couple of months down the road, the debut issue of This Will Be A New Marvel Movie Soon, We Hope #1 will pop up in the order forms, and to get the “Wolverine in Various States of Undress” variant cover, you’ll have to exceed 125% of your numbers on Ultimate Slapstick #1. And so on, and so on, until all the trees are gone and the Lorax departs the Earth in disgust.

Now, it’s not necessarily chained like that, with one book you need to inflate your orders on tied to a previous order-inflated book…I’ll need to go back and do some of that “research” I’ve heard so much about. However, every time I see that “exceed X%” instruction, I feel like I’m being taken for a ride. Of course, nobody’s forcing me to do it, but like I said, if I don’t, another shop will, and in the current comics marketplace, you don’t want to give your customers a reason to not come to your shop.

The only way to fight back is for no shops to order any of these types of variants, but that’s not likely to happen. Or maybe to wean the direct market off dependence on Marvel and DC [imagine hysterical laughter here].

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the publishers. The whole variants scheme is to keep numbers up in a marketplace where retailers would prefer to keep their overhead low, by encouraging orders to maintain at certain levels. Sure, you could order just 20 copies of this, but there’s a special 1 in 25 variant cover you can probably sell for a premium, so why not just bump up the order just a bit, why don’t you? Thanks, you’re a pal!

Some of the smaller publishers, like Boom! and Dynamite, have order percentage incentives as well, but it’s more along the line of “we’ll give you an extra discount if your order on this issue of this series matches or exceeds 90% of the previous issue,” and that seems a little more reasonable to me. Or, in some cases, matching orders on a previous issue would result in returnability, which I’m pretty okay with, too. I’d love if the returnability option was a little more widespread with Big Two releases, but I suspect the discounts we enjoy with them would shrink by a considerable margin once those publishers start shouldering more of the burden of unsold stock. It’s more in the publishers’ interests for the retailer to warehouse their books, whether they sell or not.

In conclusion, I think that Rocket Raccoon comic actually sounds like it’ll be a fun read. I certainly hope everyone will want to read it. I mean, we pretty much need them to.

6 Responses to “Mostly I write these just to make up names for comic book series.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Thanks, Mike. Now my life will never be complete until Marvel actually puts out a Man-Thing Team-Up series.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    As always, excellent insights into the life of a funny book dealer. My LCS chose not to bite on the “Original Sin” Watcher eyeball incentive last month and there was grumbling aplenty from a few customers. Not an enviable position, but for anyone with a basic grasp of how these things work, certainly understandable. I’d rather have my LCS stay in business for the next decade or two or three.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” Sure, you could order just 20 copies of this, but there’s a special 1 in 25 variant cover you can probably sell for a premium, so why not just bump up the order just a bit, why don’t you?”

    I suspect there’s a drug dealing analogy that someone could make in there somewhere!

  • Thom H. says:

    ““Wolverine in Various States of Undress” variant cover”

    Where can I get one of these?

    I’m asking for a friend.

  • Don’t forget the “Order more copies of Original Sin #7 than you did of #1 and you can buy these new, all different Watcher eyeballs!!! NOW!!!”

    Because history has always shown that #7 will outsell #1.

  • I’ve missed 16 prior issues of MAN-THING TEAM UP? Dang… I picked the wrong time to go on long-term hiatus.

    Pertaining for the bulk of your post and tangential as to one reason why I am hiatus (burnt out on publisher shenanigans), I’d like to referanyone to an article I only JUST discovered about Marvel’s shady business practices in the 1990’s (cover variants, enhancements, cross-overs, etc…)

    It’s info excerpted from Sean Howe’s book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. I can’t vouchsafe for how accurate it is, but living and working in a comics shoppe at that time, it seems pretty dead-on to me.

    Oddly enough, it sounds like today’s corporate greed is the same as yesterdays. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.