Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ordering comics in the Real World.

To follow up on yesterday's blog about ordering: How ordering works in the real world.

When Marvel went to a 12 month rolling discount, they also instituted a Final Order Cutoff Date, or FOC. Sound it out, and that's how I felt at first. Totally, FOC'ed. But after awhile, I kind of started to lay back and like it.

Here's how it used to work. Say, just for an example, that I order 10 copies of a #1 of a new comic. By the time that issue showed up, I probably would've ordered 8 copies of #2, and 6 copies of #3.

This sort of downward progression is the norm in comics. People pick up #1's, give them a try, and maybe 20% don't continue, same with #3, until the title stabilizes. Usually, if they've stuck at that far, they'll keep going.

The opposite is rarely true. That is, I rarely sell 10 of the #1, and have a demand for 12 of #2, which makes sense since people aren't going to start with the second issue.

Which is why I tend to gamble a bit on #1's, figuring that whatever level I order, I may be locked into. But then I tend to ameliorate that risk with the next issues.

Why not reorder?

Because up until the last few years the system discouraged that.

Let's say I order 10 copies of #1 and sold out in an hour. I used to get on the phone and order a quick 10 more copies -- but they wouldn't arrive for a couple of weeks, and often by then the steam had dissipated. But what was worse, I'd try to up my orders on #2, and often (because everyone saw the same thing and reordered quickly) I'd not get them. Everyone on the east coast is 3 hours ahead of me, or more. Bigger shops, the ones most likely to reorder tons, get their comics a full day ahead of me (don't ask, subject for another day.) So now I've enticed a possible 20 people with a #1, but can only deliver on 8 copies of #2, thereby disappointing 12 possible customers, which is worse then never enticing them in the first place.

This is then compounded by #3, which you might every well get, but because nobody could get #2, nobody wants.

When you add in the risk of the sellout of #1 being a fluke (which happens more often than not) it almost doesn't pay to do reorders. Spend your money on graphic novels and/or the next big title in the system.

But Marvel's new FOC made it possible to up my orders up until about 2 weeks before the arrival; thereby allowing me to insure that I'll get the right number of #2's and #3's. Not only that, but my reorder of all three issues counts toward my discount rate. So if I started with 20 buyers, I could insure that I could satisfy demand even if it was twice my original order.

Which is why, outside the quality of their offerings, Marvel has surged ahead.

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