Thursday, September 8, 2011

I should have gone wild and crazy.

A small kerfuffle over on the comic industry bulletin board between stores who ordered enough of the first 52 #1, Justice League, and those of us who didn't.

Part of it is the difference between big shops and little shops -- big cities and small towns.

Part of it, is some of us do better with Marvel than DC.

Most of it is: Hindsight is 20/20.

Here's the thing. Ordinarily ordering between 1 and 5 extra copies, after my subscribers have told me what they want, is more than enough to cover demand. But a prominently placed news story could easily bring in, oh, 20 extra people. The difference between 2 extra copies and 20 extra copies is immense, when you multiply by 52 separate titles.

I can't tell you the number of times we've been assured by the publisher that their title will be a hit: that it will get tons of support.

But it's not up to them. It's up the zeitgeist. Whether or not the story has a hook that appeals to the media. And that you just don't know until it happens. More often than not, it doesn't.

The black plastic wrap "Death of Superman" I could have sold hundreds; the white plastic wrap "Return of Superman", I still have hundreds of copies left.

I've been burned way way more times than I've been rewarded by 'over' ordering.

But I felt I had really ordered quite a bit. Overall, about 2.5 times normal DC numbers. Much higher than that on the marquee titles like Detective, Action, Batman, Wonderwoman, etc.

For Justice league, I ordered about 5 times the normal numbers, and slightly more overall than my best selling DC title of the last few years, Blackest Night #1.

Sold out in two days.

The interest didn't seem to start peaking until a few days before arrival. I put in a reorder two days before it showed. It went to backorder, but I felt I had put it in early enough to have a reasonable chance of getting filled from the copies they hold back for "damages and shortages."

I started hearing disturbing rumbles, so I put a back order in online, and also called my rep and tried to put an order in of the 2nd print.

They put out a notice saying we had until "Friday, Sept. 2" to make our second print orders. Normally, that would mean they would take those orders and use those numbers to make their print run.

I ordered a day early before the deadline -- and they were sold out.

By now, I've ordered extra copies of the second week-- not crazy extras, because remember I still have only seen the sales on ONE title -- and I'm not at all sure that the first day will be the only good day. Media attention will fade and so on.

Still, I make increases in my orders for the entire month, probably increased overall by 15% or so.

Wednesday premiere of the first real week was yesterday. 13 titles. By the end of the day, half the titles were sold out.

I get online to order more copies of next week and the week after.

They are sold out not only next week, but the week after -- AND the week after!!!

I've had exactly one day to gauge true demand, and it's too late.

Gamble or go home, is the message here.

Remember, I've ended up ordering 3 times the normal numbers, and it isn't enough.


No one ever went broke selling out, right? But man do I hate to disappoint customers. It makes me look and feel incompetent.

I really think DC messed up. My cost for a comic is roughly half. Their cost is something like 15 cents per comic. Once they paid the artist and writer, their cost is the ink and paper.

I ordered 5 times normal numbers of Justice League, and it's pretty obvious that DC probably didn't published more than another half the orders they got. Pathetic.

This was THEIR big idea -- and they couldn't even take a risk at printing say, double the ordered numbers?

When they saw what was happening with the first week's sales, they couldn't up the print on the third and fourth weeks?

There is suspicion that they are actually TRYING to drive customers to digital.

But what's interesting is, there has been little talk about digital. It's all been the physical copies that has gotten the demand, which to me says a lot about what's really happening.

I mentioned the media effect on sales, and one of the other retailers put a poll up asking how many non-regulars had been in to buy the comics.

But that is missing the point. If the big push had been flop, a whole lot of my regulars would have started passing on the titles. Once they understood it was a hit, they actually started buying MORE.

It's a bit of hoarding, frankly. Suddenly they covet a comic because they are afraid they can't get it -- whereas, if they could get it, they wouldn't want it.

Looking back, I can see where the problem is.

I put a sheet out that asked my customers which titles they would be interested in -- and I got a huge response. Yes, No, or Maybe, were their options, and to get them to take the time to fill them out, I assured them that they weren't committed. That I was just trying to get a gauge of the interest level.

I signed up all my regulars for titles that they either said Yes or Maybe.

Now, ordinarily, when I sign my customers up for a title they didn't specifically ask for, I get about a 90% success rate in them accepting the title. (I'm pretty choosy about when I use the "optional" technique.)

I figured, since this was a "soft" survey, that I'd get probably an 80% acceptance rate.

So if the venture had been a big flop, chances are that I would have gotten between 20 to 30% of the comics back. If it was a moderate success, I'd get about 15 to 10% back.

I'm getting virtually none of the titles back, so far. These "optional" titles had been part of my equation in trying to judge how many copies I had out for sale. The problem is, the commitment on the part of my customers was "soft" but my commitment was "hard." I pretty much have to stand by it.

They'll be offering us second prints, I know, eventually, but even this has been a mess.

And even with the wild success of the first two weeks, I'm still concerned about over reacting and ending up with tons of the 3rd and 4th weeks. Because, that has also happened a lot in the past.

You don't stay a retailer for 30 years without being careful.

But sometimes, the wild and crazy guys get rewarded.


Anonymous said...

Thems the breaks. It is how it goes.

Heroes Haven

Duncan McGeary said...

Curious. How did it go with you, Brett? If you don't mind saying.

Leitmotiv said...

I went to Barnes and Noble two days ago. Looked at the comic section. It was all nice and tidy. If it was doing really well, I'd suspect it to be a mess.

Anonymous said...

I just started selling out of the titles today. I had a significant surge last week of people reserving. I ordered about double of my normal numbers, and perhaps was too conservative on Justice League. That being said, I have only one request in for any of the comics I am currently sold out of. The fella who wanted Justice League #1 is always strapped for money and often goes a couple of months between visits. He was fine with waiting for a later printing.

Of course I could sell more if I had ordered more, but so far I don't feel I have disappointed customers much, and I think the eventual later printings will cover me.


Anonymous said...

By the way, did you see this guy?

While about as distant of an outlook from mine as there can be, but part me wants to root the guy on. Such a stretch for controversy that nothing but good can come from it... I support his right to sell and do as he wishes, but to call for a boycott over the letters "gd"... What a maroon!


Duncan McGeary said...

Well, that's just silly.

Anonymous said...

How does one go about 'collecting' digital for the future? Long after the delivery system is Bend-Gone?

What happened to 8-track? Cassette? CD? Reel-to-Reel? Physical electronic delivery systems have a very short life. Books will always have nostalgic value. Missed 'vinyl' which is worth its wait in gold these days.

Tangible collectables will always exist, any other niche will be a waste of your time as you'll be competing with 10 year old boyz on the web. Only old farts with inventory can play the collectable game. Well perhaps a 10 year old can re-sell your inventory if he were to take a physical inventory of your shop and place your merchandise for 'search', but not likely to happen. Unless you know some smart young kid that works for free.

Until then sell collectibles and fad's on a happenstance walk-in basis.

Yep life's tough, just like 'new-issues' the little guy rarely ever takes delivery of the good stuff that always goes to the 'best-customer', who is not you dunc.

Honestly all electronic content by internet will be FREE, in exchange for 24/7 monitoring of the user, as this information to CORP-FASCISM is worth its weight in gold.

Anonymous said...


Good one from UK, about how OBL destroyed the US economy, something I have said all along. That for every DOLLAR OBL spent the US lost a billion. Not a bad ROI. In years to come this strategy will be studied like 'art of war' is today.

Talking about de-leveraging. Think about that investment ... 1000000000% ROI. Sun-Tzu didn't have to contend with PONZI economy's in his day. US trained engineer OBL has truly opened a pandoras box for future wars.

Anonymous said...

I got hit hard yesterday. My casualness about the DC 52 evaporated. I am out on the quest for product. Which is not a bad thing.

Heroes Haven

Duncan McGeary said...

Unless you know something I don't, there are none to be had.

I'm not going to buy at retail prices.

I tried ordering not only next week, but three weeks from now, and they all went to backorder...

The whole friggin month.

I think DC screwed up. They either printed hardly any extra copies, or let themselve get bought out by a few major players...

Duncan McGeary said...

I've actually started to relax about it a bit, because I think EVERYONE is more or less sold out.

So I'm just telling people that.

I do wonder why DC is soliciting for 2nd prints, though.

I've been tempted to buy a few copies from Barnes and Noble, if they have them, just so the store will have some...

But I've always argued against adding to a competitor's numbers.