Preview Packs

Let’s talk about something else DC and Marvel have had problems with lately: preview packs!

I don’t remember whether DC or Marvel was the first to start (I suspect DC), but both publishers have been allowing retailers to pay a small fee and get single copies of upcoming books a week early. The pack is supposed to allow stores to familiarize themselves with titles so as to better sell the issues; to increase orders if necessary (and if the books are still available at that point); and to get customers excited about coming back next week.

With DC, at least, the amount paid is supposed to be less than the sales value of the books included, so the retailer can sell the issues and not even be out any money. Recently, Image added its own prevew program, but I’m unfamiliar with its details.

These programs have some problems: Retailers have complained that they’re not getting the Marvel books on Wednesday, making the packs less useful to those trying to entice shoppers who visit on that day. (DC’s books arrive with the customer’s Diamond shipment; Marvel’s books come separately.) If the books arrive damaged, then the retailer can’t sell them to make back the money.

But most significant are the questions of selection and value. DC hasn’t been shipping any of their main titles because they don’t want secrets regarding plots getting out early. That leaves the retailer receiving Vertigo books and titles that no one’s much interested in, and often few of them. (If DC doesn’t ship a certain number of issues, then they don’t charge for that week’s pack, though.)

For instance, this week Marvel provided only three titles to my shop: Daredevil, Exiles, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. DC sent four: Batman and the Mad Monk, Claw, Hawkgirl, and Wonder Woman. (I suspect that last was to prove that it did actually exist.)

Image, on the other hand, send more than the two other companies combined: Battle Pope, Dead World, Elephantman, Fear Agent, Fell, Last Christmas, The Portent, Shadowhawk, and The Walking Dead. Good for them!

7 Responses to “Preview Packs”

  1. Don MacPherson Says:

    Interesting side note about Marvel’s First Look package: the weekly fee for the services for Canadian retailers recently went from $14.50 US to $34.50 US for what usually turns out to be $20-$25 worth of comics (which are shipped unprotected).

    Marvel has claimed Diamond forced the price hike, and vice versa.

    It essentially spells the end of such Marvel preview packs in Canada.

    DC has announced its Sneak Peek program is coming to an end, to be replaced with full online previews for retailers.

    I’m also told that Image has informed retailers that should the value of the books in its preview package be less than the fee ($6 US weekly, I believe, just like DC’s), that week’s package will come at no cost (or be reimbursed).

  2. Johanna Says:

    Thanks very much for filling in those blanks, Don! I can imagine that many retailers are finding the program less worthwhile than it used to be.

    Back when, I used the preview pack to prepare reviews that could run when the comics were coming out (instead of days or much later). You know, like other media send out screeners or hold preview showings?

    Interesting that DC’s moving to online. I wonder how secure that will be?

  3. Don MacPherson Says:

    Well, Marvel already offers some full previews online (through the Diamond website) to retailers and has been for some time. And those previews run about 3-4 weeks before the release date.

    As for security, I know the publishers are a bit concerned about people downloading “pirated” scans of their books, but ultimately, I think readers are tactile by nature. People will always want to feel the paper in their hands. Plus so many are collectors at heart as well.

  4. Lyle Says:

    I’m reminded of the EW writer who was frustrated that Marvel wouldn’t give him preview copies so that he could get reviews to appear in EW the same week the comic hit the shelves.

  5. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    Both DC and Marvel have had a tendancy to include “slow selling” comics rather than the biggies. For example, we received probably 9 consecutive issues of Spider-Girl. It is fine to get the lower sellers, to help show them to customers and generate some new interest, but to get the same titles over and over is not productive. It just seems like a way to prop up sales numbers. Marvel does include a top-tier book every now and again, usually when something big or new is coming, and DC wouldn’t do that as often. Having the Marvel ones sent separate did often result in lateness and or damage to the books. We even had a couple that were torn open and were missing an issue or two. We have thought about dropping the program, and might once DC stops theirs, but we are the only store in the area who does it, so it’s kind of a novelty thing we do that other’s don’t.

  6. Don MacPherson Says:

    I believe that another factor that affects inclusion in these preview packs is *where* they’re printed. Publishers don’t print everything through Quebecor, for example.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Don, I agree with you about “tactile”, but that didn’t seem to sway DC from cutting out a lot of previews from retailers.

    It’s a shame that the good guys find themselves on the shoddy end of policies because of those poor retailers out there who can’t separate the business from fandom.

    Lisa, thanks for elaborating on the selection issues. I agree, more variety would better suit everyone’s needs.

    Don, you’re probably right about printing. When I was on Image’s comp list, what I got and when was affected by that as well.




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