- Posted by Johanna on June 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm
- Category: Comic News
Given the uncertainty over the 52 new DC titles coming in September, I have a guess as to what might happen.
1. Fans are stunned. They don’t know how many of these books to preorder. The solicits give only the cover image and a few lines of hype-filled description. So the fan decides to wait and see, planning to browse the comic at her store.
2. Aside from some obvious choices, the biggest name titles, a lot of these books are huge guesses for retailers in terms of how many to stock. They can’t afford to overcommit, because the downside is huge, so they order tentatively. Several books sell out the first day, and fans can’t sample and see the comic before they buy.
3. A fan who misses out on a desired title might spend the same amount of money to buy the online issue … Which gives the sale, instead, to comiXology and DC instead of the retailer. The retailer doesn’t see the higher numbers he could have sold, only that he sold out. That encourages higher orders for future issues, but the retailer is still guessing at what those numbers should be. And the fan, if she’s old school, doesn’t buy those issues in print, because she already started reading online and plans to continue that way. She doesn’t want print if she can’t start from the beginning. End result: lost sales, and decreasing support for the title in stores going forward. The second issue is going to sell fewer copies than the first, anyway, but this problem accelerates that decline.
(However, among certain kinds of retailers, sell-outs are seen as good things, demonstrating that a book is “hot”. Some of those retailers might increase orders so they and their customers aren’t “left out” in future. If shortages occur, expect DC to make lots of PR hay out of them.)
4. Or the fan might not buy online. They might download a free shared copy in order to be able to “try before they buy”. DC could short-circuit some of this with lots of samples, but it remains to be seen if heavy digital sampling is encouraged.
5. While fans can navigate this mess, new readers who want to try out these great new comics they’ve read about (and that hopefully have been marketed and advertised by DC) are much more confused. They don’t come into the comic shop mid-day on Wednesday, so they don’t see the books in stock, and they don’t want to have to come back a week later to fulfill an impulse purchase (when reorders might arrive). For this new market — which is the whole point of this exercise, from one perspective — DC has to get more copies out there. To that extent, DC is providing variant covers, additional discount on key titles, and most important, limited returnability (at a cost to the retailer) in order to encourage increased orders from stores. However, retailers don’t seem to find that enough of a cover to their gamble. What would better help them is free overship, something like “buy 5, get 5 free” offers. DC made the decision to tip over the apple cart — should they take more of the risk? (For more detail on the incentives to retailers and a store perspective on this mess, check out this podcast with Brian Hibbs.)
There are several points here where the situation can be improved. Some retailers are providing significant discounts to customers who preorder the entire set of books, thereby sharing the risk with them. DC will also need to reprint issues fast in order to fulfill demand, if it’s been under-calculated. This could drive a lot of customers to digital purchasing, although if DC is seen to be encouraging that route, expect store orders and support to continue declining. What am I missing? What do you think is going to happen?