How Long Should You Wait Before Bringing Out the Trade?
Action Lab Entertainment is releasing two collected editions in comic shops today — Stray: Who Killed the Doberman? and Nutmeg: Early Fall: Taste Buddies.
What’s odd about this is the pacing.
The Stray book collects the entire miniseries, four issues. But issue #4 was released just last week. The Nutmeg book collects the first three issues. But issue #3 was released the week before, at the end of May.
That’s a really quick turnaround for the collected editions. Typically, retailers don’t like that, because it makes the final issue a “dead product”, something of little interest to customers, more quickly. However, the makers of Nutmeg were tweeting that issue #3 was sold out, so in this case, at least, making the collection available quickly better satisfies potential readers.
HUGE NEWS, y'all. It looks like #Nutmeg #3, "What Girls Are Made Of," has SOLD OUT at the distributor! Hopefully you can find a copy!
— Nutmeg Comic (@NutmegComic) June 9, 2015
It does make it a dead product in some respects, but then again, I think customers who bought issues #1-3 or #1-2 aren’t necessarily likely to jump to the trade just for the last issue. The customers reading serially buy the last issue and the ones who heard about the series later buy the trade.
Of course personally I wish all publishers would release the trades faster, but I think another reason they don’t is for the possibility that the customer will buy both the single issues and the trade. The better a story (or the more it’s hyped), the more likely some of us won’t want to wait for the trade (emphasis on the wait), buy the single issues, and then get the trade for completeness.
The same day as the final issue would be ideal. Anyone who has been buying the issues and getting the benefit of reading the story incrementally isn’t going to stop then and there’s no reason to punish those who prefer books by making them wait an excessively long time.
The only major issue of putting it out too close to the comics is if the retailer has shelf copies they ordered, hoping to sell to walk ins. Those people will usually go with the trade over the individual issues.
I have doubts that retailers are doing that anymore, especially for non big publisher mini series. Something like this was probably pre-order only, unless they suddenly got a lot of pre-orders for this particular book.
I think a trade should be listed in Previews after its contents has shipped. It allows for word-of-mouth and reviews to let interested retailers and readers gauge whether they want to give it a pre-order, which means more long-term trust and non-returnable orders, which is also good for publishers.
Now, releasing a trade earlier should have appeal to short-termist publishers with little confidence in their own material: it means only half the story was out and reviewed at pre-order time, when asked to commit without a fighting chance to know whether the story did stick the landing.
(A tactic not unlike studios releasing a movie without press screenings in order to rake in the rubes before they can hear whether it stinks.)
Of course, there’s a reverse appeal for those customers who prefer to sort the wheat from the chaff using the wealth of online reviews. Personally, I skip trades that employ this crass ploy, which is getting prevalent this year. I find it really insulting.
I don’t really care too much about preorder deadlines for collections. Customers shouldn’t have to preorder them. The ideal customer interaction is like with Amazon. They should just order them, fire and forget, cancel at any time, pay upon shipping.