HOT PICKS EXTRA: Wanna support your shop? Here’s the best way, says Menachem …
By MENACHEM LUCHINS, owner, Escape Pod Comics, Huntington, L.I.
So, this week I want to take a break from my normal HOT PICKS EXTRA thing to talk about something near and dear to every comic-shop owner’s heart: Subscriptions.
Sometimes called Pulls or Holds or Subs, the basic idea is that you tell your comic shop which titles you know you will be getting and they make sure to order them for you and keep them aside for you, so you don’t have to wait there at opening on New Comic Book Day to make sure you get what you want.
Now, that’s where the similarities end. Every shop does their holds differently. In some you fill out a form and leave a deposit, in some it’s all online, and at some there’s a monthly fee. The effectiveness also differs — some shops will only hold your books for a week or so, others will sit on them for months. Some stores regularly forget to add new stuff, others give you more than you ever asked for. But that’s neither here nor there, for the purpose of today’s column.
So what is the purpose of this piece? Well, there’s a lot out there about how pre-ordering is important, how it helps make sure you get a book and it helps retailers know there’s a desire for said book, etc.
But what very few of those articles/listicles/clever photo comics by Kieron Gillen do is really explain how deeply defined by pre-orders most stores’ stock is.
Comics are very different from most retail businesses — a good amount of the stock is NOT returnable and we have to make our orders at least a month before the items come out to make sure the store gets them. Now, most of us place our orders two months in advance — that one month deadline is really just the last possible chance.
This means that as a comic retailer, you need to have a general idea of how many of a book you’re going to need far in advance of the public knowing pretty much anything beside the creative team and basic plot.
So… a lot of it is knowing your customers and knowing the industry: Will this book appeal to your core customers? Will it appeal to your walk-ins? And, most importantly: HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE PUT IT ON THEIR HOLD LIST?!
Last week I saw a complaint about a comic shop not having a certain book and the person complaining wrote: “I know I should have reserved but I didn’t want to.” And “How hard is it for a shop to just stock enough of the new books from Marvel/DC/Image/Dark Horse/IDW so that everyone can get a copy?”
You want to know how hard, buddy? Do you? Alright, I’ll try to lay it out: Those companies together put out, on average, a total of 100 new books a week — if “enough for everyone” means 10-20 copies on the shelf, ASIDE from reserved books, you’re looking at thousands of books.
Is it doable? Of course. But you’re pretty much ensuring that when some other company (Valiant, Dynamite, Boom!, Oni, et al) puts out a book you like, that same store won’t have it. How can they? They need to make sure they have enough copies of the ones you complained they didn’t have before! Yeah, you see how that works.
Because you can’t have your cake and eat it too. In fact, “eating it” is exactly what all of us shop owners have to do with the 20 extra copies of Superman #274 you seem to think we need on the shelf.
It’s like this: Almost every single shop in the world curates their purchases. It’s possible for a mega-store to get every title, but odds are good that they determine how many of each title they get based on their sales and their — you guessed it — hold lists.
As a smaller retailer, hold lists are the #1 thing that determine how much of something to get. How many people subscribe to this artist’s other book? How many to the writer’s? How many to the last book featuring this character? All of these factors weigh a lot more for us than how many people re-tweet a preview of it online or “Likes” the artist’s sketch got on Facebook.
Listen, I understand that some stores don’t do their hold lists well — they refuse to order less than x number of titles or they consistently forget to give you a certain book. That doesn’t mean that hold lists are bad, it means those STORES are. Stop going to those stores. Just… just stop.
But please, when you come to the new store because the other one is so bad, don’t just “get the feel” by stopping by late on a Thursday afternoon for a few weeks. Don’t just “check out” what they have on the shelf. Almost any store can — and will — get you any book offered by Diamond, if you’re willing to let them know you want it. So please, let them help you set up a hold list — you’ll benefit, your store will benefit and the comic industry will benefit.
What are you waiting for?