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“Any retailer who doesn’t know how to order a comic by issue #7 is bad at thier job”

Brian Hibbs

(Which I must have read 10 times in the last 2 days, from 10 different people)

OK, so let’s talk about how one might need more copies by issue #7 (for crying out loud!), using some Actual Numbers.

SAGA #1 went through five printings. They declined to do a sixth printing (as the trade was imminent), and this appears to have happened in mid-to-late August (I say “appear”, because all I can factually check is when I was no longer able to have an order fill — but it could have been a day or multiple weeks before that that the last printing officially sold out nationally)

At the point there were no more copies of #1 for sale, I stopped reordering #2-6, since, typically, customers want to start at the beginning. Therefore, it is possible (and, perhaps, likely) that my sales on #2, 4 and 5 might have potentially been higher if I kept rolling. #3 and #6 had leftover copies come off my racks (in November!) as “biffage” — I also think that, had there been a 6th printing of #1, I would have KEPT selling more of all of the issues.

We’ve also been aware of SAGA’s sales potential since issue #1, and have ACTIVELY been TRYING to grow the book.

These are my ACTUAL sales for SAGA, expressed as a percentage of #1:

#1: 100%

#2: 65%

#3: 60% (remember — I had copies “left over” after a FULL SIX months on the rack!)

#4: 52%

#5: 52%

#6: 49% (also had “biffage” here, of about 10% of initials)

So, given this (ABSOLUTELY NORMAL) pattern, how many copies of #7 would YOU order? Remember, if you guess wrong, YOU pay for those books and insulate your attic, just like the long boxes worth you pull from your rack every other month.

 

 

What *I* did was:

#7: 55%

#8: 52%

In other words, I ordered MORE copies of #7 than either #4, 5, or 6 sold in about 90 days, give or take.

Today we’re at 31 days on sale on #7, and I’ve sold 49% of #1, but more importantly, my current velocity on #7 shows we’re selling an average of 1 copy per day, so I will be sold out before the first of the year, if things hold steady. But… I want to have copies of #7 on sale, in theory, until the night before the second trade paperback comes out — in May or June. That’s six more months, or maybe like another doubling or tripling of current sales. I don’t *think* I’ll have a-copy-a-day velocity for SIX months, but the current trend says we *might*.

So how do I order the 2nd printing? the “right” number, assuming “we don’t want to do a third printing”, especially with the excellent discount Image will be offering is somewhere between 50 and 150 more copies. That’s a pretty stupidly big range, however, and I’m almost positive that I have to order on the lower edge of that.

More than that, how do I order #8 and #9 and #10, are they going to keep up that high? I also will “need” each future issue a little shorter timeframe then the one for it, presuming that the second trade release abrogates most of the market need for single releases.

Mathematically, it is *possible* (but not very probable) that I *might* sell more copies of #7 than I did of #1, by the time we get to June, IF there’s copies TO sell…but actually taking on THAT much stock? Kind of not plausible — especially when #8-12 are not going to be offered at the (frankly) crazily good discount the 2nd prints of #7 will be offered at.

And, remember, I’m ON THIS book (like white on rice), and I’m struggling hard with just how to manage its post-TP success. Now picture a store that WASN’T all over it from day #1:

They ordered (let’s make up a number) 10 copies of #1. Unbeknownst to them, they shoulda ordered FIFTY, but they order and sell 10, then reorder, say, 5, then another 5, then ANOTHER 5, then they go “this is nuts” and they go to 10, and those sell out, and there are no more, and they’ve managed to shift 35 copies of something they thought would sell 10, but they actually COULD have sold 50.

It’s much much harder for this guy to reach his maximum potential on this title, because they 1) haven’t figured out what that maximum COULD BE, and 2) because they’re capped lower because of lack of availability in the sales period as they understand it. EVENTUALLY they’ll figure it out, but carrots carrots carrots are the way to help them get them to that point.

Listen: history shows us that on a “growth” book, it is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL that it takes between 13 and 20 issues for the market to actually properly “figure out” the title, and how to order it. This is because the market for new books/comics is ENORMOUS (500+ SKUs each and every month), because MOST books decline, rather than hit big, and because capital is limited.

I hope this helps your understanding of the difficulty of “right sizing” your orders in a predictive fashion.

 

Any questions?

-B

7 Responses to “ “Any retailer who doesn’t know how to order a comic by issue #7 is bad at thier job” ”

  1. “Any retailer who doesn’t know how to order a comic by issue #7 is bad at thier job” I’m sorry? Who has been saying this? That’s insane.

  2. I think this is an excellent encapsulation of the retailer perspective, Brian. I’ve already sighed in anticipation of someone who is going to bitch!

    One question: assuming you ordered the SAGA “Image First” edition of the first issue, how did you order that to complement your current stock of #2-6? Actually, how do the Image Firsts sell for you? I ask because at the store I work for, we haven’t really embraced the format a great deal as most people seem just as inclined to out right buy a $10 trade (I’m talking about WALKING DEAD and SAGA here) rather than buy the first of six chapters that they can’t buy the other five parts in the similar format for a $1 unless they are REALLY uncertain they are going to like it. My feeling is that the Image First issue of SAGA #1 would help out the customer who wants all issues over the trade, and continue buying with #7 as they want consistency and not “trade, then issues going forward”.

  3. By and large I am with you on the $1 reprints — I can see the possible market need they might fill, but I’m not seeing ANY resistance to the v1 TPs, that it’s more sensible to push that.

    Glad they exist for the people who want them, but I’ve never found a good use for them personally.

    -B

  4. I am with you on the $1 issues. On my twice yearly trips to the store, I would always drop 500-600 on trades all at once. The stores, generally pretty stocked with goodwill (not really a comics town here) would always shove the Image and after-Watchmen firsts into my bag. I never read them. I was a trade guy, I figured if it caught my interest, I would pick up the book while knowing that glamourpuss was the only book I was going to buy issues of.

    On the other hand, anyone who does go to store often enough to buy single issues probably has read and made a decision on any series big enough to warrant the promo. Seems aimed at clientele that doesn’t exist…the walk-in inspired by the movies. Who, if they existed, would buy a trade anyway.

  5. I’ve never run a comic store, but it seems like a pretty tricky job especially if you’re trying to actively sell books and not just stock up on Marvel and DC books. I’m disappointed people think a retailer trying to anticipate sales on a book whose audience is growing translates into the retailer not knowing what he’s doing.

    But yeah, I’m just buying the Saga trades because I know I’ll want to re-read and share them.

  6. [...] Retailing | Because reorders of Image Comics, and Saga in particular, have been a hot topic of late, retailer Brian Hibbs explains how he figured out how many issues to order, and what the results are so far. [Savage Critics] [...]

  7. I took the test, and I picked 55% for both #7 and #8.

    Currently, we’re selling about 15 on “Saga.” I haven’t contemplated ordering fifty copies of a second printing since 1993. Frankly, there’s very little that we order fifty or more of in FIRST prints. But then, I can’t imagine a title that sells practically every day. We have too many low velocity days (Sunday through Tuesday) for that to be true of anything other than the first week of a really popular book (“Batman” or successful first issue, for example).

    Nevertheless, I am very happy that “Saga” is a huge success for you.

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