Guide to Pre-ordering

Comic shops are “different”.

A normal bookshop or newsagent sells its books or magazines on what’s called Sale Or Return. That means, perhaps unsurprisingly, that anything they don’t sell they give back to the publisher who have to refund their money. This means that publishers make their money depending on how many copies actually reach the hands of the consumers, with the shop as an intermediary.

Comic shops are, as I mentioned, “different”.

A comic shops don’t work through a sale or return basis. Anything they order, they pay for and is theirs. The advantage for them are things like an increased discount over what a normal bookshop would buy, but does mean that anything they /don’t/ sell they take a loss on. This means that comic shops will only order what they think they /can/ sell. Which makes sense, as otherwise they go bust.

The problem is that this means that they tend to be a little conservative. If it’s a niche comic, they’ll order low (or none at all) hoping they can order extra copies along the line if anyone asks for it.

Now, the second problem is that the actual ordering for comics is done three months in advance. A catalogue called previews is sent out to retailers, who then flick through it and decide their orders then. The publisher then prints to satisfy that demand, plus extras depending on how many re-order they think they’ll get. To choose purely hypothetical numbers, if retailers wanted 5000 copies, the publisher would print a few thousand on top of that.

Problem Number 3: However, it’s possible orders to come in so low that a publisher goes “Actually, no, this book isn’t going to make enough money — we better cancel it”. People who’ve been attentive will realise that this actually has no relation to whether the consumers actually want the book or not. Orders are based on the retailers perception of whether the consumers want the book or not. This means that if there’s sudden demand for a comic, a consumer may not be able to get one as the print run has sold out.

This leads to a concept called pre-ordering. This means going to your retailer before they make their orders and saying “Hello, Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms Retailer — I’d like to pre-order Captain Biffface #1. Here is its order code. Could you keep it in aside for me to pick up? Here is my phone-number”. Since the retailer knows they have a guaranteed sale, they’ll up their order in one to fulfil it. Retailers like certain money.

It should also be noted that if you /do/ pre-order something, you’re ethically committed to buy it. You’ve spent some of the shopkeeper’s money. Only pre-order stuff you actually /want/.

So, pre-ordering means:
1) You’re sure to get the comic you actually want.
2) The comic you want is actually printed.
3) It helps your shop realise that they need to get a copy in, so they can sell it and in business selling “it” is always good.

Pre-ordering is a good thing to do for books you like in the comics market.

If you pre-order any of my books, I’ll hug you. Even if you’re covered in dung. In fact, especially if you’re covered in dung.

Thanks.