As Issue Seven Sells Out, Image Decides To Stop Reprinting Comics Like Saga

FOC stands for Final Order Cutoff, the last date retailers can order quantities of a comic from specific publishers and be sure of receiving copies (unless they are printed overseas, apparently.)

In a letter to retailers, Image PR & Marketing Director Jennifer de Guzman wrote;

I have some bad news: SAGA #7 is sold out. Sounds like good news, right? Well, it’s not. First, it means that retailers under-ordered it. And second: We will not be reprinting it. Should we have overprinted? We did. Should we have told you specifically “Order a lot of this one”? Well, did we really need to?

This is SAGA we’re talking about. Issue #7 was its return after a brief hiatus that had fans of the epic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples as restless as cats in heat and following on the heels of the release of a trade paperback that is moving like wildfire (it’s is still on the New York Times Bestseller list). And its FOC came just two weeks after I quite single-mindedly harangued you about order numbers decreasing with each issue of even our most popular titles, using math. (Math, people!)

What’s even worse news is that orders for SAGA #8 decreased 4% from orders on #7. It will not be reprinted either. We have decided to cease second printings of single issues of titles that are known over-performers in hopes that it will help initial sales find their proper level. That’s marketing-speak for “You know this sells, so you’d better make sure you order enough!”

This isn’t meant as a punishment or some weird scheme to drive up prices of single issues on eBay. The weeks of delay in waiting for the second printing cost you sales. Knowing you can count on reprintings has encouraged caution when none is called for, and that hurts you as much as it does us.

And there’s absolutely no reason why there shouldn’t be more readers of our best-selling titles now that the $1.00 Image Firsts editions of FATALE #1, THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1, SAGA #1, REVIVAL#1, and THIEF OF THIEVES #1 are available and (should be) in your stores. They’re there to help you evangelize, so spread the good news! (Can I get an “Amen”?)

It’s not empty boasting to say that SAGA is the best new series of 2012 — it’s borne out by review after review, recommendation after recommendation, and when we see sales go down on an issue, we know that there is a problem, and it isn’t with the book itself.

So believe in the titles that sell and believe in your ability to sell them. There might not be a second chance.

Here are some #2s on this week’s FOC list that you may need more of (with even more math!):

CHANGE #2 — Orders presently are 38% lower than orders for the debut issue. If you haven’t read CHANGE #1 yet, please give it a look. Its writer Ales Kot had a breakout hit with WILD CHILDREN this year, and CHANGE taps into the same sensibility.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #2 — Orders are 21% less than orders for #1, which has sold out. This is a known seller by creators whose traction in the industry is growing — Justin Jordan, who also writes Shadowman for Valiant and Tradd Moore, who has drawn a variant Deadpool cover for Marvel and a story in the digital Legends of the Dark Knight for DC.

NON-HUMANS #2 — I know. It’s late, and lateness is a death knell for sales numbers. But! This is the return to Image by Whilce Portacio, and a 33% drop in orders seems a mite steep, considering that NON-HUMANS #1 sold out.

-JdG

There are some points to mention here. Retailers are aware that some people who pick up issue 1 don’t like it and so won’t pick up issue 2. Some will like it and then decide to wait for the inevitable trade paperback. There are reasons why retailers, ordering sale-or-return, may reduce orders for a second issue. Some retailers may say that Image should have overprinted more.

And certainly in the short term, this could be good news for the speculator market. This kind of tactic was also employed by Bill Jemas at Marvel, and saw sales rise across the board. Image stopped publishing second prints of The Walking Dead for some time (recently returning to it around the hundredth issue) and also saw sales rise and rise.

It is a dangerous game and could annoy retailers, who feel no need to promote a comic within their store if a ceiling has been set on the amount of previous issues available to sell. But if it works, the rewards could be well worth it.