Over at his blog, Alan David Doane picked up on the fact that The Beguiling doesn’t participate in the “First Look” program for Marvel or DC, where forÂ a fixed cost you receive preview-copies of their books a week in advance. Tom Spurgeon notices Alan noticing, and then Alan responds. So, uh, here’s what’s really going down:
For a time, we fine folks at The Beguiling were subscribed to both Marvel and DC’sÂ ”First Look” program, where for roughly $6 (or $6 plus shipping, where Marvel was involved) we’dÂ get a selection of next-weeks books a week early, to peruse and theoretically toÂ inform us and/or get us excited about the books. We dropped out of the Marvel program early, because it was costing us a little more than $15 a week for the books, which had to be UPS’d to us with a separate shipping charge. $15+ a week for like $12 retail worth ofÂ comics? I don’t know about you, but the ‘usefulness’ of the information contained therin just wasn’t justified by the cost. I’ve got no problem spending $60 a month to significantly increase our sales (spend money to make money, etc.), but the cost/benefit ratio never worked out for us.
DC Comics, on the other hand, completelyÂ discontinued theirs a few months back, when they moved to the FOC (or adjust your orders 3 weeks before the books come out) system. Apparently, they didn’t think they could do both… Marvel can, it just costs us $15 in UPS fees. In all honesty we liked the DC First Looks well-enough, although any book that might have enough ‘hot’ stuff in it as to actually adjust our orders was often left out of the package for fear of spoilers. If you start to think about this very hard at all, you’ll realise this makes the whole endeavour more-or-less pointless, and perhaps that led to DC discontinuing it. DC have always been powerfully, powerfully anal about their ‘secrets’ being ‘spoiled’ even one iota of time before they were ready for them to be out there, and so if they weren’t prepared to release important information, then they were defacto releasing unimportant information, charging us $6 for the priviledge, and probably losing money on it…
I think the key assertion with Alan’s piece, that we didn’t participate in The First looks because we were concerned with other publishers, it has the ring of truth but it doesn’t hold up. Frankly, we are more concerned with other publishers than with DC or espescially Marvel. Those books sell themselves very well to the dedicated hardcore, and despite some tweaking here or there we stock the books, maintain our selection, and make intelligent recommendations based on existing purchases–it’s easy. Something like theÂ truly-excellent Rutu Modan’s EXIT WOUNDS does require more attention from us, because, despite it being better than anything in the Marvel or DC universes that graced our shelves last week, it’s by an unknown author, it’sÂ her first graphic novel, on a ‘difficult’ subject, and it’s art style and storytelling ‘give good hand’, meaning that the book can be easily recommended once a customer is looking at it. We gotta put more work in on that one, but it’s totally rewarded and makes our days happy and wonderful when we sell lots of them.
But, that doesn’t mean we won’t take every advantage that’s offered to us, from every publisher. The DC First looks worked for us because for $6 a week, we averaged $12-$15 worth of books, meaning that even if not one iota of useful information was gleaned from the books, we got saleable product out of the deal at a good discount, so it’s at best a wash. If Marvel could manage to get their first-look costs down, and could manage to get us the books in salable condition (seriously, those UPS envelopes looked like they’d been stuck in the spokes of someone’s bike wheels to make that “thwap-thwap-thwap” noise), we’d probably sign back up for the program. And I’d know what the big spooky deal is about this week’s EVERYONE IS SAD ABOUT CAPTAIN AMERICA: IRON MAN WEEPS FOR 22 PAGES. My guess is Skrulls, but enh? If we sell out, there’ll be a second printing. If we don’t, then it won’t have mattered what the big deal is. Win-win!
…I should also note that recently Image Comics has started offering a First Look program–For Free!–that makes the most sense out of anyone’s. Chances are that the majority of comic stores are at least ordering one copy of everything DC and Marvel publish, but the same can’t be said of the books published by the fine folks at Image Comics. So Image sends one of more-or-less everything out, for free, to every Diamond account, on the off chance someone who isn’t ordering CASANOVA or FELL or GIRLS or whatever will take a look at an issue and like it enough to try ordering it… or throw it on the rack and sell it, and maybe make a few bucks and increase their opinion of Image a little. It’s a great idea, kudos to whoever come up with it. (Of course, we’re ordering at least one copy of every Image book, but I do appreciate the opportunity to read THE WALKING DEAD a week early when I can).
Anyway, in my ever-humble opinion, smart retailers take every advantage, and determine whether every offer is advantageous or not to their own establishment. So, in that way Alan was definitely correct, we’ll source every book we carry from two or three different distributors and see who offers up the best deal, the best shipping, the timeliest turnaround. We wanna get the books in first and carry them the longest, and get you the best price on them. Putting all of our eggs into the Diamond basket, certainly not the way to do that right now. But if Diamond does step up (and they do, every once in a while) then we’re happy to work with them.
That’s today’s boring retail theory. Sorry.