Well, all week there have been ruffled feathers from retailers following a rather blunt email from Image marketing director Jennifer de Guzman that suggested that second printing of proven sellers were not in the offing. You can read the statement below, retailer ruffled feathers here and some Image creators explaining the thinking in this Robot 6 thread. And now Image publisher Eric Stephenson has spoken and feathers will one suspects be settling back:
Believe it or not, we listen to you.
Just as you use the information provided to you by your customers to place orders for our comics, we use the information we get from you to set our print runs. Like you, we modify the numbers a little bit. We always assume there will be reorders and we make sure to overprint. Most of the time, our final number provides us with just enough inventory to satisfy demand, but more and more frequently, we’ve been selling out.
When we sell out – and more importantly, when you sell out – we know we’re all losing both time and money. It typically takes three weeks to a month to get a second printing to market, and that’s three weeks to a month we all could have been selling more books. That’s frustrating.
It’s doubly frustrating when a book like Saga, a bonafide hit by the creator of Y: The Last Man, Runaways and Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughan, and his insanely talented collaborator Fiona Staples, continues to sell out even as it gets deeper into its run. We did five printings of issue one, three printings of issue two, and there were second printings of issues three to six. We are, as I type this, preparing to go back to press on the first trade paperback collection.
And like the previous six issues, Saga #7 sold out, and given that orders hadn’t skyrocketed upwards from issue six at FOC, we decided that it was probably time to bring the second printings to a halt. Using the information we had at our disposal – your orders – we figured the generous overprint we did for this issue would satisfy demand.
By “we,” incidentally, I mean “me.”
It was a rash decision made somewhat in haste and a little bit out of frustration, and I think it was that sense of frustration that bled into the retail newsletter our PR & Marketing Director Jennifer de Guzman sent out earlier this week. For those of you who found the tone of that newsletter condescending or abrasive – you have my apologies. In communicating my frustrations to Jen, that inadvertently got passed down to you, and that should’t have been the case. We also should have given you more of a heads up on how we were handling this, so that you weren’t completely blindsided by a sudden change in policy and again, that’s on me.
We can’t go back in time and fix the past, though, so instead, we’re going to move forward.
Like I said up top: We listen to you.
So we’re going to reprint Saga #7, and we’re going to offer that reprint to you at a massive discount.
For the second printing of Saga #7, every account ordering 25 copies or more by its FOC date, will get them at an 80% discount, making your cost per copy right around 60¢. And for anyone ordering fewer than 25, we will be extending Image’s maximum discount to you, regardless of your usual discount.
The order code for the second printing of Saga #7 is NOV128073. FOC will be 12/24, and the in-store date will be 1/16.
We did a pretty hefty overprint on Saga #8, too, but looking at current reorder activity, I’m guessing we won’t hold onto that stock very long. More news on that as it develops, but if we have to reprint that issue, too, we will.
In the mean time, though, we simply cannot reprint every single issue of this series on an indefinite basis, so with the FOC for Saga #9 in the not-too-distant future, I’m going to ask you to help us out and make sure to double-check your orders on that issue when the time comes. I have an advantage here in that I get to see this stuff before you, but I promise you – this series is only going to get better from here. Brian and Fiona have some amazing things planned, and you are not going to be disappointed if you continue to support this series.
Thanks, and again – my apologies for the way my frustration on this issue was communicated. We won’t leave you out of the loop on decisions like this in the future, and in fact – make sure to check out next weekly newsletter for full details on our reprint policy going forward.
Here’s de Guzman’s original which tipped off the kerfuffle:
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 byBrian 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.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.