A couple retailers have made what I consider to be a fair comment: We should have known a new series by Brian K. Vaughan would do well and could have printed way more than we did. But using that exact same logic, here’s the thing: They also could have ordered more.
–Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, on the difficulty of calculating print runs under the current distribution system. He also talks about why selling out, though great for publicity, isn’t a great business model and how it’s in everyone’s best interests–publisher, retailer, and reader–to have books on the shelves where people can get their hands on them.
“I don’t advocate retailers ordering with wild abandon anymore than I am in favor of blindly overprinting in large quantities,” he writes, “but the best way to avoid these constant sellouts and multiple printings, is by supporting titles that legitimately deserve it, by getting behind series and creators that are going to help grow a more sustainable direct market.”
Of course, many retailers point to customer pre-orders as an important tool in determining how many copies they’ll stock of a comic, so there’s a lot of finger-pointing in general. Everyone’s shy about taking the financial risk, from customers not wanting to commit to buying a comic they haven’t seen yet to publishers not sure how many to print, and retailers are caught in the middle.