Why a Free Digital Version of Previews Magazine Might Drive up Comic Sales, and Benefit Indy and Creator-Owned Titles


Earlier this week, Diamond Distribution announced that they would be entering the digital comics arena, with a new collaborative effort with iVerse, called Diamond Digital. To see the full press release, and my thoughts on it, please head here.

This news announcement made me wonder to myself, with Diamond going into digital distribution, why on Earth have they not made an online/digital version of their comic shop catalogue, Previews Magazine? I tweeted words to this effect, and the next day I was surprised to see that I had been Retweeted so many times that Twitter had selected it as a Top Tweet. Obviously, I’m not alone in thinking this is a good idea, and so I thought I’d follow up with a post on the site, to try and drum up some interest, and tell Diamond what we want to see.

I don’t think that there are many people out there who would disagree with me when I say that the current system that we have in place is antiquated and seriously flawed. Think about it for a moment, every month when new comics are announced, buyers are expected to make a trip to their local comic shop, to spend $4.50 on a copy of Previews, and $1.25 for a copy of the annoyingly separate Marvel Previews. The customer then has to sit down and sift through the catalogue, in order to make a list of the comics that they would like to purchase in two month’s time, then give this list back to their comic shop, who will then make the order (assuming that the customer has a file with their store). For the lucky few, like myself, some comic shops will give out free copies of Previews to valued customer, in the hopes they will order more stuff; however, for the majority of comics fans $5.75 a month is too much to pay for the privilege of being able to see what comics are available for them to be able to pay for, two months down the line.

In my opinion, this is probably the biggest enemy there is to indy and creator-owned comic books. Why I say this is because the majority of readers don’t buy Previews, and so just pick their comics out every week by grazing the shelves at the store, or by pre-ordering based on online solicitations that get posted on popular comic sites and publishers’ website. The problem with the latter situation is most indy and creator-owned project don’t have the marketing power of the ‘big two’, and so the solicits don’t tend to get viewed as much online as those of Marvel, DC, et al; therefore, stores don’t get as many pre-orders for these books. With a lack of pre-orders, and the retailer not wanting to take a risk on an unknown, comic shops tend to buy a lot more DC and Marvel books than they do for example, Archaia books. Then, because these products aren’t sitting on the shelf when the customer comes in on a Wednesday, they often don’t know these books even exist, and so retailers don’t shift as many titles as those of big publishers. Now, I’m not saying that this is the only reason indy and creator-owned doesn’t sell as well, but I think it is definitely a contributing factor.

Another problem with Previews is the whole two month pre-order thing. People don’t want to have to think about that they want to buy in two months time. If they see something they like, they want it right there and then! However, this is an unavoidable situation in the current climate of low comic sales, because neither Diamond nor comic shops can afford to buy in large amounts of any titles, on the off chance that a customer will see something they like and buy it. They’d likely end up returning products, and getting them pulped. Therefore, the whole system has to depend upon pre-orders from retailers. So lets ignore that issue for now.

Here’s what I would like to see from Diamond, a free online version of Previews/Marvel Previews that shows detailed solicitations and cover art etc. for every title that will be available to pre-order for that month. Why I think this is a good idea is that it would get this information into the hands of more potential buyers, who may see things they like, and therefore pre-order them from their local comic shop or online retailer. It would also be great if buyers were able to add items to a virtual shopping cart, and then when they have finished browsing, they could go to the cart and generate off a PDF of all the comics they wanted order for the month. The buyer could then either print off this and take it in to their local retailer, or for those retailer who are in the 21st century, send attached in an email. What would be EVEN better than this would be if there was a way to integrate the retailer into them system somehow, so when people made an order from the online Previews, an order would pop up on the retailer’s computer screen, and they could add it in to their monthly order.

So, there you have it, an online version of Previews that could possibly drive up pre-orders, and even benefit indy and creator-owned titles by getting information on the titles into the hands of more potential buyers.Will it solve the problem of generally low comic sales? Probably not, but it can’t hurt!

Diamond, please feel free to take this idea, no need to thank me

Related posts:

  1. Lieber & Parker Offer Their Creator Owned Comic Underground for Free!
  2. Diamond Distribution’s Top 50 Indy Comics, Top 50 Indy TPBs & GNs, and Top 50 Manga Titles for August 2009
  3. Your Creator Owned Comic Shopping List for Wednesday 2nd February, 2011
  4. Indy Comics & TPBs/OGN Sales Charts for December 2009
  5. A Look Inside the November 2009 Issue of Diamond Distribution’s Previews Magazine


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