Bleeding Cool learnt today that Image Comics will be announcing that they will no longer offer "retailer exclusive" variant single comics. It was a promotional program started by IDW for the launch of their Godzilla comic, then adopted by everyone from Boom to Avatar to Marvel to Titan to DC, where retailers could commission their own exclusive cover of a comic book if they committed to ordering so many thousands of issues. As a result, they have been a shot in the arm to many a title, with subscription box variants for the likes of Loot Crate adding hundreds of thousands of sales to a comic – whether that be Orphan Black or Bravest Warriors.
Image Comics however operates on a different model, where Image Central gets a flat fee per comic and doesn't directly benefit from increased sales. So it might be a matter of different priorities. We asked Image to comment, asked if this was just for retailers or for conventions and subscriber boxes as well, or how they would deal with specific creator requests. We had received no response this afternoon.
Instead, Image Comics added the following to a newsletter sent to retailers this evening, saying.
After much internal deliberation, Image Comics will no longer be offering single issue retailer exclusive variants. While the intent of this program was to offer our retailer partners the opportunity to have exclusive content in order to build strong continued series sales at their stores, data accumulated over the last year suggests these variants only serve to further feed the speculation market, artificially inflating first issue sales, and thereby doing little to positively affect a series' longterm health.
With those findings in mind, Image Comics will now be offering retailer exclusive covers for trade paperbacks. Requests must be submitted by the deadline of initial orders for the Previews that the trade paperback is solicited in. The minimum order threshold will be determined on a title by title basis. Retailers will also have the opportunity to place additional orders of their retailer exclusive trade paperback every time it returns to press for an additional printing.
We understand that many of you who have participated in these single issue retailer exclusive variants may be disappointed with this decision, but we must act based on what we feel is in the best interest of our creators, their series, and the growth of the marketplace.
Exclusive trade paperbacks instead! Maybe we will see those at San Diego Comic Con… such as the variant Chew Smogasbord collection we highlighted the other day.
And while we didn't hear directly from Image Comics, we did hear from three stores who regularly commission such retailer exclusive single covers. Larry Doherty of Larry's Comics tells us,
It's so exciting partnering with a publisher to provide customers with a unique shopping experience. It's just cool to offer something nobody else has. It really makes you stand out.
The greatest part of ordering a shop exclusive was working with the creators. We met so many wonderful people. Hopefully personal connections that I made will live on.
I completely respect Images decision, but I'm going to go full throttle branding my small business through publishing partners that still want to work with me.
Hey, maybe the tide will turn one day.
Image. Call me.
( I still love you)
Ralph DiBernardo of Jetpack Comics tells us
I was very bummed to learn of this yesterday. Got my own personal break-up letter from Image!
With Mark Millar coming I had inquired about getting an exclusive for his visit that we could give-away to everyone that showed up to see him.
– Yup, for real, we were going to give it away for free since Mark is taking care of all of his expenses. No such luck.
I have to guess that if they are eliminating the program it is too costly for them to continue.
Especially with more and more shops jumping into the fray. I expect there are all kinds of behind the scenes logistics they have to deal with and it must be interfering with their day to day operations.
That being said, I am just guessing here. Maybe there is some master plan that doesn't have room for small orders of 1000+ copies of a book.
It is shame because many of us target exclusives with creators we want to support. Sure, we hope to make money at it (and sometimes make lots of money at it) but we also like giving a creator we support that extra push.
Now we'll just have to reach out to the creators directly and see what we can do to work with them on their own.
Maybe this will begin an era of 'Exclusive Ash Can Editions" or some other such unique collectible.
Maybe creators will work directly with retailers, creating exclusive issues.
Does creator owned mean they can do what they want with their property?
I do wonder how this will change exclusive programs with other publishers. Will they attempt to fill the void that Image is leaving? Will they use it as a selling point to creators they want to get on board with them? Will they increase their minimum order for exclusives as there are less options for retailers? It's going to be interesting to see what happens with this. Who actually ends up with exclusives and who doesn't?
I would note that the letter did specify "retailer exclusives" so does this mean that retailer groups like The Phantom, Ghost, Eh! and others are exempt from this?
Guess I got more questions to ask.
Having gone through my warehouse yesterday, and having calculated how many thousands of unsold exclusives I have, Image just may be doing me a favor, but I sure will miss producing them. It's been an honor to work with Image & all kinds of great creators; well known, unknown, and in between. We will continue to support Image and all creators as best we can.
And one final retailer who wished to remain anonymous, said,
It seems odd that Image is now dictating to its creators that they can't do something that they should have full control over and that effect what goes into the creator's pockets. I'm guessing it's a numbers game. Image central still has to do all the legwork, so maybe it's not worth the time anymore. But I'm sure, if someone were to say "I want to print x thousand copies of a variant" there might be an exception.
I do feel like that there a few more shoes here to drop, including how it might (or might not) be affected by the recent departure of sales and marketing staffers but that might have to wait for a bar at San Diego…
So how much do you reckon those exclusive variant trade paperbacks are going to be worth?