Conventional wisdom in the comic book industry goes that if a publisher wants to sell more copies of a comic, the best way is to use gimmicks to convince retailers to purchase as much stock as possible, regardless of whether or not that stock will ever end up in the hands of actual readers. Gimmicks like incentive variant covers, which convince retailers that they should order more copies of a comic no one will ultimately buy in order to get their hands on a rare variant that can be sold for more than the price of those comics on eBay, are combined with gimmicks like #1 issue relaunches or super-mega-crossover event tie-ins to make a comic seem more in-demand than it actually is. This works because, in most cases, once a retailer buys the comics, the publisher's job is done. They have their money, they can tout the big sales boost at the next quarterly stockholder meeting, and the retailer is left figuring out what to do with the stock if nobody buys it.
That's not good for retailers. More importantly, it's not good for readers.
With the release of Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora's Once & Future, explosive publisher BOOM! Studios tried something different. They partnered with ComicHub, a company that targets actual readers with direct-to-reader marketing to increase demand for comics with customers and drive them into comic book stores to purchase the product. BOOM! also made the comic returnable, showing faith in the product by accepting some of the risk rather than pushing it off to retailers. Common sense? Sure. Revolutionary in an industry that has defied common sense for decades? You betcha.
Bleeding Cool reported on BOOM!'s partnership with ComicHub back in June. In July, we reported that the comic had 31,000 orders with no variants. In August, we reported on the comic selling out two weeks before going on sale. Then came the second printing. The third printing. Eventually a sixth printing. And a second and third printing for Once & Future #2. By September, Once and Future was the benchmark for hot creator-owned comics.
Maybe Once & Future's success had nothing to do with ComicHub. Maybe it's just a great comic by well-known creators that just happened to find an audience. Certainly, its sales can't solely be attributed to marketing. A lot of factors go into making a comic successful, and it would be insulting to the creators involved to claim that promotion is the most important one. But maybe, if the comic itself is really good, attempting to actually get readers, rather than just retailers, interested in a new comic does play an important role. And certainly there are a lot of great comics that die on the vine for lack of good promotion.
Vault Comics will be testing the theory for the release of Money Shot, the upcoming comic by writer Tim Seeley, comedian and co-scripter Sarah Beattie, artist Rebekah Isaacs, colorist Kurt Michael Russell, and letterer Crank!. From the press release:
The new partnership will see the two fast-growing start-ups continue to take the industry by storm to expand the audience of what will be one of the year's most exciting new series. ComicHub's cutting edge direct-to-reader marketing & pre-order tools will expand Money Shot's presence in the mind's of retailers and readers internationally. ComicHub's "Available At" map feature will be a key part of Vault's strategy to help retailers in a sweeping sell-through campaign.
Further, retailers who participate in Vault Comics' BOOK IT pre-order system will receive a special $100 discount when they sign up for ComicHub at Retailer.Comichub.com.
ComicHub is so much more than a Point Of Sale system. It is the only POS in the comics industry that integrates Subscriptions, Customer Portal, modern Email Marketing tools, Integrated Web Store, Multi-Store Tools, International Store integration, Rewards, Gift Certificates, Layaway and Bounce Back programs. Not to mention the features in the Publisher Portal and Creator Portal. All seamlessly integrate to ensure the print comic industry continues to thrive in the digital era.
Said Vault Publisher Damian Wassel:
ComicHub aims to provide the software solution the comics market has always wanted, a single platform to manage orders, handle payments, and track data, for vendors, retailers, and customers. It could be altogether revolutionary. Vault will be working hard to make sure we make the most of this bold new tool.
Said ComicHub VP Atom! Freeman:
We have worked with a lot of publishers since beginning ComicHub, and few have impressed us the way that the team at Vault have. Their commitment to building quality books and growth in the Direct Market have been fun to watch and a joy to collaborate on. The ideas and innovation they bring to projects like Money Shot guarantee them a place as a powerhouse in this industry.
Will it work? That remains to be seen. Money Shot #1 is in stores on October 23rd, with final order cutoff on September 30th.
Money Shot is set in the near future where space travel is ludicrously expensive and largely ignored. Enter Christine Ocampos, inventor of the Star Shot teleportation device. Her big idea: She'll travel to new worlds, engage-intimately-with local aliens, and film her exploits for a jaded earth populace trying to find something new on the internet. Now, Chris and her merry band of scientist-cum-pornstars explore the universe, each other, and the complexities of sex in MONEY SHOT, a story about scientists having sex with aliens for the glory of mankind-and money.