[Ed Note: For the first part in “Selling the New 52”, click here]
Over the course of the three days I worked at the shop this week, we opened seven new file subscriptions. Two of them, we took from competitors who just weren’t doing their job. One of them we “won” in a Twitter battle when a customer tweeted at two different stores. The other four? New and lapsed readers, coming to us for their monthly comic book fix, thanks to the efforts of a bit of elbow grease, and a pocket full of dreams. For the past several weeks, I’ve been killing myself, trying to get the word out about DC’s big new relaunch. In slow moments, I stand in front of our store, and hand out the free giveaways DC gave us. When I walk around town, I always carry a batch of similar items with me. I’m ready to give the ol’ pitch at a second’s notice, brimming with hope and enthusiasm for the new books. And I’ll be damned if it’s not actually working.
Selling the New 52 – Part 02:
The Hard Way
The big DC relaunch is less than a month away. Orders have been sent, which was stressful, but by no means, the end of the battle. Over the next few weeks, the different waves of books will arrive on every retailer’s Final Order Cutoff sheet – which means that everyone only has so much time to fine tune their bets before holy hell breaks loose. In this period of time, no one should be complacent and just let their orders lie. Especially retailers.
See, DC has given the industry a gift, with this relaunch. For one month, every single book they put out, as part of their superhero line, has the potential to be someone’s first – whether it be first comic, first DC comic, or first exposure to a new character or idea. The sales potential of that is stunning, but for the big change to see any affect, a person has to do a lot of hard work. If your efforts begin and end with bumping numbers on your DC books with an eye towards other people to sell the comics for you, well then you’ve just lost yourself a whole lot of sales. You have to get out there, you have to hustle. You have to tell every person you meet about the new exciting things that are happening soon, and you have to know the material so that you can recommend a new title at the drop of a hat. You have to be on top of this shit like you’ve never been before, and you have to be better, faster, stronger, or whatever other kind of reference will help gel this idea in your brain. If you can’t or won’t do those things, well then you should probably take a good long look at your store and take a few mental pictures – because it won’t be around for much longer.
Now, part of this big push is getting the word out there. I talked about that at length during the last article, so here, we’re going to focus on something a little different. Mainly, your current customer base. While you should always treat this event as a great way to bring in new customers, you should never, ever, ever forget about the girl what brought you to this fancy pants dress-em-up sock hop. Your customers are important and need to be taken care of. Normally, that involves just keeping a certain status quo: as a reader, they let you know what books they’d like to read, and as a retailer, you put them aside for them until they come in and trade you cash money for them. No fuss, no muss. But this relaunch is a different kind of animal. It features old books and new books alike, books that will carry the current audience over, and books that will disappear completely in place of different characters and concepts. While there will a large chunk of your customers that know exactly what they want already, you can’t take for granted that they are as deep into the information as you are. Some might not have heard word one about the relaunch. Others might not know that the book they are following – while it will retain the same name – will be changing completely. While your regulars will be more up on the changes than most, you absolutely should not leave things to chance. Many will leave their pulls the way they are until the books start hitting the shelves. And depending on how you run the shop, that might leave you a little short on some titles, when your regulars nab them off the shelves, and a little heavy on others when they put books they didn’t want back. As always, the goal is to make sure your customers are only getting the books they want – but in this case, to do so, you’ll have to do a lot of heavy lifting.
ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT
The first step, once again, is to make sure you know everything about DC’s New 52. Writers, artists, characters, story style, everything. Read interviews, glean everything you have from every source, soak it all in. (Or at least as much as you can.) You’ll need all of this information to take to your regulars, to help them decide which books they will want when the change occurs.
The second step is to make sure you take some time to talk with each and every one of your regulars about the change. Each and every one. Print out their file, and have something in place to go over their books with them. When I did this at my store, a lot of people ended up dropping and adding a whole lot of different books. Some wanted to move their Birds of Prey subscription over to Batgirl. Readers of Batgirl wanted to drop the book after Stephanie stopped being their Batgirl. Batman Inc readers flocked to the new Action Comics like crazy. And once they heard about the creative teams switching on Batman and Detective, many people flipped which book they subscribed to.
In almost every case, in the end, customers ended up with more books than before. Quite a few more. There were only one or two exceptions, but those were folks who weren’t really reading their books as of late – just collecting them to have the comics. They were never the audience for this relaunch, and that’s fine – in fact, there’s more than enough people coming in to cover those dropped books and then some. Fact is, taking the time to go through a customer’s file piece by piece helps.
Note: When you’re going through a person’s file, never, ever, ever push books based on your own personal taste. They are your regulars and to a certain extent, you should know their tastes. Or at least, what’s on their pull list. In keeping with this, always recommend books that you think they would enjoy. For example, just because you don’t like the look of the Teen Titans book, doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to enjoy the heck out of that book. Asking a person if they enjoyed Generation X back in the day is usually enough to get the ball rolling – because it’s the same writer, Scott Lobdell, writing a book about teenage super heroes. Just because it might not be your cup of tea, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sell the crap out of it. If you start doing that, you’re going to limit the numbers on a few different books, just because they’re not your thing. Which is just the worst business idea, ever.
On Monday, the Final Order Cutoff for Justice League rolls around. It’s your last chance to adjust the orders for the book without suffering from reorder penalties. A few things to keep in mind. When this book ships, it will be the only book for DC readers to grab on the stands. Next to Flashpoint #5, of course, but honestly? By now you know what you should be ordering for that book. In fact, you probably already know that specific quantity by heart right now. Ours is roughly half that of Fear Itself, which is a shame, but a topic for another day. No, your focus should be on that Justice League number. As one big thing ends, everyone’s eyes will be looking towards the next big thing: and make no mistake, this book is an event series disguised as an ongoing. I mean come on. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on a book with all the heavy hitters? That pretty much sells itself, and it will. With it being the only taste on the shelves for that down home DC flavour, many, many, many folks will be sampling the book. I would even go so far to say that all of your customers who have an inclination toward the spandex set will pick up this comic. All of them. It’s a big book, featuring big characters and big creators, and it’s a ground zero launch point that requires no prior information. There’s pretty much no reason for this book not to do gangbusters. So do a quick rough count of where your customer base is sitting at right now. Tack on a few extra for any folks you think might walk through the door. Is that number big? If you’re doing your job right, it should be. And then, come August 31st, you sell, sell, sell.
- There’s definitely been a lot of hubbub in regards to the whole Miles Morales Spider-Man thing. Have you been seeing any increase in sales around the shop? This is something you can’t really control. People will either be interested, or not. As always, it’s your job to sell to the people who are. When people come in because they’ve heard of it, try and make sure they leave with a copy of Ultimate Fallout #4 in their hand – but also be honest about it. Tell them the extent of Miles’ appearance (which lasts for just a panel) – and then make sure you tell them when the magic really starts. Make sure they know about the series starting in September, and ask if they would like a copy of the book set aside for them. As it has in the past, the book will be entirely appropriate for all ages, so sell that point as well. If all goes well, you’ll be able to move a few more copies of an ongoing series, rather than a copy or two of a book that doesn’t really show the main character in action.
- How is everyone doing, selling their copies of Mystic #1. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. If you ordered any copies, I’m pretty sure Marvel sent out a fancy overship as well. For zero dollars. For my part, I’ve been giving my bonus copies away to people who are going to love the crap out of that book. Generally, I think the demographic for the book is outside of the comic book market, and so I’ve been giving them away to said people. Young age readers, Harry Potter fans, and the like. Sometimes they happen into the store, on the heels of something there to buy comics. Other times, they’re outside of the store. On the street. Now of course, you can’t just give a book to a kid randomly. Hell, if you got yourself a nice white van, you might as well buy yourself a one way trip to the hoosegow for kiddie fiddlers. But drop off some copies at a kids hospital. Or heck, do what we’re doing and hook up with your local library system and get them some copies. It’s the perfect kind of book to go around there. See if they’ll let you stamp the book with your store information, and just give it to them for free. See how that goes.
Aaaaaaand, that’s the ball game kids. Until next time.