The Power of Pull Lists & Pre-orders

Pull Up a Chair is an opinion post where we discuss different things about comic books, culture, and the industry.

It’s been a little while since we’ve covered something that isn’t a specific book or title. Frankly, it’s time to fix that. A weird aspect of being a comic blog is that it can become so very easy to simply review title after title. After all, that’s what people want to know about. You come here, hopefully, because we explore the world of indie comics. If we aren’t writing about that, then what’s the point? With that said, I do think it’s a good idea to discuss the importance of things that are comic book related. So, we’re going to talk about the importance of a Pull List.

For many comic goers, the idea of committing to a pile of comics each and every month can feel a little too serious. These are comics, not a relationship, and if I don’t want to be “forced” into buying anything. That’s a fair argument, and one I’m not going to try fight against. Instead, what I will do is point out how pull lists, and even pre-ordering, can actually support the creators you love.

Beyond projecting and front loading sales, pre-orders and pull lists can actually help the comic buyer (that’s you). I’ve been buying comics from a local store for decades. I’m old, and the digital market scares me (not really but that’s what old people are supposed to say right?). While I do have a substantial collection of digital comics on my tablet, my primary buying method are physical books. I enjoy the collecting aspect of comics. That’s not my primary reason for buying this way, but it is a factor in my buying habits. I want to make sure I get physical copies of the books I’m reading.

I tell you this because I’ve experienced, on more than one occasion, a sudden “missing issue.” There I am, holding issue number five and seven, but six is nowhere to be found. How’s this possible? I’ve been committed to this book for months. I love this series, and the arc was getting extremely intense. You’d think there’s no way I would miss an issue, but the unthinkable took place.

On average, I read about sixty books a month. The majority of those titles are small press and indie books. Yet, here’s something not a lot of people know: there’s a good chance your store doesn’t stock every book you want. If you’re buying physical copies of a book, and it isn’t published by one of the Big 2, there’s a really good chance your missing out on books you want.

Even if they do stock it, they most likely aren’t ordering a lot of copies for the shelf. So, even if your store does carry the book, they might only order a few shelf copies. This isn’t the case if you’re a Marvel book. Heck, The Walking Dead didn’t start seeing shelf life until it became a hit TV show.

Indie and small press books don’t sell as well as books being published by the Big 2. This is why the power of the pull list is so important.You can be assured you’re receiving the books you want without missing something.

The other side of pull lists is that it gives your store information about upcoming books. Sure, that Marvel or DC book that’s been promoted for the last six months is getting a huge order. What about that new publisher on Twitter you’re interested in? There’s a chance your store doesn’t know them, or doesn’t care. Their job is to make money. Your job is to find and read amazing comics. The way you and your store can win is best illustrated in story I’m going to share.

Over a year ago a new publisher was hitting the scene. I’d been following all their marketing and promo work before their books hit the shelves. I had done some digging and found when their launch titles were hitting shelves. Four books specifically were being staggered out over a couple months. Three of those titles I was extremely interested in. I also knew my comic store carried very few indie titles. Thus I needed to go and tell them, “I want every book being published by this new publisher.” I didn’t commit to a pull list with them yet. Instead, I asked them to pre-order these titles. This allowed me to decide if I wanted a long term commitment with these new titles before spending a ton of money.

I was asked, “Why are you so interested in this publisher?” I mentioned that I’d been watching them, and what they’re publishing looks great. The manager of the store responded, “Like what?” So I went on and gave them the synopsis of the launch titles. He responded with an approving nod, and I thought that was the end of that.

A couple months later, the first book from this publisher is landing, and I’m there to pick up my books. That same manager hands me my books and says, “Hey, those titles you pre-ordered, we’re going to be stocking a handful of each.” I smiled and asked why. “Well, the books you described sounded great, and the creators are pretty well known. Plus, over the last couple months, we received pre-orders from a few others. So we thought it might be a good idea to have a few copies for the shelves.”

How cool is that? I thought it was awesome, but then he dropped the bomb on me. “In fact, that launch title that came out today, we ordered an extra ten for the shelves, and we’re already sold out.” The store had only been open for two hours. Because of my, and a few others, pre-order my shop found a title that a lot of people were interested in. Ten other people, who didn’t pre-order, were able to get their copies.

I tell that story for two reasons. The first being a warning and a word of advice to all comic readers. Don’t expect your store to have a copy of a book you want to read. Why miss out on something that you’re anticipating? All you need to do is tell your store to order you a copy. If it turns out that title rocks your comic world, put it on a pull list. If you ever get tired of that title it’s as simple as telling them to remove it, and you’re done. With it on your pull list however, you’re guaranteed to never miss an issue.

The second reason I tell that story is to show that pre-orders and pull lists matter. They especially matter when it comes to indie comics. Comic stores stay in business by supplying the books that sell the best. They can’t take too many chances on what they buy. However, with proactive customers ordering books before they come out their risk is reduced. In fact, it can draw attention to books that might be worth stocking extra copies. With those shelf copies sitting there, customers who are exploring for something new have a chance. Thus that creator’s fanbase grows. With a larger fanbase, we the readers have a greater chance of getting more books from them. Your store makes some extra sales. You received the books you wanted. You helped fellow comic fans discover something new, and increased the chances of even more comics from your favorite creators.

As you can see, there’s a lot of good that can come from pre-orders and pull lists. Heck, even some stores offer discounts to those with pull lists. Imagine saving money and generating more books you want to read at the same time. At the end of it all, it’s your call. With this post however, we hope you’ll at least consider making a pull list, or tossing out some pre-orders.

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