With over 400 on-going and limited series titles racked on shelves on over 3,000 comic shops across the globe, the need for the PREVIEWSworld Catalog by Diamond Comics Distributors has never been more important. The guide introduces new comics, limited edition statues and exclusive toys. As well as announces first appearances and key event issues through direct to market solicits from publishers. For a large pack of paper, the Previews guide is one of the most important tools of the modern comics industry. Yet the Previews guide still seems to be one of the industry’s biggest secrets.
Over the past few years, I have been asked several questions both in store and online about ordering product. How we decide what product we stock. And why certain products are strangely unavailable even though it has only been on the market for a few days. And five questions, all of which can be answered with the Previews guide, have arisen over and over again.
1. Oh!!!! That statue looks cool! What are you looking at?
Well… The Previews catalog! It is over 700 pages, when including the Marvel Previews catalog (yes, they need their own catalog), of new and returning product that IS the expanding comics industry. It has everything: exclusive toys and statues, new comics both in new title and ongoing. It also has articles and interviews from within the industry.
It is the main tool in ordering product for the direct market (local comic retailers). The Previews guide has newly announced action figures and games. Plus new books with original solicitations direct from their creators. Solicitations allows retailers to better judge their total order counts for books. These solicits could be the difference between ordering the regular 5 copies of DC Comics Batman ’66 #24 and 20 copies of Batman ’66 #25. Where the “Harlequin” is introduced to the 1966 universe for the very first time.
And, other than through main publisher webpage announcements and support from random comics new sites, the PREVIEWSworld catalog is often the best (and only) opportunity for smaller publishers to display their wares. Companies like Viz Media and newcomer AfterShock Comics use the guide to solicit interest. The products from these companies are only available for initial orders (explained below).
The arrival of a new the PREVIEWSworld catalog is incredibly exciting. New product, new books and, even with rumors or early release information, many of the items listed are making their debut appearance. It is always fun to be the first to know!
2. I hear the terms “initial order” from my retailer and “Final Order Cut-Offs” mentioned by creators and publishers all the time. Is there a difference?
Retailers have two opportunities to place orders for stock product. The initial order is based on the PREVIEWSworld catalog. The guide arrives approximately one month before initial orders are committed in Diamond Distributor’s database. Though “initial”, this can be the only opportunity to order from smaller publishers or pre-order most of the limited numbered statuary. For example, DC Comics numbered statues, which range from about 1,500 – 5,200, often sell out before their actual release date. Especially Harley Quinn product! Once they are gone, they are gone. Much of the statuary and many toys (that are not Previews Exclusives) are available to mass market companies like FYE or Barnes and Noble. This creates more demand but less product availability for your local comic shop. So the initial order can be the most pivotal.
The final order cut-offs are more directly related to final counts for book orders. These numbers include the subscription book counts plus any rack books needed from the larger publishers. Trade paperbacks and hard covers are also included in these orders.
3. When is the best time to place an order for a comic or statue?
It is best to ask your local retailer when they place their order. But, personally, the best time would be as soon as soon as YOU go completely through the guide. Many smaller publishers, like HeavyMetal, print-nearly-to-order. They may have just enough back-up product to replace damaged-during-shipment items. And many of the limited number items, like statues, are only available to the direct market during initial order. So the sooner the better!
4. Is it actually important to have a subscription service? And, would it be better to have an online subscription or an in-store subscription?
Absolutely! Even the Big Two are lowering their print counts. The best way to assure your copy (and variants) of a book, is to set up a subscription service with your retailer. Retailers only put so many “rack copies” on the shelf. If you guarantee them the purchase of a title, they can adjust their pre-order numbers to incorporate your specific needs. (And yes, most stores do offer a subscription option for the PREVIEWSworld catalog itself.) Plus most stores give discounts for subscribers!
When it comes to online versus in-store? It is really up to the each individual collector. Online subscription services have a wider reach than the direct market. They carry a larger variety of titles since most brick-and-mortar stores do not carry all 400+ series. And, depending on their size, can be cheaper. But, without standing on a soap-box, supporting local businesses is always my first choice. You get personalized customer service while also having the opportunity to inspect your books and check out news ones before purchasing.
5. Where do I find previews of this new *insert comic title*, and when will it come out?
It is actually in the title! The Previews guide will have early release preview pages of some of the most exciting new titles. It also hosts many of the first images of the Big Two comic covers and variants. As well as solicitations direct from publishers and the creators themselves.
The estimated release dates for comics are two months AFTER the release of the current PREVIEWSworld catalog. For example, Black Panther #1, which was announced in September 2015. It did not make an appearance in the Marvel Previews catalog until February 2016 and it has an estimated release date of April 06, 2016. Product such as toys and statues can appear as early as three or up to eight months in advance. Some of those items come from over-seas and the amount Diamond purchases are specifically based on initial orders from the market.
Though these questions only skim the top layer of necessity, the Previews guide is one of the most important tools for your local comic retailer. Understanding its uses and benefits can be the difference between fulfilling all your most nerdy needs and crossing your fingers that the toy you were looking forward to is not pre-sold-out. The next time you stop into your local shop make sure to ask about the PREVIEWSworld catalog.