Pull Lists: What Informs The Making of One, Then?

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Pull lists! We were talking about them and then I forgot. Did you? You can remind yourself right here: part one (why do they exist and when did you learn about it); part two (do you have a pull list right now). This is parts three and four, where we discuss (and please do join in) relying on solicits to preorder books way ahead of time, and if upfront paying would be a good fix for us.

How do you feel about having to rely on solicits for pre-orders and building your pull list?

Megan Purdy: BAD. I feel bad about this bad practice.

Claire Napier: Seconded! Solicits are the worst, cripes. Who has the time? Who has the patience? Who has the trust?

Sergio Alexis: Thirded! Is that a word? Solicitations aren’t always written by the creator, they are a piece of short PR, they are just bad. Even worse when we consider that they want us to do this three months in advance and by the time reviews are out the comic may already be out or just about to be out. Relegating the future of a comic to months in advance is ludicrous. If I find out after a book comes out the creators a transphobe or something I shouldn’t have to be committed to a purchase.

Ray Sonne: To be fair, I don’t. I rely on previously built trust for the creative teams on my books and dedication to the characters inside. If good word on a book grows between people whose opinions I trust, then cool. Again, that book may find itself on my bookshelf in trade format. Solicits are meant for comic shops, not readers. Therefore, it’s on the burden of comic shops to decipher how they want to run their business based on such little information. I do not own a comic shop, therefore this silly practice is not my responsibility.

Rosie Knight: I have a lot of issues with the Diamond and soliciting system. It harms creators, readers and independent comic book shops. In the tweet that sparked all of this off the retailer stated the biggest threat to your LCS was people not picking up their pull lists. I’d argue that actually it’s an out of date system that imposes long waits on books from order to collection. A book or Variant scheme maybe really hyped up when it’s solicited — Marvel Hip Hop Variants for example — so people over order, and then three months later, barely anyone cares and shops are left with stock they can’t return. This is the exactly the same problem as having to order high to receive certain limited variants. I bet every shop on earth still has copies of DKIII #1 because if retailers ordered 500 they got a special signed variant cover. Diamond run a monopoly, and it benefits the big two to go along with it. That’s the thing actually threatening local comic shops. Not customers trying to work within that model, who don’t fully understand it not managing it.

Melissa Brinks: I’m with Ray, here. I have pre-ordered a couple of books in the past, usually because I have faith in the creative team. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not interested in perusing solicits because I would rather spend that time reading something else (comics, maybe?), and I prefer to buy things on recommendation from people I trust or because I enjoy a particular writer or artist’s work. The only time I have bought a comic just because I liked a character in it was a complete tragedy (it was Justice League Dark, I have a weak spot for John Constantine), and I refuse to let that happen to me again.

Jamie Kingston: Solicits: me no likey. If I know, like, trust the creative team, my budget still may not allow me to commit. Also, I’d end up miserable over all the interesting things I know for a fact my budget won’t support. Why put myself through the angst?

Jamila Rowser: I don’t like solicits and I rarely read them. Even rarer that I read a solicit and buy a comic because of it. I usually buy comics because I like the work of someone on the creative team, word of mouth, and good reviews.

Susan Tober: I very rarely look at solicits, I prefer to get most of my comic recommendations via word of mouth from people I trust. Everything I’ve heard about the solicits system sounds ridiculous and like it shouldn’t work. (I’m with Ray and Rosie, in that I don’t think it does work.)

Alenka Figa: OK, so I actually don’t look at solicits at all. I don’t even know where I would find them? I rely entirely on a) hearing things from creators I adore about work they’re doing for mainstream pubs (like Mel Gillman announcing their work on the official Steven Universe comics, or John Allison alerting us about the Giant Days ongoing) or b) people in the comics critic bubble/my personal bubble being like, hey, this is happening! It’s really all word of mouth for me.

Kat Overland: Same as most people above – I rarely read solicits and I rely mostly on creative teams and recommendations from Twitter, friends, and the folks at the shops I go to.

Would your feelings about pre-orders change if you were able to pay for the products when you ordered them?

Sergio Alexis: I would just hate that more? Like I would not have a pull list if I had to buy my comics in advance. Diamond could delay them, they could be delayed by publisher, they could be bad, I have to buy two issues into a series I haven’t read issue 1 of to properly pre-order. It just be a whole awful affair.

Megan: Yes and no. I pre-order graphic novels, mini-comics and zines from trusted creators and publishers. In the past I’ve also preordered trades from Marvel, DC, Image, etc. But that’s because I have a good sense of the content. It’s just like pre-ordering the new novel from your favourite author — you know you’re going to get it and read it the day of, so you might as well. But paying ahead for single issues of comics that I know only from PR copy sounds like a nightmare. I think it would work for readers who are particularly devoted to particular characters or series, like the person who’s been reading Detective Comics for thirty years and will NEVER stop, but it wouldn’t work for me.

Claire: Yes, mostly, because come to think of it I only ever pre-ordered titles that I’d already read a bit of, which were unlikely to change creative teams or whathaveyou. Mini-series or limited series or creator-owned stuff like Giant Days. If I’m ordering something, it’s because I know I want it. Maybe I read partial scans, or picked up an issue off the shelf, or just, like with Prince of Cats, already read the whole thing but don’t own it. Pre-ordering is like buying, ideally, but with a longer shipping time. It’s informed, so paying and waiting is fine. I wouldn’t do it on an ongoing, non-creator owned book, I don’t think, but I don’t stay current with any of those anyway. Paying for something I’ll get later seems like a decent idea when there’s a strong likelihood I will actually get the thing I asked for, basically…

Wendy: I pre-order and pay up front for books and other items based on my trust in the creative team and/or company, but I rarely feel that way about any comic to be willing to fork up advance cash, especially when so many changes can occur (switching out artists mid-arc is one of my biggest pet peeves). I order graphic novels and trades specifically because I know in advance what I’m getting, either because the reviews are out, friends are recommending, or I have read the digital singles (purchased on sale because why would I spend $5 on a digital copy?) myself.

Melissa: I don’t know that it would change anything about my feelings. I keep my pull list pretty trim to what I know I can afford, and for the rest I’m a trade-waiter or a library-user. If I do pre-order, it’s usually only one or two comics, and, by the time it finally arrives in my box, two other things have sunk or went on hiatus or just disappeared off the face of the earth, so I don’t notice the additional few dollars.

Cathryn Sinjin-Starr: This wouldn’t change anything for me. My problem with the pull-list system isn’t that you have to put a deposit or pay in full or anything. My problem is that basic things like knowing if you can get an issue in, or that an issue is delayed, seems to be impossible with the present distribution system. Maybe the store I was at just lacked basic checks, but it seemed to me that they didn’t have the capability to check these things – they just ordered from Diamond and hoped the stock came in at some point. Which left me, the customer, with no titles from my pull-list for SIX MONTHS, and not a word of communication until apparently they all came in at once and I wasn’t expected to still be interested. Until stores can reliably check that they can get a title in for a customer, there’s really no point for me.

Ray: No faster distribution, no care.

Jamie: I’m with Megan and Ray on this. For known and trusted content, I’d pay in advance… but no advance release perk? Meh. Can’t be bothered.

Jamila: If I had to pay for issues in advance and I would probably stop buying single issues and just completely switch to trades. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t trust the publish dates on the series that I read right now enough to pay in advance for a single issue.

Susan: I would happily pay for things in advance if it meant that I would definitely get them, because I try to only order things that I know I’m going to want to read. But as things sometimes get delayed with no warning, or you’re expected to order them significantly in advance, it would feel like throwing my money into a hole and hoping that something I wanted comes out.

Alenka: This is a strange question for me because my initial reaction was no, but I actually pay for things in advance all the time via kickstarters or pre-orders that creators and small pubs run for their own work. Honestly, most of my comics budget probably ends up sunk into kickstarters, which is essentially pre-ordering. I think paying upfront for other work as well wouldn’t bother me because I’d be doing what I do for self-published and similar work, and if it meant that the creators get money faster for rent and food and all that good stuff, I’d be down. However, I’m already in the practice of purchasing from trusted publishers or because I’m following a creator versus a company.

Kat: I tend to drop titles regularly so this would not be great for me — I like to reserve the right to not buy an issue even if it ends up in my pull list, especially, as Wendy pointed out, in the instances of changes in the creative team. I do agree with Alenka, though, that I do tend to pre-order things often via crowd-funding; that feels different to me because the whole point of being with a bigger publishing company is to have that infrastructural support.

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The rock that drops on your head. WWAC Features & Opinions Ed. Find me at claire.napier@wwacomics.com

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