June 7, 2012

Comics, Previews, & Pre-Ordering: The Rundown

Pre-ordering comics might seem like an obvious thing to some of you but even though I've been buying comics regularly for over a year now, I didn't get on board with the pre-ordering/Previews business until four months ago. I vaguely knew about the system and that there were some kind of special codes, but I didn't know how it worked and I was too shy to ask (no idea why - I go to a wonderful comic book shop staffed with the nicest people). I got over it and finally asked. My eyes were opened.

It's not a flawless system and I actually still ask a question about it almost every month, but in theory, it's simple. Buy Previews catalog, flip through it, order the comics you want, they show up at your local comic book shop, you get them. Huzzah!

As straightforward as that sounds, the first time I was handed a Previews catalog and its accessories, I was a little confused. I understood the gist of how to order, but I had no idea why I required so many pieces of paper to do so. As I mentioned, I'm still fuzzy on some of the finer points, but in general, I feel ridiculous for not using this system sooner.

So, because maybe it will help someone else, here are my whys and very basic hows on pre-ordering comics.

The Why
Remember when you were a kid and stores like Sears and K-Mart would send out hefty Christmas catalogs full of potential presents to drool over? You'd look through that catalog at least three times to make sure you didn't miss anything and to double check that you clearly marked each item you wanted. Perhaps, if you were as thorough as me, you even had a ranking system to illustrate which toys and gadgets you wanted - nay, needed - the most.

Yeah. Going through Previews every month is pretty much just like that. It's a giant catalog full of comics, books, magazines, toys, games, and apparel, for crying out loud! You can dog-ear pages, use Post-It flags, and make a wishlist. I'm almost glad it's not available digitally yet because I enjoy the very much tangible experience of ordering from Previews.

Besides the fact that it's fun, there's an even more important reason to pre-order. It's simple, ready? Your orders determine whether a comic gets published. Your orders help your retailer decide how many issues to order or whether to order an issue at all. This is important for every comic book, but I feel it especially matters for creator-owned comics. Retailers are always going to order some amount of a big two book. That's just business. And it's not good business practice to order a couple of everything.

I mean, check out some of the lists for comics that come out each Wednesday. It's not an insignificant number; retailers can't take a chance on every comic book. They're stuck with what they order, so they have to play it safe to a degree and order comics that they think will sell. Fair or not, this means an indie comic or a creator owned one might not stand a chance unless you pre-order it. Your voice matters.

But how do you know if creators you love have upcoming projects listed in Previews? (Other than diligently going through the pages). Trust me, if you're following them on any sort of social media, they'll let you know. Creators will talk about what they're working on, when you can order it, and many will be kind enough to just provide the Diamond code. Some of them even make it super easy and create downloadable PDFs of what they have available and all you have to do is print their form, enter the quantity you want, and take it to your local comic book store.

One more plus about pre-ordering? My comic book shop pulls each comic I order so I don't have to worry about a popular issue selling out before I can get there on Wednesday. It will be waiting in my folder. (This varies by store).

The How
First things first, you need to buy Diamond's Previews magazine. It comes out on approximately the first Wednesday of the month. I know, you might not love the idea of shelling out $4.50 for what is basically a catalog. Let me help you rationalize: it's 500ish pages, it includes a few interviews with creators or other comics related articles, sometimes it includes full pages or panels from upcoming comics, and if you are a decoupage/craft junkie like me, there's plenty of material to slice and dice after you've ordered. Plus, reference the earlier part in this post about it being fun to shop from a catalog.

If you're not sold or would rather spend the $4.50 on an actual comic, some - most - comic book stores keep a shop copy they will let you use (in the store) to place your order. Just ask! They're usually pretty accommodating because they like when you use the system.

June Previews, June Marvel Previews,  June Previews order form
When you ask for Previews make sure you get the giant catalog and the order form. Marvel also publishes their own mini-catalog; it's free if you buy Previews but everything listed in the Marvel mini-catalog is also listed in Previews. What I'm trying to say: you don't necessarily need the Marvel one, but it's available. AND if you are all Marvel all the time and don't need to look at Preview, you can just buy the Marvel one for $1.25.

Previews Order Form Example
Look through Previews, flag want you want, and fill out the order form as you go or after you've looked through the catalog a couple of times. It's up to you. As far as filling out the order form, talk to your comic book shop first. Everyone has different rules. Some prefer each column to be filled out, and others are more flexible. Additionally, you'll also find a Short Order Form inside the larger Previews catalog. It looks like this. If you're not ordering a huge stack of comics, you may just want to fill in the items you want rather than looking through the order form that lists every single item in Previews.

My shop accepts orders by email, but since there isn't a digital form* that can be edited (I'd love an editable PDF of the order form), I just send in a table with the item code, qty, title, and cost. (My comic book shop doesn't ask you to pre-pay for what you order. I personally don't know of any shops that do, but that's definitely important to ask).

Please, for the love of Pete and Mike and all those dudes, if you email your order or don't use the order form for some reason, be sure to give your comic book shop the item code for the issue you want. Don't make them dig. It's just polite.

However you turn your order in, get it in by the 18th every month.  Then just wait for the comics or toys to books to arrive.

Ask your comic book shop if they will automatically put the comics you pre-order aside for you. Not every shop will, some have rules about subscriptions. They'll be happy to let you know how things works. And honestly if they're not willing to help you through pre-ordering, it's probably time for a new shop.

Now go forth and pre-order comics!
And if you have any tips I'm missing, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

*You can download a pdf of the order form, but you have to print and fill it out.


  1. Thanks for this! I'm new to the comic book world (I jumped in with DC's New 52 launch) so I had no idea this existed. It could be very dangerous...

  2. One down side to this: if you want to be able to make sure you get to see a new title, you've ordered 3 issues before you even see issue #1. (I've only been disappointed by this once or twice, and my Local Comic Shop is nice enough to cut good customers some slack there.)

    Are there really comic shops that take your Previews order but then *won't* hold them for you at least a week? That would probably limit my loyalty to that store.

    Awesome post!

  3. ive never ever been to a store that made you buy previews. One store gave it away free if you regularly ordered from them, my current store just keeps a store copy and you tell them what you want.

  4. Joanna - Excellent! I hope this helps. :)

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