Often I like to talk about local comics shops and why I frequent them.

One of the biggest reasons I go is that they often offer subscription services. When I sign up for them, I usually find what I’m looking for already pulled and waiting for me when I get there.

Like most everything in life, however, there are good and bad sides to this common practice.

WHEN IT WORKS, IT’S HEAVENLY

Subscription services, comics shops, Loot Crate, Diamond, Many shops will ask if you’d like to sign up for their subscription service if you go there more than once. They’ll often give you a form to fill out in which you’ll check off or list the comics you want to be sure to receive on a regular basis. Granted, it may take a while for the rarer books you request to start arriving, but if you select the ones the store already has ordered, you’ll get them as soon as they arrive. Your order form is often called a “pull list.”

Believe me, there’s nothing better than getting to your store and finding all the comics you want in a nice stack waiting for you. Some shops have boxes, other shelves, but however they save them, they save them for you!

It’s heavenly when that takes place, I assure you!

To make sure these stay ready for you, you of course need to be faithful in picking them up on a regular basis. Each store will have a time limit as far as keeping comics for subscribers. If you miss that deadline, you may find them given to other customers who have the money to pay for them. Hey, it is show business, after all!

THE FLIP SIDE: WHEN IT DOESN’T WORK

As lovely as subscription services can be, there’s a dark side that means you probably can’t just depend on the service if you want to be sure you get what you want.

A lot of this has to do with how a store orders their books. Many shops order close to or exactly the number of copies they’re going to need. More than that, well, you have to take your chances.

Let’s say a book suddenly catches fire among fans. You rush to your store to see if they have any copies left. However, you didn’t order it, so you wonder if you’ll be able to buy it.

Subscription services, comics shops, Loot Crate, Diamond, Some store owners appreciate regular paying customers and may pull a copy from the stash for a person who comes in much less frequently than you to make sure you’re happy. But not every store does this. Some consider their subscriptions sacrosanct and won’t ever pull an issue unless the person violates their pick-up policy, such as not coming in for a month or so. Then it’s up to the owner or his delegated employees what they’ll do.

Another circumstance I’ve encountered is the dreaded “We were shorted” explanation. Diamond didn’t get enough copies, I’ve been told, so we had to limit the number given to store subscribers. Sorry, you didn’t make the cut, they say.

If this happens too many times, it might be that you’ll have to consider taking your business elsewhere. It could be that the owner or person placing the orders isn’t good at deciding how many copies they need. It could also be that suddenly the book became very valuable, and the store wants to make some money by holding it for a few weeks, then putting it out at double or triple the cost. (Boo, hiss!) It could also be that they made a mistake and missed ordering that book.

Whatever the reason, I despise this explanation. In fact, I often feel it’s an excuse for not providing the kind of service customers expect.

I’ve also encountered stores that seem to constantly update their subscription lists, making me have to – on a very regular basis – keep filling out these long forms. I try hard to remember everything I buy, but sometimes I just forget something. Then when it doesn’t show up in my stack of stuff, I question it. “It’s not on your list,” they say. Oh, right, I forgot it because you keep changing the form. I then update the list, mumbling all the way.

HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN

Subscription services, comics shops, Loot Crate, Diamond, As much as I love my main comics shop, I’ve found that it’s good to have another store you can go to if your initial place doesn’t come through. (I wouldn’t tell the stores what order they fall in, though, as that can limit what you can buy.)

I mean, we’re all human here, and as much as the store owners would love to get my money, it doesn’t happen at times.

Another option is to go digital. Sometimes I just want to keep up with the story, and it’s not critical that I have a paper copy. So I go to comixology.com and buy the book I’m missing. That helps me keep up with the book as it moves forward.

It’s also important for me to print out a list of books and other items I expect to be in the store each week. That way, if something’s missing, I can ask about it. Every once in a while, I get complacent and trust the store owner. Then I go to another shop, see the book or item I wanted but never got there, and get frustrated.

Save all that. Print out a list each week. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

MAIL-ORDER SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

I’ll briefly touch on Loot Crate and other mail-order subscription services here. They’re great if you don’t need your books on a weekly basis since most of them send out your box once a month.

You do get cool extras like Pops and other figures, and they can propel a comic to the top of the monthly sales numbers.

I need my books more often than that. If you’re good with it, you should get your books on a regular basis.

Again I caution – make a list or keep your order form so you can make sure you’ve received all you expected. Hey, they’re human, too!

Do you have good or bad stories to share about subscription services? What do you avoid, or what would you encourage others to do to make sure they get what they want? Please be sure to share your thoughts in the space below!


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The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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3 Comments

  1. November 28, 2016 at 10:40 am — Reply

    Mail subscription services are my only option if I want anything comics related monthly, which I do. Living in a country with very few actual comic book stores and still wanting something to look forward to every month, I’m happy that we even got those.

  2. Frank
    November 28, 2016 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    I’ve had the good fortune to work with a great LCS. The owner never shorted me and even hinted that I should pick up Green Lantern, saying something very good was coming out. This was just before the Sinestro Corp War came out.
    I also worked with a great mail subscription service that was prompt and let me request the odd one-off via e-mail.

  3. December 6, 2016 at 11:49 pm — Reply

    Diamond shorting the store has nothing to do with the store, or the amounts of copies they order. Diamond makes mistakes all the time, sometimes to the point where I think they could screw up a 2 car funeral. When we got no copies of the latest Batman issue one week, was that because my manager under ordered? Absolutely not! We also didn’t over order the extra 12 copies of Spawn #267 Diamond sent us. Unfortunately, they’re the only comic book distributor and they have a monopoly, so they can get away with it. But saying you despise that as an explanation, as upsetting as it is, shouldn’t be put on the store. Now, if they’re purposefully holding books to sell later as you say, that’s a different matter.

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