Better Know Your LCS:
“What are Bin Subscriptions and Previews and why won’t you stop talking about them like I’m supposed to know what those
One of my favorite things about getting to work in a comic book store has
been getting to learn about how the comic book industry works. Of course
everyone comes to comics a blank slate. And now with Star Wars, killer
independent books, and the Marvel/DC Movie-TV-Netflix Assimilation
bringing so many comic-noobs and lapsed fans alike back into the fold, there are more people than ever who stare blankly at me when I ask if they have a subscription.
I’m sure everyone has heard or overheard someone in the shop saying that
our subscription service is free. Or recommending Previews and saying that
we will special order anything from it for free. A lot of people turn down
offers for subscriptions and special orders because they think it’s more
trouble for us. But it’s really not – we get daily shipments from Diamond
and have a massive library of subscribers. I can not stress enough how
little of a hassle is it to add your modest request to those two things.
– Why bother with a subscription? I get that it’s free but I don’t see the
The answer to this is one thing that makes everyone happy: so that we
order the correct number of comic books. No, you shouldn’t stay up at
night wondering if we guess correctly how many people want a copy of Hero
Cats. But if there’s a new Robert Kirkman series starting, any kind of
Special Event in any universe or a series you have had no problem buying
forever is suddenly all over the internet one week, that you should wonder
There are lots of reasons why comics will unexpectedly sell out, but when
you’re subscribed, we’re going to pull a copy and keep it for you before
the books are available to the public. We just ask that you come in at
least once a month to pick them up. You’re not married to your choices
though – if you don’t want an issue of something you don’t have to buy it.
And you can always change you subscriptions by calling, emailing or
talking to us in the store.
We place orders for comics from Diamond, the massive company responsible
for the distribution of almost comic books, two months before they come
out. This happens a lot: suddenly everyone wants New Avengers issue
whatever because CBR broke three weeks before the book drops that Ultron
is going to make everyone grilled cheese sandwiches in it. We have ordered
our number of books already-based partially on how many subscriptions we
have for it-and if you aren’t there right away on Wednesday morning you
may have to wait for a reprint. If they do a reprint.
– How do you know what you’re ordering two months in the future? Are you wizards?
This tends to blow some minds: once a month a giant paper thing called
“Previews” shows up in big stacks. It’s published by Diamond, the massive
distributor I just mentioned. It contains, more or less, every comic that
will be published during the month two months from then, along with a
photo of the cover and a little snippet giving an idea of what it is. This
includes brand new series and trades. It also includes all of the toys and
collectables Diamond sells. This is the very same information that we use
to order a lot of the stuff that shows up in the store. We sit with those
catalogs in the office and basically try to guess how many people will buy
every comic book in a given month. The more people that subscribe, the
better idea we have what to order, and the fewest number of people are
bummed if they miss an issue. And those people being bummed is a bummer
for us too. Do you really want to bum out Burl?
If a publisher reveals information about a comic that makes it hot a month
after we place our order (which happens all the time) you can still
subscribe and be very confident in the fact that you will get that book.
If there’s a special variant cover you want, your best shot at it is to be
subscribed to the series and to ask for it. Variants are strange country
because we rarely have control over what or how much of what we get, but
if you have specifically requested them you have a better shot at them.
That’s really all you need to know to be a complete ace at comics – use
Previews ($3.99) as a guide for scouting new series, knowing what’s going
on with long running series, toys, books, or anything, and let us know
what you want whenever you know you want it. And if you ever have
questions, please just ask. So many people apologize for asking a stupid
or common question before they even ask it – but all of us have been
working in retail for a very long time, and I promise whatever you’re
going to ask is not the dumbest or weirdest thing we’ve ever heard(that
does NOT mean to try and come up with the dumbest or weirdest thing we’ve
ever heard.). My job is literally to hang out in a comic book store and
make sure it’s a fun place for you to hang out and that we have the fun
things you want. Help us help you. More nerd, more happy.