IDW announced today that it is launching a new division to sell ultra-high-end limited editions direct to consumers (see “IDW Limited Editions”). In this exclusive interview, IDW talked to IDW CEO Ted Adams about the rationale for the new division and how it’s being organized.
Why is IDW launching this program?
As fans of the titles we produce, we wanted to make books that would not only be exciting to us, but that our fans would treasure for years to come. Books that are unique and special in every way. By establishing IDW Limited, this gives us a great platform to experiment and deliver collectible content in a way that’s never been done before. Over the years, limited edition books have been a repeated request by our fans so we’re going to bring convention quality content right to our customers’ front door. And for some of these editions, content that could never be attainable at any con.
How many products per year are you planning (understanding that there are multiple tiers for each product)?
At launch, we’re expecting three to four titles a month targeting a variety of properties. And not just books. We’re adding portfolios, comics, and some other really unique items.
Why is IDW launching this program as a direct-to-consumer program rather than through the trade?
Because these editions are very limited in quantities. In most cases the edition sizes are so small that selling direct-to-consumer was the best method to avoid overselling which triggers challenging allocations through traditional distribution. With such a small quantity of books we’re launching with, there really wasn’t another way that made sense other than going directly to the consumer. And when I say “small quantity” here’s the perfect example. We’re making 10 copies of the Blue Label edition (the top tier) of our launch book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Deluxe Limited Edition. Only 10 of these books for the entire market. How do you allocate that? The only fair thing to do is to give the fans direct access on a first come first served basis. We’re putting an incredible emphasis on quality, and that directly affects the quantity of books IDW Limited can produce. We’re designing new covers, building custom cases and paying the artists to do hand drawn sketch work to go with these books. The reality is that that’s all very expensive and unfortunately it makes it difficult for us to offer this line at the deep discount needed for traditional retail distribution.
Also, selling direct we can provide a stronger level of customer service and manage sales on a real time basis when items sell out. And we can ensure each book is carefully packaged for shipment providing the highest possible quality upon arrival. Keep in mind, we are targeting a very small niche, and in some cases the niche of a niche, aimed at dedicated fans so it’s critical that we are their closest touchpoint.
What should a retailer who’s asked by one of his/her customers why he can’t supply these IDW products tell his/her customer?
The truth. These editions have incredibly low print runs, and there’s currently no way to acquire them other than going to the IDW Limited website. Of course that doesn’t mean they’re the only version of the book. Fans of IDW’s books should feel comfortable knowing they can walk into their shop and pick up every issue, and every trade paperback or hardcover. That’s not going to change. Only the IDW Limited editions are exclusive to online.
Any retailer who has concerns about IDW Limited should feel free to contact me directly. My office phone number is: 858-270-1315 x 101, and my e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe this program's place in the market relative to signed or limited editions currently available?
Just like with our Artist’s Editions, these books are above and beyond the quality and content that’s been available to fans so far. Design work, production quality, signatures, original artwork, packaging. The development of each book from design to production alone requires a lot of time, energy, and resources and that doesn’t include working with each creator for signatures and original sketch art. Quite frankly there’s a substantial amount of handmade components that go into each book, too. Just as an example, one of our Transformers limited editions we’re working on is currently travelling completely around the world for numerous authentic creator signatures and illustrations. We’re getting signatures from four different continents! That’s over 30,000 miles just to create a unique edition for Transformers fans. That’s going to be an incredible book.
We've noted the increasing importance of variant editions as tools to increase sales in recent years--do you feel this program appeals to the same audience?
Definitely. The variant collectors will be very interested in what IDW Limited is doing. Being able to choose not just the variant edition, but the level of original art they want with the book? This is giving our fans a custom experience beyond what they’re used to. These are more than just variants though. These are definitive editions that will be the prize of any collection.
Have you done any market research to assess the size of the market relative to the size of this initiative both in number of releases and number of copies and tiers for each release?
We have, and we’ve looked not just within the comics arena but also books, statues, toys, sport cards, music memorabilia, and original artwork categories. We’ll be monitoring each release very closely to ensure we strike the right balance between edition size and collectibility. And in some cases our edition size is capped because of artist availability.
Aftermarket value obviously depends on both supply and demand--with the continuing growth of variant editions from many publishers in recent years, as well as the launch of this new IDW program, how do you assess the risk of over-saturation of the market for expensive collectibles, which could lead to a subsequent softness in aftermarket values?
The variant market has certainly seen ups and downs, but this is something beyond that. As I mentioned before, these books target a very select community of collectors, the niche-of-the-niche. Plus there’s always a market for well executed products, and IDW Limited products are that. There are several companies that have done very well offering well executed, high-end collectibles for a long time. As you know, IDW is not content to stand still, and we’re already working on what will further raise the bar on the collectibility. Because that’s how you avoid soft aftermarket values. Build a better product. That’s what we’re doing.