In a first-of-its-kind program, comics and graphic novel publisher BOOM! Studios and order-taking platform ComicHub will collaborate to drive pre-orders and off-the-shelf purchases for comic stores selling Once and Future, the upcoming series by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora.  The general outlines of the kinds of marketing publishers could do on the ComicHub platform were announced in April (see "ComicHub Word Spreads Fast"), and BOOM! is the first publisher to try the program, the companies told ICv2.

The core of the program revolves around the fact that ComicHub is a tool allowing comic stores to take orders from customers (via a mobile app or website).  While the 69 stores using the app as this is written is a modest number, the 30,000+ registered consumer users is more impressive.

In the marketing program for Once and Future, targeted emails and in-app ads will be directed at customers likely to buy Once and Future.  Customers will be able to order with their retailer from either type of message.  This messaging will begin as preorders are solicited and can continue after release.

Once the first issue is released, additional marketing will support sell-through.  The ComicHub platform tracks available inventory and makes that information available to consumers looking for a specific title.  In this case, that information will be used by BOOM! Studios to geotarget social media advertising sending consumers to stores that have the comic in stock.

BOOM! Studios President of Publishing & Marketing Filip Sablik explained how this part of the program will work.  "We’ll be able to click within ComicHub, go into Once and Future #1, and go, ‘Great,’" he said.  "’We can see that on the East Coast, it’s in stock in Philadelphia, and Washington, and North Carolina, in the following stores.’  We can get very specific at a very affordable rate and use the power of our quarter-million followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to actually drive customers into those stores."

This is the first comic marketing program that actually ties consumer messaging to in-stock status at specific retail stores.

BOOM! also has strategies in place to support higher inventory levels in retail stores by cutting retailer risk; each issue of Once and Future will be affidavit-returnable without minimum orders or limits on numbers of returns through the BOOM! Guarantee program (see "BOOM! Doubles Down on its Guarantee"), in which about 500 stores are participating.

On the back end, BOOM! will be able to see the sell-through information on Once and Future collected by ComicHub so it can see if the marketing worked.  ComicHub spokesperson Atom! Freeman explained the process.  "The fact that publishers can now see what the sell-through is on any given issue, in my time in working in publishing, I can tell you that had we had that information, it would have been a game changer," he said.  "You can see what effect your marketing, your announcements, and your promotions are having both on the pre orders and then after the book comes out, it's incredibly, incredibly powerful.  I would like to note that we do everything we can up to and including keeping it from me what the individual stores are selling.  We only aggregate the data.  As a publisher, you can only really see what your effect is having on the whole."

BOOM! will also market ComicHub to its BOOM! Guarantee stores, with an offer that gives those retailers a $100 discount on the ComicHub start-up fee.

In an interview with ICv2, Sablik described the background for the program.

"Over the last five, six years, BOOM! has really made an effort to be the direct market's best partner in terms of how we support the retailers, how we engage with them, how we reduce their risk," he said.  "We came to them this year at ComicsPRO and again at the Diamond Retailer's Summit, and said, ‘Look, change is difficult, and it's risky, but it requires that the people in the position of making that change happen take those steps.’

"What we put forth to the retailers is that because they control the dollars, and the market responds to where the dollars go, that the thing that the direct market needed to do is start sending signals to publishers that more than not liking some of the practices, that the market would respond positively and reward positive changes.

"What we tried to do with Once and Future is structure a program that has what we're calling the Platinum Standard of Retailer Support, and encourage them to make it a Top 25 title, which would be a gigantic accomplishment.  For BOOM!, it'd be a gigantic thing for any original series in the current marketplace to launch there, but that that would be a way to send a clear signal to the marketplace, the publishers, that if publishers respond to retailers with what they're asking for, that that'll be rewarded."

For Sablik, ComicHub helps complete the circle between retailers and publisher.  "I've long felt like the thing that was missing from creating a sense of true partnership between retailers and publishers is the fact that, as a publisher, I have no idea who bought my stuff, in what quantity, and where it is," he said.  "For years, the advertising approach has had to be incredibly widespread and non-specific.  Ultimately, I think often leads to a bad customer experience.  You're asking customers to go into stores and pick up a new book with no guarantee that when they walk into a store that that book will be in stock and available.  ComicHub, for me as a publisher, that was the big opportunity, as I saw it as a solution for that."

Once and Future #1 streets on August 14, with a FOC date of July 22.