Q: What should I see/taste/experience if I’m visiting Portland?
We highly recommend…everything on this map.
Q: Do you have any scripts I can read?
Not here, but the good folks at the Comic Book Script Archive do.
Q: Where can I buy your comics?
IT IS A GOLDEN AGE OF BEING ABLE TO FIND COMICS THESE DAYS and you have a panoply of choice depending on your preferred format:
Our monthly comics can be found a your Local Comic Book Store. Collections can sometimes be found there too.
Here is Kelly Sue’s author page at Marvel. Here’s Matt’s. Those pages have links to buy digital copies via the Marvel app or from Marvel Unlimited (Matt was also delighted and amazed to see that Marvel Unlimited sorts everything by the date they went on sale. Nice work, Marvel!)
Q: What is pre-ordering?
Kelly Sue: Okay, this is an inordinately lengthy answer where I’m going to get into the What, the How and the Why. Deep breath. BUT. If you’re not feeling up to it, Kieron Gillen has a great “How To” fumetti right here. If you’re not that interested in the sausage-making, just go there.
All right. Who’s still with me?
Just you? Okay, then.
Most periodical comics are still sold through specialty retailers (often referred to as the “DM” or “Direct Market”) who, unlike traditional bookstores, are not able to return unsold stock. They have limited budgets, limited shelf space and new comics come out every Wednesday! So they have to be very selective about what they buy and in what quantity. They each have their own complicated algorithms for how they place their orders, but it essentially comes down to their needing to buy what they’re pretty sure they can sell. There’s no McDonalds of comic book stores — most of these shops are “mom & pop” businesses being run by people who love the form. They’re not in a position to put their necks on the line every week. For the most part, they have to play it safe.
Safe tends to mean the top selling titles (“A-list” heroes, “A-list” creators) get ordered in quantity and everything else (“the Midlist”) is ordered sparingly if it’s ordered at all. (Remember: they can’t order everything. They just don’t have room–in the store or in the budget.)
Publishers, in turn, use the order numbers from retailers to determine whether a book is going to continue, and for how long. Remember: these books are not returnable, so from the publisher’s perspective, each order is a sale. As such, they can have their sales figures on a particular issue before the book ever hits the racks. That’s how a book can get cancelled before it ever comes out. And folks, that happens. Not infrequently.
Right here I could bore you with how publishers seem to be reacting to the buying habits of the retailers by publishing more of the A-list titles we talked about before (and or “double shipping” them, which means putting out two issues in one month) and really pruning back the midlist. Can’t blame them, really. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work, right? Right.
Okay, I’m going to move on rather than opine on why I think this is a mistake and how it’s resulting in a pruning of readership as well. Honestly, I don’t have an MBA and I’m not in charge of any of these companies. My opinion on this particular issue doesn’t matter all that much and I could well be wrong.
However! I do have a horse in this race. Several, actually. And the best tool I know of to combat the ouroboros of it all is the pre-order.
When you pre-order a comic with your local shop, you are registering your intent to buy said comic. That’s the What.
If the shop knows you’re going to buy, well then, that’s a no-brainer for them, isn’t it? Most stores will reward a guaranteed purchase with a discount. And at some stores the discounts get deeper if you subscribe to (or “pull”) a title, and deeper still if you pull multiple titles. If they get enough pre-orders on a book, the book has “buzz” and they may take a chance and order a few extra copies for the shelf as well. Orders numbers go up, customer is happy, publisher is happy, book exists for at least another month. EVERYBODY WINS!
So now we know the Why.
Let’s talk about the How. For the purpose of this instruction set, I’m going to assume you’re brand new to this whole process. In fact, I’m kind of writing this for my mom and her friends. (Hi, mom. Hi, mom’s friends.)
If you want to jump in the deep end and go all hard core, you’ll shop from the PREVIEWS catalog . PREVIEWS is the catalog from which your local comic shops (“LCS”) order their comics – you can purchase a copy (Yes, we are an industry that requires our consumers to buy the catalog. In fairness, when you see it you’ll understand. It’s huge.) at your LCS and fill the form out directly from there if you want… BUT if you’re new it’s overwhelming and I don’t recommend it.
Let’s say you heard about a new series on Tumblr and you got a .pdf and you really liked it. You want to keep buying the book and you want to make sure it keeps coming out, so you’re opting to pre-order it. (Thanks, YOU!)
Find your local comic book store. This link makes it pretty easy. Just enter your zip code and you’re golden. (If you’re not in the US or Canada, I’m going to be of little help on this one but if anyone wants to comment below with tips for finding shops outside the US/Canada, I will cut and paste into this article later.)
Drop by. Most stores are going to be delighted to see you–why wouldn’t they be? You’re a new customer! 
Start a conversation! This is really the whole point of this exercise – to get you in a store and to let the store know you are interested in a particular book/character/author.
Find out what the store’s policy is on subscribing to a title or, “opening a pull box.” What that means is that you’re putting in a standing monthly order for a certain book or books. Policies vary store to store, but if there are a couple of titles (or, ahem, a favorite author) you know you want to read every month, you can “subscribe” and your store will set aside a copy for you every time one comes out. THIS IS GREAT FOR EVERYONE, for a multitude of reasons, but I’ve gone long so I’m not going to expound much here. Most stores will have form for you to fill out to open and pull and most store will let you cancel your subscriptions at any time. Ask.
In an effort to make preordering easy, sometime creators or publishers will produce a decorative Pre-Order Form for their book and distribute it online. We do this for every issue coming out. (Find them over on our calendar entries.) They’re fun, but not necessary.
I think that’s a far more complete answer than anyone wanted, but this, my friends, is my way.
xo, Kelly sue
 “Previews” is the comic book industry’s catalog. Previews is published every month and is literally a catalog of all the comics (and statues and magazines and whatnot) that will be available for distribution to your local comic book shop from the distributer “Diamond” three months from the date on the catalog. Got that? Readers can use the Previews catalog pre-order form to order titles (or toys or whatever) through their retailer–not through Previews. That’s a little different than how we tend to think of catalogs working. I just wrote a whole big thing using the Victoria’s Secret catalog as an analogy, but the whole thing seemed overcomplicated so I deleted it. Previews also has a website and a users’ guide.
 IF THE STORE IS NOT HAPPY TO SEE YOU, LEAVE. Most comic book stores are fabulous places that will want to make you feel welcome and bring you into the fold. If you experience anything less, leave. Give your business to a good shop, or if there are no other options in your area, go digital or mail order. A brick and mortar store is ideal because it fosters community and it’s fun. But it’s not the only way to go. And there’s no reason in the world for you to be treated like anything less than the gem that you are, so if your local isn’t welcoming to you, walk away.
Pre-Order Post Addendums!
As predicted, I’ve learned a few things since I made this post. Here they are, as I understand them. Anybody who wants to correct me, please jump right in.
I’m told many stores have a minimum numbers of titles that you must subscribe to in order to open a pull box. I imagine that’s to deal with limited space…? I’m not sure. Regardless, if you want to subscribe to just ONE title and your store doesn’t offer that option, TFAW.com does. Detailed instructions are available in that link. I was surprised to see that MidtownComics.com has a 10 title minimum for their subscription service. I’m guessing there must be costs involved that I’m not aware of…? I always want to better understand the business, so if any retailers out there want to educate me, please do! 
 I have to say I’m kind of heartbroken at the notion that it might be difficult for a new reader to subscribe to a single title. It seems… like an additional barrier to new readership at a time when we desperately need to be growing our audience. Did you know that Marvel offers subscriptions directly through their site? They do!
Q: Is it okay if I wait for the trade of (one of your books)? Does that hurt sales?
We want you to read our stuff in whatever format you prefer, whenever you like. If our system is so broken that we have to dictate format, we deserve to fail.
That said, there is a certain virtue in pre-ordering.
Q: I’m a dude. Is it appropriation if I get an NC tattoo? I don’t want to offend.
Tattoos are very personal decisions and we’re not going to insert ourselves into that conversation. If you’re asking if we feel like it’s co-opting experience? We don’t.
If you don’t fit in your box, you’re non-complaint. No matter what you look like from the outside. And we’re certainly not going to judge you for it.
My husband, a cis straight white conventionally handsome man, suffers from sometimes debilitating depression. He has the tattoo.
Q: What comics do you recommend for kids?
Q: Do you mind if I make and sell products from your IP? [In fairness, the question is never worded like this.]
Kelly Sue: Oh, man! This is so tough to answer.
Okay, deep breath.
If you want to make crafts related to our books for yourselves, or your friends for free, we are SO DOWN. If you want to repurpose actual comics (not color copies) to make crafts that you then sell, we are ALSO DOWN. If you want to talk to our lawyers and set up a licensing agreement, we are SUPER DUPER DOWN.
If you want to make unlicensed products to sell, however… we’d prefer that you not. I know this makes us sound like capitalist pigs, I do. But here’s the thing: we are capitalist pigs. Though this project is a labor of love, it’s also how we pay our bills. This is how we pay our employees, who in turn, have bills to pay. We can sell the licenses to produce merch related our our books and it devalues the license if the licensor has to compete with unlicensed merch. Poorly worded, I know. Does it make sense, though?
This is a bit of ‘how the sausages get made,’ so if it doesn’t interest you, no worries.
::puts on businesswoman hat and rolls up sleeves::
The economics of comics are such that — unless you’re a SAGA or a WALKING DEAD, which is a beautiful but rare state — you shed readers and you never do better than you did your first issue. Take, for instance, Bitch Planet. Now I don’t want anyone to worry: Bitch Planet is a hit — it launched very strong, has gotten a ton of press and has a community strongly behind it. But even as a hit, the orders for issue 4 came in at 55% of what they were for Issue 1. That’s actually a pretty great retention rate (!!), but it still means our income for that issue, compared to issue 1, literally dropped by about half. Traditionally numbers level out at about the 3rd or 4th issue and, if you can keep the quality up and don’t jack the schedule up too much, you SHOULD be able cut your rate of decrease, but there’s seldom a reversal of numbers on a creator-owned book, where there are no crosseover events, or changes of creative teams to give the book marketing bump.
…We have 30-50 issues planned.
How are we going to get to fifty issues and continue to get paid?
Well, priority one: we keep making a book that we love and we hope that we are one of those rare books that does see a shift in the numbers.
We can also look for other ways for the book to bring in income — like sales of foreign rights, trade paperback collections (the first of which, at $9.99, will have a slim profit margin) and — you guessed it! — licensed merch.
Licensed merch helps us keep the book going.
[We do have charities that we support — I am very proud of the amount of money that we have raised for Girls Leadership Institute — but in the case of creator-owned books, this is part of our core business model, alas, and not found money.]
Speaking of…here are links to current Milkfed licensed merch:
–Frogmouth (BITCH PLANET)
–Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (PRETTY DEADLY)
–Boxes In Action (BITCH PLANET/SEX CRIMINALS)
–Espionage Cosmetics (Mama Shark Bundle)
Q: How come they didn’t collect the third trade of Captain Marvel (2012)?
Q: blah blah MISS MARVEL blah blah blah
Kelly Sue: HER NAME WAS NEVER MISS MARVEL. THAT WAS NEVER HER NAME, HER RANK OR HER CALL SIGN.
“MISS” AND “MS” ARE NOT TWO DIFFERENT SPELLINGS OF THE SAME WORD.
WHAT THE FUCK?
Q: What is #bgsd
Kelly Sue: #bgsdlist is the hashtag for a… how do I even describe this?
Well, it started when Chris Sebela stayed with us for a bit when he first moved to Portland. When he got a place of his own, he made the mistake of telling me he missed having me around to guilt him into working. I offered to send him nagging, um, I mean, INSPIRATIONAL texts every once in a while.
He thought I was kidding.
He posted one of the texts I sent him and it became a thing. I used a service and we had 4000+ people on the list.
But unfortunately it is no more.
While the texts may be gone, there is news on the horizon regarding #bgsd…WATCH THIS SPACE.
In the meantime, you can get sweet #bgsd stickers from our merch partners at Worldbuilders Market and keep the nagging–er, dream alive.
Q: What’s your schedule like?
Matt Fraction: Nothing about parenthood, I’m discovering, remains consistent for long. Five years ago if you told me this was my daily schedule i’d have said it was impossible; ten years ago, i’d have said you were outright lying.
At the moment, I tend to rise before our kids. Any time from 4 AM on, chances are I’m up (then, like, once every three weeks, I sleep for thirteen hours). Helping to get them up, fed, washed, dressed, and out the door happens next. Best case most days I can be at my desk working by 8:30. I try my hardest to keep 8:30-1 as sacrosanct work time. No calls scheduled, no appointments the best I can manage, no email, just writing. From 1 on, I keep writing, or do admin stuff, or errands and get the kids and such.
I’ll be in the office until 5ish, most days; sometimes it’s earlier, sometimes it’s later. And once I leave, that’s it for the day. Unless I’m crashing on a deadline, once the kids are home and I put on the Dad Pants (these are not literal pants but rather a metaphor) that’s it for the Work Pants. I try hard to go screen-dark after that point, too, but that I manage with less success.
I used to be a night owl but not anymore; I’m in bed usually around 9 and asleep before midnight most nights. I take a melatonin supplement and hydroxazine to help me sleep what little sleep I manage, and I read as much as I can until it hits me. Lately I’ve backslid into playing a card game on my phone but I really hate having my phone next to me when I sleep — it’s too easy to use it as a reason to get out of bed at 4 AM instead of trying to roll over.
Q: How do I donate my comics to soldiers overseas?
Good news: it’s pretty easy. You’re going to be out the price of postage, but it’s worth it.
Here’s how it works:
Go to anysoldier.com.
Click on WHERE TO SEND.
Click on SEARCH, SEARCH ANY SOLDIER.
Leaving everything else blank, put either COMICS or COMIC BOOKS into the REQUESTS AND EMAIL CONTENTS field. (As I write this, COMICS returns 8 units requesting comics–7 Army, 1 Air Force; 5 in Iraq, 1 in Qatar, 1 in Afghanistan and 1 in the Philippines.)
Click on one of the soldiers names and read their email, making sure what they want is actually what you’ve got. Often they’re specific — they want funny comics, or newspaper comics, or Marvel comics, or they may even request a particular hero.
Once you find someone who either wants what you’ve got or is just generally requesting comics, click where it says CLICK HERE TO REQUEST THE COMPLETE ADDRESS.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve done this and I can’t proceed any further right now because I don’t actually have any comics to send, but if I recall correctly, you fill out a short form and then you’re emailed the soldier’s address. I believe you can request up to 2 addresses per day. (While you’re at it, you might look at what else your soldier is requesting–sometimes it’s something as simple as cotton swabs. Surely you can throw a package of q-tips in the box.)
The postage fees you pay to an APO or FPO address are NOT international shipping rates. You pay domestic rates, so while you are picking up a bill, it’s pretty small considering the effect. And it’s worth mentioning that our local UPS store in KC used to pack up any donations for troops overseas for free. They’ve since changed ownership and we’ve since moved, so I have no idea if that’s common practice or not, but it’s certainly worth asking.
Q: Do you have any tips for writers interested in writing comics?
Kelly Sue: Yeah, there’s usually a tip or two in an interview. I also teach classes every now and then. Some kind soul was kind enough to post their notes from the class at Ultimate Comics.
Matt Fraction: Read a lot of comics. Think about a lot of comics. Write a lot. Treat your notebook like an artist treats a sketchbook and just fill pages. Be patient. Work hard. Be patient. Work hard. But also be patient. Be kind. Be cool. Find your partners by any means necessary and learn together. Do the work the best you can. Then repeat? That sounds pretty good.
Q: Can I send you my comics to be signed?
Yes. BUT —
Let this be a casual thing. We can’t be responsible for something going wrong in the mail and your crazy-rare variant cover whatever gets lost or bent.
Want books signed for a gift, a lark, or just for fun but can’t make it to a con?
Send them to:
PO Box 25662
Portland, OR 97298
…include a SELF-ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE and we’ll sign them and send them back.
One more caveat! We don’t check the box as often as we should, so if you’re sending something, can you fill out the contact form so we know there’s something coming?
A package got sent back once and we’ve been horribly embarrassed ever since.
Q: Who do you want to play Captain Marvel if they make a movie?
Q: When is Kate’s birthday?
Matt Fraction: It’s the day Clint tried to give her a present.
Q: What’s with the duck face selfies?
Kelly Sue: With the exception of hard core collectors, people who stand in line to get an autograph aren’t actually there for your signature. They’re there for a moment or two of your time. They’re there for a real, face-to-face interaction. Having been on the other side of that table many times myself (a practice I am not above — I stood in line to get Gerry Conway’s autograph the last time we were at a show together!), I have a lot of respect for the line. I try to give everyone my full attention and if they want to take a photo together, it seems the least I can do.
The thing is, taking photos with strangers can be awkward. Often the person is nervous and if the photo doesn’t turn out, they feel weird about asking for a reshoot.
The duck face selfie is my way of putting people at ease. We HAVE to stand close together because a selfie requires closeness to get everyone in the frame. And NO ONE looks good doing a duck face (especially when you’re trying not to laugh), so nobody worries whether it’s a flattering photo. It’s fun. It gives us something to *do*.
There’s another thing too — the duck face selfie was born of young girls and women trying to give themselves full lips and cheekbones in photos. Because… why? Because the message we have been sending them since birth is that their appearance and desirability are their value, and having full lips and prominent cheekbones adds to that value. So they’re understandably fascinated by their own appearance (selfies) and, because they’re resourceful and NOT STUPID, they adjust the camera angle and their facial expression to play up what we’ve taught them to value.
…and then we make fun of them for it.
I think that makes US assholes, not them.
So I guess, in my way, I try to celebrate the duck face selfie for that reason too.
Q: How many books will you sign [at CON NAME HERE/STORE NAME HERE]?
We don’t put a limit on it. If we’re at a store, we abide by their policies, so check with the managers. If we’re at a con, there’s usually not a limit—check with the show.
If it’s up to us? No limit. Basically, how many do you feel like carrying around with you all day? If you bought it and brought it, it seems the least we can do to sign it. Couple of things you can do to make our lives easier, though: 1) take your books out of the plastic bags BEFORE you get to the front of the line pleeeeeease; and 2) if you have more than, say, 30 books or so, let us sign those 30, then go to the back of the line. Feel free to do that as many times as you like.
Q: What do you charge for autographs?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. (Unless you’re a company and you want to send hundreds of comics to our house for us to sign. Then we’re going to charge. But for readers? Zip.)