Update from Z2 Comics
An Explanation and Gift From the Publishers of Z2 Comics
To Our Incredible Readers,
2020 has been a very challenging year for the entire world. Here at Z2 Comics, the same is true. Although Z2 has been in the business of publishing books for over 6 years, we have never seen more logistical hurdles and delays in all of those 6 years combined than we have encountered during this year alone. As our loyal readers, we feel that it is important to give you a detailed, transparent explanation for the cause of certain delays, and to provide you with an update as to when your order may be shipped. In addition, as a small token of our appreciation for your incredible support during this unique year, we wanted to let you know that we will be sending each of our valued customers $10 in Z2 Comics Cash within the next week to thank you for your patience and support.
A little-known fact about Comics is that there are very few printers that are able to manufacture comics well because printing comics requires specialized printing equipment. As a result, most printers are becoming bottle necked for books. There are two distinct, industry-wide issues at play:
- Softcovers- For softcover books, logistical problems are not severe because there are a few printers in North America that can handle them. The issue is that, as a result of the COVID pandemic, it is taking weeks longer than usual. In fact, due to social distancing restrictions it is taking twice as long for North American printers to print books--normally it takes them 2.5 weeks to print and we would have in hand in around 3 weeks and now is taking around 5 weeks.
- Hardcovers- As a result of the COVID pandemic, hardcover books pose significantly greater problems than softcover books. For printing in North America, a publisher is required to send the pages to an offsite bindery (of which there are very few). What ended up happening during the initial COVID surge is that most publishers delayed books to the fall. As a result of this increased demand, hardcover printer capacity in North America became extremely backed up. For instance, to print one of our Deluxe edition books, we have had to reserve press time in June for a book to be printed in November. That is a 5 month pre-book requirement, when, during normal times, typically the most time you need is 6 weeks. This led us to have to print almost all of our Deluxe Editions and hardcovers in Asia, which allowed for the greatest quality, as many of the best printers operate there, but it required much longer ship times—which is the cause of many delays.
Logistical and shipping problems caused by COVID are the biggest problems that we have faced and the cause of most delays. Typically, it takes approximately five to seven weeks for one of our products printed in Asia to ship, door to door. However, due to COVID, it is harder than ever to get shipments out. This is caused by a few factors:
- Port Slowdowns- When a ship arrives somewhere it does so in a port. When the books arrive at port, people are required to unload the containers and send them to their destination. Restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID pandemic have slowed down clearance time in ports by A LOT. Prior to COVID, it typically only took a couple of days for a shipment to clear port. During COVID, clearing port may take several weeks—which is understandable because have longshoremen are required to take social distancing precautions and have to work slower because of them.
- A Shipping Container Shortage- This is the most bizarre impact that COVID has had to our schedule. The way shipping typically operates is ships leave with full shipping containers and come back with empty ones. In East Asia—where most of our shipments come from—shipping companies have done a relatively good job containing the virus, but what has happened is that, while ships leave quickly, as a result of the slowdowns mentioned above, containers are not coming back to Asia fast enough, which leads to slowdowns on both ends. So thousands of books end up sitting waiting for a container to load them in.
- General Shipping Delays- Due to COVID, more people are ordering online than ever and things are moving slower at the same time. This has made us receiving books slow and more inconsistent than ever. In fact, most of the time we don’t know when we will receive shipments until a few days before. A good example of this is our Gorillaz book, which actually hit port around November 15th. Under normal circumstances, we would have received those books in about one week. However, due to COVID, we did not receive the books until December 2nd—which we didn’t even know about until November 30th. This has made gauging when we will be able to receive books and fulfill orders very difficult to predict.
- Bottle Neck- The original delivery schedule for the fall was that our shipments to the Z2 Warehouse were staggered across October, November, and December. However, due to the issues mentioned above, we only ended up receiving most shipments in the past 3 weeks. Our current warehouse capacity allows us to pack and ship around 2000-3000 standard edition books a day and 500-750 Deluxes per day. Consequently, our warehouse has a hefty backlog to get through.
- Social Distancing/COVID Precautions- Right now, we have 6 people working at our warehouse and that’s really all we can safely have, because due to COVID we have to take extra social distancing precautions since, if there is an outbreak, we would be legally required to shut down for at least 20 days. Also, we aren’t hiring anyone else because we require all warehouse workers to isolate for 14 days before starting to avoid an outbreak during the peak holiday season. Anyone we hire to assist could jeopardize our entire operation if only one person tests positive—in which case, we wouldn’t be able to ship your order until January at the earliest. Thankfully, because of our strict protocols, no one in our warehouse has tested positive and we continue to fulfill orders daily.
- How we schedule—Although Z2 is still a small publisher—and due to that can operate at a speed most big publishers cannot—generally we have our books completed about three weeks before we need to go to print. This allows to design proofs of the final product and get approvals from our partners. We then send the final, approved proof to the printer with the anticipation that it take will 3 weeks to print and an additional 5 to get to customers. With all of the delays mentioned, the schedule has become significantly delayed.
- Other Retailers/Partners- As you have probably experienced, Z2 is not the only company experiencing these issues—COVID has proven to be a global obstacle for every industry, particularly the publishing industry. So we continue to ask for, and appreciate, your patience while we navigate through this unique time.
Status of Our Books:
Now that you’ve read the above, here is an update regarding the status of our projects.
- Gorillaz- We sent the final proof to the printer at the end of August. Under normal circumstances, this would mean that we would the books in hand no later than mid to late October. However, due to the issues described above, there was an 7 week delay in printing. This delay was exacerbated by the fact that ports at the UK are especially delayed right now. The good news is that, as of today, we have all of the Gorillaz editions except for the Super Deluxe which is held up due to a manufacturing issue but should ship in January. Substantially all Gorillaz books, except for the Super Deluxe edition, will be shipped from our warehouse to consumers no later than December 9th. To our valued readers that purchased a Super Deluxe edition, we will provide you with a complimentary standard edition so that you do not miss out.
- Poppy’s Inferno/Charlie Parker Chasing The Bird- We are grouping these two together because they both suffered the same problem. We printed the standard editions of these books using a printer located in Korea, and, while they were slightly delayed, the delay was not particularly long. However the Deluxe Editions of these books were printed in India. Under normal circumstances, it takes 6 weeks to ship from India. Since the books were printed and shipped in August, we assumed that the worst case scenario was to fulfill orders in October. However the books got stuck in Singapore and delayed till mid-November, then the books got snarled up in the port of Oakland, causing further delay. Fortunately, we just received word that these books are being delivered today (December 7th) so your orders all should be shipped soon. While under normal circumstances, receiving these books would have taken only six weeks. However, as a result of the massive delays described above, it took approximately four months for us to receive these books.
- Yungblud 2- We are right on schedule with this amazing book! However, due to problems and delays with vinyl production, we had to remove vinyls from our Deluxe package. An email was sent to purchasers of the Deluxe edition last Friday offering several remedies.
- Eden 2- We have all units and orders are now shipping. Any delay was standard due to the issues described above.
- Grateful Dead- T. The same issues caused by COVID affected this book as well. In addition, for the Deluxe editions, the cases we had ordered were defective and were starting to fall apart. To ensure that the quality of the limited edition boxes met our high standard of quality, we had to have the whole deluxe remade and it took time, particularly given the circumstances described above. Luckily, the boxes are done, and we hope to have approval to ship them to you shortly.
- Madi- The softcovers have been received and are shipping. The hardcovers are en route from China and due at our warehouse on or around December 15th (including the Kickstarter extras). However due to COVID, it is possible that it could take longer.
- Sound and Fury- The softcovers are printing and the Deluxe editions are being airmailed from China. We expect to receive this book in about two weeks, but there could be some variance due to COVID.
- The Doors/Morrison Hotel- Due to the delays caused by COVID, we decided that it was best to delay this book to the Spring to assure reliability and the highest quality. We foresee no issue with having all orders shipped in March.
The Future and a Token of our Appreciation:
Although we recognize and understand that the delays have been frustrating, we are confident that these issues are a unique confluence of COVID and the busy holiday season, and will not continue into the foreseeable future.
We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who has felt disappointed or misled by the delays—particularly if any of those feelings were caused by poor communication on our part. Please know we value each and every one of you.
As a small token of our appreciation for your support and understanding, we will be sending each of our amazing customers a complimentary $10 in Z2 Comics Cash—no strings attached—to be used for any of our products (and, trust us, there are some incredible announcements coming up). This will be sent to the email address you've purchased with.
Thank you so much for being a part of the Z2 family. We wish you and your families a Happy Holiday and much health and happiness during these trying times.
Josh and Sridhar