Comics are awesome. And some of the most awesome comics are the ones you create yourself, and then print and sell yourself. (We’re calling these sort of comics “minicomics” for short.) And we love seeing an amazing new minicomic, whether it’s someone’s first work or an established “professional” who is doing something personal for themselves.
As a store, we love selling minicomics! They are far more diverse than comics put out by big publishers and showcase an amazing array of talent. But, as a comics retailer, we’ve also noticed a lot of things that make it hard for minicomic creators to sell us comics, and for us to sell minicomics to customers. Here are some of our tips!
You’ll be competing with a lot of other comics, so make sure you do your best! Get your more honest friends to look over your comic before you take it out into the world.
Have someone edit your comic. Are there typos? Is anything unintentionally confusing?
- Cover Design
Minicomics on sale often get put together with other minicomics (due to display sections, their size, infrequent release schedule or whatever). So make sure yours stands out! Good design is key. Color covers aren’t necessary, as many minicomics catch the eye for their homemade characteristics. But you could print the cover on color paper for not too much more.
- Cover Price
Put a price on there. Barcodes are a decadent and expensive luxury, but it helps both us and a casual browser who picks up your comic in a store to know how much it costs.
- Pricing Properly
Full-color comic books of around 20-22 pages from a mainstream publisher sell for $2.99 to $3.99. Smaller presses and minicomics can sell for a higher price, since we all know that you’ll sell fewer copies and often your costs per comic are higher. These days, minicomics usually range from $4.00 to $8.00. As low as $1 is a great price for a short one, a sampler, or a small (in size) one. In general, aim for the mid range. Most people buying minicomics won’t balk at paying $5-6, but any higher and you will start losing sales. Why buy one $10 mini when you can buy 2 or more for the same price? Plus people just balk at high cost things, unless they see they are getting something extra for it - more pages, deluxe covers or design, bigger physical size… and even then, it will be harder to sell.
- Print Costs
The flip side to pricing a book to sell is pricing a book to make you money! Many minicomics are passion projects, done for the love of comics or just to create something. But even in these cases, losing money isn’t a good idea! However, if you break even or are just selling a book for fun, your print costs determine how much you can sell to a store for.
- Wholesale Costs
Stores tend to buy comics at 50% of the cover price. So if you plan to sell comics to stores, figure on selling at around half of the cover price. But if it costs you close to that to print your comic, you won’t make any money!
A lot of stores offer consignment, where they will take your comic and see if it sells, then pay you for it when it does. This is a cheap way for stores to do it, but it is also a lot of work to keep track of. Make sure you find out the exact terms of when they will contact you and how they send payment. The people in charge of maintaining consignments at a store are usually pretty busy, plus it’s a lot to keep track of, so don’t be surprised it they are a little off schedule.
- Keep in Print
Fulfilling demand is another thing to keep up with, and luckily minicomics are easier than most comics to reprint, especially if you are doing it at a copyshop yourself! This is another thing to consider if you are going to do a very complicated minicomic, would you be willing to make more if you sell out or is it too much effort? And if someone is interested in getting more, you should make more for them!
- Contact Info
Make sure you have current contact information in your minicomic. You never know where a copy will end up or who will read it. Plus, if we need to reach you, it’s often easiest to look inside a copy of your comic.
When you search for yourself online, make sure something shows up and it’s accurate! And on your website or blog or tumblr or whatever you have, if you are selling your comics to stores, make sure you include all the relevant information. What do you have for sale? Do you charge for shipping? How much do you sell your minicomics to stores? How can you be paid? (Paypal is increasingly popular but you will lose a percentage in the fee paypal charges, so consider that. On the other hand, if someone wants to pay with a check, make sure you have a mailing address on there, and that it says who to make a check out to, especially if you can NOT cash checks written out to your publishing name.)
- List Stores Who Carry You
On your website, list any stores that you have sold minicomics to. Not only does it tell people where they can find your work, it tells OTHER minicomic creators (your friends!) where they might find a receptive store to buy their work as well. Plus it is a nice benefit to us as a store, that by supporting your work, we are getting our name out there as well, helping both maintain a good reputation and helping other minicomics creators find us!
- Range of Options
This applies to conventions in particular, but is good for stores too. Try to have a variety of options for people to check out. Do you have something cheap for someone interested in just sampling your work or who doesn’t have a lot of money? In general, we might only get 1 or 2 copies of a $20 art project or graphic novel, but several copies of a cheaper comic.
- Team Up With Others for Distro
Distribution is the trickiest part of getting your comics out there. If you do it by yourself, not only do you have to mail everything, you have to do all the promotion and solicitation too. If you team up with just one friend and offer comics together, you have doubled the amount of comics you offer and made it at least twice as easy for stores to order comics. If there are 400 great minicomics out there that we are interested in, the amount of work on our end to contact 400 different people is immense. If just a few of you work together, it makes it more appealing to us to order from you, and less work for you as well. But the biggest advantage is that it makes even small orders worthwhile. If we only need 1 more copy, we probably won’t place an order. But if we need 1 copy of 5 different comics, that makes it worthwhile.
- Submit to Distros
Even better is if someone else is doing all your distribution for you! They often can dedicate more time to promoting your comic, plus the chances of a store seeing your work goes up. It is often that we will order something from a distributor and ask them to “throw 1 copy of that one in the order too” when we just want to check something else out. Make sure that you maintain a good relationship with your distributors! Keep your contact information up to date, fill their orders quickly, let them know when you are running low on a title, and when you reprint books so they are available again!
- Find the Good Stores
Finding a store to buy your work is hard. There are some lists out there of “small press friendly stores”, but really who would NOT want to be on a list like that? So if the list is really long, it’s probably a bit suspect. Again, this is why it’s important to list on your website who sells your comics. Check with your friends and on the websites of people whose minicomics you like and admire. Ask around, there are some good conversations about this pretty often, and share your own tips. Keep an eye out at conventions for retailers and people who work for comic book stores.
- Retailers at Conventions
When you do see a retailer at a show, especially one who asks to buy something, be prepared with your sales terms, discount level and so on. Some conventions have special deals on the last day of the show for retailers. If you have already sold out of something, be ready with information on when you will have more and how they can order it. Stores will get a LOT of business cards, so make sure to get their information too, and do a followup after the convention to make sure you stay in touch and they have all the info on ordering more from you.
- Selling to Stores in Person
If you are traveling, or are in another city for a convention, go by the local stores with some of your comics. Some stores won’t be interested, but others will. Often you will have to talk to a manager or owner, so call ahead of time if you know you will be visiting to make sure you know who to talk to and what day they will be there. Check with them about their policy on buying minicomics.
- Shipping and Minimums
Finally, shipping is expensive! But offering to pay for shipping yourself is a nice bonus to encourage someone to order your comics. Media Mail is a special service for heavy print items that is relatively cheap. Make sure to pack your comics well, if they show up bent or mangled you may have to replace them or the store may just not order from you again. Also, consider if you have a minimum order amount. It’s best if you don’t, but consider how much shipping will cost.
We hope this will be useful. If you have other tips or suggestions as either minicomics creators or retailers, please let us know!