The other day, after talking with Michael Tierney about getting into stores as indies, I found myself thinking about my own experience experimenting with “cheap” and returnable product and the Alterna Comics experiment.
These days, I always recommend writers publishing books minimize the retailer markdowns and avoid returnability.
You can set your book at 55% or 30%.
I tell people “Always mark down for as little as you can and still be available for purchase on platforms that people buy books.” Anything else is just handing money to the platform selling your book, and you don’t actually increase orders or sales, because all stores order and stock to market. If you’re returnable, you risk losing your shirt if your books don’t sell and get stripped.
With Alterna Comics, the gimmick, we’ll call it, was that they are incredibly cheap to produce [Alterna prints on newsprint], so they could be offered to retailers at incredibly cheap rates [their SRP is $1.50; wholesale is probably 50 cents]. The problem is, retailers order and stock to market.
Just like Barnes & Noble isn’t going to see that your book is 55% off wholesale or more and say “we’ll order a ton of these and push them because we can order them cheaply!”, comic retailers aren’t going to order a ton of issues to stock just because the SRP is low and it’s “low risk”.
For independent comics, just like independent books, you’re largely looking at a market that serves existing fan niches. Copies are fulfilled when people who want to buy them ask for them to buy, whether it’s through Amazon or through a LCS retailer.
Even shops that go heavy on indies might buy one of any title just to check it out, whether it’s a $1.50 book or a $5 book. But they’ll order as many as people ask for. Just like if my book is only 30% off, Amazon will still order as many as people pre-order.
So, the solution is not to minimize unit costs in ways that appeal to retailers, but to effectively market your product to readers so that they’ll demand it from platforms. And if there’s demand on the platforms, you can charge a reasonable rate that will make you money.
I’d be remiss to leave out at the end of this that the new Cirsova is out through Amazon this week! [Both in softcover and eBook]