With the deadline for getting books done for ICBW coming over the horizon, it is time to think about the next phase for creators: getting your books into the actual retail stores. Comic creation is widely talked about in the industry through books and web, though not a lot of ink has been used to tell you how to actually get retailers to pick up your books. After talking with retailers, they've given a few pointers on how to get shops interested in your book.
To begin with, there are a few methods in which they will get the books from you. These generally fall under two categories: consignment and direct wholesale. Each store will handle it differently so you will have to contact them and ask. DO NOT try and haggle with them; understand that they are a business and they too have bills to pay.
- Consignment is a back-end payment method; the store will agree to carry your book initially. They will keep track of sales and after a predetermined set of time, you come in for your share of the sales. Some stores will agree to keep on your books indefinitely, some will give back unsold books.
- Direct wholesale is a front-end payment method; the stores will buy your book from you directly at a retailer discount. The typical wholesale discount is 50% of cover price, this is how stores make their money. Though 50% is the rule of thumb, some stores will agree to a lower discount. However, the smaller the discount, the smaller the order and less likely they'll even carry your book. Example, at a 50% discount, a store may buy 5 books from you, a 40% may mean 3 books, etc. So in the end, direct wholesale is where the retailer is taking the financial risk; and consignment is where the creator is taking a financial risk.
You must also ask the retailer when they will be needing your books to get them ready for ICBW. Some stores can have them in by Monday and be ready for the event on Wednesday. Some stores are part of chains and will need a ten day head start to process your book at their main branch before shipping them out to their satellite stores.
As for your book itself, there are some things you have to consider when looking at it from a retailer standpoint.
- Cover Price: The ceiling for you book's cover price really should be what the mainstream books are charging for their standard monthlies. So a standard 24-page issue should be priced at about $3. Which means if you are getting your books through print-on-demand, more than likely a $1.50 wholesale price will be lower than your actual print cost. This is something you will have to decide: whether you are out to make as much money as you can, or are you out to get your name into the market. And please put the cover price on the cover whether by printing in directly on there or a sticker.
- Size: The shelves at the stores are typically made to carry books at a standard comic size (6.75"x10.25"), though various printers will vary from that slightly. This means a mini-comic may get lost in the shuffle and an over-sized book will be cumbersome. Not to deter anyone from doing a mini-comic, just something to be aware of.
- Mature Content: If your book has anything that could be considered mature content, you will need to inform the retailer about it and label the cover accordingly. Check out the MPAA Guidelines, Marvel's rating and the TV Parental Guidelines as a reference point. Do not try and sneak it past the retailer; that is an extreme break in trust and they will probably never do business with you again.
- Color vs. Black & White: This again will vary from store to store. Color comics tends to be more appealing to the general audience than black/white. However, it can be more expensive to print, especially with a print-on-demand printer. It's your call, but something to keep in mind.
A lot of creators have asked about working with Ka-Blam and their ComicsMonkey distribution business. There has been a lot of talk right now, and we are in direct contact with them. However, it is not up right this moment; so to be the smart creator, you can not put all your eggs in one basket. To guarantee that your book will be in a store, you will need to start talking with that store directly. We have all the information you need on the website. A few ICBW creators are planning to do both: talk to a few select retail shops directly to work out a deal; and also put up their books on ComicsMonkey when it is up and running. This is honestly the smart thing to do and will put the fate of your book in your hands, not someone else's.
If you already have a stock of books ready to be shipped, please contact Haven Distribution about carrying your books in their catalog. They are an independent friendly distributor and have expressed interest in helping with ICBW. Their guidelines can be found on their website.
Indy Comic Book Week is about the comics from creators to retailers to the fans. For it to be a success, we all need to be aware of what each part of it does and needs. By working together, we will show the industry how strong indy books can be.