Boosting your sales at the show
I know I said that it is easier selling at comic cons because you are selling to people who want comics. The problem is, they want comics, but that doesn’t always mean they want your comic. You think you have created the most original zombie comic since The Walking Dead, think again. There is a guy two aisles over who is doing it better. On top of that, the doors of the con finally open and the punters are coming in thick and fast. They are stopping at your table, having a look, but no ones buying, regardless how good your small talk is.
What to do?
A little incentive goes a long way, but again these costs money to produce and will affect your breakeven point.
Me, I made mugs.
They cost me around £5.00 each, but they were used as a way to entice people to buy. I used the first one as an incentive to get the ball rolling. As people came up and had a look at my comics, I told them that the first person to buy all the four comics of my comics, got a free mug…Bingo, it worked.
This “Wally” won it….mug seen in the background…in her friend’s hand.
They were such lovely people too and so friendly, as first customers go they were up there with the best. After I gave away the first mug, I gave them away to the 10th, 25th & 50th customers.
It worked, I kept a tally chart as I went and as people came up and were interested, I explained what I was doing. EVERY single one went “so, what number are you on now?” smiling hoping to catch me out.
I just told them my lips were sealed, but it was close. I even have two guys who were buddies come up to the table, BOTH interested and I told them if them both bought all four comics, one would be happier than the other. But was I on customer 48 or customer 49?
It worked and they both bought all four comics and one got the mug, who then ironically turned around to his mate and said “I don’t actually drink tea!” But it didn’t matter, he got something a little extra and it created a little bit of excitement and a pleasant atmosphere between me and customers.
I know you might not be able to buy mugs for the show, but you can do other things smaller incentives at your table, such as prints, which are generally inexpensive to produce and again go a long way. I managed to wangle a load of free A4 prints out of my printer, but you can get them produces for around £20.00 for 100, so that’s an extra 20p cost on your breakeven point per comic. I was selling them for £1.50 each too, which some people just bought on their own, but I did a deal where I said “you can get CHUNKS #1 & #2, Cordelia Swift #1 & #2 for £12.00, you get a free print and you get a chance to win a free mug”
That “deal” added to my simple “pitch” helps me see 212 comics…so for me, it worked.
It may not work for you, but the lesson to take away from this is, try and think outside the box and do something a little different from the other people at the con who are “sitting” behind their tables, looking miserable, on their phones.
Beyond the con…selling to shops
One of the reasons I started this Book is, recently I have been selling my comics to shops and other small press creators I know wanted to know how I did this.
There are two ways you can sell to comic shops. One; even if you do not have a publisher you can sell your comics to comic shops through Diamond Comic distributors.
Who are Diamond Comic distributors?
Diamond are the “middle man” between you and the comic shop. If you were to open up your own comic shop, you would need to buy the comics that you want to sell in your store through Diamond.
Every month, every comic shop gets a phonebook sized catalogue from Diamond, called PREVIEWS, where comic shops, based on their knowledge of what will sell and what their customers’ want, place orders.
This is done a good few months in advance and because of this, every New Comic Book Day (NCBD) you are able to pick up your lovely new comics from your local comic book shop.
Again, the following may not be 100% accurate but from what I have been told this is how it works.
That Previews catalogue has two sides to it, one is the US side where any shop can order from and is pretty much made up of premier publishers such as Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse etc..
But you also have the UK side to the catalogue too, this is where YOU can sell your comics even if you do not have a publisher. HOWEVER, your comic needs to look really professional, but you will need to contact Diamond to see if it is good enough. If they say yes and it gets included, you need to start calling comic shops and seeing if they would be willing to stock your comic, explaining that it is in Previews.
HOWEVER, before you start getting all excited, you need to discuss what level of discount that the comics shops will be expecting when buying you comic. It is going to be high, so you are going to have to do some serious maths to work out where your new breakeven point is going to be and to see if you can physically achieve that number through sales to shops. Rather than saying yes you can, then not hitting the numbers you need, cancelling the order with Diamond and ruining your reputation before your career has even started.
I haven’t even done this through Diamond, because it is a huge leap that even I don’t think I am ready for, yet. For purely for theoretical purposes, say that Diamond say that comic shops will be wanting a 60% discount on your cover prices (which is £3.00), that means you will have to sell your comics through Diamond for £1.20, but your current breakeven point is £2.20. It may not sound like it, but that’s is huge difference. So, if you can get down that magic number of £1.20, how much would you make…anybody? anybody? Bueller?
Based on this and the amount of effort you are going to need to put in, you are going to have to have a frank conversation with your printer on how many comics you are going to need to order to get down to say £1.00 per comic. If the printers says 1,000, that means cost of those comics is going to be £1,000.00 and if you can sell all of them to shops through diamond you will make £1,200.00 minus your cost leaves you with £200.00 profit and means you have to sell at least 834 comic just to breakeven.
Say that there are 100 comic shops in the UK, and because you can’t sell 8.34 comics, means you would need to sell 9 to every store to not lose any money and 10 to make a profit. It is not an impossible task, but to sell 1,000 comics to shops who do not know who you are, is a monumental ask.
Now for more bad news, unless you are Marvel, DC or Image…some comic shops will not stock your comics. Even if you are attached to small publisher, some shops just do not buy independent comics.
Even if that’s only 25% of the shops that are out there, that is going to affect your breakeven point. Meaning that you are going to have to sell 12 comics to the remaining 75 stores too breakeven, but not all shops are big enough to take the risk on buying 12 comics from an unknown creator. Each time you add one of these variables, the number of comics you need to sell to each store to breakeven goes up and up and up. Yep, you could find one store that says “yes, I’ll buy 30!”, but if all the other 74 shops only buy five each (which is realistic number per shop) that is only 400 sold in total. Way below the 834 you need to sell too breakeven. Yes, you could increase you cover charge, to lower the amount you need to sell, but that means you need to give Diamond a bigger discount and let’s be honest, as a customer, you see a £3 DC comic for a series you enjoy and £4.50 indie comic from a creator you don’t know and a book you know nothing about…what would you pick?
I am not telling you all this to discourage you, because you can do it, but it so going to take a hell of a lot of hard work to pull it off, but…
There is another way
The above is not impossible, but it is something that I personally feel you need to build up to.
I’m not even at that level myself…yet.
There is another way, a way that is just as hard, if not harder but will help you build your reputation.
Reputation with who? I hear you say? Comic shops.
Comic shops are the life blood of the comic industry, fact.
I am grateful to every single person who has bought a comic from me, but if your end goal is do this as a profession, you need to deal with comic shops too because they are the crazy kids that will hopefully be stocking your comics in the future. If you have a relationship with them, it’s a lot easier. Plus, Let’s put it in perspective, you are at a con and you sell one maybe two issues of your comic to a single customer who is willing to take a punt on your book, a store on average will buy five.
If you can ten stores to buy five copies, that’s fifty, compare to ten customers who will be buying between ten to twenty. I’m not pointing this out because you will be making more money, because we are talking pennies and a few pounds, but it means that if you have a few shops who like your stuff and will buy more new comics of yours when they are released, which means you can up your order numbers with the printer to get a better price point per comic to make a little bit more. Heck, if you prove yourself to be reliable and consistent, you might even be able to start taking “pre-orders” for your comics from shops, so instead of ordering your original number of 100 copies from the printer you can now order 150, because you know a few shops who will always stock your comics.
But, how do you sell to comic shops?
Blood sweat and tears...or just hard work
WALK INTO YOUR LOCAL COMIC SHOP, heck, they probably even know you because you are a customer. I’m sure that they would be happy to sell your comics for you. When you have physical copies, take them down and just ask them.
For example, i get my comics from Orbital in London and they have a whole section dedicated to small press. So, when I had my copies of CHUNKS and Cordelia Swift, I just walked in and asked.
This isn’t limited to just your LCS either, if there are other comic shops that you know of that are Local-ish, pop in too. What is the worst they can do, say no.
Excluding the large chain mega store in London there are four other comics shops around London that I know of.
All four of them stock small press comics and three out of those four stock my comics (one said my comics weren’t there cup of tea) I walked into each of them with hard copiers and just asked.
“excuse me, could I ask who I need to speak to about your shop possibly stocking my comics, please?”
If you are polite and professional, people will speak to you and will be happy to help.
It is really that easy.
Shops do not need to see your “past” sales or projections before stocking your comics and you don’t need to be a limited company to do it either.
All you need is a decent looking comic, produced well and most shops who have a small press sections will happily take on your books.
How you get paid though is a very different matter, which I will cover in the next section, because we all do not live in London or have the luxury of having more than one Local comic shops.
Going beyond your county
First thing you do is go to google and open an excel spreadsheet. Create a table in excel that has columns named: COMIC SHOP, LOCATION, CONTACT, TEL NUMBER, EMAIL & NOTES.
Then go online and start googling comic shops, start filling in the boxes for comic shops, location, telephone number and email addresses if the shop has email on their site.
This is gonna take some time because there are well over 100 plus comic shops in the UK. Don’t worry about contact names because you haven’t called them yet.
Why do it this way?
This structured way will stop you from calling the same shop twice and annoying the owner and helps you keep a record of people’s names and if they stock small press comics, because some don’t.
Then you start ringing…sorry. There is no easy way around this, you physically have to pick up that phone and start calling comic shops.
Yes, you can email them, but the chances of getting a response are very slim. They are comic shops, they are busy working, dealing with customers and running their online shops to have a long winded back and forth with you via email to see if they stock small press comics.
When calling DO NOT call on New Comic Book Day (Wednesday) or a Saturday. These are comic shops busiest times. Let’s put it another way, do you like taking sales calls when you are really busy?
Didn’t think so.
Also, try to avoid 12-2pm, lunch times can also be busy times for comic shops because people are popping out in their breaks to pick up the pull list or back issues.
“But, Matt, I work full time, when am I meant to call?”
Sorry, I did say it wouldn’t be easy.
Do what i did, do your research in the evenings, making your list. Then book a morning off work and call then or just go for a really long “poo” at work and call a shop. You do not have to call them all in one go.
When you get through, What do you say?
Again, I cannot emphasize this enough BE POLITE!
If you are shy and have no confidence, FAKE it and pretend.
The genius of the phone is you can pretend to be ANYBODY, so pretend to be someone with confidence.
Yes, you are going to screw up a few times, get tongue-tied, forget someone’s name, the conversation is going to go quiet and there will be an awkward silence. It is all part of the process and that’s what I am trying to show you, it’s a process, it’s a process
All sales is, is a numbers game.
The more times you pick up the phone, the more times to will speak to someone and the more you speak to someone the more you will sell.
So, you call, the phone rings and your heart starts to beat really fast…the conversation will most likely go like this:
SHOP: Hello, Comix or Hello, Comix, “Dave” speaking, how can I help?
YOU: Hello, I was just wondering, does your shop sell small press independent comics?
SHOP: No, sorry, my customers just don’t go for anything other than the big two.
SHOP: I tried it before and I just got lumbered with unwanted comics left on my shelves.
YOU: Oh, ok. Well, thank you for taking the time to speak to me anyway.
You’ll get a few of these, because some shops just don’t want the hassle. Don’t take it personally, just move on to the next one. Don’t push it and try and force your comics onto a comic shop, because you’ll just annoy them, but there is a way you can make these guys an offer, that I will cover a little bit later.
If they say no, just thank them for their time…sometimes shop owners will still want to talk…I had a guy talk to me for 20 minutes recently, telling me about who were going to be his guest at the comic con he is doing next year…he was a lovely chap.
Anyway, next example.
SHOP: Hello, Comix or Hello, Comix, “Dave” speaking, how can I help?
YOU: Hello, I was just wondering, does your shop sell small press independent comics?
SHOP: Yeah, we do.
YOU: Excellent, Well, my name is (say your name) and I am a comic creator from (state where you are from) and I was wondering what I would need to do to possible get your shop to stock my comics?
At this point, the shop will either ask you what your comics are and if you can send them a PDF or send them a sample copy. If they are local, take one in, but let’s be honest, if they are local, you should have just gone instead of wasting their time on the phone.
Anyway, I digress. Politely ask who you are speaking too, and acknowledge their name
“Hey, Dave, nice to speak to you…”
Then tell them a little bit about your comic, test the water to make sure it is something they think that their customers would be interested in. USE YOUR PITCH!!!
Offer to send Dave a PDF and ask for his mail address (put both his name and email in your spreadsheet)
And send him a PDF.
After you have sent them across a PDF wait at least week for them to respond. Some shops will come back to you sooner and say yay or nay and possibly place an order. If you have not heard back after say eight working days, put another polite call. NOT to ask how many they want.
Use your notes and ask to speak to Dave, again. If he doesn’t answer the phone.
YOU: “oh, hi Dave, Its XXXX, we spoke last week about my comic and I was just making sure you got the PDF I sent?”
SHOP: “yeah, I did its not for us, thanks though”
“yeah, I did, sorry I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet” (if you get this response)
YOU: “sure, no worries, I just wanted to make sure you got it ok, I’ll wait to hear back from you once you’ve had a chance to look at it. Thanks for your time”
Or Dave might say:]
SHOP: “yeah, it’s good stuff, sorry just been busy, haven’t had a chance to respond yet”
YOU: “no worries, I’m glad you liked it. Do you think it is something your customers would like?”
If he says yes, just as. “Would you like to order some then?”
DO NOT BE AFRIAD to ask for an order, that is a salesman’s biggest weakness and in all the years I have
been doing this you would not believe the amount of salesman I have met who cannot ask this
When you gett an order
While on the phone to shops that do stock small press comics you need to ask them, “how do you pay for your comics from small press creators, do you buy outright or do you sell them and take a percentage)
Different shops have different ways of working, some will just buy them from you and others will take them on what is called “sale or return” which means that they will take stock of your comics and whatever the cover price you charge, they will take a percentage of that. It means there is less risk for them, which is fine. (this is what you could offer those stores who don’t stock small press comics) Shops do this because they do not know you and they do not know how good your comic will sell?
There is no set percentage that all shops take, but on average I have found it to be between 20-40%.
Let’s do some maths!
Let’s use the 20% commission as an example.
Again, I sell my comic at £3.00, which means if Shop takes 20% commission (60p)…which means I make 20p per comic sold.
Crazy, I know, but for the ones that take a 40% slice you are gonna have to wait until you have up’d your order numbers to get your price point lower, so that you do not make a loss. Or, just be honest with the shop, explain your numbers and sell them your comics at cost. That way the shops will still make a bit of profit, you cover your costs and more importantly, you do not lose money. BREAKEVEN.
Comic shops will understand that you are not doing this for “money” and they are really nice people. Also, when you decide to go through the diamond route, you will already have that rapport with the shops. (Up there for thinking, kids, down there for dancing)
If a shop just buys your comics outright, some will pay you via PayPal, so you just need to send them a money request. Some will send you a cheque or some shops will pay by bank transfer.
Also, some may ask you for an invoice!
(don’t panic, if you open “word” there are loads of templates that you can use. Just change the fields to match those of the shops, their contact details, put in the quantities and the costs.
It is really easy.
If the comic shop is taking them on Sale or return and giving you a percentage, I know I am stating the obvious, but you are not going to get paid right away. Most shop do this on a three to six months basis, again this is where your spreadsheet comes in to play to keep notes.
It means that once a month, you need to put a call in or drop a quick email to see how your comics are selling. If you email it may take the shop a few days to respond, so please be patient.
If you get an order regardless if it is purchase or Sale or return, always send “Dave” (or whatever the
persons name is) a copy of your comic for free as a thank you and sign it personalised to them with something like “To Dave, thanks so much for the support”
You do that, he is gonna think you are a good egg and of course he is going to recommend your book to his customers, if he thinks they’ll like it.
Plus, it is just a nice thing to do to say thank you for them taking a risk on you and it will help you build a good relationship with them later on.
I know it is a cliché, but it is true, you only get one chance to make a good impression.
At the end of the day
You are going to get out of this exercise what you put in. If you put the effort in, speak to people and be polite, you are going to sell your comics.
Sometimes, regardless if people like it or not.
I know that sounds crazy, but once you have a following and a community that dig you as a person, they will buy your comics just to support you, because you will do the same for them.
Again, these are the ways that I have worked for me thus far and it doesn’t mean they will work for you or even me down the line. But, hopefully this gives you some focus on where to start and even if you have found a couple of bits useful, I think we can all agree that I haven’t screwed up too much.
Just remember, if you act like a professional and are polite, people will respond.
Hope it helps…
If you have any questions or I haven’t covered something you wanted to know about, drop me a message on here or over at mattgarvey.co.uk and I’l try and get back to you if I can.