Image Comics has announced it is expanding its Image Firsts edition line, where potential comic readers can get the first issue of a series for only one dollar.  Marvel Comics has a $1.00 line as well, and according to Image Comics, feedback from direct market retailers indicate that this sells comics.

Well, duh.

So, why aren’t publishers selling more comics at a lower price? That is the question you should be asking your local comic shop owner each time you go in to buy our comics.

Yes, the $1.00 cover price is a gimmick to get you interested in reading more. It’s worked for drug dealers, and works when a comic book sells the first issue for a dollar or less. While some publishers claim they are holding the line at $2.99, why is the average cost of comics in the “Top 300” is still $3.99.

Why?

Sure, the allure of greater profit margins sounds good to investors, and to the corporate bigwigs who are deciding whether to keep the comic arm of their company or sell it off to someone else, but in reality, the higher the price of the comic, the greater the chance a reader will pass if it means saving money.

I have not done a detailed analysis, nor do I have the business background or data to run the numbers, but I would bet a 50-cent drop on the cover price, would yield an increase in overall comic sales.  According to Comicchron, February 2018 numbers are solid, and look good – especially when you compare the data to comic sales 10 years ago, when comics did have a lower average cover price, but when you look at recent years, February’s numbers don’t look that great by comparison.

All Comics and GNs Shipped (in Dollars)

February 2018$36,631,000.00
 
Versus 1 Year Ago$39.77 million-8%
Versus 5 Years Ago$39.58 million-7%
Year to Date$75.97 million
1 Year Ago$79.88 million-5%
via Chomichron http://blog.comichron.com/2018/03/february-2018-comics-sales-estimates.html

 

One can run numbers day and night and come up with all sorts of conclusions:

  • Let’s increase the price of our best selling comics to maximize profits
  • Let’s cancel comics that don’t sell a minimum number
  • Let’s lower the minimum number of sales to put a comic on the cancelation list

I’m sure the publishers are asking questions every day, on what can be done to sell more comics, including hot topic discussions on creators, diversity, inclusion, and so on, but is anyone talking about lowering the price?

Are publishers too scared to try lowering the price of comics for fear the experiment will fail miserably, and the person in charge will be seen as a fool?

For over a decade I worked at a university in Western Kansas. Year after year, the president of the university would make sure that tuition increases were the lowest among all of the other schools in the Kansas Board of Regents system. Many thought keeping tuition increases below 10% each year was a fiscal disaster waiting to happen. On paper, it just didn’t work. That is because everyone was too focused on the current student base, and not the potential student base.

The president has a very simple response to anyone who brought the topic up. He would say, “We can keep costs low, and serve more students, or we can raise our prices and serve a smaller base.” Interestingly, enrollment grew each year, and though budgets were tight, when it came time to build new facilities or add state of the art equipment, the money was there. While other universities in the system saw enrollment drops, Fort Hays State University saw enrollment increases.

Regardless of what others thought of the president of the university, he was absolutely right. Keep prices low and draw in more costumers. It is a university initiative. It’s a Wal-mart initiative. It’s an Amazon Prime initiative. For some reason, lower prices and more readers is not a comic publisher initiative for new comics.

Or is it?

In January 2017, Alterna Comics launched an initiative to lower the price point of comics to $1.99.  A year later, in an interview with Comicon.com, Peter Simeti, founder and publisher said, “Sales have been very strong on the newsprint books across comic shops, newsstands, and direct sales and we’ve seen a 300% increase in sales for graphic novels as well because of it.”

Seems like Mr. Simeti is on to something.  Is DC, Marvel, or Image willing to test Alterna’s theory in the bigger market?

The next time you are at your local comic shop, make sure you let the shop owner know that you would buy more comics if the cover price per issue was lower. When enough customers bring this to the attention of the LCS owner, the owner takes that information to their next publisher event, and publishers can respond to the owners, and make adjustments going forward.


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3 Comments

  1. Frank
    March 24, 2018 at 8:02 am — Reply

    One of the reasons I dropped half my titles is because the publisher increased the price and decreased the page count. Why should I pay more for less?

    If the publishers would study basic economics rather listen to their marketing ‘gurus’, they might have higher profits.

    • March 24, 2018 at 11:14 am — Reply

      The price (and availability to a lesser degree) means I am exclusively a trade guy now.

  2. chris
    March 25, 2018 at 12:24 pm — Reply

    I think publishers are worried about another “90’s collapse”. I can’t speak to why their prices are so high, but anytime I hear the paper print stock argument, I don’t think that is it. I used to work at a print press place and the difference between glossy and newsprint wasn’t that much a difference. Plus, I think if they went back to newsprint, the majority of people would be upset. They’re used to the high stock paper. I could be extremely wrong though.
    What irritates me is when they make a huge deal about dropping their price to $2.99 but the book then comes out twice a month. So you’re actually spending $6.00 a month as opposed to the $3.99/$2.99 you could be spending.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...