A Guide For Potential Profiting On Small Press
“Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy only when others are fearful”
A Guide For Potential Profiting On Small Press
Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members. Within the comic spec world lives volatility. It’s almost as if in some cases lies a “gambler” mentality in just what books are a safer bet, while some others are more of a stretch or reach. Keys are playing with house money for the most part.
If you can get in at the right price, the odds show a more favorable outcome long term and rightfully so as these books are established and the majority include a historical timeline cemented in some type of legacy. On the other side, there are these small publishers. At times these respective books heat up and “poof” are cold within days.
The very definition of volatile states: Unable to hold the attention fixed because of an inherent lightness or fickleness of disposition. Yep, sounds like many Aftershock and Scout comics right? Well let’s look at how we can potentially makes the odds more in our favor, and overall make more money!
2017 Total Retail Market Share Publisher
Let’s start with just how big is the sandbox we are playing in for indie specs? Above is a breakdown by publisher for the year 2017. With this exercise we will look at everything Dynamite and below as our playing field. This equivalates to give or take 12% of the overall market. Alright how much is the overall market dollars wise? Well, glad you asked…$355MM in comic book sales of the overall total just over $1 Billion.
See below as reference…
Okay so we take 12% (small publisher) of $355MM (total comic sales) and we get roughly a pool the size of
Let’s just take it to the most granular level for this exercise – $426,000 (dollar volume/indie) and divide by $4 which is an average book cost and we get number an estimate of the number of indie titles per a calendar year
Alright math class is dismissed!
The reason for the above was to give the sheer numbers of what we are working with to be as well rounded as possible when looking at these investments. Now time to put these figures to use.
With small publisher books these are mostly in the hot potato category, meaning move quickly. The first to market help set the supply vs. demand and have potentially can more control over pricing. As a reminder, these books don’t have the huge label to fall back on, nor do they have the history of characters that are household names.
With mainstream comics, more often than not we spec on characters or titles, not the storylines. This is the opposite with small books, we have nothing to on except storylines right? Well, yes and no. More and more now we also have artists and writers. We are seeing a shift to more creator owned properties. Why? Well more control/power and ultimately the potential for more revenue.
*As a reminder many of these below ideas below will need more than one to see a ROI. However, with some combined you have a puncher's chance.
Alright so why the Animosity plug? Well let’s take what we have talked about so far in this discussion. We have no idea about these characters up front, yet we do know the storyline.
One day, the Animals woke up. They started thinking. They started talking. They started taking revenge. Now, a dog and his girl are trying to get away–out of New York City, and all the way to San Francisco, to the only person who might be able to protect and save her.
Now, that sounds pretty damn good right? Exercise some research and we find that the writer and artist have done previous work on both the mainstream and smaller publishers. Artwork looks fantastic from a Preview magazine. Okay, strong story, solid writer, and artist. We will look at this title again at the end of this article. More questions on Animosity spec? Talk to Adam Lebednik, he has quite the slabbed collection!
What do we do with any investment we look at before purchase? (well most of the time) Homework, homework, homework. There should be nothing different with a comic play. What does this mean? Research online, talk to fellow CBSI members, and finally reach out to your LCS. After you see a copy coming out in a preview mag, article, etc. educate yourself if there is store variants now or in the future.
Is there any buzz, or a publisher releasing an Ashcan version, Kickstarter, or Con Exclusive.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term Ashcan –
An ashcan copy is a type of American comic book publication created solely to establish trademarks on potential titles and not intended for sale.
It is at times in black and white and can be distinguished from others as well with the size being smaller than a normal comic.
This is where the first appearance comes into play as they are produced before the actual # 1 Issue. In addition, there is also self published copies that at times occur before another company produces the new comic. The above picture of a Zombie Tramp copy is the self published version from 2009.
This is an even smaller print run that the #1 pictured next (Action Lab Edition) and oftentimes has more value. Ask Mel V about Zombie Tramp #1 self published issues. He can tell you a story!
Again, research is key here in the next step. Is the comic tied to a movie? What came first the comic or movie? Is there other versions of the # 1 comic based on movie? The above is the first Blair Witch Project comic published by Oni Press. There are two covers as examples. This is a small print run of only 8K per cover.
They are also very tough to get in high grade due to the color. I may be aging myself, but in 1999 when this movie came out it was revolutionary. It coined the term “Found Footage”. It also was the first to accomplish vital marketing online. You really thought these three kids were missing.
Don’t let these other newer films fool you. Blair Witch Project (BWP) was the first in the game. On a budget of $60K the fright fest made $250MM in the box office almost 20 years ago. All very good reasons to own a copy of this comic for down the road. Now if they can just Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the original directors back to get this franchise going in the right direction.
One more for good measure. The movie made the cover of TIME Magazine. How many movies do that, let alone indie flick?! Any other questions on BWP or it’s comic renditions, please reach out to me!
Okay, so we all know saying follow the leader right? Every year recently there has been the go to indie publisher for spec books. The above shown – Black Mask, After Shock, and Scout are examples. What we see is when one book gets hot, another title from that company will gain heat too until there is almost this chain reaction.
Baby Teeth, Pestilence, A Walk Thru Hell, and now most recently The Beyonders with After Shock. It’s almost as if these compounded on one another and the publisher became the spec itself. I realize there were books in between, but you get the idea. There was money to be made with all those books.
If something hits with a new company, pay very close attention to the next books. You will see a pattern at times, buy and move quickly!
Finally, let’s look at books don’t necessarily show up in the Previews Magazine, but can be purchased online or at a Con. These are few and far between, but have the benefits of small runs, and zero chatter. If the book gains popularity, or is optioned then you have a winner on your hands. This happened with The Rejected. First run Con issues are pulling in good coin vs upfront costs.
Monitor upcoming Cons around the country. Observe if you see any special covers or issues. If so, and there is no connections there to purchase on your behalf, set a watch list on eBay. At some point they will start showing up for sale. What’s that saying, early bird gets the worm?
Finally, let’s recap what we tales about:
- Playing field: 12% of the market is indies, roughly 100K+ titles per year
- Timing: Move copies quickly, be one of the 1st to market
- Storylines: Look for polarizing ideas vs. unknown characters
- Research: Is there other editions of the 1st comic Ashcan, Kickstarter, Store Variants, etc
- Other media: Has this comic been optioned?
- Past success: Has the publisher brought out other quality material previously? Is the label itself hot?
- Unknown: Has this book not been shown in Previews Magazine? Are there artists copies available on other sites?
At the start of this I mentioned we would revisit Animosity. Now let’s see how many of the above can be said about that comic.
Intriguing storyline and art ✔️
Successful low print store variants ✔️
Movie optioned ✔️
Past success within the After Shock label ✔️
With all of these attributes, this book is selling very well on the aftermarket. It has since day one, and the option picked up only helps it more. There is no perfect science to this whatsoever. However doing your homework and looking for these aforementioned qualities can only help your spending decisions.
Well I hoped this helped those who were looking to potentially play in the Small Press arena. I realize there may be other ideas that could be used. I hope this is used like a working document and items can be added or deleted as time goes on. In the ever evolving comic world we live in now, change is prevalent. All our input on subjects like these can only help us now and in the future.
One more nugget for all of you. There is a new publisher in town making some noise within other media outlets.
Check out their site which includes their beliefs & goals and the vision of their CEO, Tom Bilyeu. In addition, upcoming comics and projects. Here is one as an example, you probably recognize the name Steve Aoki right? Um, potential crossover appeal anyone beyond the comic world?! What does that do to desirability? That’s up to you to decide!