In the last article, I talked about the importance of printing out a mockup of your comic before you send it to print, that way you can check for layout issues and grammatical errors. This week, I’ll cover how to properly price your comic and give an example from my own experience figuring all this out with comic conventions.
Let me be blunt, when you first start selling your merchandise at a convention, you will not make a profit… for a while. Even if the con is local and you only have merchandising costs and your table fee and no travel expenses, sometimes even that won’t help you make a profit. This is why pricing your stuff properly is crucial. You will have to find that sweet spot, and the only way to find it is by going to multiple conventions and trying out different prices for things and seeing what sticks.
“But Todd, I’m not in this for the money!” That’s all great and dripping with sugary goodness, but unless you have disposable income to fuel your print costs, convention fees and other expenses, sooner or later you will run out of money if you don’t pay attention to the finance part of being an artist. Yeah, you may be in this purely for the love of art, but you have to treat this like a business to help fuel your habit, otherwise you’ll stop doing it once the money runs out!
HOW TO PRICE YOUR COMIC
This will not be easy as there are a lot of factors dealing with this. Typically, you want price your comic at a 100% markup to start. (for the younger readers, this means taking your print costs, then double that number, and that’s your sell price.) This will give you some flexibility when you want to run sales or other special bundle packages. There are factors I’ll go into later on whether 100% will work for you or not, so keep reading.
The thing you have to consider is price versus perceived value. Selling a 22 page traditional comic for $8 probably won’t make you sales, at least if you’re an unknown artist with zero following. Sometimes marking your stuff up 100% is not possible, because if you’re like the rest of us, you can’t afford to print 300+ copies of your comic to get that lower price break from the print shop, so your markup may be significantly less because of it.
Sometimes to justify a higher price, you have to add more value to your work to entice people to buy it. Case in point, my Frik comic. Each of my Frik volumes is loaded with extras. Concept art, original episode art, trivia, commentary, etc. I want someone to pick up that book at the convention and go “Wow, look at all these extras! Sold!” I love seeing those type of extras in things I buy and I know others feel the same, so I load up my volumes to increases the value of my printed book.
SIT DOWN AND LET ME TELL MY TALE…
I believe that when you’re selling your work at comic conventions for the first couple of times, you need to start small. Don’t do a big convention right off the bat. You aren’t ready for it financially, emotionally, or even physically. I can tell you that my very first convention wiped me out, and it wasn’t even a big one! It was insane how exhausted I was at the end of each night.
One negative aspect of starting with smaller conventions, however, is that you can’t really gauge whether your product is priced properly or not. The reason why is because you aren’t selling enough to be able to tell on paper whether you were selling them at that sweet spot price. I did a couple of smaller cons to start and never made a profit. I then participated in Wizard World here in St. Louis back in March 2013, which was my first big con. I mean BIG, 10s of thousands of people big.
I have a promotion I run where if you buy all three volumes of my Frik comic, you get a free 5×7″ drawing of my main character dressed in a cosplay outfit. Originally, I made the mistake of giving this free drawing -and- reducing the price of the 3 books by $5 (compared to if you just bought all 3 books individually.) At the time I was afraid the free drawing wouldn’t be enough to entice people to buy all 3 books at once. In terms of sales, Wiz Con was a huge success. I sold A LOT of merchandise and had a difficult time replenishing my table. The problem was, due to under pricing my books when sold as a 3 pack, I still lost money in the end and my profit margin wasn’t that high.
Because I sold so many books that weekend I was able to clearly see on paper that my price was too low, so I stopped giving that $5 discount and just had it where if you bought all 3 volumes at full price, you get the free drawing and that was it. Because of this change, along with a few other product additions to my table, I actually started making a profit with the next couple of conventions after WizCon. I wouldn’t have known my books were under priced if I had only attended the small cons and sold only a handful at a time.
In the next article, I will discuss simple bookkeeping that I do as well as talk about practicing your convention pitch and defining what makes a convention a success or not for you. Stay tuned, thanks for reading!
How to properly price your comic books by Todd Tevlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.