Alex wrote this a couple of months ago, and I kept meaning to ask him to post it here. I finally got around to it the other day, so enjoy! – BC
We deal with a lot of mini-comics here in the shop [Rocketship, whose website you can find here – BC], and while I love minis very dearly, they can sometimes be a major nuisance. So I have written up some pointers for people who are selling minis to stores. I offer this wisdom not to be a naysayer or to discourage people, but to help. I want to help. Let me help.
If you are a mini-comics/zine person, and you want to make dollars from your efforts, I have come up with these guidelines that hopefully will be constructive. These apply to comic shops (as that is where my experience is), and while certainly not universal, they’re awfully common complaints. As always, Your Mileage My Vary…..
1. Never, ever, ever try to sell on a Wednesday. Not only are you interrupting what is traditionally the biggest sales day of the week, you are introducing a new element of paperwork and display and futzing on a day Filled To The Rim with such already.
2. Keep the format reasonable. Someone is going to have to figure a way to display your book. If your comic is bigger than say, the Fantagraphics POPEYE collection, it is going to be difficult to display. If your book will not lay flat, or if it’s shaped funny, or if it is made of material that won’t stack properly… any of these things mean that someone is going to have to spend a lot of time dealing with your books, lest they fester in an unsightly pile somewhere. Make life easy for your vendor. Your forty inch magnum opus may very well be a masterpiece, but oversized books are a bitch to display, and unless there is a huge demand (LITTLE NEMO, the aforementioned POPEYE) they move like cold molasses. Think about these things before you leave your six-pound trapezoid of a book in the hands of a retailer, who has other things to do than build special shelves for your book.
3. Be easy to deal with, and communicate. A 50/50 consignment is standard if a store has no idea who you are- don’t expect to be paid 60% upfront. Have a business card, or at least be willing to give your contact info. Check up on your book- if a store has done well with it, chances are they want more. Don’t be shy. Be in touch- we may have money for you!
4. Understand some basic human truths about what’s “family-friendly”. If your book has a giant cock-monster attacking a topless girl while screaming obscenities on the cover, we’re probably not going to display it. We have a shop filled with kids and parents, and it’s just not worth the hassle.
5. Know how much your books cost. Price your minis. And price them so that it’s worth your while. Don’t be ashamed of commerce. If you spent X dollars making X minis, do the math, and don’t be afraid to price them so that you make your money back, and so that you and the vendor will make money from selling them. Here’s a secret- people who are interested in minis usually buy a stack regardless of individual prices. It is rare that someone will go “FOUR DOLLARS!!! Outrageous!!!” and pass on the purchase. I know part of the DIY/home-made aesthetic is keeping things cheap, but let’s roll with inflation, folks.
6. Know that while this may just be a hobby, or an after-work diversion for you, for the store it is business. It is a profit-making venture, and how we feed ourselves. If you produce something quality, and you approach this as a business opportunity… I will sell your comics and make money for you. Maybe not much, but you could see a mild return. If the books are well-crafted and interesting, I will hand-sell them and push them. If I can tell that you’re never coming back, and you leave a smudgy stack of hostile weirdness behind, well…
7. Do your research. We sell any mini-comic (and a few zines) that you want to leave, as long as it’s not wildly and obviously objectionable to any six year olds that might be poking around in the display. It’s a 50/50 consignment, and they are displayed prominently on a wide shelf by the front door, under our cash wrap. Anyone buying anything in this store sees them. There are a handful of other stores with similar deals… you can find them easily. (If you want to play twenty questions about where to sell mini-comics in NYC, I do not have all the answers, and I will probably get frustrated.)
8. Be appreciative. If a store is carrying your mini, it means that they are making space for and giving a chance to something that has negligible profits and likely little demand.
Think about it- your mini costs, say, four dollars. If I sell ten (which is a high estimate), I’ve made twenty dollars. That’s a Best Case Scenario. Selling ten four dollar minis in a reasonable time-frame (a week) is a feat reserved for few zine-folk. Typically, your mini is two dollars, and we will be lucky to sell five in three months. That’s five dollars every quarter. IF you sell out.
On the other hand, OPTIC NERVE or WORLD WAR HULK will sell twenty times that (at least) in half the time, for twice as much. So a store is giving up shelf real-estate that could be filled with anything else, to give your mini a chance. Be grateful. Minis may sell incredibly well at SPX or MoCCA (or wherever), but those shows are a concentrated fan-base of like-minded people. The majority of people coming through our doors want FUN HOME or NEW AVENGERS, and aren’t looking for zines or minis, no matter how good they are.
Making minis is often a Labor of Love, and so is selling them. In short, don’t be a dick to someone that is willing to try and sell your book for you.
There are several folks whose minis we sell very well, and I see their books as a product as professional and as profitable as any other book in our store. Alec Longstreth, Jamie Tanner, the East Village Inky, and several other folks I’m forgetting… all are people who I’m happy to see walk in the door with new books.
Aside from the quality of their books, they share a few other common traits. Let’s call them Group A:
1. Books that are consistently well-made and easy to display.
3. Easy to communicate with.
The flip side is Group B. These are the people who mumble their way through vague questions on a Wednesday morning when we’re desperately busy, producing a dirty stack of over-sized minis from their messenger bag, with no idea how to price them or where we should contact them, and have a snotty attitude through the whole exchange.
In short, be in Group A. Group B just makes me sad and grumpy.
PS: Bring minis to ROCKETSHIP! We are happy to sell them! Especially the great ones!