Math is supposed to be consistent. Two is greater than one. One is equal to one. It is just how math works.
In the world of comic book retailing, it ain’t necessarily so. Perception may not be reality but it will affect the sales of your comic book.
When the owner of a comic book shop buys a book from Diamond, the book cannot be returned. Every book they buy, they own. They make money on every book they sell, but they only make a profit on the books they sell after costs are covered.
For every title they carry they need to predict how many copies will sell. Every copy that does not sell eats into potential profits.
So far this is still simple math. The fact that store owners are people and not machines is where perception clashes with math.
If an owner orders fifty copies of a popular title like Batman and only has two copies left that is considered tight ordering. They only have four percent left over from that title. If they had ordered forty they would have sold 100%, but they would have missed out on eight sales.
An owner needs to choose from hundreds and hundreds of titles offered every month. On each title they need to order just enough to get each customer what they want but not too much left over to lose money. Keep in mind that they are ordering months in advance and trying to predict if customer taste will change or stay consistent.
Not an easy task.
Let’s say a retailer orders four copies of your new and independent book. They sell two copies. This is a fifty percent sell through on your title. You could say that they also had two copies left of Batman. And of the hundreds and hundreds of books moving through a comic book shop in a month, what’s two leftover books?
In this case, two is more than two.
Your title broke even, at best, for the shop. No loss, but no profit. Batman made a large profit. Each title took about the same time to order.
Your big problem comes when the owner orders the next issue. Do they order two copies and hope the same people want the next issue? If they do their profit goes up but there are no books left for the shelf to entice new readers.
But not every reader who buys a first issue returns for the second. One copy? None? Why take the time, effort and risk for a title that will never sell in Batman numbers?
There are retailers who take these risks to support independent books. There is a market for them. Finding that market is a risk and an investment of time and money for the creators.
It is also a risk and investment for the retailer.
A retailer cannot afford to carry every title offered by Diamond. Too much risk. As a creator you must find ways to reduce this risk for the retailer. Convince them that if they support your book it will sell and you will both make money.
The retailer is as much your partner as anyone on your creative staff. We’ll continue to talk about ways to improve this partnership.