Economics of Alternate Covers

Comic shop retailers have it hard. They have to use Diamond as a distributor (although they can add others), some comic publishers see them as enemies instead of retail partners, and they have to track huge amounts of instantly disposable product weekly.

At the end of this piece, relatively new retailer Riot Comics ponders another significant challenge: how to order limited alternate covers. Those of us who remember the boom-and-bust cycle of last decade automatically view this gimmick with suspicion, because it focuses on comics as collectibles instead of enjoyable reading entertainment. It also quickly escalates prices to ridiculous levels, driving speculation and leading to disappointment on everyone’s part when the leeches get bored and leave and the bottom falls out of the market. It ties up necessary capital in stupid ways, meaning customers buy fewer other comics (when you’re spending $75 on one “rare” book, you don’t have a lot of money left for other issues) and retailers are limited in how much they can diversify their stock (which is why DC and Marvel like the concept).

In that link (link no longer available), Jason points out the difficulties of satisfying customers when it comes to “rare” comics shipped 1-in-75 when he’s trying to sensibly run his business as well as pointing out how Wizard plans to screw its clients. One followup post mentions that Civil War is more expensive than he thought, cover-priced at a dollar over the standard $3 comic price. The other looks on the bright side, considering promotional ideas based on having more copies of the standard version of the comic than he can sell.

One Response to “Economics of Alternate Covers”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] MacGuffin, the “graphic novel bookshop” in Newport News I’m going to visit someday, has more on the economics of alternate covers. I’ve previously linked to more on this subject. Here’s MacGuffin’s policy. We do not carry variant covers unless it’s unavoidable. In the case of Infinite Crisis, it is not a matter of choice. Yet, I know for a fact that it has increased our sales by at least 25% because several customers want to have both covers or simply can’t decide between the two [… but …] in the long run, we would see more money from a customer picking up a new series than getting two covers of the same book. And, quite frankly, a few customers who did not want to shell out for both covers spent quite a while deciding which cover they wanted (and seemed to have a bit of a bitter taste in their mouth from having to choose in the first place). […]




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