More Economics of Alternate Covers

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).

Lots more in the link.


6 Responses to “More Economics of Alternate Covers”

  1. Bob Says:

    In my admittedly limited experience (I used to do some work for a comic shop, but it didn’t involve dealing with customers, except in a pinch. However, I did hang around a lot, sometimes still do, and enjoy the “inside baseball” talk) the customer who buys each cover of iCrisis is rarely taking that money from other comics he’s interested in. He’s buying everything else he’s interested in, and while that money might otherwise go a book of marginal interest in the long run it’s as likely to go to to other entertainment or just not be spent.

    I was thinking of refuting some aspects of the alternate cover math in those posts over on my weblog, but I’m not sure it fits there and would take too long. Short form, while I think publishers are going overboard with them (and I think that was inevitable, as is the coming backlash and crash) I do think retailers can use them to their advantage.

  2. Johanna Says:

    It’s possible. The argument over whether customers have firm budgets is an unsettled one because as an industry, comics doesn’t have very much hard data on sales patterns (that I’m aware of). Everyone mostly extrapolates from their experience, because there’s not much else they can do.

  3. ~chris Says:

    Budgets are nebulous, but as a general rule the more a person spends on multiple copies of one book, the fewer he’ll spend on other books. It’s not a hard dollar for dollar trade-off, so a dealer may make more money from variant covers. Sam is arguing that those are short-term profits, but they lead to losses (of sales that could have been) in the long term.

    Personally, though I pick up a few variants (mostly of Joe Linsner books), I prefer one cover, drawn by the interior artist. For example, I love Adam Hughes’ art, but I passed over his covers on Kabuki The Alchemy #4 and JSA Classified #1 in favor of David Mack’s and Amanda Conner’s. (Yes, Johanna, I know you didn’t like the JSA Classified Power Girl story, but the promo cover art of JSAC #3 sucked me in, and Amanda’s whimsical art made like a character I’d never been interested in before. Too bad the story wasn’t better.)

  4. Paul O'Brien Says:

    People who buy alternate covers as WELL as the regular cover are buying the second book (and quite possibly the first one) as collectibles, not as reading material. I’m unconvinced that they would otherwise be spending the money on comics to read. They’d probably spend it on another collectible. Trading cards or something.

  5. Sam Hobart Says:

    Of course someone buying two copies is buying at least one as a collectible (though generally both). And they may not spend that money on something to read instead of another collectible. But I’m more concerned with what happens two years from now when they realize that what they bought is not actually a viable collectible but rather two copies of the same piece of entertainment because the industry convinced them that they were buying a collectible. Plus, I prefer to have as many opportunities as possible to sell my customers entertainment (especially since we don’t carry anything that’s really collectible).

  6. ~chris Says:

    “Of course someone buying two copies is buying at least one as a collectible”

    Are you using the word collectible when you mean investment?

    First rule of collecting: Buy what you like. As long as you personally value an object, it’s still a “viable collectible” even if you couldn’t get a plug nickel for it on eBay. In some cases, a person wants those two copies to keep, not with the intention to sell. (See my variant Linsner cover purchases above.)

    BTW, I sometimes buy two copies of a comic so I can give one away (to my niece). :-)

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