What a Digital Comic Retailer Should Be

I started thinking further about Diamond’s plans to have comic shops sell digital comics. That doesn’t make sense to me, but what would? What would be the function of a retailer for online comics? It’s not to get the material to you, to order from a distributor and manage shipments, because the physical need for that is unnecessary. As long as you have an internet connection, you can get your own shipments.

Well, what do good comic shops do well? They select deserving material to promote and allow you to browse comics you might not otherwise have sampled. They serve as recommendation sources, in other words. And there’s already a digital model for that. It’s called being an Amazon associate (or similar for other programs, although I’m going to use this example because I am one and familiar with how it works). Although Amazon can sell direct to anyone online, they are willing to pay for links that result in sales. It’s a tiered program, based on how much business you bring them — percentages start at 4% and escalate based on number of items sold to a max of 8.5%, with particular categories Amazon wants to emphasize at 10% or even 15%.

So how would being an online comic retailer work? You’d have to build a reputation as a source with valuable recommendations for a particular audience. You’d offer links to those items in return for a cut of the sales. You’d have a lot less risk than traditional comic retailers, but you’d have less profit percentage in exchange. (It would probably be closer to 10% than the roughly 50% retailers get now, but costs would be nearly non-existent in comparison to paying rent and utilities and insurance and all the physical expenses.) Customers would want to shop with you because they’d learn to trust your recommendations — and as the digital market explodes, a valuable source to the “good stuff”, especially for a focused market (such as gamers or girls or those from a particular region), will be worthwhile.

I’m not aware that any of the online comic distributors are offering a cut in return for traffic/sales right now, but I would hope they would consider it. I think it would be useful for building the growing market. What do you think?

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4 Responses to “What a Digital Comic Retailer Should Be”

  1. SKleefeld Says:

    Does the affiliate program comiXology announced last month offer a cut to retailers? It didn’t say one way or another in their press release, and I haven’t seen anyone specifically comment on it. But it seems a bit disingenuous to call it an affiliate program, offer it only to retailers, and NOT provide some recompense.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I imagine it must, but you’re right, I haven’t seen any details available. What I was envisioning would also allow for other participants, not just those with existing sales channels.

  3. William George Says:

    They should do it themselves. They’ll take home a lot more profit per item that way.

    Then again, the general public won’t be nearly as open to being constantly bilked as the direct market buyers are. It’s a vital revenue stream for them and I can see why they don’t want to lose it.

  4. Jaylat Says:

    It depends, you could either (1) host the files on your site, collect the funds and remit them to the seller, or (2) provide a link to the seller’s website. In each case you get a percentage, but obviously it would be higher if you sold it yourself.

    I’d think a lot of web sites – say for example a blog that reviews comics – might be in a good position to earn some extra income this way.

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