Ellis and Templesmith’s Fell on Digital Sale

Fell sale ad

ComiXology has just announced a three-day sale on Fell, the detective comic by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith that ran from 2005-2007. (Well, the final issue so far, #9, came out in January 2008, but that one isn’t even mentioned in the sale, so I guess we’re all ignoring it.)

I don’t normally do sale posts like this, but the series is a good read, and I wish there was more of it. Fell was always plagued by delays, but that’s the risk with creator-owned work. If this offering makes new readers, perhaps there’s still a chance of more some day.

I also find the pricing interesting. Fell created a cheaper format that was quite successful while it was running (although some retailers hated it, reminding me of the current debate over digital pricing). Each issue was only $2, so putting digital copies “on sale” for 99 cents each strikes me as odd. Are they normally $1.99? If so, they’re normally priced at cover price. Shouldn’t they permanently be 99 cents at this point, given that they’re five-year-old back issues of a dead series?

Why not just sell a bundle? Or at least offer one. There’s a paperback collection, after all. It collects issues #1-8 (also forgetting #9), and it can be had for about $10. Since this sale pricing is only temporary, then normally, the eight issues digitally would be $16, significantly more than the print book.

There are certain mall stores that have artificially high prices so they can continually run sales, to give customers the feeling of getting a deal. It’s beginning to look like digital comics may be following a similar pattern. Publishers hate the idea of a standard 99-cent price point, but if you watch for temporary deals, you can achieve similar results.

6 Responses to “Ellis and Templesmith’s Fell on Digital Sale”

  1. Chad Says:

    “Shouldn’t they permanently be 99 cents at this point, given that they’re five-year-old back issues of a dead series?”

    I wish the publishers went this way with all their digital issues that are that old. While it’s true that Marvel holds 99¢ sales twice a week, and other publishers hold them pretty regularly, too, I think they could sell a ton of older material at 99¢ a pop if it was regularly available at that price. In many cases, that material isn’t even in print anymore, and you could offer some great books while staying away from that kind of discount for perennial sellers like Watchmen.

    On the other hand, I’m wondering if there’s some concern that in the digital marketplace, divorced from the every-Wednesday habit, buyers might always migrate to the older, cheaper material instead of the latest releases. I imagine this might be more of an issue for the big two’s superhero titles: Given the choice between a $3.99 issue of Amazing Spider-Man (and I like the current team’s work) and a 99¢ issue of, say, the J.M. DeMatteis-Sal Buscema Spectacular Spider-Man run from 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers went for the cheapest option. Both deliver solid superhero stories, but one is $3 cheaper.

    Finally, at least in theory, Fell isn’t dead. From the link:

    “… the series with Ben Templesmith will be returning for eight issues next year, during which we will find the terrible thing Richard Fell did that saw him sent to Snowtown. “

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oooh, I hadn’t thought about publishers possibly being fearful to compete with their older works. Although that assumes a kind of thinking ahead I’m not sure they’re doing. :)

    I was hoping that talking about Fell would bring me news on it, and it has! Thank you for sharing that. I look forward to seeing the series resume!

  3. DeBT Says:

    Hopefully, when Fell makes an eventual comeback, the upcoming trade collection will include the missing 9th issue as compensation. That’s the only thing keeping me from purchasing a copy of my own.

  4. Suzene Says:

    @Chad – I dunno, that sounds a bit like being afraid that the quarter bin is going to keep customers from picking up the next big cross-over. Cheap reprints and back-issues what were got me invested in the X-Men way back when – holding back the digital version of the same seems a missed opportunity to turn casual browsers into dedicated fans. $4 is easily seen as too much to pay for 20 pages of story if you’re not emotionally invested in a character (and sometimes even if you are!). But if the reader’s just spent a month binging on cheap backstory, maybe $4 — or $20 for the most recent trade — seems like less to lay out for the next chapter.

  5. Chad Says:

    @Suzene — I agree with you that it’s probably a missed opportunity. When digital comics are priced at 99¢, I sure buy them a lot more readily, and I’ve gotten hooked on some stuff I never would have tried otherwise, like Matt Wagner’s Zorro comics.

    That said (and I’m just spitballing here), I still wonder if competing with the past is an issue in the digital world. (And to be clear, I’m just talking superhero comics — if what you want is Sandman or Bone or Eddie Campbell’s Alec stories, I can’t imagine that 99¢ Spider-Man back issues are going to tempt you.) As opposed to a comic shop, where the quarter bin is segregated from the latest releases and there’s a definite premium placed on the new, at Comixology, once something moves past the initial week of release, everything’s in the inventory, ready to be bought, on a level playing field. So if a non-rabid fan comes in to read some Spider-Man, I’d imagine they’d migrate to older, cheaper material, so long as it didn’t seem completely dated. And then if you’re used to buying comics for 99¢, it might be tough to step up to $2.99 or $3.99. But, like I said, I’m just wondering if it’d be an issue. Who knows for sure?

    I will say this, though: I appreciate the fact that DC has its discounting on a regular schedule. After a month, comics drop from $2.99 to $1.99 (which seems to be their standard price point for older material, too), whereas at least for now, Marvel’s (and now IDW’s) current comics stay at $3.99 (or $2.99, as the case may be) in perpetuity.

    One final note: The inability to search for comics by price in the Comixology interface is one of the things that makes me wonder if competing with past releases is an issue for publishers.

  6. IDW Launches Digital-First Series at 8 Pages for 99 Cents » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] own. Companies prefer $1.99 or even cover price ($2.99 or $3.99), although many run regular online sales, where a selected group of titles is lowered to the 99-cent price point […]




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