Robot 6

Quote of the Day | The economics of creator-owned comics

Rocket_Girl_5“Regarding single issue sales: they are incredibly important to a lot of Image creators. On Rocket Girl, it’s by far the biggest chunk (of course, we don’t have a tpb yet). And every reader counts. A few thousand copies can make or break a series. If Rocket Girl dips into the 8000s, we’ll start thinking about when to wrap it up. If it stays above 12,000 we can do it forever. At 12,000 copies I can make as much writing Rocket Girl as Hulk; Amy Reeder can make as much penciling/inking/coloring as she would on Batwoman. 8000 vs 12,000 is a significant difference in percentage, but it’s not a huge amount of readers. A lot of Image creators are in the same boat, albeit their individual line might be a bit higher or lower. Certainly collected editions and digital and ancillary media/merchandise contribute as well. But a lot of making creator-owned work is down to financing: and single issues have the biggest impact on cash flow – and the only impact on cash flow for almost a full year when you take into account early production to ‘get ahead’ as well as solicitation.”

Rocket Girl writer Brandon Montclare, commenting on The Beat’s monthly analysis of indie-comics sales, and the ensuing discussion

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15 Comments

10K is the magic number to stay monthly , and 12K you are making money to pay yourself. In regards to their book they are the creators. Image still has FOC, and owning the property are the reasons to “Get In” with Image if you can. FOC is life and death of a title. If you cant get FOC, dont bother making a floppy. Watson and Holmes had 7- 8 weeks to get presales, whereas an Image, Marvel, DC, Boom, and other “Premium” indys are given 3 weeks before the book hits the stands to get Pre-sales. Otherwise known as FOC (Final Onsale Cutoff). It makes marketing and promotion easier as you know you have 3 weeks to get order changes. It also gives you more time to get press, reviews and other coverage to get the sales.

People will forget about your book in 7-8 weeks, and by the time it hits the press, issue 2 is being pre-ordered and automatically knocked down by 40-50 percent by comic stores. So having no FOC, and having to be 3 months ahead isn’t easy on the financial end to make your deadlines. It helps to be a current “Name” creator and have a title at Image- Re: Kelly Sue Deconnick’s “Pretty Deadly”. That book hit #1 with over 40K copies, and has since levelled to around 12K or so. I would be doing backflips for that(If I could backflip).

Looking at “Rocket Girl” they may be more suited in the long run to make another Kickstarter, and release trades thru Image. The Wednesday market is very finicky, and only a fraction are “Indy” fans. Convincing Die-hard Marvel and DC fans to pick up a Image or other indy book is a major deal for the extra 2.99-3.99 they have to spend. I personally think there are more “casual” fans of comics and graphic novels that are not into superheroes. Many are women. I think the hardest part is just finding those fans and getting them to purchase the books. Rocket Girl is well-written and beautifully illustrated and should find outside the comic shop fans.

Marvel or DC would AXE a book if it hit like 20K no matter who the team was. So 12K doesn’t seem a lot, but it is hard to hit and maintain. If Marvel decided to release “DarkHawk’ in the fall, it would easily see 30K no matter who the team was. You put Bendis and Sara Pichelli in it, it would sell between 60-80K easily. A year later if fans are so-so on the book, it might settle to 30-40K with that team.

I know on the Beat board on this subject, someone was asking why dont they just do mainstream work if it pays as well? Theres quite a few talented writers and artists who cant get consistent work due to politics or what not. Even creators with a following. If the Rocket Girl team can make what they want and decent living it, why not!

Sorry for the rant, just wanted to add what a Indy publisher has to deal with.

I can only say what I experienced at Image and they were more than fair with me. They let me do 17 issues of True Story, Swear to God and my sales never rose above 1,200 per issue. And I put out about three issues year. The only time they mentioned shutting the floppies down was after we had a discussion about getting more issues out to build my audience. But the thing is, that series was basically my diary and I really take a long time with those books. It’s just my feeling that I don’t want to just crap out a book to meet a deadline… I’d rather make a book I’d buy. And they were totally cool about it and we agreed that if I couldn’t do a monthly schedule, then we should nix the floppies and go with a more graphic novel format. I was treated with nothing but great respect and I love everyone there. This probably adds nothing to the conversation, but I wanted to share my experience with them. Fun people there.

I certainly hope that Rocket Girl continues to sell well, and that Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder will be able to keep it going for the forseeable future. It’s a great book with superb artwork. I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to my reveiw of the first five issues:

http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/comic-book-reviews-rocket-girl-1-5/

Steve Replogle

June 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

Rocket Girl is a wonderful comic, with deft writing and superlative artwork.

Thanks to all for the kind words regarding Rocket Girl. I think it’s fair to say the first rule of creator-owned is to put out a good book. Quality sells–maybe not absolutely and maybe not all of the time, but it helps. Reed and I certainly try our best, and appreciate fan support. As I mentioned in the longer reply on the Beat, with every issue we create we hope the reader is getting $3.50 worth of enjoyment!

FOC is funny. More often than anything, I’m actually surprised how little it changes orders–especially considering a lot of stores use it weekly and it’s been a de facto replacement of monthly Initial Orders. And not just on Rocket Girl–at DC/Vertigo a lot of numbers didn’t change much, despite “buzz” one way or the other. There’s no explanation other than maybe retailers (and I am a long serving member of the tribe) are pressed and they simply don’t have time to re-assess orders on every book. I think there are ways around it for small publishers: print dates are still set closer 3-4 weeks before in-store, so if you can get a retailer to advance reorder (does Diamond still have that?) you can adjust your print run. More simply, overprint! Printing the first copy is what’s expensive, having extra copies (especially if you feel the crash between #1 and #2 orders are down to retailer habit, not actual sell through) for reorder isn’t cost prohibitive.

Carl Pietrantonio

June 12, 2014 at 10:03 am

1. Tom Beland, I bought EVERY issue of TS:STG and loved it. Hope you are still happy in PR with Lily.

2. Periodicals…Buying the “Monthly” or “Bi-Monthly”, then having it crap out halfway through so I never get the end of the story? Too often this has happened to me. You better be spectacular (generic you) to get me to start up with a new indy, especially from a smaller or self publisher.

Brandon Montclare- I think most shops order at the FOC date for their “premium” publishers, and the initial order date is an afterthought. Its hard because issue #2 is the killer dropoff. They do it by default. If I had the FOC, they could have adjusted orders when 1 came out. Its just in terms of doing an overprinting for 1st or second issues, they can be harder to sell, once buzz disappears but still some demand. Also for our first 4 issues, due to low orders, any re-orders we were LOSING money per copy. At 2.99 price point, and adding to fed ex shipping, fulfilling orders in-house wasn’t practical. At 3.99 it was easier, but shops ordered less at that price point. No win situation.

We are focusing on our Kickstarter, digital , and TPB market. I dont know if your book would have more legs there, but it should. But you have to wait longer to get paid, versus monthly sales. I dont know how Image works, but with us, we got paid month or so Diamond got the books in hand. Also I still believe if you are not a Top 10 creator in popularity, you need that “Right” book that appeals to the Wednesday crowd. It seems if you have the right “Take” on a popular hero/heroes you might see good sales if the book is of quality.

I just wanted to chime in as a retailer on the FOC front. I couldn’t imagine a retailer who doesn’t scour that list every week. It is absolutely the most important tool in this business. And over the past couple of years, getting companies who aren’t Marvel and DC in there has been a major blessing. I may not adjust at such high levels as I do with a Marvel or DC book, but almost every week I’m knocking a book by one to two copies one way or the other.

I constantly see an Image/IDW/ONI/ or BOOM title featured on some major comic website of having an FOC that week due. I know Letter 44 got a big boost with that, as it was many months before the book was profiled. Its easy to forget a book like that exists. FOC is helpful. I do not understand why Diamond doesn’t just do it for all publishers. Give them to the last moment. Especially smaller ones.

My understanding is that only a strong minority of retailers use FOC — I’ve heard numbers as a third or less.

FWIW.

-B

I also heard that the top 1500 are responsible for half of Diamonds sales too. I think diamond has 5000 -6000 retailers worldwide.

I have very little to add except that I love Rocket Girl. I was there for the Kickstarter beginnings and it has far exceeded my already high expectations — I was already of fan of both Ms. Reeder’s and Mr. Montclare’s work, both independent and collaborative. Simply put, it is the most beautiful comic book I’ve ever read.

It’s on my pull list and I always buy 2 copies — one for me, one for a good friend’s teenage daughter. I hope this series continues for many more issues.

Great article. When I was publishing (cover price of $2.50 when everyone else was $2.99), the hit between issues 1 and 2 were affected by the series. My ongoing one took a much bigger hit than my mini-series, which dropped only 25-30 percent. Most likely because retailers gave us the benefit of the doubt for getting four issues out and that readers buying one would more likely to buy three more rather than something ongoing.

Just one minor correction regarding Brandon’s assertion: “Marvel or DC would AXE a book if it hit like 20K no matter who the team was.”

Actually, according to Diamond orders, there are a dozen or so each of the Big Two’s titles that are under that benchmark. As of April, only the top 124 titles were above 20K. Lots of great data to perurse at John Jackson Miller’s ComicChron.com: http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales.html

(Warning: potentially depressing for creators/publishers and addictive for data junkies!) ;-)

Excuse the typo…that should have read: “…readers buying one were more likely to buy three more rather than something ongoing.” Where’s the “edit” button here? :-)

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