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Monday, October 8, 2012

Is It Possible To Sell Over 200,000 Comics Today?

I’ve been told that sales of 200,000 comics is undoable. That sales of 250,000 units is impossible.
That comics are a niche product catering to a small audience. That the best a comic can do is 70,000-100,00 units.

I think many in the industry think too small.

I do believe it’s possible to sell 200,000 copies of a single title of a comic. If Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games can sell over a hundred million copies to a broad audience of men, women and kids, in this technological age then why can’t it be possible for a comic to do so?

After all, comic book trade paperbacks are sold in the same venues as comics. Places like Barnes & Noble, And some Barnes & Nobles sell comics. And this is in addition to being sold in comic shops. So why can’t the industry move 250,000-300,000 units a month of a single book?

The only thing keeping the comic book industry from achieving those numbers is content.

And the truth is that the content in most comics today just isn’t good enough to grab the attention of the casual readers.

Good content has nothing to do with continuity, access points, issue numbers, or any other technical term comic fans throw at you as an excuse for bad storytelling. That long-drawn out history was there in the 1970’s and 1980s. Yet people had no problem discovering comics and collecting comics.

Most kids in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s started in the 100s 200s, 300s and 400s of some longer-running titles. Others started in the middle of an over reaching arc.

But what kept them reading and collecting were the stories. They were good enough to get the attention of everyone. They well-written compelling, and even fun. People wanted to read them again and again until the cover fell off They liked them so much they bought another copy. And if they really liked them, they wanted to share them with their friends.

It was that good storytelling that built the demand for comics that led up to the boom of the mid 1980s and early 1990s. There was so much good well-written content out there that it overshadowed the mediocre and subpar books. In fact at one point during the 1980s there was so much great content many people missed out on a lot of great titles!

Good stories build a word-of-mouth among readers. It’s that word-of-mouth that gets customers trying out new books. It’s that word-of-mouth that gets people buying new comics searching for back issues with earlier stories. It’s that word of mouth that builds anticipation for the next issue.

The problem is there aren’t enough good comics out there today. Most of the great, well-written comics are buried under piles upon piles of really terrible comics. Books featuring popular characters but filled with awkward expository storytelling, inept art, and extremely slow pacing.

It’s hard for the good books to generate the word-of-mouth among casual readers because they can’t find them among the poor quality books featuring popular characters.

For all the pats on the back today’s comic book fans, give a lot of today’s comic artists and publishers, they just aren’t producing a good enough product.

The goal of a good publisher is to build up demand for a title. To get the readers excited about discovering what’s great about that title or buying that next book in the series. And that’s not being done.

People are so busy focusing on technical issues that they’re forgetting the one thing that sells at the end of the day: STORY.

A story is not an event. It’s not a gimmick. It’s not a new costume, or yet another spin on an origin. Those are elements of a story, but not the real thing.

Stories have beginnings middles, and ends.

Comics are tell stories in 20 pages. Comics sell stories in 20 pages. That’s how a book builds the word-of-mouth to sell the next issue. That’s how a book builds a following that has customers demanding their local retailer order the books. And it’s how the industry builds an audience outside of the comic shop.

If a publisher can’t tell a story, then they can’t sell books. Whether it’s print or digital, it’s content that’s going to drive the demand for a comic. And if the content isn’t good enough it’s not going to get the word of mouth to expand the audience to sell the 200,000 copies or 300,000 copies that’ll get large retailers interested in stocking comics on their shelves or linking to where they can buy a comic.

Is it possible to sell 200,000 copies of a single comic or more? Yeah, it is. The content just has to be compelling enough to build a demand for those comics.

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