If you’ve been reading the Beat regularly – and I know you have – you may have noticed that Dynamite is the King of Bundling – that is, the kind of pay-what-you-want services such as Humble Bundle that give consumer vast access to digital comics for a pretty low fee. Dynamite has two notable recent bundles, the “Bundle of Independents” on Groupees was a first time ever multi publisher cross over bundle featuring Image, Oni and IDW. And the Garth Ennis bundle on Humble Bundle is just wrapping up tomorrow.
(The Bundle of Independents runs another three days and gets you Darwyn Cooke’s first Parker book for $12 plus a ton of other great stuff so GOOD DEAL ALERT.)
In the last two years “bundling” has become a popular option for both comics publishers–it’s a great way to get new readers and expand their audience–and readers–who get a low cost entry to a diverse sampling of comics. Humble Bundle is the best known bundle site, offering limited-time pay what you want downloads of publishers from Image to Kodansha, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Groupees operates on a similar model, but bundles are available for a longer period.
However, there are other bundling services, and Dynamite has been out in front of other comics publishers in partnering with them. Services they’ve used in the past two years include Humble Bundle, Groupees, Bittorrent and Storybundle, sometimes for multiple campaigns. Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci credits Humble Bundle’s Kelley Allen with convincing him to try the concept, but since then has found it to be an important part of Dynamite’s publishing plan. “This strategy not only reaches a new audience and generates revenue, but also rewards existing fans,” by giving them access to titles they may not have been able to sample before.
While Dynamite’s first Humble Bundle (a 10th Anniversary themed bundle that launched in 2014) was the most successful thus far, Barrucci says the others have been “successful in their own right. The best measure of success is when we have more readers sampling more titles. We’ve focused on themes for the most part, as it gives more variety, and different platforms also have different audiences.” Past Dynamite bundles included Army of Darkness, Game of Thrones, Pathfinder and female-led titles.
One interesting aspect of bundling is that some of the economics are transparent. For instance, the current Garth Ennis bundle has raised $94,000 – which sounds like pretty good money for pre-existing material. Some bundles have raised well into six figures. Despite this, Barrucci says it’s not as much of a “cash cow,” as you might think, as the money is slit between the publisher, the bundling site and charities.
“It’s great to support all charities from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to Make-A-Wish to Dr.’s Without Borders and so many others. Then, when we receive our payment, we also have to pay the rights holders/participants of the properties. Then what is left a publisher keeps, such as Dynamite. But, we had to have time put in to generate the content to place on the site in all formats they offer, and sales and marketing have to place time and effort into promoting each bundle. It becomes a part of the business model, but far from a cash cow. Now don’t get me wrong, it is worth doing, and the bundle sites are great partners. It’s just that the money is shared by everyone and work does go into these.”
There’s also a danger of overexposure, but Barrucci mitigates that by mixing things up with different content on different sites. “The fan who read our AOD bundle may not be the fan who read our Pathfinder Bundle, and may not be the fan who reads today’s Groupees bundle or the Humble Bundle.”
The new multi-publisher bundle at Groupees took a long time to coordinate, but represents another way to cross promote many disparate titles. “Groupees founder Thomas Brooke has wanted to do this for a while, and finally all of the pieces came into place a few months ago,” said Barrucci. “Having all these publishers working together isn’t something anyone would expect.”
Are there more bundles in Dynamite’s future? As long as it makes money and exposes new readers to more material, the answer is almost certainly yes.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.