In my post on making money making comics, Tyler James had an interesting comment about how merchandising has to be part of a creator’s business plan:
Any book that can raise $90K in profits on floppy comic sales alone should be able to ALSO raise at least half that much in related merchandise designed around that property.
I see so few “mainstream” creator-owned creators taking advantage of the significant investment they’re making in building properties by providing their superfans additional opportunities to throw money at them on higher margin items (prints, t-shirts, artist editions, posters, plushies, etc.)
(There are, of course, some exceptions to this… Case in point, the CHEW guys teaming up with our friends at Skelton Crew — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/49910827/tony-chu-mini-bust?ref=nav_search )
Successful webcomic creators never had that problem, and realized years ago that the comic itself is only one piece of the puzzle for building a successful career. Multiple streams of income and revenue sources are a must for most creators in 2015… gotta think beyond the page rate and the $3.50 floppy.
Reading this reminded me of my trip to the Page and Panel TCAF store located in the Toronto Reference Library. This is the nicest comics “gift shop” I’ve ever been to in North America, inspired by the great stores of France, with a carefully curated selection of comics and very appropriate merchandise, from a Kate Beaton tea towel to Moyocco Anno mugs. Topatoco merchandise based on popular webcomics was indeed well represented and seeing goods that moved on beyond the usual superhero and Star Wars lines was inspiring.
All of which is a prelude to saying, I WANT THESE YOTSUBA&! FIGURES!!! These are tiny 5cm high figures made by Kotobukiya. In case you never read it Yotsuba&! (pronounced, as I believe, Yot-su-ba-sa) is a manga by Kiyohiko Azuma, currently published by Yen Press, about a little alien girl who changes a bachelors life with her sunny attitude. It sounds hackneyed in the manner of any number of sitcoms (Small Wonder, anything starring John Stamos) and manga (Dr. Slump) but it’s actually warm, winsome, charming and sweet natured as all get out. It’s almost always on any top 10 Manga for Beginners list with good reason. BUY IT!
That’s part of the reason these figures are so sweet and endearing. I have nothing against Darth Vader, Superman and Iron Man, but they are everywhere and a lot of the merch is tacky. There are a lot of beautifully designed comics characters out there that would look great on a mug or a minifig or a tea towel, and as Adventure Time shows, people will buy cute things. It’s okay to take the Bill Watterson zero tolerance line on this, but I do agree with Tyler James: a well thought out, appropriate merchandising line is a powerful accompaniment to any business plan for creators and small publishers.
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.