Over at Blogorama, Paul Levitz is answering reader questions. He can’t answer all reader questions. But he read them.

There’s no way to answer everybody’s questions and still do my day job, and I trust the collective web will understand if I skip the questions that ask us to plead guilty before we can answer, as well as ones that touch on relationships with specific creators in ways that I can’t possibly answer fully in a public forum. (And thanks to all of you who offered up kind personal remarks in your posts.) Given that I was writing about graphic novels, I tried to cull the related questions to follow up:

There’s much interesting info in the link regarding various aspects of DC’s trade publishing program. A sample:

* John Smith and Con ask if the high price is turning off new readers.

Certainly not for graphic novels, where we’re getting new readers at a very fast pace and research indicates the price range (generally) feels appropriate for the customers. Harder to tell for the periodicals, since the way they’re created and sold means that we ask a new reader to commit to a lot very early on—weekly visits to a comic shop, multiple titles of characters and crossovers, and the like—but those factors are also part of what makes the experience of comics so exciting.


  1. As a retailer, this question always gets me going. “Comics are too expensive wah wah wah wah wah.”

    I will tell you the only customers of mine who complain about the cover price of comics. The people who don’t HAVE any money to spend. I’ve sold a truckload of Secret Invasion this week, and not a single person has flinched at the $3.99 cover price. It’s an awesome and interesting comic, and that is what matters. No one even noticed that the cover price of the first and last parts of Sinestro Corps were $4.99 each.

    There’s a plethora of reasons this business loses existing customers or fails to grab new ones. The cover price of books is not one of them. For the people that think they are too expensive for kids to buy, they obviously don’t have any clue what kind of expendable income kids have available. Kids chew up $3.99 packs of Yu Gi Oh cards like they are candy. Making comics cheaper will not get them into the hands of more kids. Making content that is compelling for the younger readers will get comics into their hands. Just ask all the kids that come in my store with pitchforks and torches if the new issue of Sonic isn’t in when they expect it to be.

    In short, comics are not overpriced, *mediocre* comics are overpriced.

  2. “In short, comics are not overpriced, *mediocre* comics are overpriced.”

    I think you nailed it with your last sentence. Alot of people will spring for a “special” comic that is priced a little more, but if ALL comics are $3.99 then as a buyer, it forces me to be choosier.

    In that vein, the prices DO affect a retailer’s bottom line. My example ($30 a week budget):

    10 comics @ 2.99= $30.00 spent ($15 profit for a store with 50% cost)
    7 comics @ 3.99= $28.00 spent ($14 profit for a store with 50% cost)

    $1 profit loss a week.

    Multiply that by 52 weeks and the store losses $52 dollars a year. Then multiply that by by 100 customers and in turn the store losses $5,200 a year.

    Now I know I’m rounding the numbers and I am speculating but there is an adverse effect on the LCSs bottom line.

  3. You are very correct, higher prices force the consumer to be choosier, I think we have seen that happening already with the decline of the mid-level book. The best recent example is all the mediocre Countdown spinoffs. That said, it simply makes publishers focus on making better material to get people to spring for the content. Most retailers I know wish 52 had been $2.99 per issue. On the flipside, I seriously doubt that $1.99 would have moved Countdown any better.

    The equation you’re speaking of works, to be sure, but fortunately it does not exist in a vacuum. I could get into the semantics and details, but I think I can sum it up by pointing at the overall relative health and growth of the market and most quality retailers. I may be losing $1 from you, but overall my business is growing and improving.

  4. If you want comics to recede even further into a niche market then by all means argue for premium pricing. Why have regular old coffee when you can drive out of your way for grossly overpriced “special” coffee?

    Comics sold millions when they were cheap, available practically everywhere, and appealed to a wide range of audiences. I know retailers don’t want to hear this, because it is their death knell, but the only way that will happen again (given the damage that has been done by the direct market) is when periodical comics make the inevitable jump to cheap downloads on the internet.