Shop Talk: Breaking Even on Comic Sales
I do a stupid thing:
I keep track of a break-even (BE) number for every Nix Comics publication. That’s the number of copies I would have to sell at cover price to recover all of my expenses to date. (I hope it comes to nobody’s surprise that just on straight-up sales, I rarely break even. Fact is, Even with crowdfunding and my mail-order catalog efforts I have only been in the black two years.) Why is it a stupid thing:
For one thing, for most of these titles it is probably just not gonna happen. There are a lot of reasons for this, but frankly, it mostly comes down to the cost of art. I have made an effort to pay the artists the most-fair rates I can based on what I think their time and skill are worth, but clearly that appreciation isn’t shared by the world at large. If I were to look at this purely as a business versus as a labor of love, things would be a lot different on that front.
For another thing, the numbers I’ve dropped in here are “best case scenario” sort of numbers; sales the entirety of the cover price going in my pocket. No transaction fees. No shipping hassles. No wheelie-dealie discounts. Those types of sales are fairly rare beasts. Figure that the real number would be anywhere from 5% to 110% higher. (Like I’ve taken to offering discount packages of Nix Comics Quarterly #1-4 for $10 at shows. Cleary that would basically double the Break-Even number.)
So, why do I do the stupid thing:
I dunno. It’s a weird compulsion, to spend hours on creating a flawed and unattainable metric, I’ll grant. I guess add it to my list of weird compulsions. I suppose it gives me some hope. The internal dialog goes something like “Wow, if I can get only 500 or so people to buy a copy of NCQ #1, I’ll have really accomplished something!” which doesn’t sound unreasonable or compulsive. 500 people? That’s nothing, right!?
On a less delusional level, there are a couple of things that are less than 25 sales away from being achieved. That actually seems attainable. Heck, Maybe some of you will read this blog and click through to help put me over. Maybe, please?
Still Here? OK, I’ll tell you more about my stupid thing:
When my brain is rattling on these break even numbers, they fall into three categories for me: Titles where I don’t need to print any more copies and/or wouldn’t need to, titles that I would need to reprint to break even, and (of course) they lucky few titles that are actually on the positive end of things.
Category 1: Titles I don’t need to or can't print any more copies Title Break Even Quantity Nix Comics Quarterly #1 501 Nix Comics Quarterly #2 472 Nix Comics Quarterly #3 561 Nix Comics Quarterly #4 518 The Collected Vicar 4 Pure Entertainment 91 Jenny Mae ‘N Jerry Wick (Deluxe) 43 Collected Pander Bear (Deluxe) 40 Beauty found in Darkness 23 Nix Comics for Kids #1 49 Nix Comics for Kids #2 137 Nix Comics for Kids #3 194 Tales from the Crate #1 3 Tales from the Crate #2 9 Tales from the Crate #5 50 Return of Belligerent Kitties 11 Nix Western comics #1 (standard) 10
This category could honestly be broken down into two sub categories: the ones where I don’t think they’ll ever hit it and the ones that I’m fairly positive that they will.
In the realm of the former: I printed 2500 copies of Nix Comics Quarterly #1 and 2000 of issues #2-4. They are sitting in my basement, waiting patiently for me to turn them into money. (Cough.) Pure Entertainment is a great reprint that nobody really seems to want, to my continual surprise. People pick it up all the time at shows, but always seem to put it back down. I shoulda had Brian Kraft draw Boy Howdie as a red headed step child, because the three issues of Nix Comics for Kids don’t seem to be going anywhere. Issue #3 is my worst seller ever of any comic.
For the latter, a few are books that I have recently reprinted (Nix western #1, Tales from the Crate and return of Belligerent Kitties) and I am positive that I can sell the handfuls necessary to break even. Similarly, I feel like the two deluxe titles with records should eventually sell the 40 or so copies needed to put them over. Same with Beauty Found in Darkness. Mental note: I should really get on selling copies of the Collected Vicar. Just 4 lousy copies away from moving it to the broke even list! After that, I could shoot Michael Neno some money every time one of them sells!
Category 2: Titles that I would need to reprint to break even
Title Break Even Quantity Nix Comics Quarterly #5 761 Nix Comics Quarterly #6 594 Nix Comics Quarterly #7 937 Nix Comics Quarterly #8 844 Nix Comics Quarterly #9 498 Nix Comics Quarterly #10 588 Nix Western Comics #2 339 Nix Western Comics #3 567 Nix Western Comics #4 502 Do You Remember…? 477 Jim Shephard: Negotiate Nothing 134 Jenny Mae ‘N Jerry Wick (Standard) 99 Collected Pander Bear (Standard) 185
The math gets a little funkier on these titles. For the books where I have enough in print to break even, I can just add up expenses to date, subtract sales to date and divide that number by the cover price to get my number. For these books, however, I also need to subtract what I expect the print pricing to be when current stock runs out and need to reprint... So these net numbers are higher and in some cases, laughably so.
The only book on this list that I expect to make it is the collected Pander Bear, which is actually the same book as the deluxe version, so when a copy with the record sells, this number would go down as well. (Honestly, it’s the exception to the categorical rules I have set up here. Another flaw in this cheap gem of a metric. Shut up. I fessed.)
Category 3:Books that have broken even:
Nix Western Comics #1 (Deluxe) Closing Doors Tales from the Crate #3 Tales from the Crate #4 Buck Slaughter #1 Buck Slaughter #2 Buck Slaughter #3 Belligerent Kitties
What do all of these books have in common? Either there are very low artist fees or I am the only artist involved. I guess I should do more of that…. Not as fun though….