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The realities of the comics business

Yes, his name is really Al
Yes, his name is really Al

There’s a reason that the “Comic Shop Guy” is such a stereotype in the comics industry.  There quite frankly isn’t a lot of money in the business, and the overwhelmingly “pack rat-ish” mentality of comic book fans means that owners (who are usually fans) are drowning in overstock.

When you’re dealing with 10 and 15% margins, every item you have in stock requires you to sell 5 to break even.

This week we did something at All New Comics that we’ve resisted for as long as possible.  We raised prices.

It wasn’t the cost of gas that did it (we’ve debated raising shipping rates for subscribers forever, but have never done it), it was the price of the Canadian dollar that finally forced our hand.

I really didn’t want to do this, but neither Peter nor I have ever seen a steady stream of cash from All New Comics, we’ve had a couple little middling payments amounting to less than a couple of mortgage payments, but certainly nothing that could make either one of us think we can quit our day jobs.

The amount of work we do for the amount of money we make puts slave labour to shame.  I do 20-30 hours a month on All New Comics, Pete does the same, maybe more (especially for show months), and in return we see a few dollars here and there.

Almost monthly I have this question about whether I want to continue the business (usually when I’m inputting crap from the absolutely ridiculous 500 page monthly catalogue…that’s a whole other rant).  What am I building here exactly?  Is it a way for me to get cheaper comics (a commodity that I don’t even particularly like that much anymore, and which I could get in trade form from Amazon for pretty much the same price as I pay at cost), is it a business that I want to eventually run full time?  Is it something that I just like to do on the evenings and weekends?  Is it an educational exercise?  Is it a potential safety net in case I lose my full time gig for whatever reason?

I don’t know anymore.  What I do know is that the emails I get back from our customers usually keep me going.  They love us, they really do, and even when we do something mean like raise prices to keep alive, they send us re-assurances and thanks for the job well done so far.

That makes it worthwhile for now, but the day will come when Kaylin and Maks ask mommy why daddy can’t go to Canada’s Wonderland, and when mommy tells the kids that it’s because daddy has to input 43 different versions of the latest Uncanny Possum Man mini-series into the system, I will have to seriously consider my priorities.

Just for fun, here’s the email I sent out today about changing our prices.

An urgent notice from your friends at All New Comics

Dear Subscribers;

As we’re sure most of you know, the Canadian dollar has been on a nose-dive lately, plummeting from a 52 week high of .97, to today’s close of 1.21.

What you may not know is that we are invoiced by our US based distributor in US dollars. This is why we lowered prices last year, and why we now have to do something about our incredibly shrinking margin. If this continued much longer we quite frankly wouldn’t be able to stay in business, and would have to shut our virtual doors. This isn’t something that we want, and we definitely don’t want to ever leave you, our loyal subscribers, without your monthly comic fix.

We thought about this quite a bit, and decided on a solution. Going back to Canadian cover price, and it is a massive logistical pain in the neck to do it, and often ends up being quite a bit out of whack with reality. So what we have decided to do is charge you a floating exchange rate based on what we are billed, and apply your discount after it.

A real world example from this week looks like this:
$2.99 US comic x 1.18 exchange rate = $3.53 (this is based on the rate we were billed for this week’s comics)
– 20% discount (.72)
Your cost = $2.82

As the dollar fluctuates, our prices will go up and down, if we get back to last summers .97 dollar, that same comic goes way down to 2.32. We’re sorry that we have to do this, but it’s the only fair thing to do with the fluctuations in the dollar, and the fact that we have to remain profitable in order to stay open.

This new policy will go into effect with the comics shipping November 5th.

If you have questions or comments about this policy, please address them to Peter and I at <email address removed to keep out of the spamobots grubby little fingers>.

Sincerely:
Brian Garside
– All New Comics resident Web Guru

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

8 replies on “The realities of the comics business”

As a long-time customer, I completely understand the mild price hike. Don’t get discouraged Brian. You guys ARE doing a great job and things will pay-off in the long run. Businesses that treat their customers with the care and respect that ANC does are few and when customers find something special like that, they hold on for dear life.

P.S. Just wondering if I could post one of your ANC Banners on my website to promote you guys? Please let me know.

I gotta agree. Don’t let this get you down. The bigger concern IMO is that the quality of the work being done these days seems derivative and lazy. I read DC and honestly I have read these stories before. I know there is a propensity to cater to us old guys these days.. but the true fan wants new stories.. don’t just reboot and start over. The number of available ideas is limited only by the imagination of the creators. As for your business.. as a day oner (and a guy who made numerous comic book runs back in the day) I can honestly say I have never been treated more fairly by any business. You have on ocaision even saved me from myself. As SCTV’s Rockin’ Mel Slyrrup would say “Keep the baby, faith.”

It’s completely understandable why you guys needed to increase prices… and we support you 100%.

Please know that your hard work and dedication is definitely appreciated.

All New Comics rocks!

When Peter opens up the new store they’ve been talking about, will I be ordering my comics through All-New or through Peter? Will All-New continue?

I totally agree with those guys. You are doing a great job. I don’t mind seeing prices goes up. You have always been fair to us and nothing stay the same for long. It make me think of McFarlane Spawn comic. He have do his best to not increase the cover price but at one time you have no choice. So don’t worry I will not go away and continue to support you. Support is a big word since I have the impression that it is you that support me in my comic book need 🙂

When you are at questionning yourself about if you should continue or not, it means that the thing you do “maybe” begin to be a burden. But this is the right thing to do. Because once you got the answer, positive or negative, things got better. So if in any way I can help you, email me. We all loves comics and we all do this because of this.

Long live to ANC!

Pete’s been talking about starting up a store since as long as I’ve known him. I think that opening up a store in today’s economic climate is financial suicide. I also think that the last thing the GTA needs is another comic store.

If Pete opens up a store, it will be on his own. I live 2 hours away, and we haven’t talked about that. I don’t know if he’ll stay on with ANC, or if we’ll go our separate ways, that day is probably a ways off still.

Hi everybody , I just want to address something Simon has said. I’m not planning on leaving ANC for the forseeable future as I enjoy what I do.I enjoy working with Brian and I love our customers. I’m not sure Simon where you heard I was opening a store. I’m curious who you heard that from.

Interestingly I sent an email to “Simon” because I didn’t recognize his email address and he implied that he was a customer of ours right now.

It bounced back because the email address didn’t exist.

I might be wrong, but this feels like a bit of a drive-by trolling to me.

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