Mailbag: What’s the average price for a graphic novel?
Q.: What do you think is the average price for a graphic novel made by a mostly unknown group of artists & writers?
A.: That’s a nonsense question, and it’s crucial that you understand why it’s nonsense…
There’s no way to answer that question. Price is based on cost. You shouldn’t set the price on anything without first knowing the cost. So the first questions you need to answer are:
- How many copies of the book will be printed?
- Based on the paper quality, binding, cover, etc, what will that print run cost you?
- What will it cost to ship those books to you?
- How much should you set aside to ship the books to (1) customers and (2) distributors?
- If you choose distribution, is your book priced appropriately? (See “True Story” below)
And more, including…
- Based on the audience you’d already amassed online, what are your projections for the first 6-months of sales?
Now, you set your price so that the projected sales cover all of the projected costs.
What not to do…
Here’s what you DON’T do… don’t look at what Marvel prices a graphic novel at, and decide to base your price on their costs. They print books by the ten-of-thousands. Your print run — and your audience — is much smaller. Your pricing needs to reflect your world — not Marvel’s.
I priced my first book based solely on what Marvel and DC were pricing similar books. After having them printed, I approached Diamond Comics Distributing to get them into comic shops. They ordered a couple hundred. At 65% off the cover price.
When I did the math, I realized that — after I had accounted for the cost of the books and paid for the shipping to their distribution points — I would be in the hole over $200.
Why not POD?
You’ll notice that this assumes that you’ll be doing an offset print run — and not a POD (Print On Demand) book. If you’re doing a POD book, you have a great deal of flexibility in your pricing.
And you also have almost zero profits. You have to sell at an enormous volume to make POD work for you. And if you’re selling at enormous volumes, you’d darned-well better be maximizing those profits by printing offset books where your profits are exponentially greater.
Let me make it clear: My profit on a POD book is a couple of bucks. My profit on a successfully Kickstarted book is nearly twenty bucks.
If your book doesn’t fund through Kickstarter, it’s a very good indication that your book isn’t ready for the market (or the market isn’t ready for you).