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Be a Hero to The World by Selling Comic Books Online
Do you debate the finer details of DC vs. Marvel Universes, know every iteration of Batman, Superman, and/or Spidey, and think Rob Liefeld is either a legend for co-creating Deadpool or an overrated artist with too much influence (or somewhere in between)? Or, perhaps Sin City, The Watchmen, and The Walking Dead fuel your thoughts? Regardless of your specific preferences and opinions on comics, it's possible to turn your passion for sequential art into cash as an online business!
If you love finding and collecting great comic books and graphic novels, and have a desire to share this love with the world, you may already have the foundation for a business you can excel at. All you need is the right starting point and the right tools. Shift4Shop has everything you need to launch your dreams and start selling comic books online.
How to Start a Business Selling Comic Books Online
Starting a business is a serious venture, and you need to be prepared with industry knowledge and a good plan. Don't be discouraged, though — simply take it one step at a time and make sure you're thinking realistically. Know the challenges you'll face and how to overcome them. The better your preparation is, the more likely you'll be able to take any hits the business world throws at you.
The following tips will help guide you through the process of planning, starting, and growing your online comic book shop.
Know Your Audience
Since people tend to share content that affects them emotionally, it's more important than ever to understand the demographic you're selling to. Fans of comic books are deeply invested in their favorite characters and stories, so you have a way to connect with them right away. But you still need to decide which types of comic book fans you're going to try to attract to your store. Writers are often told to "write what you most want to read." This adage translates well into eCommerce. What comic books fueled your passion to collect, and which new comics and graphic novels pique your interest now? Why do you love them? What defines you as a customer, and what do you have in common with other comic book collectors? Should you sell collectible classics like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight, or jump on the fast-moving graphic novel train? What about manga? Should you expand into trading cards and other licensed merchandise to satisfy your target audience?
Knowing who you want to sell to can often help you define what you want to sell and why. In marketing parlance this is known as branding. Knowing the answers to those brand identity questions is over half the battle to creating a successful online comic store.
Checking the Stacks and Boxes: Inventory
You might be starting out by selling off your own massive collection, but even so, you will quickly need to plug into a reliable and good-quality product supply chain. After all, if you want to keep your business running, you'll need to source more comic books to keep selling after you've sold out of the ones you already have. You can start by finding comic book outlets that restock popular series and carry a few marquee early edition classics. Online resources like eBay can be useful, and you can also visit your favorite wholesalers, gaming/comic shops, and conventions to acquire physical inventory.
However, the most reliable way to restock comic books and get all the newest releases is to form a relationship with a distributor. Distributors work directly with publishers to provide comics to retailers in bulk and at wholesale pricing. Buying wholesale makes it much easier to turn a profit — eBay sellers, for example, may be selling collectible comics at a price already high enough to make it difficult to flip for profit, but you can occasionally find an underpriced treasure. Whichever way you choose to supply, be sure to tailor your stock to your brand concept.
Understand Comic Book Pricing
If you're selling back issues or rarities, you'll want to make sure your pricing reflects the actual value of these comics as collectibles. There are several resources to help you learn about pricing. The Wizard magazine used to be the go-to source (and has attempted a comeback), but today, you can find comic book pricing guides online.
Comic book grades also come into play if you're selling used or collectible back issues. They represent the condition of the comic and run from Near Mint condition down to Poor. Near Mint comics sell for the most, while Poor comics sell for the least and in many cases aren't worth much as collectibles at all. You need a solid understanding of these grades in order to price your comics appropriately and to prevent customers from being upset that their purchase didn't match the quality grade at which you advertised it.
Choose the Right Shopping Cart Software for Your Website
Once you're ready to start building your online comic book store, you're going to need the right eCommerce platform to serve as your foundation. This means choosing shopping cart software that has everything you need to sell online and meet the unique needs of a comic book retailer. For example, you need powerful and flexible inventory management that works equally well whether you have dozens of a particular issue in stock, or only one of a highly collectible issue. Unlimited product categories will help customers find the comics they're looking for. Waiting lists are great for customers who hope you'll be getting more of a sold-out issue in stock, and pre-orders are fantastic for promoting new releases ahead of time.
Other important features include unlimited product photos with zoom, especially for selling collectible issues that customers will want to inspect closely before buying. And Shift4Shop's Make-an-Offer Price Haggling feature will allow you to accept the best offer from customers, and submit counteroffers until both of you agree on a price.
Create a Super Marketing Strategy
The comic fandom is huge, so your most effective marketing will be interacting with them in some way. Naturally, SEO is crucial for attracting those customers who start out Googling the comics you sell. Blogging about your comics is a great way to boost SEO and also establish yourself as an authority that readers will respect. People love to read about their interests, and this is also your chance to share your opinions. You can blog about both new releases and classics, write reviews, or go into historical discussions — perhaps about the history of comics and the different ages they went through, periods of popularity, and trends like the antiheroes of the 1990s.
You can also expand your marketing with Facebook posts, Instagram stories, and even YouTube videos. Participate on comics forums without acting overly promotional, and even visit conventions from time to time. If your potential customers see you first and foremost as a person who loves comics and not just a faceless online store, they're more likely to trust you and to buy from you, again and again.
Understanding the Comic Book Industry
Main Product Categories
Comics can be hard to categorize unless you put some thought into it first. Technically, you could keep your categories very simple by just basing them on character or title, but you can also go deeper than that. Adding different categories can help your customers find what they're already looking for, and also discover new comics they might enjoy — which leads to more sales. Here are some example categories:
Manga (should probably be separate from Western graphic novels)
Regular comic issues
Other types of mini-series
Specific artists/writers (Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, etc.)
Different comic publishers (DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, etc.)
Spinoff series or characters that got more attention (e.g. Wolverine)
Specific story arcs
Naturally, many of these categories can overlap, so it's important that your eCommerce software allows you to build a category structure that lets you assign multiple categories to a single product. You should also be able to "nest" categories within each other to create sub-categories. However, you shouldn't overdo it — customers should be able to find what they're looking for without having to dig too deeply. A search function on your site will also be a big help.
Expanding to Figurines and Collectibles
Many comic collectors also enjoy collecting figurines or other merchandise of their favorite series or characters. If you decide to expand into offering these types of products as well, you'll need to ensure that your products are authentic. You can't simply print your own t-shirts or manufacture other collectibles yourself without encountering problems with copyright (unless you limit these to your store logo or other original material). In many cases, you can't even resell toys you bought off the shelf without getting a cease-and-desist from the rights holder. This happens because the market is flooded with counterfeit merchandise and trademark infringement, and the owners of intellectual property such as comic book characters need to protect their rights. So, you're best off if you become a licensed retailer of such merchandise, which you can usually do by contacting the manufacturer or distributor.
Online Store Themes for Selling Comic Books
Be a Hero of the Comic Industry with These Super Templates
While built mainly for art galleries, Painted Colors is an excellent free theme for selling comic books online because art is such an important aspect of comics. The homepage carousel banner and product images are big enough that customers can see a lot of detail at a glance, and the sidebar makes navigation easy. It doesn't take much to edit this theme to make it perfect for comic shops — you'd just need to adjust some colors to get the right feel.
Another art-based free template, Molten catches the customer's eye immediately with a huge banner, perfect for getting customers excited about the adventures they'll be able to partake in through your comics! Navigation is simple, using a header-based dropdown menu that can expand to fit any number of categories. Molten is also easy to edit through color changes you can make with our built-in Theme Editor.
How to Get Your Online Comic Book Business Started
Once you've fully planned out your business, secured your suppliers, and gotten any necessary licenses (if you want to sell figurines and other collectibles right out of the gate), you're ready to take the next step. Now it's time to build your eCommerce website! Shift4Shop is the best shopping cart software for online comic book stores, complete with all the features we've discussed in this article, and much more. Built-in tools cover product management, marketing and SEO (including a blog module), unlimited high-resolution product photos, and much more. Best yet, you can access all our features completely free, without paying a monthly fee for our software — and we're the only eCommerce platform that offers a completely unlimited, free plan.
Thanks to the internet, it's easy to find comic book distributors these days — you can simply start out with a Google search for "comic book distributor." From there, you'll have to browse the results to find distributors that sell the comics you want to stock. Some examples of comic book distributors are Diamond Comics and UCS Comic Distributors. You will need to sign up for an account as a retailer to start buying wholesale comics from the distributor(s) you choose. Both of the previous links go straight to that distributor's retailer page, but you should browse the rest of their sites as well to learn more about them.
Can I sell used comics on eBay?
Yes, you can sell used comics on eBay, and it's a popular marketplace for collectibles and back issues of all price points. However, it's always best to have your own online store if you're serious about growing your business. With Shift4Shop, you can actually sell within your own eCommerce website and list your comics on eBay at the same time, which will attract customers from more places (and draw the attention of eBay users to your shop). Shift4Shop has a built-in integration and set of tools for selling on eBay, including the ability to export products from your store directly to your eBay listings, synchronize your inventory between eBay sales and website sales, and manage your orders from both platforms within your Shift4Shop dashboard. This saves a lot of time and effort while giving you the best of both worlds.