Hardcover Ho Down!

A post in which Stephen takes a look at the potential appeal of Hardcover graphic novels to the would-be graphic novel reseller…

C’mon, admit it: wouldn’t you rather look at this instead of some stuffy old graphic novels?

In the roughly six months that I have been selling graphic novels on amazon.ca-ca, I have surely learned a few things about how to find the right books to sell and how to (more often than not) be successful in selling them for a profit once you have found them.

One thing that I have come to learn is that you stand a good chance of turning a bigger profit with less effort if you find and sell the right hard cover graphic novels online. It seems (at least to me) that there are many collectors out there who would rather own a hard copy edition of a graphic novel collection than a paperback version of the same thing. Whatever an individual’s own reasons for this preference, the relevant thing here to note is that this desire means collectors will often be willing to pay more for the hardcover than they would for the TPB – even if the TPB is still in print and on comicbook store shelves – and if you have that book they are willing to pay that higher price to you.

I have noticed that there is a trend to many hardcovers(or HC’s for short). Most of the time, after a book has been released as a hardcover it won’t be kept in print for any prolonged length of time. This is the opposite of the trade paperback (or TPB for short) which seems to be the format of choice for most publishers when keeping a particular book in print – probably something to do with publishing costs and the increased attractiveness of a lower price point to the consumer in the marketplace. So that means you will usually see a HC version of a book get released, followed a little later by the more affordable TPB edition, and soon enough you likely see the supply of the available copies of the HC print run dry up and eventually dissapear from store shelves.  This gets us back to my earlier observation about demand for the HC. You usually see the steady demand for the HC book continue even after the TPB release and this continued demand combined with the shrinking retail supply leads to the higher prices seen for various HCs on sites like Amazon.

What I find interesting about all this is the predictability of it all. There is a knack to predicting the potential value of a HC book in the near future. After emmersing myself in this stuff recently, I can now see when a HC book (especially an oversized book like a DC Absolute edition book) is likely to sell out and still have a strong demand for it after. This does not mean that I am willing to speculate on such books because there are enough times when a HC book (again like the absolute editions) goes back to print within a year or so after its initial realease, effectively killing any hope of reselling it for a profit. What I have started to do is make a note of what kind of print run a sold out HC book has had that still is in demand and then see how the next volume in the collection compares to it. For example, if the first volume of the deluxe slipcased edition of the Spawn Origins HC had a print run of so many thousand and sold out, then if the next volume is set at the same numbers I kind of expect to see the same thing happen again. This is even more predictable when considering a signed and numbered edition of a HC book; the beforementioned Spawn book had a limited S&N edition limited to 500 copies of the book which sold through pretty quickly. The second volume had a similar subset of 500 S&N copies released, too, and sure enough this mini run has shown signs of selling out just like the first. You can still find copies for sale at retail or even slightly lower here and there but those copies are steadily disapearing and being replaced by reseller copies going for above retail. I have also noticed that the first volume of the Umbrella Academy oversized hardcover didnt take too long to sell out at the retailer level and is now commanding higher prices on the secondary market – even for “used” copies.  I noticed that the second volume is showing similar signs of selling out even faster than the first one, and because of this I decided to take the plunge on picking up a copy at below retail and take a wait and see approach with it.

Of course, just the whole idea that you can maybe find an out of print and in demand HC at your local comic shop and pick it up to resell it for a considerable amount more right after is somewhat appealing. Of course you have to be willing to pay more up front for such books compared to TPBs to see more return at the back end per sale. That is an important factor to consider whenever contemplating dabbling in the HC reseller game. To this I offer the advice: know the pedigree of what you are buying, and be ready to sell at a break even price for a quick sale if you should find out that the book in question will be going back into print as a HC edition which is always a possibility. To see an example of this, you need look no further than some of the DC Absolute books such as the All Star Superman book or the Absolute Planetary volume one; the Planetary book went back to press (and then funny enough sold out again) while the Superman book has been announced as going back to print as a hardcover again later this year.

It’s probably safe to say that when it comes to predicting the hardcover market that there is probably no such thing as a sure thing, but that some books come very, very close.

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13 Responses to Hardcover Ho Down!

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  2. Ryan Lee says:

    You are absolutely correct about this phenomenon, and a lot of it has to do with the publishers. Back in the day, Marvel/DC combined might have 100 items a month for a retailer to stock. Now, that retailer has 100 Flashpoint items to stock, and about 11,000 other things in the Diamond catalog to consider.

    With so much product available, (literally everything goes to a collection these days) retailers cannot justify massive expenditures unless they know they can turn it around quickly. So if you’re Comic Shop X, you might understand intellectually that you can probably turn around, say, a half dozen Sandman Absolutes in a year. But now you’re on the hook for those massive costs, and you might only sell two this month. Or one. Or none. Especially when you recognize that Amazon is potentially retailing those books for less than your wholesale cost.

    It’s not feasible for a retailer to order that high end product in the quantities it probably deserves. The publisher reads this ordering as lack of interest and pulls the item and moves on the “next big thing”. The game is rigged these days for the secondary market. Which is bad for customers and good for Gamers.

  3. dreamscaper says:

    Oh, and Ryan, how I do like to play … lol

    Seriously though, thanks for your (as always) well thought out observations. Sorry I took so long to approve the comment – I just seem to get lost in the pile of spamming shit that wordpress blogs are vulnerable to and only found your comment 12 days later! My bad…

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