Thursday, September 20, 2012
Selling Your 'Zine or Mini to a Store
Number One: You must not undersell yourself. It’s okay (and even endearing) to talk about how you don’t like your stuff and how you suck to your friends, but when you’re trying to get someone to waste their precious shelf space on your shit, it’s not always a good game plan. Take pride in your work. It’ll come across and help get your book on the shelf. If you see they have Fantagraphics books (like Love & Rockets) point out to them that what you do is … kaf kaf... just like that. Ahem.
Number Two: Judge the situation. Always look for the employee who looks the most like you first, and if that fails look for the “hippest one” to talk to. Bosses are only good if no one else is around and if you’re ready to kiss ass. If the person you are talking to hasn’t said a word about price 5 min. into the conversation, then they most likely have no set policy and you can make up your own. Always shoot for 60-70% cash in hand (50% of the cover price is normal and minimum). If they sound at all apprehensive and seem to be headed toward “...uh it LOOKS nice but... I just don’t think anyone will buy it,” then say that you can leave the books on consignment... there’s no risk for them.
Make sure that you have clearly defined all the terms of the deal with the owner / employee you are dealing with and you might even want to get their name. Demand a receipt 'cause you'll hate yourself in two months when the books have all been sold and they forget who you are.
Number Three: When you come in the next day and Some Asshole has stuck your book behind something he (note: very few women are stupid enough to work in comic stores) (uh, no offense to girls who do...) likes more, then move it to where people can actually see and look at it. I hate retailers who hide books... If nobody can see it then of course they won’t buy it, the money-grubbing fuck. Occasionally stop by the store to check out (and improve) the visibility of your book. If you can get someone to pick the thing up, you’re halfway there.
Number Four: Next, get all your friends and family to go in and buy it. This makes the owner see that there is something in it for him (almost everyone is in this for their own gain) and it’ll keep your book on the shelf in the meantime so real people can buy it and consequently love you / hate you / forget you. Selling is a science, everyone develops their own approach and, like life, the only way to learn is by messing up... BUT you have an advantage over others: you are selling something YOU created.
COMIC RELIEF: 2138 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 843-5002 Fax (510) 843-3137 and a second store at 1597 Haight, San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 552-9010 Fax (415) 552-9019. I work at the Berkeley store and am their “Small Press Buyer” for the moment. They buy small press outright for between 40% and 60% of retail and will most often buy for both stores. Stephanie Kulick is the SF store’s small press buyer. Both stores are extremely mini-friendly but they will most likely buy books with a “commercially alternative” (hey there Lollapalooza Generation) look to them, i.e. the weirder the better. They will also deal with you through the mail (you can talk to Josh Petrin in that case). When you sell your book to them mention about having heard about the store through PUPPY TOSS: it might help. Dave (Cerebus) Sim said of them at the 1993 San Diego Komik Konvention in a seminar on self publishing, “If you live in California, you have to make your pilgrimage to Comic Relief.” Anyway, people seem to like the stores. Each store has a set of shelves in the back reserved specially for small press.
NAKED EYE: 533 Haight St., San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 864-2985. Always a real friendly store to me. They seem to be honestly interested in more than $$$$. I talked to an employee (who was quite nice) named Paul about the store. They buy books for 60% of the cover price to the seller, cash in hand. They don’t always buy outright but it seems to be mostly up to the person doing the buying. They mostly do business with yuppie-types, students and kids and, like Comic Relief and Leather Tongue, the more unique your book is, the better it will sell. Steve Chack is the owner’s name.
LEATHER TONGUE VIDEO: 714 Valencia St. @ 18th, San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 522-2900. This is, in my opinion, one of the coolest stores in the country. Unfortunately they don’t sell a lot of my books, but they will carry almost anything on consignment. They usually go for 50/50 with me, but I bet you could get 60/40 or so. I would recommend that you keep the receipt in a place you’ll remember ‘cause I had some problems with that. Their audience is mostly queer and hipster types. The owner’s name is Lisa Muncaster and like the Factsheet 5 Zine Resource Guide sez: “Lisa is very nice.”
[Originally published in Skim Lizard #2, September 1993]