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Bundle is the New Black

| June 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

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The wife and I just finished binge watching of the second season of Orange in the New Black this weekend. (Yup, we got our money’s worth out of Netflix…this month at least.) And while calling anything “the new black” is an expression now well past its expiration date, I wanted to write a short post about the hottest new trend in selling comics: the bundle.

Right now, Dynamite has a 10th Anniversary Humble Bundle Deal going offering up 120 comics and graphic novels for the irresistible price of pay whatever the hell you want. As Bleeding Cool reported, the reaction to this bundle has been huge, hauling in more than $100,000 in just the first 24 hours.   (For comparison’s sake, according to Comichron estimates, Dynamic Forces, Dynamite’s parent company, sold about $575,000 worth of books in direct market last month.)

Dynamite is just the latest comics publisher to ride the Humble Bundle train to dollars town. Image Comics Humble Bundle raised nearly $400K last month, selling collections of some of its top books (Saga, The Walking Dead, East of West, etc.) Then IDW got in the action, offering a Humble Bundle for 80 Doctor Who comics, which fans gobbled right up. While the dollars raised on the HB platform are split between the publisher, HB itself, and one or more charities chosen by the publisher, there’s no doubt the success of these limited time deals is getting the attention of publishers everywhere.

Comixology Sold More Than $50,000  Worth of  Submit Bundles

Of course, the Humble Bundle model isn’t the only way digital bundles are being successfully sold. You might remember back in March during SXSW, when digital comics powerhouse Comixology offered 100 Comixology Submit titles for $10 bucks. Remember when comics were a dime a piece? (I don’t…not that old.) Well, Comixology sales numbers aren’t made transparent like Humble Bundle’s are, so I don’t know that I’ve seen reported how well that sales promotion did.

However, SCAM #1 was one of the books included in Comixology Submit Starter Pack Bundle, and on ComixTribe’s Q1 Comixology statement, 5,390 copies sold during that promotion. So, basic math tells me they shifted $53,900 worth of indie and creator-owned books during that promotion.  While that only amounted to payments of $76.62 per creator with a book in the deal, it’s pretty impressive that they could do those kinds of numbers without big name properties like The Walking Dead and Doctor Who. Go indies!

Why Are These Bundles So Successful?

Getting a lot for a little is almost always going to attract a crowd. I’ve written before about the power of FREE, but there’s something about getting in on a great deal that psychologically can feel even more rewarding. Obviously, publishers are absolutely giddy at this revelation.  The ability to sell tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of back-list DIGITAL merchandise in a relatively short period of time, with little-to-no paid marketing (these deals are optimized to go viral) must feel too good to be true. You know how awesome it is to find $20 in an old jacket?  It’s gotta feel like finding 5000 of those jackets.

So, from a publisher’s perspective, selling these digital bundles is a no brainer. But what about the consumer? Why are so many people jumping on the bundle bandwagon? I know video game fans are well-versed in the Humble Bundle model, which has sold millions of dollars worth of digital games over the past few years. I’m actually shocked that only now are comic publishers getting on board.  The HB model is truly brilliant, and worth studying:

  • “Pay What You Want” gets the masses in the door – I have mixed feelings about PWYW as a pricing strategy. For something like a new music album for a band like Radio Head, or a comedy show by top comedians, they’re probably going to do all right with it. But I don’t love it for small press creators, who have to first get people to the site to even see the offer (hard), and then convince a customer they actually want to pay something for their book (even harder.)  And I don’t love PWYW for a single product, without any unlocks (see below) at higher pay levels.  But for bundles, it’s very effective.
  • Make the Numbers Transparent – Only thing worse than missing out on a good deal is knowing how many other people didn’t miss it. Humble bundle keeps a running tally of how many people have purchased a bundle (at any price), as well as current average price, and the top contributors. Seeing those numbers tick up, while the time left on the clock ticks down compels action.

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  • Special Unlocks at Higher Price Points – In all of these humble bundles, you can get a lot of great content for a penny. And certainly lots of people pay that. But brilliantly, Humble Bundle allows for certain books to be unlocked only if the customer pays above a certain price point (ex. $15) or even more cleverly, above the current average pledge price. This further incentivizes paying a little more, to get more, and still get a great deal.

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  • The Charity – The special sauce of the HB deal is that a percentage of the funds raised will go to one or more charities (listed on the Bundle’s page.) You’re getting a hell of a deal AND helping a good cause? How can you beat that?

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  • Control of Your Dollar – And finally, HB puts the actual distribution of your pledge of whatever amount into your hands, as you can decide what portion gets distributed to the publisher, charity, HB, etc. Who doesn’t like to feel in control of where their money goes.

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All of these simple elements combine to make a sophisticated digital product cash machine. Brilliant. Wish I thought of it.

 So, How Do the Rest of Us Get In on the Bundle Action?

Knowing what’s hot and working in the industry is one thing…but knowing how you, the independent small-press creator can take advantage of it is another. I’d love to see someone organize a SMALL PRESS BUNDLE. While getting Humble Bundle to do it might be a long shot, it’s something that the Kickstarter or Indiegogo platform could be used to run it. (I’d love to organize one, but there’s no way that’s getting on my schedule in the next few years… it was hard enough to find the time to write this article!)

Bundles do work well for physical books, too, assuming you have the inventory. Every Kickstarter we’ve done has been a great opportunity to sell back stock of comics and graphic novels from the CT archive.  And at conventions, we’ve done very well selling ComixTribe bundles (ex. 5 books & 2 prints for $25) to deal-hungry attendees.

Other ideas?  Chime in below!

I started this article name-dropping Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Now that I think of it, Netflix is just another example of a bundle…tens of thousands of programs for one low monthly price. Seems to be working out pretty well for them, too.

 

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Category: Comix Counsel

About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at tyler.james@comixtribe.com.

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