Are you a fan of comic books and graphic novels? I bet you have wondered how to start a comic book store.
Ilan has been in the comic book industry since the ‘80s. He started in 1982 when he started Fat Moose Comics.
After 32 years in New Jersey, he moved to Washington and started Mighty Moose Comics. He’s got tons of experience and knowledge to share with us.
We’ll discuss some of the great strategies we learned from Ilan and some strategies he doesn’t use that would make it far easier to make money in the comic book industry.
Here is How to Start a $360K+/Year Comic Book Store
What is a comic book store?
Products that comic book stores sell
Licensing and legal requirements
Funding your comic book shop
Step 1: What is a comic book store?
Comic book stores are places for fans of comic books, graphic novels, and other collectibles to go to find new and rare comics.
Comic book lovers would commonly start their own comic book store as a cheap way to get comics, but Ilan said:
Most of the people who got into the comic book industry to get cheap comics lost their shops years ago.
Today there are fewer open comic book stores than in the past, but if you know what you are doing, you can still make a great living.
If you sell rare comics, you can make over a million per year, but you have to be able to find the rare books that people want at a rate where you can sell them for more. Otherwise breakeven is what most comic store owners make until they find that gold mine.
There are more fans than ever due to the huge success of the Marvel Comics movie franchise and other popular franchises. You just have to find them.
Before you start looking for potential customers, let’s discuss the types of products you want to consider selling.
Step 2: Products that are sold in the comic book industry
Opening a comic book store is going to require stocking inventory. There are a ton of options to choose from, but let’s go over some of the more popular options:
Rare Comic Book Issues
Dark Horse Comics
Dungeons and Dragons
Let’s look at each!
Comic books have consistent release periods like most types of magazines.
New comics come out every Wednesday, and most series release the next number in the series on a monthly basis. The Best Comic of 2021 (So Far) is a great list of new comics to consider carrying at your comic book store.
Rare Comic Books
I asked my brother-in-law what he loves about the comic book store he goes to. He told me:
Cosmic Comics used to be my spot. They had all the valuable comics you never thought you’d see in person. They loved comics and would talk about them for hours. They’d let us read them in store. One time they even let me borrow Watchmen #6 without paying.
Comic book collectors can do very well if they decide that it is time to pass their comic books on to a new generation of hardcore comic book fans.
Wealthy Gorilla has a list of 20 comic books that sold for over $100,000. The top 4 were over $1m. You can make some real money if you happen to have them lying around.
You might want to consider auctions or online sales for these high-value comics though. Places like eBay and Sotheby’s are good places to start. Here’s a list of the top 10 Auction Houses by Artprice.com.
As I already said, Marvel has a huge fan base. To give you an idea, here are 3 statistics from Statista about the Marvel Universe:
32.2% of comic book store sales are Marvel titles
62% of people 18-29 claim to be Marvel fans
87% of Americans recognize Spider-Man
These statistics show some real love for Stan Lee’s comic book characters. If you want to start a successful comic book store, you’ll have to carry Marvel titles.
Penguin Random House and Hachette Book Group will be the wholesale comic book distributors for Marvel starting October 2021 after Disney cut ties with Diamond Comic Distributors.
Another staple potential customers will expect are DC Comics, including favorites like Batman. You can order new DC comic books from Lunar Distribution.
The comic book industry is kinda being shaken up this year because publishers are changing distributors, so new businesses will be starting with similar relationships to the distributors as existing comic book shops.
Covid also drove a lot of shops out of business so you might be able to buy rare comics at a discount if you can hold on to them for a while.
This makes it the perfect time to become a new comic book store owner.
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse is most famous for the Hell Boy comic books, but they also have action figures for the Witcher and Game of Thrones.
Dark Horse uses Diamond Comic Distributors for their comic book store customers and Penguin Random House for all other book store and library customers.
Graphic novels are typically released by the same companies as comic books, but they have a couple of differences including:
The plot is normally fully contained within a graphic novel while comic book plots normally span numerous episodes or even multiple series.
The length is typically longer than a comic book.
The spine is more like a standard book than the comic book genre.
Dungeons and Dragons
Dungeons and Dragons is a role-playing game that appeals to similar demographics as comic books. They are owned by Wizards of the Coast, which also owns the popular game Magic the Gathering.
A friend of mine used to work at a comic book shop in Dallas, and they would host games for the regulars, including ones with entry fees and cash prizes.
He also was nationally ranked for Magic the Gathering, so it helped to draw new business to the comic store when he would do well in tournaments.
Whatever you choose to focus on, comic book enthusiasts are going to expect a decent collection or they’ll look for somewhere that meets their needs more.
Step 3. Resources needed when starting a comic book store
The resources necessary when starting a comic book store are fairly consistent wherever you are. They include:
A comic book store business plan
An online presence