Times are tight and we all want to stretch our buying power just a little bit. I made the switch about 5 years to trades only. No floppies, singles, monthlies, or whatever term is now being used for the monthly fix. So far this year I have bought 157 graphic novels with a face value of $2153.00 for only 387.00; which means I am paying only slightly under 18% of the face value or an 82% discount if you wish. How do I know this? Well I am one of those collector’s who are anal-retentive when it comes to my comics. I keep a spreadsheet with the date and location of the purchase, the title, what I paid, and the actual cover price. This way I can monitor my purchases and see which places are best to go back to.
If you are a slave of the Big 2 and will only read full-color capes and tights books then you find this article to be less useful as oddly enough even though the Big 2 produce more trades I find books by smaller publisers at a rate of 4:1. However, if you are looking to scratch that comic itch cheaply then please continue.
USED BOOK STORES
I know, this one seems obvious, right? I find that these days book stores just consider graphic novels to be another genre they have to carry and really place no special emphasis on them. My personal favorite is called Piccolo’s Used Books in Long Beach, which is located inside an old Borders Book Store. Let me just say they are not the neatest of places but the dig is half the fun.
When you go into a used book store ask if there is a graphic novel section or a comics section and start there. If you don’t find anything look in the children’s section (where I found 6 Hardy Boys trades), the Fantasy section (where I’ve found two Elfquest trades), and believe it or not the video game manual section. (where I found 4 Marvel graphic novels including The New Mutants and The Death of Captain Marvel). All of my finds above were $1.00-$3.00 each.
Most used books stores, especially the larger ones, are staffed by young high school or college students who most likely are not comic readers and honestly probably aren’t interested in reading period so when they sort through a box they rarely look inside the covers and just sort them by what they appear to be and not what they actually are so you have to think a little outside the box when you go in.
Everyone is familiar with instocktrades.com that sell trades for 40% off but we are here for the real bargains. Have you heard of fearlessreaders.com? They sell all their graphic novels for $5.00 and routinely have sales of $3.00 trades and every quarter or so will email you $5.00 off coupons for orders of $50.00 or more (and no sales tax). I am sure there are a lot of other websites out there I haven’t heard of whose prices might be better, if so let the rest of us in on it.
Most big box stores have a bargains section on their website. For example Barnes and Noble has a Bargain-Priced graphic novel section where books are often 65% off or more. Amazon also has sellers looking to sell their used books for as little as a penny (PLUS shipping of course).
Craigslist can also yield some great results. In fact as of right now I could go pick up the first 18 trades of Fables for $5.00 each from some guy who lives only 10 minutes from me. The problem is that you have to be specific about the terms you use. It treats trade paperback and trade paperbacks as two entirely different searches so you need to try every common misspelling. You also need to check it every day if possible as things are listed and gone the same day, first come, first served.
COMIC BOOK SHOWS
Again, this is a no-brainer, right? But the really good bargains are found in the last 2-3 hours of the last day. Vendors are wanting to get rid of as much inventory as possible and will be ready to cut deals. One trade isn’t too bad but when you combine it with a few hundred of it’s closest friends that a lot of heavy boxes and dealers would rather sell that book instead of boxing it up and paying to ship or haul it back to their stores. At the WonderCon a couple of months ago one dealer was having a blowout of $2.00 trades and $4.00 hard covers. I was looking in another dealer’s space when I saw the guy put out his sign with two hours left. I walked out of there with 20 books with a face value of $314.00 for only $40.00! I picked up all three trades of The Pulse, three consecutive volumes of HawkGirl, and 5 trades of J Michael Straczynski’s Spider-Man run among others.
SWAP MEETS/FLEA MARKETS
As I mentioned before I’ve noticed that graphic novels are so popular now that people have started to see them as just another book and nothing special. And with so many graphic novels out there many find their way here. I have yet to go to a flea market or swap meet or anything similar where I didn’t walk away with at least one book. At my local Cypress Swap Meet a month ago I walked away with two Deadpool trades for $2.00 each, a copy of Will Eisner’s The Building for a buck, and two trades of Strangers in Paradise for $1.50 each. And like at comic shows if you can wait until the end of the day prices are usually cheaper.
I am luckier than most in that I live in Southern California where cities literally run into each other so I have more libraries to check out. Most libraries of any size have a used book section for .50 to a couple bucks each. And if they don’t there is usually a volunteer Friends of the Library Store located somewhere inside.
So far this year I found 10 Star Wars trades (including 5 in sequence volumes of The Rogue Squadron) for $1.00 each, a copy of Watchmen for a buck, and a hardcover of Marvel’s adaptation of a crime novel from the TV show Castle for fifty cents!
And every library has a yearly book sale where they unload all of their donations through the year for a buck or two a piece. At the Cypress library’s book sale I found a copy of the first Owly trade and a wonderful little book called Celador for $1.00, and if I liked it, a WHOLE LOT of Manga for a buck a pop.
This one will require some effort but it’s worth it in the end I think. First, get yourself a blog site or website and start reviewing graphic novels. Build up a track record to show off. Next thing you want to do is do a google search for press release agencies and sign up at as many sites as you can to receive them. They are free to receive and you get to pick the keywords you are interested in so most of the ones I get are exactly what I am looking for (then again I also get invites to attend the film set of most of the XXX parodies so it doesn’t always work………….or does it?).
These press releases are going to be coming almost exclusively from smaller publishers trying to make a name for themselves and they are willing to send you copies of books that are just being released, and in a lot of cases books that will not ship for months in exchange for reviewing the book they send you.
If you don’t want to go the press release route then go to your LCS and take a look at the smaller publishers they carry to make a list and contact their publicity/marketing department directly. Make sure in your email to include several links to your previous reviews so they know you are legitimate.
So far this year I have received over $340.00 in books absolutely free in exchange for reviews.
Remember though, you are making an agreement with the company that in exchange for free reading material you will write a good review in a timely manner. By good I don’t mean you just rubber stamp each book as being the greatest thing you‘ve ever read that wasn‘t written by Alan Moore, by good I mean a well-thought out review and not just three or four sentences. Usually two well-written paragraphs will do it but feel free to go longer if the subject strikes you. And when you’ve posted your review make sure you contact the agent who sent you the books and give them a link to the review so they know you’ve read the book and who knows, you might even find yourself quoted on the cover one day.
Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is you live up to your end of the deal. If you write and post a review 6 months after the book has been out then there is no advantage for them to send you more books when they come out with new stuff.
There you go, almost all of my hunting secrets. I can't give it all away can I? Now get out there and get to hunting!