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What is the Size of Your Target Market?

gamalhennessy Community • Jun 1, 2020

Over the past two weeks, I’ve tried to explain the concepts of ideal readers (See Who is Your Ideal Reader?) and competition (See Who is Your Competition?) in terms of digital comic book publishing. The size of your target market defines various aspects of your project. I’d like to continue this marketing orientation by looking at ways you can think about the size of your comic’s target market.

The theoretical number of readers for your book will influence the different marketing, distribution, advertising, and sales strategies you use. Your market size can influence what type of book you create. Depending on your goals and your resources, it might even lead to altering the definition of your ideal reader or story idea. You don’t want to chase a market when you develop your story. The key is to fill a niche that is small enough for you to focus on, and large enough to make the effort worthwhile.

How Do You Measure the Size of Your Target Market?

Measuring market size for an independent comic is as much art as it is science. The psychographics and genre appeal of any story to any individual reader is emotional and subjective. It can fluctuate at will, and there’s no way to track that shift unless you’re Charles Xavier. At the same time, statistical analysis and historical sales figures can only estimate current demand or potential interest in any given story. There are two traditional methods of calculating market size, but for our purposes, neither is sufficient.

A Bottom-Up Analysis involves determining how many retail locations will sell your product and how many units each one typically sells. This type of analysis makes sense for other products like cars or eggs, but for independent comics it creates a challenge in terms of data. It is difficult to determine in advance which comic shops, book stores, libraries, alternative outlets, or online retailers will actually carry an independent book before it is produced. Amazon will carry most projects, but that single data point might not be enough to justify bottom-up analysis, even if they are the 80,000-pound gorilla.

A Top Down Analysis involves determining the overall size of the market and then establishing a realistic estimate of the market share that you can capture. This would be a better option for an independent publisher since you already have access to the competitors in your niche market from the last chapter. The problem is the lack of reliable data. Direct market sales count units sold to comic shops, not sales to actual readers. Digital distribution channels like Comixology don’t share their sales numbers with the public. There is no mechanism to track sales at conventions and other transactions between publishers and readers. Finally, there are organizations like NPD Bookscan and Ibisworld that can provide data on the bookstore market, but I’m working under the assumption you don’t want to spend a thousand dollars on those kinds of services.

My less than optimal third solution involves creating a theoretical sales model for each competitor based on the available information online. The method is as follows:

1. Determine which distribution channels a competitor uses

2. Determine the sales number of each competing book (“S”) through direct market sales on a monthly basis using a database like Comichron

3. Estimate the sales in other relevant channels

4. Determine total sales

5. Repeat for each competitor

This estimation can work because according to ICV2, digital comic sales add about 20% to the direct market of any given comic. Book channel sales add an additional 90%, and all other channels add an additional 3%. So, if we only know the direct market sales for a competitor, we can create a simple formula:

• Direct market sales (DM) can be represented as S
• Digital comic sales (DS) can be estimated as S x .2
• Book channel sales (BC) can be estimated as S x .9
• Other channel sales (OC) can be estimated as S x .03
• The total estimated sales for a competitor can then be calculated as DM + DS + BC + OC

Let’s suppose there is a competitor to your comic that is available in comic shops, online and in bookstores. If the total annual sales of this competitor were 3,000 copies (DM), then the total estimated sales for this competitor would be as follows:

• DM = 3000 copies
• DS = DM x .2 or 600 copies
• BC = DM x .9 or 2,700 copies
• OC = DM x .03 or 90 copies
• Total sales = DM + DS + BC + OC or 3,000 + 600 + 2,700 + 90 or 6,390 copies

As you work through this exercise for each competitor, keep three things in mind:

1.   These numbers are only educated estimates. The actual sales for each competitor may vary considerably and because of the way the industry is currently structured, there is no way to confirm these numbers.

2.  These estimates include all standard formats, but doesn’t account for emerging distribution models, subscriptions or other distribution not measured by ICV2

3.   The estimates only cover units sold. It doesn’t take into account how much each copy cost, or how much revenue or profit was generated.

Once you get an idea of how many copies each competitor might be selling, you can estimate how many copies you might sell. For example, if you found ten competitors for your comic and the total number of single-issue sales in December of 2018 was 20,000 units, how much could I expect to capture with the first issue of your book?

If the market was divided evenly, then each competitor sold 2,000 copies (20,000 divided by 10) because they each had 10% of the market. If you came in and also captured an equal share of the market, then I would be trying to capture about 9% of the market, or 1,800 copies.

In reality, capturing market share is not that easy, especially for new products on the stand. Several analysts in the startup space advise new businesses to assume they can grab no more than 1-5% to start out, no matter how many competitors are in the market.

Later on this week, we'll take a look at how to determine how much money your target market can generate, but until then let me know if you have any questions about comic book marketing and stay tuned for a special announcement later this week for Global Comix publishers.

Have fun with your comic.

MCLent 1 year ago

Will take me time to absorb but really great material for us right brainers to know.


Christopher admin supporter 1 year ago

@MCLent let us know if we should expand on anything here :)