Comics Guide Part 3: How Not to Go Broke Reading Comics

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 26, 2018 10:09:00 AM / by Suzanne

Today we'll be talking about how to read comics on a budget.

Need a refresher? Take a look at the intro post, the terminology post, and our piece on comics creation.

Part 3: How Not to Go Broke Reading Comics

Comics are expensive! We’ll walk you through some ways to manage your reading on a budget and still support the creators you love.


If You Aren’t Broke:

- If you can afford to do so, buy comics in issues as they are released, from your local comic shop. This is the best way to ensure that your LCS stays in business and that the comics you love continue to be published. “Trade-waiting” is supposedly killing the traditional comics industry, so make of that what you will.

- To support indie artists, you can usually buy projects directly from the creators. They’ll often have their own shop with art and merch set up on their website, which allows them to receive a greater percentage of proceeds for their work. Many artists have joined collectives, like Hiveworks or Topatoco to handle distribution for them. Be warned - you may fall down a rabbit hole of comics and never come back out.

- Backing projects Kickstarter and paying for commissions are other ways to funnel money to your favorite creators and receive custom content in return.


Why Are Comics So Expensive?

Comics are pricey for a number of reasons, such as:

- Production time. Think about how long it takes to write a novel or screenplay. Now add to that time for artist-writer communication, art production, formatting, and distribution. Comics take a long time to go from idea to reader.

- Collaborators. Many webcomics are written and illustrated by the same person. A one-stop shop, if you will. Traditional comics are another thing entirely, however. The average comic will have a writer, an artist (or two), and a letterer. Often, one person will do the pencils, another the inks, and a third the colors for a given issue. Comics also sually have an editor and a whole team of marketing and logistics support as you’d expect with other media. And, of course, the retailer needs to make money, too!

- Audience. Sales of comics have been rising, but there was a definite sales dip for a long time between the “golden age of comics” and the start of this recent boom. Like most things that take a lot of time and money to produce, the more people who buy them, the more affordable they become on a per unit basis. (Economies of scale.) That’s why you’ll see volumes on Kickstarter going for $25 in print, $10 digital. (Smaller print runs cost more at the printer, too.) Trade volumes of similar size from Image will be somewhere between $15-$20. (Let’s not talk about how expensive Marvel and DC are for super-thin trades.)


Reading Comics On a Budget:

Okay, now you know why they’re so expensive. Let’s talk about what you can do to read comics without going broke!

  • Read Webcomics
    Webcomics are usually free to readers. This is amazing and wonderful. There are some truly gorgeous comics out there that you can Read. For. Free. You can find a bunch of them on our website. Just search by format and you’ll find a whole list of webcomics with romantic or queer elements.

  • Subscriptions and Sales at Your Local Comic Shop
    Some comic shops (and publishers, if you order directly) offer a subscription discount. Check with your Local Comic Shop. My LCS has sales pretty frequently, which they advertise on social media and in-store. They also have a VIP program, which allows you to accumulate points. It amounts to a 10% discount over time.

  • Buy in Trade
    I know, I just said that “trade-waiting” is killing the industry. But there’s a reason why buying in trade is great! A bunch of them, even. (See Part 1) Trade volumes are usually less expensive than buying in issues, and sit nicely on your shelf.
    Some quick math for a six-issue story arc, collected in trade:
    6 Issues @ $3.99/each = $23.94 vs 1 Trade Paperback @ $16.99 = $6.95 in savings
    Now add in a 20% discount from your LCS for a promotion and you’re in an even better place.
  • Borrow From Your Library
    Did you know that libraries are starting to carry comics? It’s true! Many of them stock graphic novels in their kids/YA sections, but an increasing number are carrying adult comics as well. Ask your librarian what comics they have in their collection, and if you can borrow them through Inter-Library Loan. (This is a very US thing, you’ll have to do some research if you’re reading this in another country.)
    Remember that libraries exist to serve their patrons, which is YOU. If several people ask for a comic, odds are that the librarians will put it on a list to buy. Most libraries also now have digital collections and you may be able to find comics through OverDrive or Hoopla. Again, ask your librarian if you need help.

  • Shop the Sales on ComiXology (or Amazon or Barnes & Noble)
    These sources save you the most money and give the least amount of money to creators. If you really want that comic, your library doesn’t carry it, and you just can’t afford it at full price… ComiXology, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble will sell you comics for cheap. B&N price-matches Amazon on trades, if you don’t feel like feeding the Beast. ComiXology is owned by Amazon and purchases are linked through Kindle if you so choose. They have truly massive sales, up to 80% off, and a ComiXology Unlimited (that’s unlimited reading via subscription) program that is pretty affordable if you read a ton of comics.
  • Borrow from Friends!
    We share comics with friends all the time. Just make sure you give/get them back and be gentle. Comics are expensive and you probably want to keep your friends.

Next time, we'll recommend some comics to start you or your friends off in the world of comics. Until then, we wish you the very best of (affordable) reading!

Coming Up...

Part 4: Starter Comics

A highly subjective listing of some comics, publishers, and artists to start with.

Part 5: Your Local Comic Shop

Learning to love your LCS, avoid the haters, and order comics.

Part 6: What Are All These New Distribution and Funding Channels?

Kickstarter, Patreon, Gumroad, and ComiXology Unlimited. How to navigate new-ish channels of distribution and funding.

Part 7: Dirty Comics

A guide to comics for the 18+ crowd, with an emphasis on sex-positive, LGBTQ+ and female-friendly content.

Part 8: Comics for Kids

AKA, what to buy your niece/nephew/child/local library to get kids reading.


If you have any questions, please feel free to send them to I’ll gather questions as we go and answer them at the end if they aren’t covered in a post. Happy reading!

Topics: comics guide