When ordering comic books for Free Comic Book Day, although customers and passers by get the comics for free, the retailers have to pay for them, often around twenty-five cents each. They are there for outreach, to recruit customers, to invite lapsed customers back, and maybe while they are there upsell them on some more comics.
Then there is Avengers Vs X-Men #1. Now retailers usually get from 40-55% discount on the cover price before selling to you. That profit margin helps them pay for the property, utilities, staff, taxes, charged, everything a modern day retailer has to pay for.
Last year, DC Comics introduced increased discount on a number of titles, to encourage retailers to increase orders and push them harder. It's in the retailers interest top sell you on titles with a higher profit margin, your dollars mean more to a retailer if you spend them on books with a greater discount.
Bleeding Cool was the first to report on the increased discount on Avengers Vs X-Men #1, and other related titles, if a retailer orders 200% of their Fear Itself #7 orders, that discount increases to 70%. So retailers are paying $1.20 for a $3.99 (plus shipping).
It doesn't end there of course. Retailers will also qualify for 1-in-25 variants, 1-in-100 variants and 1-in-200 variants, which they can then sell on. Now there will be a lot of these around, so lets go with $8 for the 1-in-25 version, $30 for the 1-in-100 version and $100 for the 1-in-200 version is reasonable to respect. What does that mean?
Well, if a retailer ordered anything less than 100 Fear Itself #7 and orders 200 Avengers Vs X-Men #1, that will cost them $240. But they'll get around $200 on eBay for the variants. Leaving them paying $40 for 200 copies. Or around 20 cents each. LEss than the cost of a Free Comic Book Day comic.
Now mileage will no doubt vary, there's shipping on top of this, and it's possible the variants won't fetch that much. But then, they may fetch more. It's possible the variants could pay for the whole order, and more. Including shipping.
In that case it will be Free Comic Book Day – but just for the retailers. And possibly be the shot in the arm the direct market needs.
Thanks to Ryan Higgins for Comics Conspiracy for convincing me of the maths.