Daily deal websites like Groupon and Living Social have exploded in popularity in the last two years, so it was only a matter of time before someone came along and applied that business model to the world of comic books and related genre entertainment.Now, that someone is here: Thwipster, a deal-of-the-day site that launched April 27 with an offer of hardcover collection Absolute All-Star Superman for $59.99, $40 off cover price.
As of right now, Thwipster is a two-man operation: the brotherly duo of "Chief Officer Prime" Lance Sells and "Director of Doom" Chad Sells, neither of which had any previous comic book retail experience other than Chad's aspirations of owning a brick-and-mortar operation.
"[Chad] had been talking about opening a comic store for years and years and years," Lance Sells said in a phone interview with Newsarama. "My world is really about animation, design. We both love comics, but some of my big interests are start-ups and technology."
Though new to selling comics, Lance Sells isn't a total stranger to the industry. He's the director of Motherland, an animation studio who has worked on cinemas for DC Universe Online and Marvel's Spider-Woman motion comic.
In its early days, Thwipster has attracted publicity from blogs including Topless Robot, Comics Alliance and The Beat, with the easy hook of "Groupon for geeks." Though Sells won't disclose the actual numbers of books being moved, thus far nearly every daily deal has sold out, usually within a few hours of being posted.
"The response has just been insane," Sells said, adding that they're getting a high number of return customers. "Well over 50 percent of the people are returning the next day."
A major difference between Thwipster and places like Groupon and Living Social is that the established daily deal sites typically offer discounts at places that you wouldn't normally be able to save a lot of money at — restaurants, salons, clothing stores. Online, there are plenty of places like Amazon to get books (comics or otherwise) at way below cover price — and Sells is well-aware of that fact.Batman & Robin, one of
the weekly deals offered
by Thwipster."If somebody finds something on Amazon for a better price, or at a comic store, or online, really our thoughts are, you should get it from them, get the best deal, if there is a better deal," Sells said, adding that the site does work with Amazon's fulfillment service to take care of packing and shipping. "I know for a fact that we won't be able to beat Amazon on every single thing we ever carry."
With that admission, Sells said that the goal of Thwipster is to do more than just sell trade paperbacks and hardcovers at deep discounts. He's also looking to offer an alternative to the often overwhelming process of shopping at comic book stores or conventions.With Thwipster, it's one product a day, with a brief explanation of what makes the book worthwhile. The site's been including personally shot videos and photos to show off the items, and providing greater context with creater bios.
"A lot of it is just the simplicity of it," Sells said of the site's potential appeal. "We're trying to present a great context, and to get people to buy it."
With that comes a curation process. The site has thus far offered titles ranging from Ultimate Spider-Man to Chew to Acme Novelty Library, which are all comics that the brothers themselves deem to be a quality representation of the medium.
Volume one of The
Thwipster's May 9 deal."We're not finding some old inventory somewhere, buying it for pennies, and then trying to sell that," Sells said. "That's not our idea. This is what we think is the best."
At this point, both the site's daily and weekly deals have only been collected editions of comic books, but they're planning to expand into (as the site's "About Us" puts it) "toys, games and assorted geek culture items.""We are expanding, that should happen this week," Sells said, continuing that "at the moment" the plan is to keep comic books as the main focus.
"It's all related stuff," Sells said. "Everything you'd find at a comic convention is what we're going to carry."
Near-future plans include expanding the company blog "Daring Chunk" and adding international shipping. More editorial content is being planned, though Sells was reluctant to go into too much detail.
Clearly, Thwipster is looking to stick around, even if the long-term feasibility of daily-deal sites is yet to be determined.
"The model is exploding right now, it's proven to be effective," Sells said. "Hopefully it continues to be effective. Will people get sick of it? I don't know."Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!