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2010 ends on an up quarter thanks to graphic novels

Friday, January 7, 2011

by John Jackson Miller


Amid the rollout of end-of-year reports for 2010, Diamond Comic Distributors released its top sellers for December 2010 on Friday, as well as the specific category breakdowns. Find the list of December 2010 top-sellers here.

Diamond CEO Steve Geppi had spoken of improvement in the fourth quarter in that end-of-year announcement, and there was a year-to-year increase in the fourth quarter of nearly 2% in dollar sales of comics and trade paperbacks, thanks to a large increase in trade paperback sales over the three-month period. After a few years in which comics periodical sales grew more than trade paperback sales — and several months this year in which trade paperback orders suffered against Watchmen-inflated comparisons from 2009 — the market seems to have returned to the dynamic that helped it in its last recovery, early in the 2000s. Bound edition sales have rebounded — thanks in some part this year to the media-helped success of Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim, and Kick-Ass — and that has helped the market improve against losses on the periodical side. Fables Vol. 14 was the top collected edition for the month.


Not a peace sign, but the Dollar Shares for December
Looking specifically at December, Batman: The Dark Knight #1 led the charts in a month in which comics periodical orders were down by nearly 11%. With these aggregate figures and with Dark Knight at $3.99, expectations would be this is probably another top-seller with unit sales in the high five-figures, rather than low six-figures. Eight of the top ten titles were published by DC — which led in dollar share by a slight margin.  Looking at previous sales, we have the prospect of the top Marvel coming in under 75,000 in first-month sales.

But trade paperback and graphic novel sales were up 26.74% year-over-year, a remarkable amount. That was enough to put December into the black, overall, with total comics and trade dollars up 2.2%. The aggregate totals:

Total comics unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10.68%
Fourth quarter 2010 versus 2009: -8.72%
2010 final, vs. 2009: -5.91%

Total comics dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7.45%
Fourth quarter 2010 versus 2009: -4.72%
2010 final, vs. 2009: -4.65%

Total trade paperback and graphic novel unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +26.24%
Fourth quarter 2010 versus 2009: +23.27%
2010 final, vs. 2009: -1.52%
 
Total trade paperback and graphic novel dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +26.74%
Fourth quarter 2010 versus 2009: +16.96%
2010 final, vs. 2009: -1.02%
 
Total comic, trade paperback and graphic novel unit sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: -8.11%
Fourth quarter 2010 versus 2009: -6.36%
2010 final, vs. 2009: -5.54%

Total comic, trade paperback and graphic novel dollar sales:
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2.20%
Fourth quarter 2010 versus 2009: +1.74%
2010 final, vs. 2009: -3.48%

Fables Vol. 14: WitchesAgain, trade paperback and graphic novel orders appear to have rebounded nicely in the fourth quarter, and if trades were a larger share of the $415 million direct market, that would count for more; while they've grown, TPBs account for about a third of dollars in comics shops, whereas they're almost the whole ballgame in mass-market bookstores. It'll be interesting to see from the Bookscan numbers for 2010 how the needle's moved in the mass market.

There will be more to come, here, as Diamond releases its larger lists of top-sellers for December and for 2010 overall; we're also working up our own aggregated data as in the past.

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