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Direct market dollar orders up double digits in October 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

by John Jackson Miller


Diamond Comic Distributors released its initial report on October 2011 comics orders today, and the numbers reflect a continuing improvement in the Direct Market. Overall, comics retailers in North America spent 11.93% more ordering comic books and trade paperbacks than they did in the previous October. Orders were also up 2.67% over September, which was the first full month of the DC relaunch. Click to see the preliminary rankings for October 2011.

That would suggest a month in which overall dollar orders for comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines were in the neighborhood of $40.6 million, the first time that figure has topped $40 million since September 2009, a month in which Blackest Night was continuing to build momentum. That would put the year to date at just under $340 million.

The eye-popping number is the rise in comic-book unit orders of 32.12% over October 2010. Orders rose 6.9% over September, when all the first issues of the DC relaunch were out. While that may sound counter-intuitive, it isn't when you consider that all those first issues continued to have reorders selling through October. Retailers with an eye on the aftermarket may also have some sense that second issues are historically under-ordered — something which goes at least back to the experience of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #2 in the 1980s, which wound up being much more valuable than its first issue.

So retailers ordered at least a million more comic books in October 2011 than they did in the previous October, and my back-of-the-envelope calculations say the month may edge out December 2008 to be the best month for unit orders since May 2007. It'll depend on what happens at the bottom of the charts. And remember, a large number of DC titles still have orders under-reported by Diamond by 10-20%, owing to DC's returnability offer. The upshot is that comic book unit sales went positive for the year this month, and dollar sales are within a hair's breadth of doing the same.

The comparisons:


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
OCTOBER 2011 VS. SEPTEMBER 2011
COMICS
6.78%
6.90%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-7.47%
-11.07%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
2.67%
5.73%
OCTOBER 2011 VS. OCTOBER 2010
COMICS
24.37%
32.12%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-12.90%
-30.75%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
11.93%
25.89%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2011 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2010
COMICS
-0.23%
1.86%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-5.39%
-12.07%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-1.93%
0.64%



Trade paperbacks were off again. The Flashpoint hardcover was the top seller, with a Walking Dead hardcover in second and the Batman: Arkham City hardcover in third. When the charts are dominated by hardcovers, the unit sales go down quite a lot, as you see above. But the dollar picture is better.

On to the market shares, and a new record set by DC. DC's market-leading dollar share was 42.47%, which beats its old Diamond Exclusive Era dollar share record of 40.88%, set in December 1999. That was the JLA Earth 2 month, and DC had 39 more comics than Marvel in the Top 300 that month — giving DC more than double Marvel's market share. The 42.47%-to-29.10% gap between DC and Marvel this month is thus by no means the largest seen — and in fact, with the growth of the market this month, it's not necessarily the case that all of DC's increase comes at the expense of others' final order totals. (Marvel's top dollar share in the Diamond Exclusive Era was 45.31%, set in September 2008.) The chart:
 
TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
DC COMICS
42.47%
50.97%
MARVEL COMICS
29.10%
30.29%
IMAGE COMICS
4.49%
3.98%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.44%
3.28%
IDW PUBLISHING
4.00%
2.97%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.81%
2.42%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.68%
1.02%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS
1.28%
0.30%
AVATAR PRESS
0.98%
0.53%
VIZ MEDIA
0.84%
0.32%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
7.91%
3.92%


It's a common misconception that Marvel always leads in dollar market share: DC led Marvel in Final Order Dollars in December 2010 and eight other times in the last 10 years. And DC led Marvel in that largest category every month from January 1999 to October 2001, much because of the comparative size of its offerings and trade paperback backlist in those days. You can see it visually here.

DC and Marvel's combined market shares total 71.57%; the record is June 2006, the Civil War #2 month, where the combined total reached 76.23%.

DC published more than half of all units sold, and had a 20-point lead in that category. I do not have historic tracks on that, because unit sales comparisons are not as clean when comics and trade paperbacks are in the same category. (That December 1999 month when DC had double Marvel's dollar sales, for example, Marvel was nearly even with DC in Top 300 units.) But Marvel had a 50.92%-to-28.47% unit share lead in September 2008, so there are earlier gaps of similar size in the Diamond Exclusive era.

DC's Justice League #2 led the market, and DC had 19 of the top 25 comics titles ordered. This is a remarkable figure, but, believe it or not, it is not a record. Marvel had 23 out of the Top 25 spots in March 2005.

October gives us a cleaner comparison in one regard: For the first time in the DC relaunch, we're comparing a four-week-month versus a four-week-month in the year-to-year totals; part of why the October gains look so much better than the September gains is that September 2010 was a five-week month. Since 2004, final unit orders for Top 300 comics are 11% higher in five-week months; that factor was not in play in October. However, it will be in November 2011, which I believe is a five ship-week month despite Thanksgiving.

2011 now has at least a shot at matching or beating last year's $418.6 million total; November 2011 has those five shipping weeks, and the hurdles for beating November and December 2010 are lower. We'd need to get year-over-year improvements in the 10% range again to hit the break-even point. But it's reachable, especially if trade paperbacks pick up.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  November 5, 2011 at 10:26 AM  

So What Does Have Warren Ellis have to say now??!

Rich November 7, 2011 at 11:22 PM  

He already said it before your comment, Anon:

http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=13476

"Okay, that’s more like a fight. I wish that many of the New 52 DC comics were more creatively compelling and less editorially pissed-in, and I wish DC had dealt Marvel a nutpunch right out of the gate, but I do really like this performance by DC.

It’ll make Marvel work harder. And then, maybe, just for a short while, commercial comics will be less ugly and stupid.

This on the same day that Marvel are letting a bunch of TPBs go out of print just-because."

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