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November 2011 puts industry back in black for 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

by John Jackson Miller


It's almost a done deal: 2011 will be the first up year for the comic book direct market since 2008, resuming the trend of the early 2000s and giving the industry nine years of growth out of the past 11. Diamond Comic Distributors released its November Top 100s and Comparative Sales Statistics this morning, and they report not just double-digit increases in comics unit and dollar sales, but also for graphic novels and trade paperbacks, which had been the laggard category. Find the top-sellers list here.

The result is likely the best month of 2011, sales-wise — an increase of 19.44% over the past month. My back-of-the-envelope calculations put the month at something over $42 million. The overall figure for Direct Market orders in the year is close to $389 million, a figure which incorporates some slight revisions (which I mention below). Diamond will release its Top 300s with full data next week.


The DC relaunch continues to make a big splash, of course, but the top-sellers list for the month includes several #1s from Marvel. Not a single issue in the Top 10 had an issue number above #3, and when the list is heavy with debut and early issues of series, we generally get a strong month. Comics unit sales were up a ginormous 31.19% over last November, which, as I reminded readers last month, wasn't a tough comparative to beat. Comics unit sales are now up 7% for the year; we've got a good shot at getting back above 75 million Top 300 comics sold for the year.

A significant help to the market this month, again, came from the graphic novels and trade paperbacks, which rose 12.43%. Several hardcovers ranked highly in unit sales, and that usually means a good month dollar-wise. The Batman: Noel Deluxe Edition hardcover topped the charts, followed by Dark Horse's Hellboy: House of the Living Dead hardcover. The trade category is the only one that's still off for the year, and it's not out of the question that it too could at least pull even.

The aggregate figures:



COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
NOVEMBER 2011 VS. OCTOBER 2011
COMICS
-4.57%
-7.00%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
29.67%
30.06%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
4.33%
-4.98%
NOVEMBER 2011 VS. NOVEMBER 2010
COMICS
23.10%
31.19%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
12.43%
-0.69%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
19.44%
28.12%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2011 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2010
COMICS
4.06%
7.01%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-2.56%
-10.27%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
1.87%
5.47%




DC remains on top in the market shares department this month, although the gap has much narrowed, and actually looks a lot like the table for a year ago this month, only with Marvel and DC reversed. The shares:
TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
DC COMICS
34.69%
39.66%
MARVEL COMICS
33.30%
37.84%
IMAGE COMICS
5.36%
4.60%
IDW PUBLISHING
5.28%
3.65%
DARK HORSE COMICS
4.56%
3.47%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
3.48%
3.20%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.64%
1.55%
VIZ MEDIA
1.05%
0.39%
AVATAR PRESS
0.97%
0.55%
RANDOM HOUSE
0.96%
0.27%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
8.70%
4.81%



The release of the November sales figures marks a full year since Diamond began releasing aggregate month-to-month, year-to-year, and year-to-date sales change percentages. This is significant, as it helps improve the model that Comichron uses to project Overall Comic Book, Trade Paperback, and Magazine sales figures. The current model suggests that the previously calculated Overall estimates for 2011 were slightly low, the estimates for 2010 were slightly high, or some combination of the two. I've made some modest adjustments to the bottom line figure for the industry (resulting in a few million dollars extra for the year) but will need to do some more work with it as more figures come out. (Read more about the Overall estimate and how it's calculated.)

We can also say, looking at these figures over the course of the year, that they have been mathematically consistent: if you apply all 12 month-to-month changes Diamond has presented in the past year to a constant, it nets out to the exact year-to-year percentage that Diamond has just now reported. So there haven't been any glitches or typos in the numbers being reported.

In any event, barring calamity, the numbers look on pace for a slight overall increase over 2010's sales. It's often lost in discussion of the industry that the market was likely up for eight straight years in the 2000s, and that the two intervening decreases were slight. Time will, of course, tell whether the dropoff in 2009-10 was a significant market shift or a temporary aberration.

Look for more estimates next week. Remember to follow Comichron on Facebook and Twitter!

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