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"Marketplace" radio spot on comics

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

by John Jackson Miller


And the audio and transcript have been posted from today's "Marketplace" show -- Jim Lee, Joe Field, Dave Pifer, and I are interviewed. My line about first issues is accurate, to be sure — though I did try to make some wider points about legacy title numbering throughout comics history, and how  mileage has tended to vary on reboots. In any event, it's fun to be on one of my favorite shows.

The $700 million figure comes from the overall industry totals, newsstand and bookstores included, found here.

I have not remarked yet on the reported numbers that have circulated for some of the first issues of DC's relaunch — 200,000-plus copies for the flagship title, with others over 100,000 — but they seem to be in the range I was expecting. The number of comics shops today tends to impose a certain ceiling on titles — the Obama Amazing Spider-Man, for example, had a half-million copies in sales, which averages out to something near to 200 copies per store, which is astronomical these days. Much higher than that leads into Legends of the Dark Knight territory, which in 1989 posted a number so dizzyingly high that DC added multiple covers to the title after the fact for fear that retailers wouldn't be able to move all that they ordered. By contrast, there's a lot more chance that these books are already spoken for.

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Market share and performance graphics up to date

Monday, August 29, 2011

by John Jackson Miller

One of the sections of the site that I haven't been able to get to as often as I would like is the Vital Statistics section, with its graphics of comics sales across time in the comics shop market. In fact, as my writing schedule has grown busier, some of the graphics hadn't been updated in more than a year. With a lot of media inquiries lately — including American Public Media's Marketplace, where I'm told my interview will be airing tomorrow — I have now brought all the graphics on the site up to the current month.

OVERALL sales of comics and graphic novels to comics shops
in dollars, from 2003-2011
There are tracks for all years for which I have data for the comics shop market; for just the last three years, coinciding with the recession in the general economy, and for market shares for the major publishers.

There is a lot of interest from casual observers into the comics market these days, with the DC relaunch; it's worth looking at all of these graphics to really get a sense for the nuances of the market. There's no one big narrative, as the story is somewhat different depending on which statistic you’re looking at. The trade paperback and graphic novel track on the all-time page has tended to go up and up. New comics orders slid drastically in the 1990s as shops established during the bubble market (when there were lots of distributors, and  credit to open shops was easy to get) but began improving in the 2000s, peaking in 2007 as a kind of "big storyline event exhaustion" set in among customers.

SALES of the top-selling graphic novels and trade paperbacks
to comics shops in dollars, from 1999-2011
And the major new phenomenon, the changing shape of how comics sales break down across titles, isn't really depicted graphically in these images at all. The sales charts used to be dominated by a smaller number blockbusters coming from the major publishers; a lot of that volume has been redistributed across a larger number of middle and lower-tier books by large and middle-tier publishers. And so we see a very strange measure, sales for the 300th place title, going to record highs.

So it really does help to take a look around at some of the other measures here on the site, as no single one tells the whole story. Look for these other tables here; a couple could still use updating, but most are up to date:

MARKET SHARES for publishers in comics shops,
1997-2011
Top Sellers by Month: #1 comics each month as reported by Diamond Comic Distributors and Heroes World Distribution

Top 300 Comics of the 2000s: A list of the top-selling comics at Diamond from 2000 to 2009, based on merging reports for individual issues

Number of Comics Placed in Top 300 by Publisher: Month-by-month and average yearly counts of comics ranking in Diamond's Top 300 for several large publishers

Comics Sales Records: Sales records for comics in the Diamond Exclusive Era, 1997-present
 
NEW! Average cover prices of comics sold each month by Diamond Comic Distributors

NEW! Median Cover Prices by Year: Median cover prices of comics each year by all publishers, and by Marvel, DC, and Archie, 1961-2005

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Comics cover prices from 1961 to present

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

by John Jackson Miller

Von Allan has posted an interesting article on comic book pricing in comparison with minimum wage over the years, which prompted me to get online some materials that I've been meaning to post for some time.

First, readers of Comics Buyer's Guide may remember the "What Price, Comics?" column I ran in #1619, the August 2006 issue. As supporting material, I ran an analysis of what the median prices were for comics across four groups from 1960 to 2005: all comics published in the year, all Marvel comics, all DC comics, and all Archie comics. I presented them visually, with my commentary and the actual cover price stamps, as seen in these three images below:




I have not run the same analysis yet for 2005-2011, but it's pretty straightforward to do.

Meanwhile, I also have the average prices of all comics in Diamond's Top 300 from January 1995 to present here, as well as the average weighted prices — which means, the price of the average comic book ordered within the Top 300. (Basically, you take all the money the top 300 sold for and divide by total number of units.) The chart is at right, click to enlarge.

Below, are the raw figures that created it — and you will see therein reasons for some of the fluctuations.
The blue figures from July 1995 to August 1996 reflect Diamond's sales when Marvel was exclusive with Heroes World, so its mix of comics is different (and more expensive than when Marvel was included). As of September 1996 to March 1997, I have integrated the Heroes World and Diamond charts, so we're back to the whole market again, and prices drop, because Marvels were cheaper than most other comics. And then it's all Diamond after that. Note the drop in prices at the beginning of 2011, as well:


    Avg Price    Avg Wtd Price
Jan-95 $2.26 $2.20
Feb-95 $2.27 $2.24
Mar-95 $2.45 $2.40
Apr-95 $2.44 $2.39
May-95 $2.37 $2.37
Jun-95 $2.48 $2.43
Jul-95 $2.62 $2.57
Aug-95 $2.50 $2.54
Sep-95 $2.59 $2.60
Oct-95 $2.57 $2.58
Nov-95 $2.68 $2.68
Dec-95 $2.58 $2.57
Jan-96 $2.54 $2.54
Feb-96 $2.60 $2.61
Mar-96 $2.68 $2.68
Apr-96 $2.63 $2.63
May-96 $2.72 $2.71
Jun-96 $2.70 $2.70
Jul-96 $2.74 $2.75
Aug-96 $2.61 $2.61
Sep-96 $2.56 $2.34
Oct-96 $2.75 $2.41
Nov-96 $2.65 $2.49
Dec-96 $2.69 $2.51
Jan-97 $2.71 $2.49
Feb-97 $2.64 $2.40
Mar-97 $2.63 $2.34
Apr-97 $2.47 $2.21
May-97 $2.63 $2.40
Jun-97 $2.57 $2.39
Jul-97 $2.64 $2.46
Aug-97 $2.60 $2.51
Sep-97 $2.65 $2.45
Oct-97 $2.67 $2.56
Nov-97 $2.65 $2.50
Dec-97 $2.67 $2.56
Jan-98 $2.61 $2.38
Feb-98 $2.64 $2.38
Mar-98 $2.64 $2.45
Apr-98 $2.67 $2.50
May-98 $2.66 $2.43
Jun-98 $2.66 $2.43
Jul-98 $2.62 $2.43
Aug-98 $2.81 $2.63
Sep-98 $2.73 $2.44
Oct-98 $2.84 $2.65
Nov-98 $2.85 $2.59
Dec-98 $2.76 $2.54
Jan-99 $2.79 $2.56
Feb-99 $2.84 $2.57
Mar-99 $2.79 $2.51
Apr-99 $2.84 $2.58
May-99 $3.11 $2.60
Jun-99 $2.95 $2.55
Jul-99 $2.96 $2.55
Aug-99 $2.98 $2.62
Sep-99 $2.79 $2.62
Oct-99 $2.85 $2.68
Nov-99 $2.85 $2.61
Dec-99 $2.85 $2.68
Jan-00 $2.87 $2.56
Feb-00 $2.94 $2.64
Mar-00 $2.85 $2.64
Apr-00 $2.92 $2.67
May-00 $2.86 $2.71
Jun-00 $3.07 $2.88
Jul-00 $3.00 $2.86
Aug-00 $3.01 $2.82
Sep-00 $2.93 $2.84
Oct-00 $2.97 $2.85
Nov-00 $2.98 $2.71
Dec-00 $3.05 $2.85
Jan-01 $3.10 $2.76
Feb-01 $3.01 $2.68
Mar-01 $3.17 $2.76
Apr-01 $3.21 $2.72
May-01 $3.16 $2.69
Jun-01 $3.08 $2.78
Jul-01 $3.00 $2.81
Aug-01 $3.12 $2.73
Sep-01 $3.04 $2.79
Oct-01 $2.98 $2.83
Nov-01 $3.18 $2.88
Dec-01 $3.12 $3.04
Jan-02 $2.98 $2.85
Feb-02 $3.13 $2.89
Mar-02 $3.11 $2.73
Apr-02 $3.07 $2.82
May-02 $3.05 $2.80
Jun-02 $3.14 $2.84
Jul-02 $3.04 $2.75
Aug-02 $3.00 $2.75
Sep-02 $3.05 $2.77
Oct-02 $2.99 $2.74
Nov-02 $3.09 $2.83
Dec-02 $3.19 $2.70
Jan-03 $3.16 $2.78
Feb-03 $3.03 $2.82
Mar-03 $3.05 $2.81
Apr-03 $3.01 $2.78
May-03 $3.09 $2.77
Jun-03 $3.18 $2.91
Jul-03 $3.06 $2.80
Aug-03 $3.08 $2.79
Sep-03 $3.06 $2.93
Oct-03 $3.00 $2.90
Nov-03 $3.08 $2.90
Dec-03 $3.08 $2.85
Jan-04 $3.34 $2.82
Feb-04 $3.25 $2.85
Mar-04 $3.16 $2.92
Apr-04 $3.12 $2.82
May-04 $3.17 $2.85
Jun-04 $3.06 $2.83
Jul-04 $3.16 $2.91
Aug-04 $3.17 $2.85
Sep-04 $3.01 $2.85
Oct-04 $3.05 $2.88
Nov-04 $3.10 $2.90
Dec-04 $3.08 $2.90
Jan-05 $3.12 $2.79
Feb-05 $3.10 $2.86
Mar-05 $3.06 $2.84
Apr-05 $3.18 $2.85
May-05 $3.12 $2.91
Jun-05 $3.15 $2.94
Jul-05 $3.19 $2.92
Aug-05 $3.17 $2.92
Sep-05 $3.01 $2.88
Oct-05 $3.20 $2.96
Nov-05 $3.19 $3.00
Dec-05 $3.27 $3.05
Jan-06 $3.21 $2.98
Feb-06 $3.25 $3.01
Mar-06 $3.15 $3.08
Apr-06 $3.20 $3.12
May-06 $3.24 $3.11
Jun-06 $3.28 $3.04
Jul-06 $3.24 $3.06
Aug-06 $3.27 $3.11
Sep-06 $3.21 $3.09
Oct-06 $3.29 $3.13
Nov-06 $3.26 $3.09
Dec-06 $3.28 $3.15
Jan-07 $3.26 $3.12
Feb-07 $3.29 $3.15
Mar-07 $3.27 $3.20
Apr-07 $3.32 $3.06
May-07 $3.28 $3.15
Jun-07 $3.24 $3.19
Jul-07 $3.26 $3.14
Aug-07 $3.28 $3.20
Sep-07 $3.33 $3.21
Oct-07 $3.30 $3.21
Nov-07 $3.17 $3.13
Dec-07 $3.26 $3.22
Jan-08 $3.23 $3.11
Feb-08 $3.36 $3.13
Mar-08 $3.24 $3.15
Apr-08 $3.31 $3.20
May-08 $3.35 $3.28
Jun-08 $3.34 $3.21
Jul-08 $3.35 $3.25
Aug-08 $3.35 $3.25
Sep-08 $3.34 $3.24
Oct-08 $3.38 $3.31
Nov-08 $3.50 $3.35
Dec-08 $3.36 $3.31
Jan-09 $3.45 $3.41
Feb-09 $3.42 $3.41
Mar-09 $3.45 $3.41
Apr-09 $3.43 $3.37
May-09 $3.42 $3.32
Jun-09 $3.50 $3.46
Jul-09 $3.43 $3.50
Aug-09 $3.45 $3.44
Sep-09 $3.44 $3.48
Oct-09 $3.53 $3.46
Nov-09 $3.51 $3.50
Dec-09 $3.59 $3.57
Jan-10 $3.52 $3.44
Feb-10 $3.54 $3.47
Mar-10 $3.55 $3.52
Apr-10 $3.47 $3.47
May-10 $3.49 $3.51
Jun-10 $3.47 $3.56
Jul-10 $3.59 $3.58
Aug-10 $3.54 $3.56
Sep-10 $3.59 $3.57
Oct-10 $3.72 $3.59
Nov-10 $3.78 $3.69
Dec-10 $3.74 $3.65
Jan-11 $3.61 $3.50
Feb-11 $3.56 $3.48
Mar-11 $3.43 $3.43
Apr-11 $3.53 $3.56
May-11 $3.54 $3.47
Jun-11 $3.42 $3.43
Jul-11 $3.44 $3.45

I have earlier figures, but they're based on the Capital City data and I want to run more Diamond to keep things apples-to-apples. Some day...

Permanent pages have been posted for these tables in the Vital Statistics section: Cover Prices by Month and Median Cover Prices by Year. There are other pricing-related posts here, including a history of comics price decreases, and a look at graphic novel pricing.

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Full July 2011 comics sales estimates now online

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

by John Jackson Miller

Following the initial report here on July 2011 comics orders, the full data is now out from Diamond Comic Distributors. Click to see the Comics Chronicles estimates.

As expected, Amazing Spider-Man #666 landed in the 130s, and there were two more titles in the 90,000-copy range, which is an improvement on some of the more anemic months this year. The market didn't have as much depth, though, with the 300th-place title landing around 3,500 copies. That is much higher than in past years, just not as high as some recent months.

The aggregate totals:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2011: 5.89 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -20%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -6%
YEAR TO DATE: 37.9 million copies, -7% vs. 2010, -19% vs. 2006, +4% vs. 2001

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2011 versus one year ago this month: -0.52%
YEAR TO DATE: -6.46%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2011: $20.29 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -10%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +16%
YEAR TO DATE: $131.53 million, -8% vs. 2010, -8% vs. 2006, +31% vs. 2001

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2011 versus one year ago this month: -4.27%
YEAR TO DATE: -7.26%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2011: $5.94 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -22%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -8%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +49%
YEAR TO DATE: $38.33 million, -11% vs. 2010

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
July 2011 versus one year ago this month: -10.1%
YEAR TO DATE: -6.58%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2011: $26.23 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: -10%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +16%
YEAR TO DATE: $169.86 million, -9% vs. 2010

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
July 2011 versus one year ago this month: -6.17%
YEAR TO DATE: -7.04%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
July 2011: approximately $33 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -6%
YEAR TO DATE: $221.68 million, -7% vs. 2010
It's worth noting that while the unit sales performances versus with five years ago are starting to look pretty bad,  there's an excellent reason for that: we're beginning to climb the real sales peak for comics in the 2000s. July 2006 saw the release of Civil War #3 — at 290,000 copies in its first month, it was the #3 best-selling comic book of the entire decade — and the previous issue was #2! Diamond moved 7.4 million copies in the month, on its way up to a 21st-century record of 7.96 million copies in November 2006. So as we make our comparisons heading into DC's relaunch, it is worth remembering that, while the one-year comparatives for the market aren't particularly high hurdles, the five-year numbers are way up there. (The ten-year unit sales comparatives, which had been very close to current performance, are starting to climb, too, as the market recovery of 2001 was underway by this time of year.)

The drop in trade paperbacks is attributable in some large part to tough comparatives from the previous year: July 2011 saw a new Scott Pilgrim edition and high Pilgrim sales in advance of the film, a Walking Dead volume, and the Blackest Night hardcover. But the "long tail" makes up for quite a bit: just comparing the Top 300 trades, this July was off $2.4 million, or 22%. The gap shrinks to 10% when the rest of Diamond's trades are added in.

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July initial, June final comics orders online; IDW sets record

Friday, August 5, 2011

by John Jackson Miller


Diamond Comic Distributors released its initial sales report for July 2011 today, and I finally have the much-delayed June 2011 estimates online here at the site as well. (Writing three comics series and a novel, plus San Diego, was bound to have an impact over here.) Click to view the estimated comics sales figures for June 2011, and the initial comics sales report for July 2011.

Of June 2011, the detailed report doesn't vary much from what I observed early on, from the road; Ultimate Spider-Man #160 vaulted to become the most-ordered comic book of 2011 thus far, and the new Walking Dead Vol. 14 lent an additional boost. A five-week month up against a four-week month from last year, the percentage drops were whittled down to the low single digits. Units continue to do better year-over-year than dollars, again due to the reductions in cover prices this year.

The periodical market continued to have considerable sales depth in June, with the 300th place item again topping 4,000 copies. But only 15 publishers had titles in the Top 300, which ties last June for the lowest number ever.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume III: Century #2 1969For July 2011, we again find a metric slew of Flashpoint titles at DC, and while graphic novels and trade paperbacks were off 10% year-to-year, the unit orders for comic books for the month are within a few thousand copies of what they were last July. Amazing Spider-Man #666 turned an unfortunate issue number into the #1 book of the month; I expect the estimate to come in somewhere near 140,000 copies. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century #2 was the top bound edition,

The comparatives from Diamond are below, but as usual, I strongly urge against paying much mind to the first set of numbers, the month-to-month ones; there are problems comparing any two individual months, but the year-on-year numbers may be a little more enlightening. The year-to-date numbers, of course, are the best measure:

  DOLLARS UNITS
JULY 2011 VS. JUNE 2011
COMICS -5.26% -4.59%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -16.12% -13.27%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -8.94% -5.33%
JULY 2011 VS. JULY 2010
COMICS -4.27% -0.52%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -10.10% -13.19%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -6.17% -1.64%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2011 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2010
COMICS -7.26% -6.46%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -6.58% -11.01%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -7.04% -6.85%

Notable, too, is IDW's dollar market share in July, which at 5.32% is the highest that publisher has ever tracked at Diamond. (Click to see other Diamond era sales records.)

The full Top 300s for Diamond for July should be along soon. July, of course, is of interest in part because of the retail order cycle: cash flow in July has something (but not everything) to say about how DC's relaunch will perform in September.

And September will be interesting for a further reason, as it will mark 15 years of my publishing integrated sales estimates; we'll be able to do 15-year sales comparisons with September 1996, which, coincidentally, was the month of the Jim Lee/Rob Liefeld "Heroes Reborn" relaunch at Marvel. We know that sales on those four titles were several times what their predecessors had been, but unfortunately, since we don't have full Marvel data from August 1996, we can't say whether those titles pulled sales from the rest of the line or not. The 2011 phenomenon is different in many ways, of course, larger scope being the most obvious. So September 1996 will be of limited utility as a comparison point — but beginning with that month, we'll at least have 15-year tracks for those interested.

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