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September 2012 comics sales: Best quarter in decade

Monday, October 8, 2012

by John Jackson Miller

The estimates for comics sales for September 2012 are now online here at The Comics Chronicles, and they complete a quarter that in non-inflation-adjusted dollar terms was the biggest since at least the mid-1990s. North American comics retailers ordered $123.6 million in comic books and graphic novels in the quarter, beating the previous record set just three months earlier by the second quarter.


Because the third quarter of 2011 contained the start of the DC relaunch, the industry's pace against 2011 actually slowed by two full percentage points: now, the Direct Market is up 16.16% for the year. But it took retailers until the second week of November 2011 to order as much material as they had by September 30 of this year — $346.6 million worth. The market is now running $48 million ahead of its 2011 pace.

With the DC relaunch entering the comparative picture, periodical sales were down last month. Avengers Vs. X-Men #11 led the market and was the only Marvel title in a Top 10 filled with DC Zero Month issues. To date in 2012, retailers have ordered nearly 59 million copies of periodicals appearing within the Top 300; a year-end total of 80 million is tantalizingly withing reach. The Direct Market hasn't been above 80 million copies since 2008.

No repeat appearance for Walking Dead #100 in the rankings; we'll  see the final sales in the end-of-year totals.

Trade paperbacks and graphic novel sales, however, helped keep the market just barely in positive territory for the month — though it's debatable whether the market-leading title, Thanos Quest #1, should be counted with the trades. It is a collected edition, compiling two issues of a microseries released in September and October of 1990 (when they had sales through Capital City Distribution of 23,000 and 19,300 copies respectively) — but alone in the top-ranked trades it has no ISBN number, and when it was collected in January 2000, it was counted as a comic book by Diamond.

But its cover price then, $3.99, was not substantially more than the average comic-book price at the time; the current version's $7.99 is more than double the current average. Inclusion on the graphic novel list has tended over the years to be a function of price. The 2000 version, incidentally, landed in 151st place during its release month, with preorders of more than 12,500 copies; the current version just beats that total, with more than 13,100 copies sold at twice the price. (Movie buzz tends to help!) Counted as a comic book, it would have been in 164th place.

Just as Diamond releases "small" and "indie" publisher charts for comics that sometimes extend the Top 300 lists, Diamond also does so for graphic novels. Rarely do the charts include items not already seen on the larger list, but last month and this month they have. We can actually see down to 464th place, where items are still selling around 280 copies; as the 300th-place level for trades this month was 396 copies, that suggests a very slow drop-off in the "long tail." The trades from 301st to 464th place likely add around 55,000 copies and a million dollars all on their own to industry sales.

The aggregate totals:


TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2012: 6.51 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -10%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -7%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -17%
Q3 2012: 20.51 million copies, +6% vs. Q3 2011
YEAR TO DATE: 58.83 million copies, +15% vs. 2011, -8% vs. 2007, +12% vs. 2002, -22% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: -8.72%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +6.06
YEAR TO DATE: +14.26%

---

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2012: $22.8 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +18%
Q3 2012: $73.23 million, +11% vs. Q3 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $206.81 million, +17% vs. 2011, +2% vs. 2007, +41% vs. 2002, +15% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: -4.42%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +11.5%
YEAR TO DATE: +17.12%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
September 2012: $7.15 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +12%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -6%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: -13%
Q3 2012: $21.99 million, +18% vs. Q3 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $62.61 million, +23% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: +14.43%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +15.37%
YEAR TO DATE: +14.16%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
September 2012: $29.95 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +4%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +15%
Q3 2012: $95.21 million, +12% vs. 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $269.41 million, +18% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
September 2012 versus one year ago this month: +1.02%
Q3 2012 versus Q3 2011: +12.71%
YEAR TO DATE: +16.16%

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OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
September 2012: approximately $38.96 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +19%

Q3 2012: $123.6 million, +13% vs. 2011

YEAR TO DATE: $346.59 million, +16% vs. 2011

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.56, with the average comic book ordered by retailers costing $3.50. $3.50 was the median price of comics, and $2.99 was the most common price.

Updates have been made to the pages listing the #1 comics of each month, the 300th place comics of each month, and the Diamond-era sales records.

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6 comments:

Anonymous,  October 9, 2012 at 9:22 AM  

Since DC sold over 5m units of the New 52 #1s last year(http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=34886) and this time they have sold about 2.6m(41.1% out of 6.51m comics sold in the Top300) despite the hyped Zero month and BEFORE WATCHMEN that means that their sales are down 50% compared to last September, with New 52 sales down 60% maybe more. Where exactly is the success of the reboot in that?

John Jackson Miller October 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM  

That comparison isn't accurate, because the two groups being compared are not the same. That quote refers to everything DC sold (including overseas copies) over a period that includes JL #1 in August and the first half of October. A correct comparison of Top 300 periodicals in September alone finds the month in North America last year had 20% more Top 300 unit sales than the month this year...

...which is offset by the company's products outside the Top 300, and graphic novels, because DC made more dollars from all its products this September than last September. So there has been growth to the bottom line.

The unit count is reasonably close to last year's figure when you consider there really is no universe in which the 13th issues of a group of 50+ titles are collectively going to outsell the first issues, when the nature of the business is that most comics titles decline as issue numbers increase. (Much periodical growth has historically come from launching additional titles, and replacing gray ones with new ones.)

This is not to argue for the success or failure of a particular publisher's effort -- but just to get the numbers straight.




kb November 7, 2012 at 5:29 PM  

I am repeating myself, but I would really like to know how digital comics compare to this.

I mean, one would think digital comics would become quite popular. We see paper comics growing - how much is digital comics growing?

I, personally, have paid far more on digital comics than on paper comics in last year, on the other hand it was mostly backissues.

Jason Love November 7, 2012 at 6:25 PM  

I am working on a comic book that I funded through kickstarter and I am having a hard time to decide if I should try and distribute through Diamond or not. Does anyone out there have any suggestions on the matter or know of any articles that could help me?

I am new to this site and have to say the numbers excite me but I am realistic in the sense that I know my comic will not probably get in the top list of sellers without a major publisher backing me.

Thanks for the article and the help.
-Jason Love

John Jackson Miller November 7, 2012 at 7:03 PM  

Best reports I have heard are that digital is nearly triple what it was last year -- which would bring the total to around $75 million. That is a little more than one tenth of what print makes, across all channels. As noted here:

http://blog.comichron.com/2012/07/a-case-for-optimism.html

...at least thus far it looks to be additive, and not replacing print sales.

John Jackson Miller November 7, 2012 at 7:06 PM  

As for Diamond, they do have resources for suppliers that will let you know whether or not it is right for you. Check the links at the side of this page:

http://vendor.diamondcomics.com/public/

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