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Comics Buyer's Guide: An advertiser's remembrance

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

by John Jackson Miller

The 4th issue had ad rates on Page 1.
It only took four days for last Wednesday's post about the closure of Comics Buyer's Guide after 42 years to become the most viewed article in this site's history. That response, and the comments received, were gratifying to those who worked on it for many years.

One response received yesterday came directly from Bud Plant, one of the longtime advertisers in CBG and its precursor, TBG — and I thought I would include it here:

I really enjoyed reading your overview--amazing what I'd forgotten about the many changes in CBG over the years. You brought back some happy times, with the columns and news that I very much looked forward to each week.

I was one of the every-issue advertisers from one of the first issues, moving over from ads in the Rocket's Blast ComiCollector. TBG was absolutely essential in helping me to reach new customers and to build my mail order/catalog business through the 1970s, so that I could first produce flyers, then full catalogs, and have a list to mail them to.

The typeset issues were quite handsome, but the cost of advertising did become very expensive. That letter-writer was right, you could judge a dealer's aptitude when you saw exactly what their ad looked like. My early ads were always worked on quite hard and it helped me to learn proper layout and marketing to design them.

I kept doing ads there as I moved into distribution in the 1980s, but I remember having to think long and hard about how to maintain my presence. Like Chuck Rozanski, I found ads in Marvel Comics (in my case, on the back cover of Savage Sword of Conan) became a better way to reach new collectors. That was the bargain basement of Marvel, $250 for a back-cover ad on their magazines!

Towards the end, it was Michelle Nolan's column that was my first and favorite place to turn to in CBG. Chuck Rozanski's was also frequently fun. But sadly I found it wasn't that hard to let my subscription lapse, as it has been for the last couple of years.
Thanks for your part in all of that, and for your fine work on Comics Retailer — this also managed to hang on a lot longer than I would have expected it to. Both publications were integral in growing novice fans into dedicated collectors, and in educating retailers.

TBG #22's cover led with an auction.
I greatly appreciate Bud's sentiments, and it reminds me of something I didn't pay as much attention to in my piece as it deserved: the ad staff. Their work, bringing all that material together, filled up three-quarters of the issues for years, and it was an often difficult and unsung job.

My wife was an ad rep there for less than a year in the late 1990s, and I got to see some of the pressures of the work from her — as well as what I saw in the office over the years. It wasn't just the cold calls that presented the challenge — ad staffers also helped to corral a vast amount of materials, funneling it from the advertisers to the designers in the production room. Materials were coming in from hundreds of vendors each week; just managing the traffic was a monumental chore. But for years, many in the business knew to expect their weekly call from staffers including John Diser, Jim Felhofer, Jim Owens, John Hammond, Cheryl Clementi, Norma Jean Fochs, Tom Polzer, Amanda Wild, Steve Madson, and many, many more. I would also single out for note Shannon Piotrowski, who handled the calls solo for much of the 2000s, and Lori Hauser, who handled traffic for the ad office for more than 20 years.

One of the last ad rate cards, 2009-10.
There was always a tension between advertising and editorial, each pushing and pulling the magazine toward something that more closely served their needs. One year at San Diego, The Comics Journal read "indictments" against various entities in the industry, including one saying that CBG's editorial staff ran too many articles just to satisfy the ad staff. "Any objections?" they'd asked after reading the charge; no one said anything. Hearing later of it, ad rep John Diser said he would have loudly and vociferously objected. "I'd have told them you don't run nearly enough!"

But several of the ad staffers, including John, were comics fans themselves — and in the end, we all had the same interest, which was putting out the most successful magazine we could, despite the challenges facing the business model. The magazine that started out almost entirely as advertising may have ended life almost entirely as editorial content, but there's no understating the role that advertisers and ad staffers alike had in between.

A quick note for TBG fans: Russ Maheras has this week picked up where his TBG index on the CBG site left off on his Facebook page.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

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2000 for 2012: Top 1000 Comics and Top 1000 Trades, with Comichron estimates

Monday, January 14, 2013

by John Jackson Miller

With today's release of December comics orders from Diamond Comic Distributors — and our subsequent analysis and estimates for December 2012 comics sales now posted — The Comics Chronicles has drawn upon that information to project estimates for the Top Thousand Comics and the Top Thousand Graphic Novels for 2012. The tables are on the page just beneath the image links to individual months.

As in past years, it is a large page, necessarily, so it may take a bit to load. Also as in the past, I have rounded off to the nearest hundred.

The Top Thousand Comics account for around 53.43 million copies, or well over half of all the comics that Diamond sold. Last year, the Top 1000 amounted to 47 million copies, and in 2010, the total was 45.3 million copies. In full retail dollars, they sold for $191.4 million, a more than $30 million increase over 2011's total of $161 million. (See the 2011 article here, and the charts here.)

The Top Thousand Trades went for $71.4 million, a $13 million increase over last year's total of $58.4 million. Combined, these two lists alone account for about 55% of the orders by dollars Diamond received in publishing last year, which was around $474.6 million.

Walking Dead #100 was the top seller of the year; Comichron estimates that, all told, around 353,200 copies of the regular issue were sold during the year. The Chromium variant is projected to wind up on the list, too, with orders approaching 31,200 copies; together, that brings the Diamond sales for the title to around 384,800 copies. That's enough to make it the second highest-selling comic book of the 21st Century, behind only the Obama Amazing Spider-Man #583, with orders of 530,500 copies in 2009. You can see the top-sellers by year here.

The entire Top Comics of the 21st Century list has been updated; the merger of the two Walking Dead variants follows last year's practice of merging DC's Combo issues with the main versions. (They're kept separate on the individual pages for each year.) As we can see from just the top of the list, One other 2012 title, Uncanny Avengers #1, also cracked the Top 10. 


Comic-book Title Issue Ship Price Publisher Est. sales
1 Amazing Spider-Man 583 Jan-09 $3.99 Marvel 530,500
2 Walking Dead (including Chromium edition) 100 Jul-12 $3.99 Image 384,800
3 Civil War 2 Jun-06 $2.99 Marvel 341,900
4 Civil War 3 Jul-06 $2.99 Marvel 337,000
5 Civil War 1 May-06 $3.99 Marvel 328,500
6 Captain America 25 Mar-07 $3.99 Marvel 317,700
7 Uncanny Avengers 1 Oct-12 $3.99 Marvel 305,900
8 Civil War 4 Sep-06 $2.99 Marvel 291,000
9 Civil War 5 Nov-06 $2.99 Marvel 283,900
10 All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder 1 Jul-05 $2.99 DC 276,000

Forty issues from 2012 made the Top 300 for the 21st Century list — that's a big number. There were 24 new entries that made the list in 2011, and only nine in 2010 (some of which were pushed off by this year's entries).

Twenty 2012 issues made the Top 100, and eight made the Top 50. There is a separate page that ranks just 2000-2009, if you just want to see the previous decade.

Back to 2012. Who published the Top Thousand Comics this year? Here's the breakdown:

Marvel: 530 (-9 from 2011)
DC: 419 (-15 from 2011)
Image: 31 (+15 from 2011)
Dark Horse: 8 (+2 from 2011)
IDW: 6 (+3 from 2011)
Valiant: 3 (+3 from 2011)
Dynamic Forces (Dynamite): 2 (no change)
Boom: 1 (+1 from 2011)

That's two publishers that weren't on last year's list: Valiant and Boom.

And here's the publisher breakdown of the Top Thousand Graphic Novels. Those with 10 or more entries:

DC: 341 (+2 from 2011)
Marvel: 284 (-16 from 2011)
Dark Horse: 94 (-9 from 2011)
Image: 71 (+3 from 2011)
Viz: 40 (+8 from 2011)
IDW: 38 (+14 from 2011)
Random House: 21 (+8 from 2011)
Archie: 18 (+6 from 2011)
Dynamite: 15 (+4 from 2011)
Oni: 12 (+1 from 2011)
Boom: 10 (-7 from 2011)
Hachette: 10 (-2 from 2011)


I don't maintain a Graphic Novels of the Century list — too much missing data from earlier years — but this year's three-peat leader, Walking Dead Vol. 1, must be getting up there. As seen on the 2012 chart, Comichron projects the overall orders for the volume for 2012 to be somewhere around 74,700 copies, worth around three quarters of a million dollars at retail.

As noted here last Friday, retailers ordered more than half a million Walking Dead softcover and hardcover graphic novels in the year, worth nearly than $10 million at retail; combined with the comics, that likely comes close to $13.6 million — which would give Walking Dead comics, all on their own, a 2.8% market share. That would make it the seventh largest publisher for 2012!

Now, some notes about the shape of the market, as seen on the lists. We find the following breakdowns for unit sales:

63 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2012
129 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2012
403 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2012
At least 1,100 comics had orders of 25,000-49,999 copies in 2012

As we can see, that is a huge boost over what we saw in 2011:

42 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2011
85 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2011
342 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2011
978 comics had orders of 25,000-49,999 copies in 2011

There were nearly twice as many comics in the upper tier in 2012 as there were in 2010:

26 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2010
68 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2010
209 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2010
648 comics had orders of 25,000-49,999 copies in 2010

I only ran the Top 500 comics in 2009, so we can only compare the top three categories directly:

39 comics had orders of over 100,000 copies in 2009
80 comics had orders of 75,000-99,999 copies in 2009
260 comics had orders of 50,000-74,999 copies in 2009

My best guess is that there are between 2,100 and 2,200 comics that sold at least 10,000 copies in 2012.

There are 21 other years of Diamond annual reports on the site, going back to 1991.

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December 2012 comics sales estimates online

by John Jackson Miller

Diamond Comic Distributors has released the full charts for December, completing the picture of sales by comics shops for the year. Click to see the Comichron estimates for December 2012 comics sales.

As described here on Friday, Amazing Spider-Man #700 was the best-seller, and as projected it narrowly topped 200,000 copies. (As before, previous publisher reports had indicated a higher figure; note that this Diamond total does not include U.K. sales, so there's no disconnect here.)

The top-selling collected edition for the month was Walking Dead Vol. 1, which also was the best-selling graphic novel for the year — and, in fact, the last three years.
The Top 300 comics sales for the Direct Market for the year came in at 80.55 million copies, which as seen in the yearly comparison tables gets us back into the 2006-08 range. Retailers ordered more than 8 million more comics in 2012 than in 2011. Remember, Diamond has units shipping on thousands of comics monthly (current releases and reordered previous releases), so the total number of comic books sold is higher. The dollar figures in all categories are the highest they've been in the Diamond Exclusive Era (1997-present), although inflation naturally figures into that.

Total Direct Market orders for all comics and graphic novels came in at approximately $474.61 million, up 14.72%; just the Top 300s in each category each month contributed $369.59 million of that total. That means that the backlist or "hidden sales" topped more than $100 million this year — but note that this segment grew more slowly than the top of the list in 2012.  

The aggregate figures for the month, quarter, and 2012:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
December 2012: 6.93 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +13%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -1%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +16%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -23%
Q4 2012: 21.72 million copies, +5% vs. Q4 2011   
2012 FINAL: 80.55 million copies, +12% vs. 2011, -6% vs. 2007, -15% vs. 2002, -20% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
December 2012 versus one year ago this month: -12.93%
Q4 2012 versus Q4 2011: +4.42
2012 FINAL: +11.41%

---


TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
December 2012: $24.81 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +17%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +10%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +52%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +8%
Q4 2012: $78.21 million, +10% vs. Q4 2011
2012 FINAL: $285.02 million, +15% vs. 2011, +6% vs. 2007, +45% vs. 2002, +17% vs. 1997

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
December 2012 versus one year ago this month: +19.03%
Q4 2012 versus Q4 2011: +9.51%
2012 FINAL: +14.94%

---

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
December 2012: $6.29 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +4%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -11%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +63%
Q4 2012: $21.96 million, +16% vs. Q4 2011
2012 FINAL: $84.57 million, +21% vs. 2011

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
December 2012 versus one year ago this month: +8.25%
Q4 2012 versus Q4 2011: +14.35%
2012 FINAL: +14.26%

---

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
December 2012: $31.1 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +6%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +35%
Q4 2012: $100.18 million, +11% vs. 2011
2012 FINAL: $369.59 million, +16% vs. 2011

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
December 2012 versus one year ago this month: +1.02%
Q4 2012 versus Q4 2011: +12.71%
2012 FINAL: +16.16%

---

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
December 2012: approximately $38.96 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +19%
Q4 2012: $123.6 million, +13% vs. 2011
2012 FINAL: $474.61 million, +15% vs. 2011

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.47, with the average comic book ordered by retailers costing $3.58, influenced greatly by the $8 Spider-Man issue's sales. $3.50 was the median price of comics, and $2.99 was the most common price.

For the year, the average cover price was $3.54, with the average comic retailers ordered costing $3.57. This is up from last year's averages of $3.49 and $3.44 respectively. The average price for comics in 2012 is still lower than 2010's high of $3.58, but the average weighted cost is higher than 2010's high of $3.55.

Click to see average cover prices over time.

The Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand Graphic Novels report will appear here shortly; the listing can be found here.

Be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!

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December 2012 comics sales make for $475 mil year

Friday, January 11, 2013

by John Jackson Miller

Comic-book stores in North America ordered nearly $40 million in comic books and bound editions in December 2012, according to Comichron's anaylsis of data released this morning by Diamond Comic Distributors. This is an increase of 15.74% over last year, and it confirms our estimate for 2012's overall sales earlier this week; retailers ordered $474.6 million worth of comics in the Direct Market in 2012, up from $413.55 million last year. That's a gain of $61 million, or 14.72%.

Total dollar sales for the fourth quarter eclipsed those of the third quarter by 3.5%, and beat last year's fourth quarter by 11%.

(The full December data will be released next week, which will also mean the release of Comichron's year-end Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand Trade Paperbacks lists — and that is also when we'll update the Top Comics of the Century list. Click to see the 2011 Top Thousand lists.)

Amazing Spider-Man #700, the last issue in that numerical sequence (and we have heard that before) was the top-selling title, and as we already know it was the fourth-best-selling comic book of the year to the Direct Market, it's expected that its sales likely just topped 200,000 copies; it topped Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 in that list, which with reorders would have been getting toward the 200k territory. Priced as it was at $7.99, that's a noteworthy performance.

(UPDATE: Diamond noted that comics that were shipped to comic book retailers on Dec. 28, 2012 with an on-sale date of Jan. 2, 2013 were included in December's sales chart information. This isn't a bit of statistical legerdemain to improve the December figures; Diamond took a holiday skip week for the week of the 24th. So while it would seem to have made December a five-Wednesday month, it really isn't. But for comparison purposes, January 2013 will be a four-week month, despite the calendar.)

The aggregate change figures for the month, fourth quarter, and year:


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

DOLLARS
UNITS
DECEMBER 2012 VS. NOVEMBER 2012
COMICS
-1.67%
-3.45%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-4.27%
-4.03%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
-2.42%
-3.49%
DECEMBER 2012 VS. DECEMBER 2011
COMICS
19.03%
12.93%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
8.25%
6.65%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
15.74%
12.50%
FOURTH QUARTER 2012 VS. THIRD QUARTER 2012
COMICS
5.90%
6.71%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
-1.57%
-11.29%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
3.50%
5.19%
FOURTH QUARTER 2012 VS. FOURTH QUARTER 2011
COMICS
9.51%
4.42%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
14.53%
13.86%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
11.00%
5.04%
YEAR 2012 VS. YEAR 2011
COMICS
14.94%
11.41%
GRAPHIC NOVELS
14.26%
13.66%
TOTAL COMICS/GN
14.72%
11.58%


Dollar sales for periodical comics were up substantially more than unit sales versus last year, so we'll want to look at the average prices when next week's data comes out. According to the all-time price change chart, the average weighted monthly price of a comic book last December was $3.45. The figure was at $3.56 last month. The $7.99 price tag for Spidey #700 likely had a lot to do with the shift, but we'll know more when we see the data.

The market shares for the month:


TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
PUBLISHER
DOLLAR
SHARE
UNIT
SHARE
MARVEL COMICS
33.40%
36.12%
DC COMICS
29.69%
34.84%
IMAGE COMICS
9.10%
8.49%
IDW PUBLISHING
5.82%
4.79%
DARK HORSE COMICS
5.49%
4.56%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
2.60%
2.93%
BOOM! STUDIOS
1.69%
1.88%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS LTD
1.13%
0.20%
VIZ MEDIA
0.94%
0.39%
AVATAR PRESS INC
0.91%
0.75%
OTHER NON-TOP 10
9.23%
5.05%


Comic-book unit sales were up 19% over last December, and that would seem to suggest that the Top 300 comics had orders of more than 7.3 million copies. That would give us 81 million copies for the year, which, as seen in the yearly tables, would closely match the figure last seen in 2008. (You can find monthly sales for the last two decades here.)

The top comic books:


RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
$7.99

Marvel
2
Avengers #1
$3.99

Marvel
3
Batman #15
$3.99

DC
4
Justice League #15
$3.99

DC
5
Detective Comics #15
$3.99

DC
6
Avengers #2
$3.99

Marvel
7
Cable And X-Force #1
$3.99

Marvel
8
Batman And Robin #15
$2.99

DC
9
All-New X-Men #3
$3.99

Marvel
10
Thunderbolts #1
$2.99

Marvel


The top-selling collected edition for the month was Walking Dead Vol. 1, which also was the best-selling graphic novel for the year — and, in fact, the last three years. Given sales to date in the year, Comichron projects the overall orders for the volume for 2012 to be somewhat north of 70,000 copies, worth around three quarters of a million dollars at retail.

Retailers ordered more than 500,000 Walking Dead softcover and hardcover graphic novels in the year, worth nearly than $10 million at retail; combined with the comics, that likely comes close to $13.6 million — which would give Walking Dead comics, all on their own, a 2.8% market share. That would make it the seventh largest publisher for 2012!

The top graphic novel and collected editions:


RANK
DESCRIPTION
PRICE

VENDOR
1
$9.99

Image
2
The Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us
$14.99

Image
3
Chew Volume 6: Space Cakes
$14.99

Image
4
Saga Volume 1
$9.99

Image
5
Fatale Volume 2: Devil's Business
$14.99

Image
6
The Walking Dead Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars
$14.99

Image
7
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 Vol. 2: On Your Own
$17.99

Dark Horse
8
Green Lantern Volume 2: Revenge Of The Black Hand Hc
$24.99

DC
9
The Walking Dead Vol. 17: Something To Fear
$14.99

Image
10
Daredevil By Mark Waid Volume 2
$15.99

Marvel

The full estimates will be along next week, as well as Comichron's annual Top Thousand lists. Find out about them right away by following the site on Twitter and Facebook.

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