Monday, January 13, 2014
by John Jackson Miller
Diamond Comic Distributors, and as reported here on Friday, the Direct Market closed out the year up 9%. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in December 2013.
Origin II #1 was the top-selling comic book of the month; at 131,700 copies, it almost exactly matches first-month sales of Origin #2 from 2001. Not one of the bigger blockbusters for the year, it'll likely still make the Top 300 for the 21st Century list.
December is always a hard month to compare across time because of the variable shipping schedules caused by the holidays. This December, for example, had only four Wednesdays—but five New Comics Days, because retailers were given a Tuesday release date for the New Year's Eve shipment. On the other hand, the Christmas Eve shipment was tiny (including only Origins II #1, a book of mine, and 11 other items), so it works out to four weeks of new release volume. Given some retailers' holiday schedules and UPS's problems at the end of the year, it's probably a four-week month for sales purposes, too.
Something else was noteworthy. The Top 300 Graphic Novels category vaulted over the $10 million mark — it had never topped $9 million before — but the result should not be taken at face value. Or, rather, at full retail value. There was a lot of holiday-season (or end-of-fiscal-year clearance) graphic novel discounting going on this month: more than $3 million in sales came from older Omnibus hardcovers from Marvel which were steeply discounted. We can see this because while Diamond's charts are ranked by units sold, and not dollars, it does offer dollar-ranking information — but both its dollar rankings and its market shares are based on wholesale dollars.
Deadpool Classic Vol. 9, brought in almost as many dollars to Diamond as the $100 Ultimate Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 1 from last year: they were 15th and 16th respectively in Diamond's dollar rankings.
But retailers ordered 17% more copies of the Ultimate Spider-Man Omnibus. So the Omnibus had to be selling for less than a third of what Diamond normally would have sold the book to retailers for. Thus, while the topline figure for graphic novel sales was way, way up — up 67% over last December, within just the Top 300 — the real figure was an increase of 18%.
I've written about this several times in the past: there's not really anything to do about it, as running rankings based on wholesale dollars would tend to be confusing — and the central purpose of this site is reporting how many copies entered into the Direct Market. It's true that $10 million in Top 300 graphic novels by cover price were ordered by retailers in December: if they sold them all at full retail, the sum would still reflect what the industry made. In any event, take the category with a grain of salt this month.
Records set during the month:
• Highest dollar volume for Top 300 Trade Paperbacks in a single month: $10.51 million; overstated by the means described above.
• Highest dollar volume for comics and graphic novels ordered in a quarter: $134.79 million, beating the record set last quarter.
• Highest dollar market share for IDW: 8.18%
Additionally, the combined market shares of IDW, Image, and Dark Horse are higher than has been seen for the 3-4-5 publishers since 2003. Click to see other Diamond-era records.
The aggregate changes, which give us our end-of-year figures:
TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALESDecember 2013: 6.6 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -14%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +4%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -9%
Q4 2013: 20.98 million copies, -3% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: 84.51 million copies, +5% vs. 2012, +4% vs. 2008, +16% vs. 2003, unchanged vs. 1998
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
December 2013 versus one year ago this month: -3.64%
Q4 2012 versus Q4 2012: -0.97%
2013 YEAR END: +6.7%
TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALESDecember 2013: $24.55 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +32%
Q4 2013: $78.19 million, +8% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: $308.71 million, +8% vs. 2012, +17% vs. 2008, +49% vs. 2003, +47% vs. 1998
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
December 2013 versus one year ago this month: +1.09%
Q4 2013 versus Q4 2012: +4.16%
2013 YEAR END: +10.22%
TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALESDecember 2013: $10.51 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +67%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +57%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +66%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +128%
Q4 2013: $26.22 million, +19% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: $93.91 million, +11% vs. 2012
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
December 2013 versus one year ago this month: +18.02%
Q4 2013 versus Q4 2012: +7.8%
YEAR TO DATE: +6.5%
TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALESDecember 2013: $35.06 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +13%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -3%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +31%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +45%
Q4 2013: $104.4 million, +4% vs. Q4 2012
2013 YEAR END: $402.31 million, +9% vs. 2012
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
December 2013 versus one year ago this month: +5.93%
Q4 2013 versus Q4 2012: +5.28%
2013 YEAR END: +9.04%
OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)December 2013: approximately $42.22 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +6%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +47%
Q4 2013: $134.79 million, +5% vs. 2012
2013 YEAR END: $517.66 million, +9% vs. 2013
New comic books released: 471
New graphic novels released: 239
New magazines released: 29
All new releases: 739
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.66; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.72. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.
The release of December data allows the end-of year estimates to be made: those will be up shortly. (Update: Click to see the Top 1,000 Comics and Top 1,000 Graphic Novels for 2013.)
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