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January 2016 comics sales estimates online: The difference five years makes

Monday, February 8, 2016

by John Jackson Miller

The final sales report for January is out from Diamond Comic Distributors, and as reported here on Friday, the first month of the year was slightly off versus the same month in 2015, when statistics for several categories of that month were inflated by Loot Crate sales of Star Wars #1. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in January 2016.

http://bit.ly/CCWD150
While the comparatives were part of the story, looking at the internals makes this January look less impressive than at first glance. We can now see that while graphic novel wholesale dollars were off 7.77% overall, according to Diamond, the total retail value of the Top 300 was actually up 20%. That points to something we can see by looking at the dollar rankings: there was heavy discounting of graphic novels in the month.

Many Marvel graphic novels in the Top 300, for example, had dollar volume rankings far lower than their unit rankings: Diamond does dollar rankings based on money it receives from retailers. This is a common enough occurrence, but in this month these sales accounted for a disproportionate share of the market.

January often tends to have a punier release slate than other months, meaning lower-selling titles make the Top 300; this month's 300th place title sold 4,028 copies, the lowest sum since June 2012. Click to see the sales of 300th-place titles across time.

On the other hand, some perspective: Five years ago, January 2011 was the pits. The Top 300 comics sold 4.4 million copies, likely the lowest sum since the 1930s. There were a couple of reasons: it was the bottom of the comics slump pre-DC reboot, but it was also a month where publishers shipped extremely few titles to market. The market ordered more than 2 million more comics this January, and publishers are releasing more, now, too: 719 new comics and graphic novels versus 555 five years ago. That shows a market with more breadth.

And eight titles had six-figure sales this January, led by Walking Dead #150 with orders topping 156,000 copies. Compare that with one title in six figures five years ago, and that at 115,000 copies. Back then, that one book was the only one above 73,000 copies; this January, there were 11. And the 300th place book had sales of 1,291 copies — less than a third of what today's title at that level sold!

[Update: Reading one of my comments at one of my own links above, I'm reminded that January 2011 had an additional strike against it: Diamond had switched all publishers so their books would arrive on Tuesday, and a number didn't meet the logistical demands and their books slid into February. That in part led to how few titles were out. That said, the February figure was only 5.17 million copies, so it's likely the sales of a January 2011 where everything went right still would have been between 4 and 5 million.]

The aggregate changes are as follows:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
January 2016: 6.49 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +46%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +15%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +22%
YEAR TO DATE: 6.49 million copies, -6% vs. 2015, +46% vs. 2011, +15% vs. 2006, +23% vs. 2001
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
January 2016 versus one year ago this month: -4.09%
YEAR TO DATE: -4.09%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
January 2016: $24.7 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +58%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +47%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +69%
YEAR TO DATE: $24.7 million, -9% vs. 2015, +58% vs. 2011, +47% vs. 2006, +69% vs. 2001
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
January 2016 versus one year ago this month: -3.86%
YEAR TO DATE: -3.86%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
January 2016: $7.96 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +20%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +73%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +19%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +24%
YEAR TO DATE: $7.96 million, +20% vs. 2015
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
January 2016 versus one year ago this month: -7.77%
YEAR TO DATE: -7.77%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
January 2016: $32.66 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +43%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +29%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +81%
YEAR TO DATE: $32.66 million, -4% vs. 2015
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
January 2016 versus one year ago this month: -5.1%
YEAR TO DATE: -5.1%

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
January 2016: approximately $41.52 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: -5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +64%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +62%
YEAR TO DATE: $41.52 million, +5% vs. 2015
RELEASES
New comic books released: 450
New graphic novels released: 269
New magazines released: 59
All new releases: 778

The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.79; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.86. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. These are some of the lowest prices we've seen in a while, and that also contributed to the month looking the was it did. Click to see comics prices across time.

Comichron.com curator John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry's retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises.

He is the author of several novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Trek: The Next Generation - Takedown, and Star Wars: A New Dawn. New Dawn appears with a new Miller short story as part of the Rise of the Empire compendium, now available. His Star Trek: Prey trilogy is set for late 2016 release from Pocket books.
Visit his fiction site to learn more. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook.

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