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Friday, January 13, 2006

2005 closes out strong with big December

by John Jackson Miller

Six titles topping the 100,000 copy mark in December helped the comics market close out 2005 with a 7.3% sales increase over 2004, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on Jan. 13. Click to see the December 2005 estimates.

December's strong finish helped propel the market to a $24 million overall increase in 2005 among sales of comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Overall, 2005's U.S. sales stood at $352.33 million, up 7.3% over 2004's total of $328.25 million.

That doesn’t count newsstand sales, subscription sales, or sales of trade paperbacks through bookstores. That would bring 2005 above $400 million, putting us in our best shape since 1996.
Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 6.56 million copies in December, 1% more than December 2004, which had one more shipping week. Even with one less Wednesday, the market moved more comic books. That's a pretty good sign.

In an unusual reversal, Marvel placed 90 items in the Top 300, versus 75 for DC. With a variety of one-shots and items soliciting for previous months shipping, Marvel surpassed DC in a category it usually dominates: volume of releases on the chart.

The highest new publisher debut was MR Comics, whose Revolution on the Planet of the Apes #1 placed 223rd with about 4,500 copies sold. Fenickx Productions placed 278th with Archaic #1 moving 2,300 copies. Narwain rounded out the debuts with Freefall #1 selling 1,900 copies in 294th place.

Diamond sold 76.13 million of its Top 300 comics from each of the 12 months of 2005. That's an increase of 2.3% over 2004's 74.44 million copies.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $20.02 million in December, 5% more than in December 2004.

For 2005, the Top 300 comics from each month sold a combined $221.73 million, an increase of 3.9% over 2004, which saw sales of $213.237 million.

Trade paperbacks : The Top 100 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $3.82 million at full retail in December 2005, off 10% from the previous December.
Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $23.86 million, an increase of 3% over December 2004.

The Top 100 trades for each month in 2005 had first-month orders totaling $45.84 million, up $4.85 million over 2004. That?s an 11.8% increase.

For 2005, the Top 300 comics and the Top 100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $267.57 million, up 5.2% over 2004?s total of $254.36 million.

Diamond's overall sales: Diamond publishes dollar market shares for its top 20 publishers across all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines. Knowing the exact total orders of any publisher on that list right down to the oldest backlist item allows you to calculate Diamond's total orders across these product groups.?

The December 2005 total was $31.63 million, which increases to $35.04 million, when Diamond?s United Kingdom orders are added. The figure for December is 4% over that of December 2005. Again, overall, 2005's U.S. dales stood at $352.33 million, up 7.3% over 2004's total of $328.25 million.

Much of the growth in trade paperbacks exists here, in this catchall grouping; items not in Diamond's Top 300 comics and Top 100 trades each month accounted for at least $85 million of Diamond's sales in 2005. It's expected that most of that is from trade paperbacks, meaning that the $45 million in first-month sales mentioned above is the tip of a larger iceberg, below.

The "overall" category overstates comics' actual performance to the extent that magazines that do not have comics content are included. The comics publishers' market shares would actually be slightly higher, if ancillary items were removed.

However, the contribution of the magazine sector in general through Diamond appears to have been less significant in 2005 than in 2004. Of some note among magazines is the performance of Wizard, which, according to estimates based on the Diamond chart, sold an estimated 48,100 copies of its issue shipping in December. That compares with 53,700 copies for the issue that shipped in December 2004. That appears to be the first time the publication's sales through Diamond have been below 50,000 copies since its early days. Diamond's chart for December further finds Wizard's gaming title, Inquest, at an estimated 2,140 copies sold, compared with an estimated 5,100 copies for the issue that shipped in December 2004.

It's worth noting that, as with comics and trade paperbacks, not all distribution for magazines is done through Diamond — and, with newsstand, subscription, and direct-to-retailer sales, Diamond is not necessarily the largest sales channel for every magazine vendor.

Market shares: Marvel led DC in Diamond's reported overall unit and dollar market shares in December. Dark Horse came in third in both categories followed by Image.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond?s Top 300 list in December 2005 cost $3.27, up a whopping 19¢ over the same month in 2004.

The weighted average price — that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold — was $3.05, up from $2.90 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.88, up from $2.71 in 2004.

The number of expensive comics with high sales certainly added to the increase in the bottom line in December. Although, again, the number of comic-book units sold was still up.
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