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Friday, August 11, 2006

July 2006 comics sales: Periodicals driving industry growth in 2006

by John Jackson Miller

In an industry hitting on all cylinders — with year-to-date growth now in every category through July 2006 — it's orders of single-issues that have generated most of the gains, according to my analysis of the sales reports released by Diamond Comic Distributors on August 11. See the charts here.

A strong July for Diamond's Top 100 trade paperbacks finally brought the Top 100 trade category into positive territory for 2006. July's sales of Top 100 trade paperbacks to retailers were 25% over those for July 2005.

Sales of trade paperbacks in general were never actually down, just this top-most portion of Diamond's inventory which might be regarded in some sense as the front of the frontlist. Now we can truly say the industry is ahead in every category we measure.

For the first seven months of the year, the industry is up 13% in the widest category I track. Diamond's overall sales including all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines are at $223.85 million, over last year's pace of $197.4 million. The industry is ahead more than $26 million, most of which has come from a familiar format -- the periodical comic book.

Nearly $20 million of that $26 million in growth has come from Diamond's Top 300, which has had heat this year from Civil War and Infinite Crisis. That leaves around $6 million in growth from trade paperbacks and magazines, almost all of which has come from the backlist. But that may not be the story for long, as those popular comics series begin to be collected in trade-paperback form.

Comics unit sales: The Top 300 comic books had retailer orders of 7.39 million copies in July, off 1% from July 2005, which the same number of shipping weeks.

To date in 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined 46.82 million copies, an increase of 9% over the 43.1 million copies sold in the period in the previous year.

Marvel's Civil War #3 led the list, selling at least 290,700 copies and dropping off only slightly from the first issue's totals. Orders for DC's issues of 52 were only estimated by Diamond, owing to that title's returnability -- but estimates for all four were above 98,000 copies.

Four new publishers appeared on the list in July: Wildcard Ink, whose Gumby #1 came in 216th place with orders for 4,900 copies; Virgin, whose Sadhu #1 came in 236th place with orders for 3,900 copies; and American Mule, whose Public Enemy #1 came in 239th place with orders for 3,800 copies; and Thrillhouse, whose Shark-Man #1 came in 248th place with orders for 3,300 copies.

Comics dollar sales: The Top 300 comic books had sales worth $22.62 million in July, 15% more than July 2005.

To date in 2006, the Top 300 comics from each month have sold a combined $143.2 million, an increase of 16% over the $123.95 million worth sold in the same period in the previous year.

Trade paperbacks: The Top 100 trade paperbacks and graphic novels reported by Diamond had orders worth $4.32 million at full retail in July, an increase of 25% over the same month in 2005.

To date in 2006, the Top 100 trades for each month total $26.2 million, up 1% from the same period in the previous year, when sales were $25.94 million.

Adding those to the Top 300 comics for the month yields $26.94 million, an increase of 19% over the $22.58 million ordered in July 2005.

To date in 2006, the Top 300 comics and the Top 100 trade paperbacks from each month had orders worth $169.4 million, 13% over the $149.89 million ordered in the same period in 2005.

Diamond’s “overall” sales: The July 2006 total was $34.97 million, which increases to $38.27 million, when Diamond’s estimated United Kingdom orders are added. The figure is up 21% from the $28.96 million ordered in the U.S. in June 2005. Overall, the year to date stands at $223.85 million, an increase of 13% over 2005's total of $197.4 million.

Market shares: The same top four appeared in the same order in every category measured: Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse. Parity returned to the offerings between the Big Two as DC had 88 comics in the Top 300 versus Marvel’s 87.

Price analysis: The average comic book on Diamond’s Top 300 list cost $3.24, up from $3.19 in July 2005.

The weighted average price – that is, the cost of the average comic book Diamond sold – was $3.06, up from $2.92 last year.

The average price of the comics that made the Top 25 was $2.91.

Unit Sales for Diamond's Top 300 Comic Books (est.): 7.39 million copies

Dollar Sales for Diamond's Top 300 Comic Books (est.): $22.62 million

Dollar Sales for Diamond's Top 100 Trade Paperbacks (est.): $4.32 million

Combined Dollar Sales for Diamond's Top 300 Comics and Top 100 TPBs (est.) : $26.94 million

OVERALL U.S. Dollar Sales for Diamond's Comics, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines (est.): $34.97 million

Average price of comic books in Diamond's Top 300: $3.24

Average price of comic books in Diamond's Top 300, weighted by orders: $3.06
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