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John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Justice League #1 tops 200k copies, with 186k in U.S., Canada first-day

by John Jackson Miller

I've only had time to do a first pass on the August numbers released today by Diamond, but given the number of people that have been asking, I can share that it looks like the Direct Market moved 6.2 million of its Top 300 comics in August, up nearly 14% over last year, with first-day North American orders on Justice League #1 of nearly 186,000 copies between the main listing and the Combo Pack. The standard issue alone had more than 171,000 first-day copies in U.S. and Canadian stores on August 31, with nearly 15,000 more in the Combo Pack, which included a variant cover and a code for a digital copy. It's already enough to make it the top-selling issue of the year on the continent — but it's not done selling, and Diamond has confirmed that some of the late-placed North American preorders were filled in September.

This is important. Before anyone gets confused over the previously published reports of more than 200,000 copies preordered, note that the 186,000-copy figure only includes preorders Diamond actually shipped to North America for August 31. It does not include the United Kingdom, which buys copies from the North American print run — usually, at about 10% again of the levels of U.S. sales. So right there, that takes preorders over 200,000 copies.

And it does not include late-placed preorders that could not be filled until September. We think of preorders as what was placed in the book's ordering window, but in fact retailers place reorders every day, right up to and after when an issue comes out. The added orders before the book comes out used to be called "advance reorders," but they are preorders in the sense that the publisher has information about them, often in time to adjust print runs or order an additional printing. They just don't necessarily hit the day that the initially preordered copies do, if the orders came in after the Final Order Cutoff date.

As of the Los Angeles Times story on August 22, DC and Diamond would have already seen some of their orders for copies that wouldn't be shipping until September — and would have known if they'd exceeded the initial print run; I'm told they definitely did exceed the print run, by a large margin. DC has said the first printing exceeded 200,000 copies and that two more printings of the standard version and one more printing of the combo pack have already been ordered, so what we're seeing here is a simple difference between what Diamond reports — comics that sold in North America in August — and the overall figure, total preorders.

We often see statistical quirks with books shipping on the last day of the month. First-week books benefit in the monthly rankings from three or four additional weeks of preordered and reordered copies shipping; last-day books just register the first wave. The rest of Justice League's later preorders will appear in the September charts, as well as any later reorders or new printings.

It is worth underlining here that every major top seller on the record list cycled for many months, not weeks — with the best seller of the 2000s, the Obama Spider-Man issue, getting nearly half its sales in the second month with a later printing. A report on a single day's sales should be regarded like the opening day of a film: illustrative of enthusiasm, but on its own just a portion of the picture. The record list shows all months for which Diamond provided data, not just Month One — or Day One. I am assured by those in the know that the numbers for the launch issue are well above what the Diamond snapshot for August tells us, and the experience of easily chart-watching confirms that.

All estimates subject to revision, as always. Detailed estimates for August coming soon.
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