Writer Ivan Brandon gives voice to the frequently-stated among creators idea that sales charts are a dangerous thing for the business, and may actually help put people out of work. He was most upset by the recent iFanboy piece that looked at all the Marvel books that seemed to be below the line that spelled cancellation:
what’s the harm in that? well, maybe the speculation itself helps to lead those books down the road to cancellation. in an industry with contracting numbers where folks are already very cautious about buying books they think “don’t count” in a line’s continuity, your speculation for kicks based on murky arbitrary sales “data” maybe has the added bonus of a causative effect, creating the reader insecurities that lead to the effects that you’d “predicted”.
and between the books on that list there are probably upwards of 30 people drawing an income. about half of which are probably working FULL TIME on those books at longer than normal office hours (often 7 days a week) with no other source of income.
Sadly, one of the books on Ifanboy’s list — DAKEN — has already been canceled. One person’s speculation is another person’s informed guess, especially in these bottom line-conscious days.
I’ve actually heard the complaints about sale numbers many times over the years — an entire forum of creators was called “standard attrition” as a defiant gesture against Marc-Oliver Frisch’s usual note. I’ve asked retailers many times if seeing books selling at a low point might inspire them to cut orders further. No one will admit to any such thing. But low numbers don’t make anyone happy. Certainly, in Marvel’s case, they are looking at more accurate numbers with even greater scrutiny.
I’m not sure if the fascination with ranking in all the arts — Nielsen ratings, box office charts, bestseller lists — is a healthy thing or not, or merely an expression of some kind of “winning” mentality. One thing is certain: People sure like reading these charts, or else we wouldn’t keep doing them.
Update: Okay y’all need to read Tom Spurgeon’s take on this, if only for the chance to see a photo of Tom’s genitals.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.