Last week’s Tilting at Windmills by Brian Hibbs was a particularly meaty one as he delved once more into the periodical vs trade debate currently going on, and even questioned if TOO MUCH product was going out:
One of the tests that I think should be put into place is “When volume 1 (or 2 or 3) goes out of stock, will it be reprinted?” If not, then, most likely, the work shouldn’t be collected in the first place, other wise we’re just creating more “orphans” clogging up the system and the shelves – and we have far too many of those as it already is.
But let’s say that you’re a publisher and you’re willing to make a serious commitment to keeping a work in print and available, what then? How do you handle both the serialization and the eventual collection?
Hibbs also discusses why Vertigo’s sales are going steadily down for quite some time. I talked a little bit last week on the difficulty of launching new characters, but the figures from this month’s sales charts state the case even more starkly. (Those who point out that these figures are low — add +/- 15% and you have more accurate final sell-in, and just as dismal a picture.)
Marvel doesn’t really launch new characters any more, but they still repackage and spinoff:
04/07 Loners #1 of 6 – 24,377
05/07 Loners #2 of 6 – 18,901 (-22.5%)
06/07 Loners #3 of 6 – 17,351 ( -8.2%)
07/07 Loners #4 of 6 – 15,650 ( -9.8%)
09/07 Loners #4 of 6 – 15,561 ( -0.6%)
136. TERROR, INC.
08/07 Terror Inc. #1 of 5 – 18,025
09/07 Terror Inc. #2 of 5 – 14,496 (-19.6%)
DC keeps trying, despite the odds, although again, there are few characters who are actually new, strictly speaking. New take is more accurate:
101 – METAL MEN
08/2007: Metal Men #1 of 8 — 30,454
09/2007: Metal Men #2 of 8 — 23,658 (-22.3%)
171 – THE UN-MEN (Vertigo)
08/2007: The Un-Men #1 — 11,868
09/2007: The Un-Men #2 — 8,758 (-26.2%)
176 – THE PROGRAMME (WildStorm)
07/2007: The Programme #1 of 12 — 14,293
08/2007: The Programme #2 of 12 — 9,412 (-34.2%)
09/2007: The Programme #3 of 12 — 8,545 (- 9.2%)
184 – FAKER (Vertigo)
07/2007: Faker #1 of 6 — 11,461
08/2007: Faker #2 of 6 — 8,735 (-23.8%)
09/2007: Faker #3 of 6 — 7,913 (- 9.4%)
DC’s number are even worse than Marvel’s when you look at which books have increased in sales over the last year and two year period. Two years out, there are 8, including two from the ultra-low selling kid’s line.
+ 58.1%: Justice Society of America
+ 30.2%: Justice League of America
+ 27.6%: Detective Comics
+ 25.9%: Flash
+ 11.4%: Batman
+ 3.1%: Looney Tunes
+ 1.2%: Fables
+ 0.9%: Cartoon Network Block Party
But one year out, the comparisons are nearly chilling:
+ 1.7%: Looney Tunes
+ 1.3%: Green Lantern
+ 0.4%: Scooby-Doo
The kid’s line numbers are so low (sub 3000) that a mere 15 copies make up the sales rise on Looney Tunes. The numbers at the low end of the chart are so small that tiny fluctuations can look like a rise or fall, but anyway you slice it, even factoring in an extra 15%, the numbers for DC’s imprints are bad.
Hibbs argues that the main reason is that, in the case of Vertigo at least, readers know that the trade will be out days after the last collected issue hits stands and have no vested interest in collecting floppies any more. So we’re back to the old trade or floppy debate, which is covered in depth at a lengthy thread at Panels and Pixels, reminiscent of threads on such topics from the Engine and the WEF. As always, no conclusions are reached — Hibbs is a dyed in the wool floppy man, and it’s easy to understand why getting regular customers into a store every week is an important sales tool.
One intriguing fact is brought up: the increasing secondary market for the REPRINT volumes:
A quick search on ebay shows that early Absolute Editions (Planetary, Danger Girl, Authority) are all fetching $200.00 each, the ANNIHILATION Volume 1 Hardcover sells for $75.00, etc. The Barnes and Noble exclusive Ultimate Spider-Man omnibus hardcover and early Ennis Punisher collections are seeing similar action. And don’t even get me started on the aftermarket prices of early Marvel Masterworks volumes.
Luckily I have a lot of those in storage, so Christmas may just be coming early at SBM.
Why is the market so hostile to new properties from Marvel and DC? A book would always sell less coming from Vertigo, but now it’s gotten to levels of shocking indifference — 10K or less for books by creators like Rick Veitch? I worked at Vertigo 5 years ago and such numbers were never touched.
Many wonder how can Vertigo survive on such numbers? The common wisdom is that books must be selling in such numbers in bookstores that they break even that way. Is that really true? The answer may surprise you. But that is a tale for next time.