And finally, the comparison chart of DC, Marvel and Image. So we can see where the biggest sales sit on the Direct Market Landscape.
Standard disclaimers: The numbers are based on the Diamond sales charts as estimated by the very reliable John Jackson Miller. These charts are pretty accurate for U.S. Direct Market sales with the following caveats: 1) you can add ~10% for UK sales, which are not reflected in these charts; 2) everyone’s best guess is you can add ~10% for digital sale – while some titles do sell significantly better in digital (*cough* Ms. Marvel *cough*), that’s the average rule of thumb; 3) it’s not going to include reorders from subsequent months, although reorders will show up in subsequent months if they’re high enough. So if you’re a monster seller in Southampton and it took the US audience 3 weeks to reorder, it’s probably not going to be reflected here.
What’s a sales band? It’s another way to have a higher level view of the market. The general idea is to divide the market into bands of 10K copies sold and see how many issues are in each band. How many issues sold between 90-99K copies, 80-89K copies, etc. etc. In very broad terms, the market is healthier when there are several titles selling in the 70K-100K+ range because titles that move a lot of copies give the retailers some margin of error on their ordering. When you see titles selling in the 20-29K band and especially below, there’s a pretty good chance a lot of retailers aren’t ordering those titles for the shelf (pull box/pre-order only) or minimal shelf copies at best.
And this chart sums up why so many retailers are having such a hard time right now. Figure that somewhere in the middle of that 20K-29K sales band is the cutoff between a store ordering several shelf copies and being a special order/subscribers-only and perhaps one for the shelf. If you’ve got too many titles that are only one or two shelf copies the retailer could get very concerned about how many of those shelf copies sell out and there’s not always a lot of fiscal wiggle room unless there are several very profitable, higher-selling titles to balance things out and distribute the risk. There aren’t several of those high sellers on the chart right now, just a handful.
Way, way too much of the product coming out in December is going to be a flavor of special order and limited/no shelf copies. That’s not a healthy thing.
Want to see something less healthy? Let’s take the Events and #1s off the chart and look at DC and Marvel.
Let’s just agree that Doomsday Clock and Metal are the proven sellers right now and accept that they will end, as limited series do. What can retailers count on for ongoing sales? Throw out Batman and there’s not that much left and not that much difference between DC and Marvel. DC’s still showing a little higher issue count over 40K+, which you’d expect would be profitable and stockable for the shelf for most stores. Marvel’s overall issue count is higher under 30K, which is not the sweet spot for retail.
The more low selling titles there are, the tighter the inventory control has to be for the retailer or problems ensue. And even if a store is subs only for a lot of titles, at a certain point there still have to be enough raw sales for the bills to get paid, even if the sell-through percentage is high.
And as we’ve been hearing, some stores have reached that point where bills weren’t paid and closed. Or perhaps saw that point coming and got out while they could.
If that spike of titles in the 20-29K range was moved over the 50K-59K range, there would still be grumbling, but a retail business can be run on that. As it is? Survival of the fittest.
For reference, the individual December sales distribution charts for:
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.