Now it’s time for a look at Marvel’s sales distribution charts for July.
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 the 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.
What do things look like this month? The number of titles in the sales bands is down slightly, until you get to the 30K-39K, which is way up. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing, since there were a few more titles ordered at higher bands last month. Of course a lot of those higher sales were of the first issue + multiple variant variety and Marvel been getting a wee bit of pushback on variants from retailers of late. Is the market for those cooling off? Marvel hopes not.
Marvel being Marvel, let’s break this out to the “regular” ongoing titles (which will have a few variant covers in the mix) and the Events/#1 + Variant titles (anything with Secret Empire in the title, first issues and anything else that’s served up as a big anniversary type issue with a bunch of extraneous covers).
As usual, the top list, except for Star Wars is all Events and #1s. And those #1 sales don’t really hang around. Star Wars is up a bit this month. Secret Empire has settled down to ~86K/81K, which seems pretty low for such a major event… until you figure the highest “regular” ongoing non first issue title for July was Amazing Spider-Man 30, estimated at roughly 56.5K. So Secret Empire’s selling an extra 40-50% above the highest ongoing.
Lots of $1 issues and a couple reorders at the bottom, so that part isn’t as dire as it could be. And Marvel continues to have a few titles selling truly horrible DM numbers that make all their money as tpbs in places like Scholastic’s book fairs. (Cue the comment section to say that monthly sales are irrelevant because of this, but not every Marvel title sells 100K+ tpbs and we don’t see each month’s bookscan total or any Scholastic numbers at all, plus the Scholastic sales don’t contribute to the DM and it’s the DM stores we’re worried about right now.)
There’s just a lot of material coming out that’s going to be special order/sub box only for a lot of stores. It looks like that the 20-39K brackets MIGHT be starting to firm up a little, but much like DC, Marvel really needs to get a few things selling above the 60K line that are actual reader purchases, not numbers driven by retailers buying extras to get a discount or a variant cover. Right now, it’s pretty even distribution of titles between 10K-39K and that hasn’t been the case lately.
Has Marvel more or less hit the trough and will have nowhere to go but up?
It really depends on how readers react to Generations and Legacy. All we know for now is the retailers are pushing back hard on Marvel’s order demands for lenticular covers and that’s not exactly a vote of confidence.
It does somewhat look like the general sales distribution is finding where its lower levels are. We’ll see if I’m proven wrong next month.
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.