This week on Podcorn Podcast, Brandon Montclare and Alex Lu sit down to talk about our favorite pastime– comic book sales analysis. For years, sites like The Beat, ICV2, and Comichron have analyzed unofficial sales figures to try and figure out which direct market books were on the chopping block and which were here to stay.  However, in an era where the direct market is just one piece of a pie that includes digital sales, libraries, and bookstore markets, do the numbers mean as much anymore?  That’s what we’re here to find out.

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Every Wednesday, I talk about comics with Brandon Montclare, writer of the hit Image series Rocket Girl and co-writer of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series.

We gab about what we’re reading now, what books we consider classics (Brandon loves Dark Knight Strikes Again…), and the hottest gossip of the industry.  Occasionally, the inimitable artist Amy Reeder (Rocket GirlBatwoman) stops by.  Check out our full show archive at podcornpodcast.com.

Intro/Outro music this week is American Money by BØRNS, off his album Dopamine.

Visit rocketgirl.nyc for swag from Brandon and Amy!

Subscribe on iTunes or wherever else you get your Podcasts so you never miss a…beat.

Comments

  1. says

    A point of clarification, followed by some elaboration:

    While others may use the individual-issue shipping counts posted on Comichron and ICV2 to figure out which books were on the “chopping block,” it isn’t something Comichron has ever done, and I don’t think Milton Griepp’s done it either. I’ve certainly never mentioned “cancellation levels” on my site. First, I don’t think there is such a thing in today’s context, when publishers’ goals for every single title may differ depending on what those books are and what their digital and book chain potentials might be. There are reasons to keep books going — or kill them — that go beyond the number of copies that Diamond shipped.

    More importantly, I’ve long said the month-to-month figures within titles are too volatile to be conducive to the sort of trendline analysis others engage in to study the health of titles — which I think is what the podcaster was referring to. I don’t dismiss the practice entirely, but when a rock-steady title can “lose” significant sales simply by shipping in Week 1 in March and Week 4 in April, you’re getting a lot of noise from the calendar. Such variability is more acceptable on a wider sampling, where at least some of those effects wash out.

    So when searching for trends, the better use of such data is in concert with data on all the other shipping titles, as a barometer of the product category — and as the DM does represent more than 95% of periodical sales, there is no currently no more inclusive measure of that than the Diamond charts. It’s true the DM is only about 35% of graphic novel sales in North America, but it is the largest pool of shipments reliably measurable on a monthly basis, and even if it does not always reflect the performance of the book chain as well as we’d like (as in last year, when book chain sales grew much faster), reporting Diamond’s sales does reliably suggest the health of the second-largest product line within comics shops. As comics shops represent about 60% of the entire print comics business, that’s worth doing.

    That’s not to say there is no value in reporting the granular-level sales on individual comic books: there certainly is. One major place where it’s of help is for the aftermarket, to better educate about scarcity levels. One reason speculative frenzies are no longer as chaotic in comics is that consumers have better data — by looking at listings on eBay and at shipping numbers — as to what supply actually is relative to demand. Much of Comichron’s traffic comes from people digging through the archives looking to see, say, how many Walking Dead #1s shipped. The Diamond figures aren’t a complete measure of that, either, but they’re a help.

    My own site is subtitled “a resource for comics research,” and it is just that; I have healthy caveats for the proper interpretation of the data points on my individual pages and also in greater detail at http://www.comichron.com/faq.html, the text of which has indeed changed as the market has changed. I can’t guarantee that every researcher drawing upon my estimates will include those caveats or that I will agree with their methodologies; neither will I agree (and I often don’t) with every characterization of the numbers I see in online discussions. But I’m confident that the Diamond tables in particular report what they say they’re reporting — what left its North American warehouses in the month — and I believe the trade has been better served knowing that information than not knowing.

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