Before going into the October sales distribution charts, it’s probably appropriate to talk about what the various charts mean. Jim Zub wrote about how book sales are what really drive things for him, and I see the odd remark about floppy sales not mattering in the comment sections. And that’s true… but not for every title and not for every retailer.
The sales distribution charts tell us a few different things.
They give us a picture of the health of the single issue format in the Direct Market and they give a clue as to the health of the segment of Direct Market retailers who primarily sell single issues. No, not every shop is 50-50 between single issue sales and trade paperback sales.
It also gives us a picture of how the individual title sales levels from different companies relate to each other. There’s a difference between making a sales quota with issues that sell 80K copies each, making money for everyone up and down the supply chain and making a sales quota with a mountain of issues selling 10K each where there’s a good chance the retailers are crossing their fingers they don’t lose money on it.
(That mountain of 10K selling issues is a much better model for digital distribution or Amazon than it is for your average retailer.)
A lot of creators, particularly in the independent world, make more money from the collected editions. That’s completely true. For that matter, rumor has it some creators make more money selling foreign rights than they do from the U.S. market.
With Marvel pulling out of the newsstand distribution system, we can get a pretty good idea what Direct Market sales are. Unless it’s a title that has a significant amount of reorder activity, you’re going to see the final total be about 10-15% over the DM estimates as a general rule of thumb. Usually closer to 10%. UK sales and the usual minor reorder activity. Yes, you’ll have a few exceptions stick their hands up and not-so-humble brag that they did better, but that’s not the norm.
With the book market, it’s a lot harder to get a complete count. You get the Diamond estimates, at least for what charts. You might or might not get some leaked Bookscan numbers at the end of the year. You’re missing approximately 25% of the bookseller outlets, which can be more than 25% of sales for some books, but that percentage varies widely by individual book. You’re missing Direct Market shops that do some of their order through the bookstore distributors.
Bookscan is looking to have more comprehensive statistics for those, but we’re going to have to wait until several people compare royalty statements to those new reports and tell us how much they’re off. And I think everybody is just itching to compare sell-through numbers with order estimates.
Until then, you deal with the data you have. And within that 10-15% variance, the DM numbers tend to reflect actual orders.
So sit back, have a look at the sales distribution charts and get a sense of where the market was at last month.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics