Countdown 34Some online comics sales watchers — and we know there are a LOT of you — have wondered about why COUNTDOWN suddenly surged in the charts this month with the thirteenth issue. Spurge was wondering about it, and DC Sales Chart Vizier Marc-Oliver Frisch wrote in with a startling theory:

Countdown sales in August follow pretty much the same pattern as the sales of 52 a year ago: With the 13th issue, there’s a sudden 20 percent increase, for no apparent reason.

What’s been suggested to me, and what I think makes sense, is that it’s because the first twelve issues of each series were made returnable by DC (provided retailers ordered a specific amount, and at a 10 percent fee per returned copy, mind you), which made Diamond bump off a token 20 percent from the actual numbers for their charts.

In fairness, I’ve only heard it from one source. But it seems reliable, and I’m inclined to believe it, because it fits the numbers precisely.

What is that one source? Well, possibly it’s Marvel’s own communications guy, Jim McCann, who recently posted this on the Bendis board:

Countdown explination: This is the first month that the books were not returnable, so this is the first month you actually see the real Countdown numbers. When books are returnable, Diamond releases the numbers and takes a percentage off. So, these numbers didn’t go *up*, they just didn’t go down any more than the %-off numbers of the month before.

Am I making sense? (sorry, I can’t give what % they take off, but I can tell you it is in double digits…)



  1. It’s worth noting that McCann must presumably mean books that were originally solicited on a returnable basis, as opposed to books that become returnable because they don’t match the solicitation when they ship. For this theory to account for COUNTDOWN’s sales jump, Diamond’s deduction would have to be over 20% (and that’s on the assumption that zero copies were returned). We’re clearly not seeing any other books leap around the charts like that simply because of a last-minute artist change. In fact, this is a phenomenon which seems to be confined to COUNTDOWN and 52.

    Now, if this is the correct explanation, it’s absolutely ridiculous that Diamond is messing about with the figures to that extent without making that clear anywhere on a chart that they describe as “actual sales.” It’s also somewhat remarkable, if this is the explanation, that nobody from DC has thought fit to make the point themselves.

    Nonetheless, these charts are still the best data we have available as to the North American direct market, and they’re still useful so long as you accept their inherent limitations. It may well be true that the real figures would show many series in a better light, and I’m sure that meaningful data about trade paperbacks, newsstands and UK sales would make a huge difference to some titles. But this is the information that the industry chooses to release, and it’s not so badly flawed as to disqualify it from use.

    If the industry is aggrieved by the fact that the public make use of the data that they choose to put in the public domain, the remedy is in their hands: publish a better chart. Or don’t publish one at all.

  2. The New York Times questions various retailers and then tabulates their bestseller list.
    What do the retailers report? How many copies did they order, how many sold, how many returned, how many bagged and boarded?
    oh, and this is the end of the first quarter of the book. Is there a plot point which twists the story, like in the 52, vol. 1 TP? how do the sales compare to 52 sales?

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