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We just received this note from Thom Geier, Senior Editor, Entertainment Weekly in re: the comics sales chart.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation circling about the best-seller chart that ran in Entertainment Weekly’s Jan. 12 issue. Since I edit the magazine’s Books section, I’d like to clear a few things up. In the last year, we’ve occasionally run sales charts from regional bookstores and comics stores (L.A.’s Golden Apple, Arizona’s Poisoned Pen, Houston’s Murder by the Book). In December, we contacted New York’s Midtown Comics about obtaining a chart to run in the Jan. 12 issue; many stores need time to compile data, so we called well in advance of our deadline. Contrary to some reports, we did contact Midtown Comics. In fact, one of our staffers went to the store in person and spoke to book buyer David Webster, who said that we should simply pull whatever data we wanted from the “top sellers” chart that the store puts on its website. That is precisely what we did.

There’s been much discussion about the fact that two of the titles on the list we published — Cowboys & Aliens and Dark Tower [Sketchbook] — were free giveaways and listed as such on the Midtown Comics site. I’m puzzled about why a retailer would list a free product on its “top sellers” chart, but no matter. We regret that we did not note this distinction in print, and plan to publish a clarification in our Jan. 26 issue, due on newsstands Jan. 19.


So there.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. He does ask a good question: I’m puzzled about why a retailer would list a free product on its “top sellers” chart

    He may feel it doesn’t matter, but why indeed?

  2. Real top-notch research staff at EW.

    How is this EW’s fault?

    I think it’s just a nice little object lesson, really, that comics aren’t nearly as important in “the mainstream” as comics people think they are.

  3. Well, if they are going to do a “half-ass” job on reporting about comics, spare us the favor.

    I mean you’d think that there would be one guy in the office who’d be like, “What the heck is this Cowboy and Aliens thing?” Phone a second store and check it out. It’s not very hard to pick up a phone.

    Of course, comics aren’t important to them. But I’m sure they realize that it is a niche that they want to be a part of.

  4. I mean you’d think that there would be one guy in the office who’d be like, “What the heck is this Cowboy and Aliens thing?”

    Why? Midtown Comics is a respectable retailer. They state that Cowboys and Aliens, despite the fact that it’s being given away, is their best-selling graphic novel (and I checked the site right before posting–they’re still making that claim). Why shouldn’t EW take them at their word? They’re not printing a list of nationally best-selling graphic novels, they’re just passing along what Midtown says are their top titles, and they never suggest that they’re doing anything more than that. What does it matter to Midtown’s list if Jim Hanley’s Universe has a different title on top?

    You can worry about their doing a “half-ass” job if you want, but EW is taking the situation seriously enough that they’re publishing an explanation in their next issue. That seems a responsible move to me.

  5. As an owner of Midtown Comics, I’d like to clear the air on this subject.

    Why would a retailer list a free product on its best seller chart?

    We agree that Cowboys and Aliens is not technically a “seller” and
    this may have caused some confusion. However, this is exactly why the
    book was (and still is) listed as “Cowboys and Aliens TP Free Giveaway
    (Limit 1 per customer while supplies last)” on our site. And just to
    clarify, Cowboys and Aliens was not arbitrarily added to every order
    — customers voluntarily added this book to their cart, and it was
    tracked just like any other title.

    Cowboys and Aliens appeared at the top of Midtown’s Top 25 list
    because the list is automatically generated by our database, and more
    copies of C&A were added to customer’s cart than any other title for
    the time period tracked. Free or not, the database doesn’t
    differentiate.

    With all due respect to EW, I know that they meant no harm altering
    our list. After EW’s staffer came in, they did contact us via e-mail, seeking approval to use our list, and I responded asking for a return call, and the call was not returned.

    We thank EW for printing a clarification in an upcoming issue

  6. To the defenders of EW:
    – someone there really thinks taking sales data from a single store is in any way representative. That’s so much beyond ignorant a monkey could be trained to do a better job.
    – the person copying the sales data from the web to the print article has such severe problems of reading comprehension that they failed to notice their #1 is a promotional freebie.

    Simply put, most school papers are far more professional.

  7. In defense of our friends at EW, I am compelled to mention that they very
    clearly posted our list as “Midtown Comics’ Best-Sellers”, and did not
    represent it as a national best sellers list. As stated in their response, EW
    does occasionally print charts from regional stores.

    The merits of listing a free item may be debateable, but our chart is indeed
    factual, and is based on number of units moved. Our list is intended for consumers, in particular our own customers. Like EW, we do not represent it as a national best sellers chart.

    Furthermore, we applaud EW for bringing some of the best and most consistent comic book coverage to mainstream media. We hope that the backlash by an overzealous few in our industry does not deter EW from continuing this wonderful coverage. Because if they don’t do it, who will?

  8. Gerry Gladston wrote:
    “Free or not, the database doesn’t
    differentiate.”
    ———-
    The database only outputs what is inputted. It can only know that C&A was present in the customer’s purchase if you scanned the C&A bar code. Therefore, your actions did put C&A on the list as the #1 seller.

    So my question is: Do you scan ALL free items every time a customer takes one? Otherwise, perhaps a change in policy is warranted vis-a-vis free items.

  9. Our list is not the result of bar codes being scanned. This list is generated AUTOMATICALLY BY OUR WEBSITE SALES-whether a book is free or not! Tons of customers simply put this title in their cart… VOLUNTARILY! And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    As Guy suggested above, would anybody be talking about this if it were a Dark Horse book? Case in point, the Dark Tower FREE sketchbook is on the SAME list posted by EW. Has anyone mentioned that? Nope.

    Midtown will not be changing any policy due to this “controversy”. We will continue to provide the same info to our customers.

    As entertaining as this has been, I won’t be posting on this topic anymore… I’ve got a huge stack of comics in front of me that I’m going to start reading. And speaking of the Escapists, have I ever mentioned that BK Vaughan is one of my favorite comic book writers at the moment? James Robinson, also… Starman is another one of my faves. How ’bout that Brubaker? Who ever thought his Daredevil would out-Bendis Bendis?

    Love & Peace,
    Gerry

  10. The thing is, EW really has no business posting Midtown’s list. With all due respect to the establishment, it’s sales are not relevant for a national magazine.
    Clearly marking them as such doesn’t matter in this context.
    Just as e.g. an article lamenting the lack of children in America … based on three of the authors friend who don’t have any or an article praising the value of old automobiles based on the sales of the used cars salesman within walking distance of the office has no place in a national magazine.
    Especially since there is better and more comprehensive DM information available from Diamond the magazine has no business printing the sales of a single story because even with the disclaimer it’s misleading in that it contains the claim that this stores sales are representative enough to be appearing in a national magazine.
    Unless of course they’re incompetent or simply do not care.

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