Periodically (pun intended), it’s useful to take a look at where the sales of a publisher’s titles are clustered. It helps widen the picture of how things are going. The idea is to break the sales chart into 10K slices. How many titles or issues sold 100K copies or more? How many sold 90K-99K? How many sold 40-49K? How many sold under 10K?
The conventional wisdom has been that when things are healthy, DC and Marvel will have a couple titles each selling over 100K and then the bands will fill out with a few titles in 90Ks, 80Ks, etc., etc. Image is the number 3 publisher for monthlies (although a growing subset of stores report them as #2 or #1) and the chart means different things for them. But let’s look at the chart first.
And now the numbers:
With Image, sales can be all over the map. You’ve got the monster that is Walking Dead selling over 80K and you’ve got smaller titles from newer creators that might not crack Diamond’s top 300. And in this market, there is no shame in an independent comic selling between 5K-7K. It’s not very profitable unless it’s part of a bulk printing bundle, but those are respectable sales. Somewhere between 10K and 15K, creators start matching their DC or Marvel page rate… depending on how high their page rate was. Over 15K, the creators are starting to do quite nicely for themselves and the conventional wisdom at Image is that the real money comes from when the collected editions hit the shelves.
Image is also a little unusual in that so many of their titles take a 2-3 months off around the issuing of those collected edition books. For instance, Saga was on break for February or we’d have another title far above the 30K-39K slice. Things are excellent for Image creators when you see a few issues at the 20K+ level. That could be a little higher, but these are good to great numbers for an independent publisher.
Image is also in a strange place where they’re an independent publisher that does most of it’s business in a small subset of stores, but it has a few titles like Walking Dead that sell well almost everywhere.
Part of Image could be described as having usurped what we might otherwise think of as the high end Vertigo titles. Part of Image sells better than Vertigo has in a long, long time.
Prognosis: chart looks fine and it would look even better if more stores were stocking and selling Image. Always remember, though: Image is at least as much about collected edition sales as they are about the monthlies. Maybe more about the collected editions.