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Marvel’s weekly mailer to retailers went out today and buried in it was a little item that read as follows:

10% EXTRA FOR FREE ON MARVEL UNIVERSE JANUARY SHIPPING TITLES!
As a thank you to Retailers, Marvel will be sending an additional 10% of FREE copies for all of January shipping Marvel Universe titles! For all orders made by FOC, Marvel will be sending 10% extra at no cost to Retailers!

Which sounds…nice? But also could have ramifications on many, many things, from our sales charts to Diamond’s publisher rankings.

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It’s no secret that Marvel and DC have been locked in a battle for the #1 publisher for a while – with Marvel usually winning but DC taking the crown for six months. Since Diamond’s charts are based on what hey ship to retailers, this extra 10% might be included in unit and dollar market shares…giving Marvel a little boost. Even if a store ordered only one copy of something, they are getting an extra copy, doubling shipping in some cases.

UPDATE: I have been told by a Marvel spokesman that this 10% will NOT be counted in Diamond’s number. That is consistent with how Marvel handles overships on other product launches. 



Marvel NOW!’s performance with readers remains one of the biggest problems facing retailers, as enthusiasm has been patchy and nothing has really caught fire. Even if this overship is not counted in the monthly charts, having extra copies on sale to sell to readers is a proven sales booster in many cases. 



Any retailers out there want to chime in?

21 COMMENTS

  1. The extra books are great – if people buy them. If not, then retailers just paid for extra shipping (if Marvel didn’t give retailers a credit for this) and now have extra “dead” stock to handle.

  2. I have no idea if I’m representative of many potential Marvel consumers, but if Marvel used the money they’re spending on over-shipping to either cut the cost of their pricy mags or improve the color reproduction (or preferably both), they’d stand a far better chance of enticing me to sample some of these new titles.

    As it stands, Marvel sells just about the priciest-per-page front-of-catalog comics (occasionally eclipsed by IDW) with easily the lowest print standards. I guess they figure their brand is strong enough to support that strategy, and it may well be–for 60 to 80,000 loyal customers.

  3. Overshipped copies have been included in the Diamond charts without the reduction and asterisk you see in returnable cases, which is how you can get a book like MOSAIC #2 in November where the dollar rank was far lower than its unit sales rank, as seen here (http://www.diamondcomics.com/Home/1/1/3/597?articleID=187743) and below:

    92 85 26.93 SEP161045 MOON KNIGHT #8 $3.99 MAR
    93 148 26.28 SEP161030-M MOSAIC #2 $3.99 MAR
    94 86 26.19 SEP161064 ALL NEW X-MEN #15 $3.99 MAR

    Normally, you’d see the unit and dollar rankings for identically priced items from the same publisher clustered together, as is the case with Moon Knight and All New X-Men (barring a Loot Crate or other sale where Diamond received a small share of cover price). But Mosaic is far out of place, suggesting a large number of copies shipped for less than the going rate. MOSAIC #3’s numbers last month were matched with #1, for example: (https://twitter.com/RyanHigginsRyan/status/803980448590237696)

    For years, we’ve noted that deep-discounted graphic novels have the same kind of unit rank/dollar rank split; it apparently has happened before now with overshipped comics, too. If Diamond is changing its reporting practice for January, that’s worth knowing; I have a query in.

  4. I’m always happy to get something for nothing, and it is worth thanking Marvel for this (So: THANKS MARVEL), but my general experience is that retailers aren’t selling through the comics that they’re currently ordering, so I truly wonder how this will work as a marketing exercise?

    It *could* also work again them as, unbelievably, many retailers still don’t have a POS system, or do cycle sheets, and instead rely on Mark-One Eyeballs to do all inventory management and ordering, and having *too many* copies on the rack can produce a cut back on the next cycle of orders.

    -B

  5. “this 10% will NOT be counted in Diamond’s number. That is consistent with how Marvel handles overships on other product launches.”

    Is it? Because other overships clearly seem to have been counted in Diamond’s unit sales numbers, based on the sales patterns and inconsistencies in retail vs. unit ranking. So will they remain consistent and count in one and not the other, or now count in neither?

  6. Diamond does cull from its rankings books where the cover price is free (or below a dollar, in fact) — a practice started after Free Comic Book Day and the little bout of stunt pricing that put BATMAN: THE TEN-CENT ADVENTURE at the top of one month’s chart — but such titles do still count toward market share. I’m guessing it would be harder logistically for Diamond to cull just the free issues of paid titles from the unit ranking table, which is intended to be a listing of what went onto the trucks; Marvel’s talking 10% for January, but overship levels have historically varied from book to book.

    It’s possible the reference was to no impact on dollar market share, which would certainly be correct — but we’ll soon see. There are a lot of demands on the charts today — communicating relative sales levels to retailers, painting a competitive picture, and informing collectors of how many copies exist — and sometimes those demands are at cross-purposes when it comes to particular statistical situations.

  7. Sorry if this is a dumb question, but if Marvel are offering 10% extra free copies, couldn’t LCS’s just order less than usual and make up the difference with free copies? Or is it too late to change the order?

    CC

  8. @ ComicCruncher: The 10% that is shipped is determined after the FOC. So retailers’ orders have already been locked in.

    Another site is suggesting that this could be an overship of Marvel Universe titles rather than Marvel universe titles. The latter includes Marvel NOW and is the majority of the company’s periodical line. The former is a small set of branded all-ages comics and would represent a much smaller commitment by Marvel.

  9. Diamond tells me today that my undstanding is correct. The overshipped books will count for unit market share, will not count toward dollar market share, and will be counted as usual in the Top 300 rankings with no reductions as in the returnable case, as these books are shipping and not coming back.

    As a tactic for getting books in circulation, overships tend to be logistically easier for Diamond and retailers to process than returnability, and there’s no attempt to manipulate dollar market share, which for Diamond is always the headliner among the categories. It will impact the Top 300 measure in that items are boosted in the rankings, but of the groups I mentioned above, that matters most to those using the charts to “keep score.” And since the unit sales rankings have always been subject to price-related fluctuations as publishers have promotions, this would probably be filed under that.

  10. My question: How about switching back to newsprint and cheap coloring and cutting the price down to two dollars?

    Standard Big Two answer: “Switching to newsprint won’t have much impact at all on the cost of producing comics.”

    My next question: “Why do comics companies keep raising cover prices?”

    Standard Big Two answer: “Paper costs keep going up!”

    My final, muttered question: “Dying, backward-looking business that’s desperately attempting to leech as much money as they can out of a dwindling group of aging comic book readers with silly stunts and constant events and retcons and a deluge of alternate covers says what?”

    Standard Big Two answer: “What?”

  11. Historically the market has been resistant to steps backward in paper quality, particularly when the step back is to a state customers never experienced on new titles. Price, meanwhile, has stalled out this year thanks to DC’s $2.99 books — which is the same price the average title was going for at the turn of the century.

  12. Also, as a FYI, looking at my actual invoice, it’s not ACTUALLY 10% — it is “One free for every ten, rounded up”.

    So the title I ordered five copies of, I am getting one overshipped copy for six total — a 20% overship in that case. The title I ordered Eleven copies of is getting two overshipped copies for a total of thirteen, or an 18% overship.

    NO overship at all on STAR WARS, and, one would imagine other licensed books like that.

    So, anyway, for JJ and the chart-watcher, you probably can’t calculate a STRAIGHT 10% for January, as your heads up!

    -B

  13. What this says to me, which I am just a reader who follows the business side of comics rather closely, is that retailers have cut orders in a way that Marvel didn’t anticipate. Instead of sitting on extra copies or sending them to WalMart or Five Below in discounted bundles, they are sending them to the shops in hopes it’ll up future orders.

    Marvel 2017 reminds me of Marvel 2000. What Marvel really needs is another Quesada to come in and get the stories and characters back under control. They need to get back to the core concepts without losing their new diverse legacy characters. No more time traveling and no more redundant titles just using a name to sell a book. It’s not prices or renumbering, even though I hate both, that are turning fans off. It’s not giving the market what it’s yearning for.

    I know people hate him but to me Dan Slott is the only one who is doing it right. He moves Spider-Man forward while embracing the past and bringing things back in new ways while keeping Peter at his core a good guy trying to do the right thing who often fails. Yes I dislike “Tony Stark” Peter but from the start it was clear this is just a phase,

    Character, character, character, it’s what makes the movies work and it’s what will work with the books. If the comics are must read and exciting fans will come no matter the price or number on the cover.

  14. Why doesn’t someone in comics journalism get someone from Marvel to explain Marvel publishing strategy (Now) and overship strategy. Ask them if lukewarm to poor fan and retailer reaction coupled with low sales and fears of lcs has or will contribute to changes in management or publishing strategy. Seriously, Marvel are leading the charge of the comics induatry down the drain!

  15. Martin, I honestly think what they meant was that it wouldn’t be counted in dollar share, and that is true. Dollar share is far more important than unit share in the big picture, because of the wide variability in what a unit might cost — a “unit” could be anywhere from a $2.99 comic book to a $125 hardcover.

    And overships are a way to get the same benefits from returnability without the overhead of dealing with returns. Either way you’re paying to print additional issues to provide an opportunity for growth; just in the overship case, they won’t be coming back. The danger, of course, is if any retailers expecting overships adjust their orders downward.

  16. JJ: I think there’s a clear difference in overshipping comics that RETAILERS DON’T WANT OVERSHIPPED, and making some books returnable to encourage us to promote them further.

    Rebirth wasn’t success *because* it was returnable — it was successful because we had skin in the game to SELL those extra comics because of the returnabilty.

    If I think (based on cycle sheet data) that I am going to sell five copies of MARVEL TITLE X, sending me seven copies doesn’t really do a thing to help move the needle, because I have no way to plan for that, or do anything other than react with under a week. And, even then, getting a single extra copy is more or less meaningless — with Rebirth, we staked big bets on DC books, and were absolutely motivated to try and claim that bet. Sending me two more copies of a comic I have ALREADY WRITTEN OFF is unlikely to work in the way they want it to.

    The one excption might be if they have data that suggests that retailers, as a whole, have been steadily underordering Marvel books by 10% — they MIGHT HAVE THAT DATA! — in which case having those copies in hand and not having to be reordered (and therefore coming 1+ weeks too late) could do a thing.

    -B

  17. reply to mark:

    My question: How about switching back to newsprint and cheap coloring and cutting the price down to two dollars?
    Standard Big Two answer: “Switching to newsprint won’t have much impact at all on the cost of producing comics.”

    Mate i work in printing. They are telling the truth. Changing the paper stock wont make a much difference. not the kind of difference you’d need. And cheap, good colourists are pretty easy to find these days. Just ask dynamite. So not much savings there. Not the kind you’d need to reduce cover prices to 3 bucks, let alone 2 bucks. To reduce prices what you really need is a massive spike in circulation. Comics were cheaper when we had fewer books with wider distro that sold a hell of a lot more units. Now we have tonnes more books, the vast majority selling, relatively, bugger all.

    My next question: “Why do comics companies keep raising cover prices?”
    Standard Big Two answer: “Paper costs keep going up!”

    Translation: Sales keep dropping issue on issue, we relaunch every two years for a big spike in sales. Volume is a fraction of what it was 30 years ago. We are moving towards an economic model more like euro comics. Higher prices, Better production values.

    My final, muttered question: “Dying, backward-looking business that’s desperately attempting to leech as much money as they can out of a dwindling group of aging comic book readers with silly stunts and constant events and retcons and a deluge of alternate covers says what?”

    You got that one right. Marvel and DC’s single issue business strategy is all about milking every last dollar today, knowing tomorrow is unknown. TPB sales growth seems to have slowed, but will there be a catalyst for a future spike in growth? People bitch about events and often those same people buy them as soon as they come out. Solution: Stop buying it! Use the money you save by not buying ‘civil crisis’ on books from the back of previews, because, like always there are some books that deserve and damn well need it.

  18. To Brendan: I understand there are plenty of deserving books out there that aren’t from the Big Two, and I try to keep up with them–in trade format, ordered from online retailers at a 35% or more discount. That’s the only way buying comics makes any kind of financial sense to me, because I’m not paying $4.00 for a ten-minute (at best) reading experience that is part one of six.

    I definitely do not buy event comics or collect alternate covers. The only Big Two titles I’ve bought in ages are B-list characters that stay well clear of events.

    You know, I swear to god that I have heard, more than once, “escalating paper prices” given by spokespeople for the Big Two as a reason for price increases.

    Also, I don’t think I’m some sort of outlier in my buying behavior–I bet there are plenty of people out there who avoid buying monthly comics specifically because of the prices. Maybe it’s not as simple as “cutting the prices in half would double the amount of issues sold”, but I’m certain that cutting prices would at least increase the number of people willing to take a chance on a book. When new comics used to cost a dollar–not that incredibly long ago–I bought anything that looked like it would be interesting. Now I not only do not ever purchase monthly comics, but I’m incredibly picky even about buying heavily discounted trades. And that’s despite the fact that I believe we are living in a golden age of great comics content. It all comes down to value for money.

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